Doctoral Dissertation Guide


  1. Present a proposal or prospectus of your dissertation to your faculty advisor and at least two other faculty members
  2. Review the Office of Graduate Studies’ Dissertation and Thesis Template, you must consult it for answers to all your formatting questions
  3. Consult with your faculty, and schedule your defense
  4. Complete your defense, then submit your dissertation to the Office of Graduate Studies electronically
  5. After your electronic dissertation has been accepted
    • you may order copies from Thesis on Demand
    • we encourage you to submit your thesis to the Washington University Digital Research Materials Repository (DRMR). For more information, or to submit your datasets, visit

Minimal Requirements for Dissertations

The following “Statement by Graduate Council on Minimal Requirements for PhD Dissertations” was adopted at the Graduate Council meeting on April 19, 2012.

A dissertation is the product of extensive research and presents an original contribution to knowledge in a given field. It documents the candidate’s ability 1) to make substantive contributions to answering a major intellectual question and 2) to communicate research results with professional competence.

In all cases, the dissertation must constitute an integrated, coherent work, whose parts are logically connected. It must have a written introductory chapter that sets forth the general theme and core questions of the dissertation research and that explains the relationship among the constituent chapters or parts. The introduction will typically include, as is appropriate to the discipline, a review of the literature relevant to the dissertation, an explanation of theories, methods, and/or procedures utilized by the author, and a summary discussion of the contribution of the dissertation project to knowledge in the field. In its final deposited form, the dissertation must constitute an achievable product, which meets the standards prescribed by the university.

The dissertation may consist (in whole or part) of co-authored chapters and articles, but the candidate must be a major contributor to the research and writing of any such papers and must describe her/his ideas, individual efforts, and contributions to the larger work. To comply with the university’s policy on plagiarism and academic integrity,1 a dissertation that incorporates co-authored work must also include in its introduction an explanation of the role of the candidate in the research and the writing of the co-authored work.

If a dissertation includes previously published materials (authored or co-authored), the candidate must provide a full referencing of when and where individual papers have been published. Because prior publication and multiple authorship have implications concerning copyright, PhD candidates should discuss copyright with advisers and obtain copyright clearance from any coauthors well in advance of defending the dissertation. Written permission must be obtained to include articles copyrighted by others within the dissertation.

It is the responsibility of the student and the student’s dissertation committee to ensure that the dissertation meets all requirements regarding authorship, academic integrity, and copyright, as here outlined.

Plagiarism is the willful or unintentional act of using, without proper acknowledgment, another person’s or persons’ words, ideas, results, methods, opinions, or concepts. . . . The act of claiming as one’s own work any intellectual material created by another or others is wrong and will be treated by the Office of Graduate Studies as a serious violation of academic integrity.

Preliminary Paperwork


Title, Scope, and Procedure

You may file your Title, Scope, and Procedure Form as soon as your Research Advisory Committee has signed it.

You must file your Title, Scope, and Procedure Form before starting your fifth year of graduate study.

Your project's "scope" defines its limits—what you intend to cover and what you intend not to cover. Your "procedure" describes the manner in which you intend to conduct your research. By defining the scope and procedure of your dissertation, you provide an initial outline or model for yourself as you research your topic.

The form also serves as a contract between you and your Research Advisory Committee.

Research Advisory Committees normally consist of three tenured or tenure-track Washington University faculty members from within your degree program.

Your dissertation's title, scope, and procedure may change in the course of your research. You are not required to file an amended form with the Office of Graduate Studies, although getting your committee’s written approval of the changes may be advisable.

Title, Scope, and Procedure Form

Intent to Graduate

You must file an Intent to Graduate form for the semester in which you intend to graduate. Deadlines for filing the Intent to Graduate form for each semester are listed on the Office of Graduate Studies’s online calendar.

Complete this form by logging onto WebSTAC and clicking on “Intent to Graduate” from the menu. Take note of the diploma pick-up and mailing dates that are included in the form because your diploma will be mailed to the address entered. If your graduation semester changes, you must file a new form.


Open Researcher and Contributor ID (ORCIP)

We strongly encourage you to establish an Open Researcher and Contributor ID and begin to populate your profile. ORCiD is a free, persistent personal digital identifier which several funders, publishers, scholarly associations, databases, and universities are beginning to adopt or require. Many scholars will want to establish their ORCiD profile and maintain it throughout their careers. You are also encouraged to include your ORCiD in your dissertation submission in ProQuest.

For more information, visit

Create an ORCID Profile

Dissertation Defense

How to Arrange a Dissertation Defense

Consult your committee chair about the membership of your dissertation defense committee, which should conform to the following Graduate Council policy. Address questions regarding dissertation defense committee membership to Andy Wiegert, director of graduate student affairs, currently the Office of Graduate Studies designee for approving such committees.

  1.  “The committee before which the student is examined consists of at least five members, who normally meet two independent criteria:
    • Four of the five must be tenured or tenure-track Washington University faculty; one of these four may be a member of the Emeritus faculty. The fifth member must have a doctoral degree and an active research program, whether at Washington University, at another university, in government, or in industry.
    • Three of the five must come from the student's degree program; at least one of the five must not. All committees must be approved by the vice dean of the Office of Graduate Studies or by his or her designee, regardless of whether they meet the normal criteria.” *
  2. Fill out (your department may do this for you) the Dissertation Defense Committee Form.
    • This form must be signed by your department’s Director of Graduate Studies and sent to Andy Wiegert, director of graduate student affairs. Your DGS or a department staff member should send it (not you). Dean Wilson will email her approval to the DGS. Only after this step has been completed should the defense be scheduled.
    • After the committee has been approved and at least 15 days before the defense, your department (not you) should send an email to the Office of Graduate Studies stating the time, date, and place of the defense. The email should have a copy of your CV attached if you are an Arts & Sciences student on the Danforth Campus. Do not put your Social Security Number, birth date, or birthplace on your CV.
  3. You are responsible for giving copies of the dissertation to your committee. According to the Office of Graduate Studies, committee members may request rescheduling of the defense if the dissertation is not made available at least 1 week in advance. However, most departments require dissertations to be available to committee members 2-4 weeks before the defense.
  4. “Attendance by a minimum of four members of the dissertation defense committee, including the committee chair and an outside member, is required for the defense to take place. This provision is designed to permit your defense to proceed in case of a situation that unexpectedly prevents one of the five members from attending. Do not plan in advance to have only four members in attendance; if one of those four cannot attend, your defense must be rescheduled. Note that the absence of all outside members or of the committee chair would necessitate rescheduling the defense.” *
  5. “Members of the dissertation defense committee normally attend in person, but one of the five (or, in case of an emergency, one of the four) members may attend virtually instead.” *

*Policies passed by the Graduate Council in November 2013.


Forms and Permissions Needed Prior to Electronic Submission


Your dissertation must be submitted and also accepted by the deadlines indicated in the academic calendar. You are encouraged to submit your dissertation before the deadline, in case you need to make changes. Also, you should submit your Examination Approval Form and Survey of Earned Doctorates before the deadline.

Academic Calendar

Copyright Permissions

Before you submit your dissertation electronically, you must have obtained permissions for any copyrighted work included in it for which you do not hold the sole copyright. This may include your own previously published work, whether or not you are its sole author.

You may wish to consult your subject librarian or email Olin Library

Copyright and Your Dissertation or Thesis: Ownership, Fair Use, and Your Rights and Responsibilities (pdf)

The Examination Approval Form

The form is signed by members of the dissertation defense committee at your defense and by the chair of your department or program afterward.

  • Check with your department as to whether you will be responsible for submitting this form to the Office of Graduate Studies, or whether your department will submit it on your behalf.
  • All Examination Approval Forms (including those from Engineering) are submitted to Angie Mahon, Campus Box 1187.

Examination Approval Form (pdf)

Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED)

You are encouraged to complete your Survey of Earned Doctorates prior to the dissertation deadline. Do this as soon as possible so that our office has a record of its arrival in time for graduation requirements to be met. Our office will be notified automatically once you complete the survey. 

Your electronic submission of your dissertation will not be processed or approved until this email arrives. 

Complete the SED

Navigating the ProQuest Electronic Submission Process

After you have successfully defended your dissertation and made any committee requested changes, the Office of Graduate Studies requires that you create an online account at ProQuest ( to submit your final text. ProQuest is this country’s most widely used commercial archiving service for dissertations and theses. This guide is to inform and advise you in making selections through the submission process in ProQuest. The tabs below including “Publishing Options”, “PDF”, and “Register U.S. Copyright” require special attention and will be addressed in detail.

Creating your account and getting started

Before you create your account, make sure that you have the following items at hand:

  • The full text of your dissertation, formatted as a PDF, with embedded fonts
  • Supplementary files and/or supporting documents (optional)
  • The body of your abstract, without the heading; note that there is no word limit on your abstract
  • A full list of your committee members
  • Any copyright permissions obtained; these will need to be submitted as a part of this process.

Detailed Instructions

Review and Approval Process

The Office of Graduate Studies is notified when you submit your dissertation to ProQuest. When we review your submission, we make sure that your Examination Approval Form and Survey of Earned Doctorates have been completed, and we check the submitted PDF to ensure that all formatting requirements have been followed. The amount of time we will need to review your manuscript, and the number and nature of any changes you may be required to make, are generally determined by how carefully you have prepared your work. Do not wait until the deadline day to submit your dissertation! Your work must be formatted correctly and approved by the Office of Graduate Studies in order for you to graduate.

Once our review is complete, we will send you an email through ProQuest saying one of the following:

  1. Your submission has no revisions and is being accepted.
  2. Your submission has no revisions, but we are missing the required paperwork.
  3. Your submission has a few revisions that must be made before we can accept it.

If you have revisions you must make, log back into ProQuest, and you will see this screen.


How to Acquire Bound Copies

As of February 1, 2016 the Office of Graduate Studies will no longer accept any paper copies for binding. Once your revisions are submitted in ProQuest, and the Office of Graduate Studies has reviewed them, you will receive an email saying your dissertation is approved. Then, and only then, you can order copies of your dissertation to be printed and bound from Thesis on Demand. Any copies must all be identical to your approved ProQuest submission. Therefore, when you upload a PDF of your dissertation for printing and binding, use the same one that was just approved in ProQuest.

  1. Ask your department’s administrator if your program is one who will pay for a certain number of copies to be bound by Thesis on Demand. In some departments, those will be ordered directly by departmental staff; in other departments, you will order those and request reimbursement for them. Clarify your department’s procedures before starting to order printed and bound copies of your work.
  2. Go to Thesis on Demand to order copies. Begin by uploading your PDF; when prompted, fill out the rest of the page. If you want copies sent to different shipping addresses, you will need to go through this process separately for each address; all copies ordered together will be shipped together to a single destination. Note that this service will not ship to international addresses.
  3. As soon as you reach the second page of the order form, “Document Information as Uploaded” will appear on the right-hand side of the page; check to be sure that the total number of pages, the number in color versus black and white, and the information about images is all accurate. Your PDF for ProQuest will already have embedded fonts.
  4. If your dissertation does not have color pages, choose the “Print Document in Black and White Only” option; if your dissertation does have color pages, choose the “Print Document in Color” option.
  5. If you have any difficulty, begin by consulting the FAQ section of the bindery’s website: You will need to enter the university’s zip code, 63130, in order to access these questions and answers.

Visit Thesis on Demand

Questions to Ask Before Submission

It’s a great relief to pass your defense and have very little work left to do before you can put PhD on your CV. It’s a great frustration to convert your dissertation into a PDF and submit it electronically, only to be asked to do it again after making changes to the text.

Here are some things to make sure you have completed before you submit to ProQuest.

  • Have you filed your Intent to Graduate for the semester in which you plan to complete your degree?
  • Does your title page indicate the correct administrative unit?
  • Is your committee alphabetized by last name, after your chair/co-chairs?
  • Is Your Title in Upper and Lower Case, as in This Question?
  • Does your title page indicate the month and year in which your degree is being conferred?
  • If you are including an abstract page, does it use the required heading found in the Dissertation & Thesis Template?
  • Is your front matter numbered correctly, starting with ii?
  • Does the page numbering on your Table of Contents correspond to the correct page location?
  • Does your Table of Contents include your bibliography/references/works cited?
  • Have you completed the Survey of Earned Doctorates?
  • Have you completed the Post-Graduation Job Survey?
  • Has the Office of Graduate Studies received your Examination Approval Form?
  • Do you have any requisite copyright permission letters?

After your dissertation has been approved by the Office of Graduate Studies, make sure you have checked the following, if you plan to have copies bound.

  • Have you spoken with your department administrator, to find out if your program pays for any copies to be bound?

You may need to present proof that you have completed your degree to a prospective employer before you receive your diploma. In that case, only after you have been notified that your submission has been approved, you may request a Degree Certification on the Office of Graduate Studies website, on the Forms page.

Questions from students may be addressed to Angie Mahon. Questions about the use of copyrighted materials, permissions, and fair use may be addressed to your subject librarian or Olin Library's Copyright Help email address.

Request a Degree Certification