The dissertation is a complete, stand-alone document that describes the student's work on a research topic. The exact format of the document is determined by the Advisory Committee in consultation with the student, but all dissertations must meet the minimum requirements set forth by the Graduate School. Information on format and ETD requirements for this document are available at http://etd.vt.edu/. Matters of style in the dissertation are usually handled by reference to the style sheets of a major journal in the particular field of study. Chapters generally consist of an introduction, literature review, research methods and materials, results, discussion, conclusions, and recommendations. The dissertation requires a comprehensive review of prior art to determine what has already been tried by others to answer the research question. It often will include development of data collection instruments or experimental protocols and designs, collection of data through field work or experiments, and detailed analysis of that data to draw conclusions regarding the research question. Work must lead to findings of journal paper quality, and new discoveries are expected.

  • The student may opt to complete the written deliverable for the Ph.D. using a manuscript format (i.e., submittal of three or more related refereed journal papers supplemented by an introduction and reflection on process/findings, plus supporting data in Appendices). In this case, the journal papers must have been submitted to specific refereed journals and have been granted a tentative or final approval for publication.
  • If a standard dissertation format is chosen (using conventional chapters in addition to an introduction and a conclusion), the student is required to include a 10-12 page extended abstract in journal paper format summarizing the work in addition to meeting all requirements of the Graduate School for Electronic Theses & Dissertations (ETD) submittals (http://etd.vt.edu).

A draft of the dissertation should be submitted to the Advisory Committee at least two weeks prior to the pre-defense if one is required by the committee, or two weeks prior to the final examination and dissertation defense otherwise. The draft should be reviewed and approved by the Committee Chair prior to distribution to the Advisory Committee. Any required revisions identified by committee members during review of the draft or as part of the final dissertation defense must be made and confirmed by the committee chair before final acceptance and submittal of the dissertation. Individual committee members will receive a final opportunity to review and comment on the final submittal before electronically approving the document.