Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (Ph.D.)
Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (Ph.D.)

Table of Contents

  1. Qualifying for Candidacy to Conduct the Doctoral Dissertation
  2. Terminology Associated with the Dissertation​
    1. Dissertation chair
    2. Dissertation Committee. (UA, KSU)
    3. Termination of Dissertation Chair Relationship
    4. Termination of Dissertation Committee Members
    5. Dissertation proposal and meeting
    6. Approval of Proposal
    7. IRB approval
    8. Approved Dissertation Topic and Proposal Form
    9. Conducting research
    10. Preliminary Approval of Dissertation
    11. Pre-defense Committee meeting
    12. Selection of Moderator
    13. Dissertation oral examination & defense
    14. Order of the defense
    15. Determination of success or failure of defense
    16. Repeating the oral defense
    17. Submission of final dissertation
    18. Binding of dissertation
    19. Components of the dissertation
  3. Timeline for dissertation activities.

Qualifying for Candidacy to Conduct the Doctoral Dissertation

Students have up to 5 years to complete candidacy and an additional 4 years to complete the dissertation. A student may petition the APG committee to extend the timeline.

All students in the Ph.D. in Nursing Program are required to successfully complete a qualifying, candidacy examination (See protocol). Faculty reviewing the qualifying examination will systematically evaluate the student's ability to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate research and substantive knowledge in nursing. The successful completion of a qualifying examination permits the student to proceed to conduct dissertation research.

To be eligible for candidacy for the dissertation, students must have completed 42 hours of required course work (excluding dissertation), have received a grade no lower than a B in each doctoral course and have successfully completed the qualifying examination of the program. The time frame for the qualifying examination will be found in the student handbook.

A dissertation is required of every doctoral student before graduation. The dissertation topic, for which a proposal is submitted, must be approved by the doctoral dissertation committee. The dissertation proposal and the dissertation are described in the next sections.

The dissertation is based upon original investigation and demonstration of mature scholarship and critical judgment in the theoretical and methodological approaches to development of nursing knowledge. The dissertation is expected to be the first step in the development of a program of research and scholarly activity. Although Year 3 is designated for the dissertation, it is possible that the student's research topic and time management may extend the work of the dissertation beyond the third year A minimum of 30 dissertation credit hours are required. Defense of the dissertation must be completed in accord with university deadlines for graduation.

Terminology Associated with the Dissertation

Dissertation Chair

The candidate, in consultation with his/her faculty advisor and other doctoral faculty, should select a chair. The chair has graduate faculty status, from each college, appropriate to directing dissertations. In some cases a co-chair may be appropriate and may be from either college regardless of the chair’s college. A co-chair from KSU when the student’s university of record is The University of Akron will require the committee composition to be increased to six (6) members. It is essential for a committee chair to be supportive of the student. To be supportive, a chair should have some familiarity with either the student's proposed content area of research, theory, or research methodology.

Dissertation committee

Students are encouraged to talk/interview with sufficient faculty to seek out committee members. Each member should be selected so as to be maximally beneficial to the student in design and conduct of the research, and providing a perspective about the discipline. The doctoral dissertation committee will guide and approve the acceptability of the dissertation. The composition of the doctoral dissertation committee is dependent on the university of record.

Although the faculty is viewed as one body, the committee will have representation from nursing faculty whose appointments are located at both Kent State University and at The University of Akron. At least one dissertation committee nursing faculty member will be from each campus. Other qualifications of members will be consistent with the student's area of research and with the requirements for doctoral committees as stated in the policies and general catalogs of both universities. If a change to the makeup of the committee members is desirable, the student will consult with the chair and make the changes. The Committee will consist of a minimum of five (5) members. See the following description for the required composition from each university.

Kent State University

The committee will consist of a chair and two (2) members from the candidates program and one faculty member for a discipline outside of the program. (NOTE: only one of the four members may be a A-3 or F-3 Graduate Faculty Status. All others must have F-4 Graduate Faculty Status). When the dissertation is ready for preliminary approval, the Dean must be notified to request the appointment of the Graduate Faculty Representative (5th member). (Information related to graduate faculty status can be found on the Ph.D. website)

The Graduate Faculty Representative

will be appointed by the Dean, or his/her designate after consultation, when appropriate, with the Advisor or Program Chairperson. To qualify, s(he) must have directed a dissertation to completion. The Graduate Faculty Representative should be familiar with the general content area of the dissertation. The Graduate Faculty Representative most often comes from outside the student’s department but may be a member of the candidate’s program faculty but outside the candidate’s area of concentration. The graduate faculty representative may also come from outside the university but must have directed a dissertation to completion. The Graduate Faculty Representative represents the Graduate Faculty by noting whether or not the nature of the questioning and the responses meet highly respectable scholarly standards. If s(he) has some reservation in regard to this, the reservations should be presented immediately to the Dean or his/her designate. The Graduate Faculty Representative is expected to question the candidate and to vote on the passing of the final examination. (For further information see Kent State University guidelines dissertation final examination, Dec 2002.

University of Akron

The doctoral committee will have a minimum of five (5) committee members, including a University of Akron member from outside the College of Nursing. A member from outside the College of Nursing must have a status on the graduate faculty that allows him/her to direct doctoral dissertations. (Category II). The outside member of the committee shall function as a regular member of the committee, attending all meetings and receiving preliminary drafts or chapters as do other committee members. Additionally, the outside member assures that the dissertation process is conducted fairly and the quality standards are maintained.

A majority of the committee members must have a status on the graduate status on the graduate faculty that allows them to direct doctoral dissertations (i.e., if the committee is composed of 5 members, 3 members must have category II status.

At the time the doctoral committee, including the outside member, is constituted, the doctoral adviser shall send the committee membership to the Graduate School for ratification and approval. This must be done no later than a minimum of three (3) months prior to the dissertation defense. Failure to file the form three months prior to the defense will result in delays in the students’ commencements.

Termination of Dissertation Chair Relationship

When either the candidate or the faculty dissertation chair feels that they can no longer continue in the dissertation chair relationship they both should consult with the Ph.D. Program Director at the candidate’s university of record. Beyond the first semester of the dissertation chair relationship, which should be considered a trial period, the investment of effort and resources by both parties indicates that termination is a step that should not be taken lightly. If after consultation with the Ph.D. Program Director, the candidate or dissertation chair still feels the relationship must be terminated, it is his/her right to do so.

Termination of Dissertation Committee Members

When the candidate feels they can no longer work with the committee member, the candidate should meet with the chair to discuss the issues. The dissertation chair can meet independently or in conjunction with the doctoral candidate and committee to resolve the issue. Any changes to the committee membership after initial approval by the Graduate School shall be forwarded to the Graduate School by the doctoral adviser for ratification and approval. Requests for changes in committee membership should include a reason for such changes.

Dissertation Proposal and Meeting

The dissertation proposal is a written document in APA format that normally includes an outline of the parameters of the projected dissertation topic with a rationale and statement of the problem to be researched, a preliminary review of the literature substantiating the need for the study, the methodology and design of the study, and the principle sources of information for the dissertation. The proposal is often the first three chapters of the dissertation: Chapter 1, Introduction and Statement of the Problem; Chapter 2, Review of Literature; and Chapter 3, Method (includes references used throughout the first three chapters). A meeting of the dissertation committee is required for approval. This meeting is confined to the candidate and members only.

Approval of Proposal

Approval of the proposal permits the candidate to proceed with the actual dissertation research.

Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval

Any research that involves human subjects must have approval from the University Human Subjects Review Board from the appropriate University before data collection may begin or before other agency approval is obtained.

Simultaneous approval may be sought from the University IRB and agency review board.

Applications may be secured from the appropriate office of the respective university. Candidate obtains approval at their University of record and the University of the chair. A copy of the approved IRB form must be attached to the dissertation proposal before the proposal receives final approval. Obtaining IRB approvals from other agencies (e.g., hospitals, nursing homes, etc.) involved in the research is the responsibility of the candidate working under the guidance of the dissertation chair.

Approved Dissertation Topic and Proposal Form

This form is completed by the doctoral candidate, signed by members of the dissertation committee holding graduate faculty status, and filed in the appropriate office of the respective university.  

Approval of Dissertation Topic Form (PDF)

Conducting Research

During the process candidates should be in frequent contact with their dissertation chairs and committee members as needed. The schedules of all committee members, including the outside member, shall be considered when selecting a time for all committee meetings.

Preliminary Approval of Dissertation

When the dissertation chair thinks that the dissertation is ready, it will be circulated among the members of the dissertation committee. The chair will allow at least a ten-day period for reading the dissertation and will then convene the dissertation committee (without the candidate) for the purpose of evaluating it. The Graduate Faculty Representative (KSU) or Outside member (UA) should be notified of this meeting and invited to attend. Recommended revisions will be noted by the chair and communicated to the candidate. When, in the opinion of the chair and the candidate the appropriate revisions have been made, the chair will inform the Ph.D. Program Director that the final oral defense may be scheduled.

Predefense Meeting of the Dissertation Committee

The purpose of the meeting determines the state of readiness of the manuscript for the final oral defense. The following are possible committee decisions:

  • There is unanimous agreement that the dissertation is ready for the oral defense and any suggestions for changes do not need to be seen before the oral defense.
  • One or more committee members request that minor changes be made in the predefense copy and wish to see the revisions before determining readiness to defend. An additional meeting of the dissertation committee is not needed for final approval.
  • The committee determines that major revisions necessitate postponing the scheduling of the oral defense. If possible, a tentative timeframe for completing changes, in collaboration with the doctoral candidate and committee, will be identified and a potential date for the next predefense committee meeting should be set.

Selection of the Moderator

Normally, the moderator will not be a faculty member in the department of the candidate's major. The role of the moderator is to preside and moderate the oral defense. At KSU the GFR may serve as the moderator.

Dissertation Oral Defense

When the dissertation is complete, a meeting will be scheduled for the candidate's oral defense of the dissertation. The meeting date should be scheduled in line with University deadlines for dissertation defense. The dissertation chair will designate the time and place of the final oral defense and notify all members of the examining committee. The defense should be scheduled to allow at least ten days for the examining committee to look over the dissertation. The candidate should be prepared to make further revisions after the oral defense.

The graduate school encourages all dissertation defenses to be publicized well in advanced and to be open to all faculty and all graduate students. The definition of “open” will reside with the department.

Copies of the dissertation abstract will be distributed by the candidate, with the approval of the dissertation chair, to departmental faculty and graduate students and posted at least five days prior to the defense itself to familiarize members of the Graduate Faculty and other students with the methods and findings of the dissertation. The abstract usually contains a short biography (200 words) of the candidate and a short abstract (250 words) of the dissertation.

Order of the Defense

The candidate will open the defense with a brief (15-30 minute) presentation of his or her findings, after which the members of the examining committee will question the candidate in an order to be determined by the Moderator. The candidate is expected to respond to substantive and methodological questions related to the dissertation.  When, in the opinion of the Moderator, members of the examining committee have had an adequate opportunity to question the candidate, the Moderator may open the examination to appropriate questions from others.

Determination of Success or Failure of Defense

The moderator/chair (depending on University of record will adjourn the defense and clear the room of everyone except the members of the examining committee. Parliamentary procedure will be observed. The candidate will be evaluated both upon the quality and significance of the dissertation and upon the oral defense of the findings. All committee members will be polled for their vote on the defense and the dissertation (pass or fail). The candidate passes if there is no more than one dissenting vote cast by the examining committee. All members of the examining committee will Affix their signature to a single form signifying their vote.

Report of examination results must be filed by the chair through the appropriate office. ( The form will be sent to the Graduate School as the single form indicating that the defense has been held, and that the student has passed or failed. This form must bo on file in the Graduate School at the time the dissertation is officially submitted. Committee members may wish to write separate memos to the Graduate School concerning the dissertation and/or the defense. Members are invited to do so but not required to do so.

Repeating the Oral Defense

If the doctoral candidate fails the oral defense of the dissertation, the dissertation committee determines under what conditions another oral defense of the dissertation may be scheduled. The dissertation committee is not obligated to provide a second opportunity to defend the dissertation; however, the candidate may be granted one additional opportunity to defend the dissertation. Failure to defend the dissertation successfully means that the candidate must reapply for graduation according to the established deadlines for the term in which the next defense will be scheduled.

Submission of Final Dissertation

All comments /questions by the committee are to be addressed by the candidate in the final version of the dissertation. The final version of the dissertation will be in current APA format. See university requirements for specific requirements.

Binding of Dissertation

In addition to the bound copies required by the University a bound copy or an electronic version of the dissertation will be furnished by the candidate to the department.

Components of a Dissertation

(See university requirements for specific requirements).

  • Preliminary pages
  • Title
  • Approval
  • Acknowledgements
  • Table of Contents
  • List of tables
  • List of figures
  • Abstract
  • Body
    • Chapter 1 Introduction and statement of the problem
    • Chapter 2 Review of Literature
    • Chapter 3 Method
    • Chapter 4 Data analysis
    • Chapter 5 Discussion and implications of the study.
  • References
  • Appendices

Timeline (or Sequencing of) for Dissertation Activities:

  1. Select Dissertation Advisor/chair.
  2. Select Dissertation Committee.
  3. Preliminary draft of proposal goes to Dissertation Committee
  4. Dissertation Committee approves Dissertation Topic & Proposal
  5. IRB approval
  6. File Notification of Approved Dissertation Topic and Proposal
  7. Conduct research
  8. Check final date for defense to quality for graduation. This date can be found in the graduate catalog.
  9. Preliminary Approval of Dissertation. Prepare draft of dissertation, 10 days allowed for Dissertation Committee to read dissertation.
  10. Advisor requests Quality Representative from JDPN Program Director.
  11. Committee meets (predefense; without candidate) to give preliminary approval of dissertation Quality Representative is invited.
  12. Moderator selected.
  13. Comments and suggestions by dissertation committee forwarded by dissertation chair to candidate.
  14. Final draft of dissertation prepared.
  15. Final draft goes to the dissertation committee (10 days allowed for dissertation committee to read dissertation).
  16. Dissertation examination & defense.
  17. Report of examination results filed through the appropriate office for the respective University.
  18. Submission of final dissertation.