The PhD Dissertation

Once you have successfully defended your dissertation proposal, the Director of Graduate Studies (Musicology) will appoint your dissertation reading committee—normally three persons: the sponsor, the second reader, and the third reader. You may ask professors if they are willing to serve on your dissertation committee, and you may request that the DGS appoint particular professors, but the assignment of readers is the responsibility of the DGS, who will attempt to select a committee that represents the areas of expertise relevant to your research.

After your proposal has been approved, you should get your title registered with Doctoral Dissertations in Musicology. You can contact them (and register) via their website. For more information, call 812-855-6889.

The sponsor or first reader is the person who will work closely with you throughout the writing, shaping, and revising of the dissertation in its successive drafts. The second reader also reads the dissertation in draft form and confers with you prior to distribution of the dissertation. The third reader is available to you for occasional consultation, but his or her work as reader does not normally begin until the dissertation is approved by the first two readers. When the subject matter of your dissertation overlaps with another discipline, you may find it profitable to check your work, or portions of it, with a scholar in that field, whether or not he/she is one of your readers.

Important information on the dissertation is to be found at the Dissertation Office Website, including The Ph.D. Dissertation: Research Proposal, Sponsorship, and Defense (GSAS), General Instructions for the Preparation of Dissertations (GSAS), and an application to defend. Forms and publications are also available directly through the Dissertation Office in 107 Low Library, and the Department of Music usually keeps some of these on hand.

After the first and second readers have given their approval, the Department of Music recommends you to the Dean as ready for the final examination, known as the doctoral defense.

Students almost invariably underestimate the time taken by the final stages of the dissertation. Although that time varies according to the student, the field and the faculty involved, you should reckon as a rule of thumb at least three months between submission of the final draft and the date of the defense. You should expect to wait one month from submission of the final draft to receipt of comments from your three readers (assuming that sponsor and second reader have already approved substantial portions of it); allow further one month to make required revisions, finalize the dissertation, make five copies, and distribute; and further one month from the time the five members of your committee receive their copies to the day of the defense (during which for the committee members must read you dissertation).

In order to defend your dissertation, you must complete an "application for defense" form and submit it to GSAS. The form is available on-line at the above address but must be signed and submitted through the Department. At this point you must distribute a copy of the dissertation (which may be submitted unbound) to each of the five members of the Examining Committee. This body is appointed by the Dean upon the joint recommendation of the sponsor and the Department Chairman. The student should not approach faculty members to serve on this committee. The Examining Committee is normally made up of the three readers and two "outsiders" (i.e., professors from fields outside music but related to the dissertation topic). Committee members have a minimum of four weeks in which to read the dissertation, after which the defense takes place.

The doctoral defense is your final examination. You will be expected to answer questions related directly to your dissertation. Defenses are oral, last about two hours, and usually take place in one of the seminar rooms in Dodge Hall.