USC Price School of Public Policy

Doctoral Dissertation

Following admission to candidacy, the student – now officially a doctoral candidate – begins the preparation of the dissertation. Two immediate and fundamental requirements are the establishment of a dissertation committee and registration in Doctoral Dissertation (PPD 794).

An acceptable dissertation is based upon an original investigation and must reflect technical mastery of a special field, capacity for independent research and scholarly ability.

The dissertation is expected to be written in English. Exceptions need the approval of the Vice Provost of Academic Programs prior to beginning the work and may be granted when there is strong scholarly justification.

Dissertations, which are based on research involving human subjects, must have approval from the USC Institutional Research Board.

The doctoral student is advised that there must be compliance in detail to the dissertation regulations provided by the University.

» Role of the Dissertation Committee
» The Dissertation Committee Membership
» Dissertation Proposal
» Defense of the Dissertation Proposal
» Doctoral Dissertation Course
» Defense of the Dissertation
» Defense Prior to Approval for Final Typing of Dissertation
» Defense of Dissertation Subsequent to Final Typing
» Abstract of Dissertation
» Triple Cards
» Format for the Dissertation
» Dissertation Signature Page
» Submission of Dissertation
» Acceptance by University Thesis Editor
» Copies Required
» Copyrights
» Microfilming and Binding
» Optional Printed Program
» Dissertation Fees
» Schedule of Deadlines

Role of the Dissertation Committee
The dissertation committee has several critical functions and its membership should be chosen carefully. Initially, the committee serves as a resource to the candidate during the formulation, research and writing phases of the dissertation. The timely seeking of committee guidance and feedback on the dissertation effort insures that the candidate’s energies are appropriately directed. The committee is responsible for conducting a formal defense of the dissertation proposal before the student proceeds further. The dissertation and its defense or final oral must have the unanimous approval of the committee.

The Dissertation Committee Membership
After the Ph.D. qualifying examination has been passed and a dissertation topic approved, the guidance committee of five members is reduced to three members and becomes the dissertation committee. At least one member of the committee must have tenure within the USC Price and one of the three members must be a faculty member from outside the USC Price. The dissertation committee is officially constituted by the Graduate School. The Vice Provost for Academic Programs is an ex officio member of all dissertation committees. Changes in the dissertation committee membership are approved when there is a legitimate basis for such a change. Students must file a Change of Committee Form (PDF) with the USC Price Office of Student Affairs, Doctoral Programs and the Graduate School.

Dissertation Proposal
The first task in dissertation work is the preparation of an acceptable research proposal. Usually the proposal contains:

  • a statement of the research questions
  • motivation of the study
  • a brief literature review
  • a research design

The candidate will be asked to present his/her proposal to a regular USC Price Workshop or at another USC Price forum.

Defense of the Dissertation Proposal
The dissertation committee is responsible for conducting a formal defense of the dissertation proposal. All members of this committee must be present. This defense process is satisfactorily completed when the committee is confident of the feasibility, methodological soundness and appropriate focus of the proposed research project. The student submits completed form reporting the defense of the dissertation proposal.

Doctoral Dissertation Course
It is expected that the doctoral candidate will enroll in a minimum of two semesters of Doctoral Dissertation (PPD 794) for two units each semester, following admission to candidacy. This total of four units is the minimum requirement, which entitles the candidate to dissertation supervision by faculty.

If the dissertation is not completed and accepted within two semesters, the candidate must continue to register for Doctoral Dissertation (PPD 794) each semester thereafter until the dissertation has been approved. This “last semester” required enrollment may be the same Doctoral Dissertation (PPD 794) as is required by the second of the minimum two-semester enrollment.

Further, a candidate may not register for more than two units of Doctoral Dissertation (PPD 794) during any one semester, although enrollment in Doctoral Dissertation (PPD 794) for one summer session is authorized. Finally, a candidate may not receive more than eight units of credit in Doctoral Dissertation (PPD 794) regardless of the number of semesters required to register to complete all requirements for the degree.

Enrollment in another graduate course in a given semester does not relieve the student from enrolling in Doctoral Dissertation (PPD 794).

A Ph.D. candidate who finds it necessary to be excused from registration in Doctoral Dissertation (PPD 794) for a semester must request a leave of absence by petition (PDF) to the Graduate School prior to the beginning of the semester. During the leave of absence, doctoral candidates are not entitled to assistance from the dissertation committee or to the use of university facilities.

Defense of the Dissertation
After passing all required course examinations and the qualifying examination, and after meeting all other requirements, the candidate must defend the dissertation. The defense is conducted in such a manner as to determine to the unanimous satisfaction of the dissertation committee that the candidate has attained the stage of scholarly advancement and power of investigation demanded by the USC Price and the university for final recommendation to the doctorate.

Although the defense is open to the general university community, only the members of the dissertation committee have the authority to recommend acceptance of the dissertation, and the recommendation must be unanimous.

The defense may be prior or subsequent to approval for final typing of the dissertation.

Defense Prior to Approval for Final Typing of Dissertation
In this case, the candidate defends the dissertation on the basis of an approved preliminary draft. If the defense is satisfactory, the dissertation committee signs an “Approval of Ph.D. Dissertation for Final Typing” card. If additional work is required, the card is signed at a later date.

The final typewritten copy of the dissertation, together with the abstract and an abstract submittal form signed by the committee chair, the signed signature page and triple card (see below for descriptions of these documents), along with other documents and fee payments, must be presented by the candidate to the Office of the Graduate School Thesis Editor on or before the submission deadline (deadlines are established and published by the Editor) for the term the degree is to be received. Approval of format and acceptance by the Thesis Editor is noted on the triple card, which is then presented to the Degree Progress Department.

The current information about the dissertation format, procedures and requirements are posted on the Graduate School Web site.

Defense of Dissertation Subsequent to Final Typing
At least seven weeks before the scheduled date of the defense of the dissertation, the Ph.D. doctoral candidate picks up the doctoral dissertation package from the Graduate School.

At least five weeks prior to the scheduled date of the oral defense, the final typewritten copy of the dissertation must be presented to the dissertation committee.

At least two months or no later than the published deadline before the end of the semester in which the degree is to be conferred, the original typewritten copy of the final draft of the dissertation, accompanied by an abstract and submittal form signed by the committee chair, signature page and triple card signed by all members of the dissertation committee, must be submitted to the Office of the Thesis Editor for review and determination as to acceptance.

No further enrollment in Doctoral Dissertation (PPD 794) dissertation units will be required. If the dissertation is not accepted by the Thesis Editor within six months of the date of defense, a late fee of $100.00 will be assessed for each six months thereafter.

Abstract of Dissertation
An abstract of the dissertation, approved by the committee and signed by the committee chair (abstract submittal form), is submitted to the Office of the Graduate School Thesis Editor with the final dissertation. This is a separate document from the dissertation itself and is published in Dissertation Abstracts International to announce its availability on microfilm. It must be typewritten, double-spaced on 8 1/2 x 11 inch white bond paper, and not to exceed 350 words. An abstract exceeding this length or not meeting the standards described is returned to the candidate for correction.

Triple Cards
The triple cards used by the Ph.D. student are identical and are prepared for the Graduate School, the USC Price and the Registrar. These cards report on the dissertation and oral examination.

Format for the Dissertation
All dissertations submitted in fulfillment of requirements for the doctorate must conform to university regulations with regard to format and method of presentation. These requirements are explained in detail in Regulations for Format and Presentation of Theses and Dissertations (PDF), available from the Graduate School Thesis Editor.

A candidate should not proceed with the final typing of the dissertation before becoming familiar with the content of this publication. Manuscripts submitted to the Thesis Editor, which do not conform to these regulations are not acceptable and are returned to the candidate for correction.

The candidate and the dissertation committee should choose a style manual and format appropriate for the subject of the dissertation. The university does not impose a standard format or style, preferring instead to allow the maximum flexibility in the presentation of subject matter. However, all manuscripts must be prepared in accordance with an accepted style guide. A candidate who believes that the dissertation requires variation from university regulations or from the style guide selected is advised to contact the Thesis Editor prior to final typing.

Dissertation Signature Page
A signature page, to be bound with the dissertation, must be signed by each member of the dissertation committee.

For the Ph.D. candidate, the page is submitted to the Graduate School for the date and signature of the Dean of Graduate Studies with the final typed dissertation and the triple cards to the Thesis Editor.

Submission of Dissertation
The final typed dissertation must be approved by Thesis Editor within a period of not more than six months after the dissertation committee has signed the “Approval of Dissertation for Final Typing.” Late submission of the dissertation requires certification by the dissertation committee chair and will be subject to a $100.00 late fee for each six months thereafter.

Acceptance by University Thesis Editor
The dissertation in final typed form must be accepted by the Thesis Editor. The dissertation must have been approved by the candidate’s committee before submission to the Thesis Editor.

A minimum of two months is required by the Thesis Editor to review and accept a dissertation. In considering deadlines, the candidate must allow adequate time to make any corrections, which may be required before final acceptance. Any corrections indicated must be made by the candidate and must be verified by the Thesis Editor before the dissertation will be accepted.

Copies Required
The university requires two copies of each dissertation. One copy must be on 25% cotton fiber bond paper and must observe margin specifications outlined in Regulations for Format and Presentation of Theses and Dissertations (PDF).

One copy on regular paper is submitted to University Microfilms International (UMI) and the bond copy is retained by the university for microfilming, cataloging and binding. This copy will be placed in Doheny Library. This copy, on bond paper, is not submitted until the Thesis Editor has approved the copy submitted on regular paper.

The candidate should check with the dissertation committee to determine the requirements for any additional copies. Additional copies are not provided by the university.

The doctoral candidate may choose to copyright the dissertation. Information concerning forms and fees is available from the Thesis Editor. Discussions with the Thesis Editor about copyrights should be held prior to the submission of the dissertation.

Microfilming and Binding
The dissertation submitted and approved is microfilmed. The candidate signs an agreement form, available from the Graduate School Thesis Editor, authorizing the filming of the dissertation. The original copy is microfilmed in the Micrographic Department of Doheny Library and then is bound and deposited in the Library. The dissertation is publicized by means of the printed abstract, which appears in Dissertation Abstracts International, circulated internationally. The doctoral abstract is required and should be submitted to the Thesis Editor when filing the dissertation.

Under no circumstances should the candidate bind the original copy of the dissertation.

Optional Printed Program
At the discretion of the candidate or the USC Price, arrangements may be made with the Office of University Publications to provide at cost printed programs for the dissertation defense. The program normally includes a title page, an outline of the candidate’s course of study, the candidate’s vita and the dissertation abstract. Typewritten material, double spaced on 8 1/2 x 11 inch white bond paper and approved by the Dissertation Committee chair, should be submitted to University Publications at least three weeks prior to the scheduled defense. The Office of University Publications will provide the candidate further details as requested.

Dissertation Fees
The doctoral candidate must pay a fee as part of the final requirement for the degree. The fee covers the costs of microfilming and binding the dissertation and publication of the dissertation abstract. The fee is paid to the University’s Cashier’s Office and the candidate provides a copy of the receipt to the Thesis Editor when filing the dissertation.

Schedule of Deadlines
The Graduate School provides schedules of specific dates for completing the various requirements to qualify the candidate for the degree at graduation in the Fall or Spring semesters or Summer Session. Upon completion of all requirements, the official university transcript serves as evidence of the degree until the diploma is received. If all of the requirements associated with approval of the dissertation have not been met by the date of graduation, the diploma will be dated as of the following graduation.

Graduation dates are in May, August and December. A student will be awarded the graduation date for the term in which degree requirements, including submission of supporting documents, have been met. Degrees are not awarded retroactively.