Ralph Soule Dissertation Milestones

Here are the big ticket milestones I met to complete my dissertation at the George Washington University.


  • Choose dissertation Chair.
  • Chair approves of research question(s).
  • Dissertation Chair approves the rough draft of my first three chapters. This is known as the proposal because it describes the problem, what you want to learn (the research questions), and how you plan to collect the data to answer your question.
  • Send the proposal to my dissertation committee and process their comments.
  • "Defend" my proposal in a meeting with my dissertation committee. The defense is important because it is the last time for the committee to make sure the research plan is sound before data collection. No amount of data collection can rescue a bad research plan. The purpose of the proposal defense is to make sure your research design is feasible, rigorous, and significant.
  • Get permission (license) from the university to collect data. This means clearing your research proposal through the univerity's Institutional Review Board (IRB).
  • Collect data.
  • Analyze the data and generate themes
  • Write chapter 4 (Findings), get approval from Chair. Possibly provide update to committee.
  • Revise chapter 3 since data collection is complete.
  • Write chapter 5 (Conclusions, Recommendations), get approval from Chair.
  • Submit entire dissertation to committee for review.
  • Get comments from committee.
  • Schedule dissertation defense. This includes adding additional two "readers" in the U.S. They are called "external examiners" in the U.K. The Chair may take the lead on this.
  • Defend the research approach and conclusions before the full committee
  • Make the changes directed by the the committee and readers. Review with Chair.
  • Submit dissertation to bibliographic archivers charged with enforcing format requirements. Receive acknowledgement that text is in the required format.
  • Receive acknowledgement that all administrative requirements are met for graduation (fees paid, courses complete, etc.).