Department of Psychological Sciences

Dissertation Guidelines

  1. Dissertation Proposal: This is an extremely important step. The dissertation proposal is similar to a contract between the committee and the student. If the student conducts the research described in the proposal, then the research will be viewed as suitable for the dissertation. Therefore, issues raised in the defense of the dissertation will focus on whether the research was conducted as planned in the proposal, the analysis of the data, and the conclusions that the student makes from the obtained results. The dissertation proposal defense must be documented on a Departmental Proposal Defense form signed by your entire committee at the conclusion of the successful proposal meeting. Return the signed form to the Graduate Coordinator (Thane Bryant) after the meeting. I-O students should also I-O students should also provide a I-O Oral and Written Rubric to each committee member prior to the proposal meeting. These should be completed at the conclusion of the meeting and returned to the I-O Program Director. 

  2. IRB Protocol Approval application for dissertation research.

  3. As you near completion of your dissertation, you need to become very familiar with the Graduate School's (GS) deadlines* for the term you intend to graduate. You will need to coordinate the efforts of several people in order to complete the series of interrelated steps in a timely manner.

  4. Conduct research and write dissertation. Format must follow the Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Guide on the Graduate School's web page.

  5. Application to Graduate (AKA "Graduation Check") - complete and electronically submit to the Graduate School by logging on to AU Access and selecting "My Academics" and " Application to Graduate" BEFORE you initiate your Dissertation First Submission Approval workflow (step 8 below) and no later than the last day of the semester BEFORE the semester you intend to graduate (see Calendar for dates). If you do not graduate during the semester for which you ordered a graduation check, the graduation check will carry over from one term to the next. If you are requesting the graduation check earlier than one semester prior to the semester in which you intend to graduate (e.g., clinical students request the graduation check prior to going on internship, which is at least a year prior to graduation), that is fine, but make sure to indicate the future semester in which you likely will graduate. For example, if in April 2021 you are applying for a graduation check and you intend to graduate in August 2022 (e.g., after completing your internship) make sure that when you apply for the graduation check you select Summer 2022 as the proposed semester of graduation. 

  6. You must be registered for the term in which you defend your dissertation AND the term in which you graduate (if different from the term you intend to defend). If you do not register by the first day of classes you may not make it onto the graduation list (see Calendar for registration dates). The only exception to this is that students who have completed all requirements for the degree (including successful dissertation defense, committee approval of the Doctoral Final Exam report worfklow [step 12 below], and submitting the final electronic dissertation to the Graduate School), and who have secured a certificate of completion from the Graduate School by the end of the semester preceding the semester in which they intend to graduate, do not have to be registered during the semester in which they graduate. If you think this applies to you, contact your adviser in the Graduate School (334) 844-4700) during the semester before the semester in which you intend to graduate to make sure this is the case.

  7. Give a copy of your dissertation draft to your committee members four weeks prior to the Dissertation First Draft Approval Form deadline (see Calendar* for dates) (CaBS students should include with each committee member's draft a copy of the CaBS Dissertation Rubric). This is a suggested deadline. In practice, the timing of your committee's receipt of the draft in relation to the date of submission of the draft to the Graduate School (#8 below) is a detail you will need to work out with your major professor and committee. 

  8. After your committee has reviewed a first draft and worked with you to resolve problems, initiate the Doctoral Dissertation First Submission Approval workflow by logging on HERE and entering the required information (your program designation, dissertation title, and the name and e-mail address of your University Reader). At the same time you should submit the draft of the dissertation (pdf) to the Graduate School via e-mail to and deliver the draft to the University Reader**(UR) in UR's preferred form (paper or electronic) (see Calendar* for GS deadline). The workflow system will offer your committee members a link by which to approve your draft (stating that they have read it and consider it ready for defense). Once that approval is submitted, the system will send to the UR a "Dissertation Evaluation Form". You should allow two to three weeks for the UR's review unless the UR has agreed to a specific earlier report date).

  9. Revise Dissertation into final form incorporating feedback from outside reader and GS.

  10. Schedule Dissertation Defense (Final Oral Examination) When the UR submits an "approved" evaluation of your dissertation to the Graduate School, the Graduate School will do a format check and email you a link to a form where you will provide the scheduled date, time, and location of your defense as well as the embargo options you have chosen.  It must be submitted at least one week prior to the scheduled exam date (see Calendar* for term deadlines). When scheduling the exam, remember that all of your committee members plus the UR must attend the exam. Members who cannot be physically present at the defense must attend by a means that enables him/her to participate in the meeting in real time (e.g., Zoom, Skype, teleconference, etc.). Prior to the defense you should provide each of your committee members a Department of Psychological Sciences Dissertation Assessment form (Clinical), the I-O Oral and Written Rubric (I-O) or the CaBS Dissertation Rubric (CaBS). You do not need to give one to the UR. 

  11. Hold the defense.   At the conclusion of your defense meeting, remind each committee member (but not the UR) to complete and return to your Program Director the Assessment/Rubric form that you provided them in step 10. These forms will be used by the Program Director in their annual assessment of the doctoral program.

  12. Documenting the dissertation defense (AKA "Final Exam"): On the scheduled date of your defense, the workflow system will send a request to your Committee Chair to report the outcome of the defense (Doctoral Final Exam report). If the Chair indicates "Satisfactory", then the remaining committee members and UR will be queried to report. Once all have approved the Final Exam, the workflow system will then query the Commiittee Chair, committee members and the UR regarding Final Approval of the Dissertation. They should report their approval once all post-defense revisions and/or additional work that the committee required has been completed and they are satisfied with the Final Draft. 

  13. Submitting Final Draft to the Graduate School. Directions for uploading the final draft to the Graduate School are spelled out at If you have questions about the process, consult with your advisor at the Graduate School, (334) 844-4700.You must also log on to complete and submit the "Survey of Earned Doctorates" at this time (see Calendar* for term deadlines). If you are trying to graduate during the semester of the defense, be aware that the Doctoral Final Exam approval  and Dissertation Final Approval must be reported by the deadline posted on the Calendar*  AND you must upload the final approved draft to the Graduate School by that deadline AND you must submit the Survey of Earned Doctorates by that deadline. If you are NOT trying to graduate during the semester that you defended, the deadline for all of these is the last day of the semester in which you defended.* 

*The deadlines in the Dissertation Calendar are for students who intend to GRADUATE with the PhD at the end of the semester. If you do not intend to GRADUATE that semester, but do intend to complete all degree requirements by the end of the semester (e.g., in order to avoid having to register and pay tuition for the following semester) you need to complete all the steps on the Calendar by the last day of the semester in which you defend AND you must apply to the Graduate School for a "Letter of Completion" by the last day of the semester in which you defend. 

**University Reader: priort to initiating the Doctoral Dissertation First Submission request, the student, in consultation with the Major Professor, selects a University Reader (aka “Outside Reader”). The University Reader serves in addition to the 4-member advisory committee in the review and defense of the dissertation and must be a member (Level 0, 1 or 2) of the Graduate Faculty of Auburn University from outside of the Department of Psychological Sciences. You must identify the University Reader to the Graduate School when you initiate the Doctoral Dissertation First Submission workflow.

Last Updated: September 23, 2022