Dissertation Guide





A Central Resource for Crafting Your Dissertation

A dissertation is the culminating, integrative, scholarly experience of doctoral study. The purpose of the dissertation research is to: (a) make an original contribution to knowledge in the candidate’s field of specialization, (b) demonstrate an advanced command of research skills, and (c) demonstrate an advanced ability to communicate findings.

The stated information applies to all GSEHD doctoral degree programs, but each doctoral program may also have additional considerations. Please be sure to contact your program faculty for additional program-specific information.

Your Student Success Coach can answer questions about your doctoral studies or direct you to appropriate and helpful resources across the university. For more information, contact the Office of Student Success at docgsehd@gwu.edu or 202-994-9283.



 Dissertation Due Dates & Timelines

Please note: The posted due dates below are driven by the university’s ProQuest submission deadlines (the date by which the university requires you to submit the final, approved version of your dissertation in order to graduate). The date of your ProQuest submission determines your graduation semester, regardless of when you defend.

If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Dannels, Associate Dean for Doctoral Studies, at sdannels@gwu.edu.

  Summer 2024 Due Dates at a Glance

The following pathways apply for the summer 2024 semester only, and exceptions or extensions will not be granted.

Timeline 1: Graduate in Summer 2024
  • June 19: Last day to submit dissertation materials for a summer 2024 graduation
  • July 19: Last day to defend for a summer 2024 graduation
  • August 15, 5pm: ProQuest submission deadline
    • In order to graduate this semester, all final steps must be completed and your final document must be uploaded to ProQuest by August 15 at 5pm. Please be aware this is a fixed deadline, so you will have less time to make your final edits if you choose a later defense date.
    • If you do not submit your final dissertation before the ETD deadline, you will have to wait until the next semester to graduate.


Timeline 2: Graduate in Fall 2024
  • August 15: Last day to hold a defense during the summer semester (materials due 30 days in advance)
  • August 15: Last day to submit materials to defend in the fall semester while enrolled in CE

A student who is unable to meet the deadline for summer graduation may still submit materials and/or defend later in the summer semester as a fall 2024 graduate.

Any student submitting materials between July 20 and August 15, and/or defending between July 20 and August 15, will be a fall 2024 graduate and eligible to enroll in Continuous Enrollment (CE), a zero-credit, no-cost option, for the fall 2024 semester. This option is designed to allow students greater financial flexibility as they plan their defense timelines. (Please note: international students living in the US are not eligible for CE; instead, they may take a reduced course load.)

You are not required to follow timeline 2 in order to graduate in fall 2024, unless you wish to enroll in CE (or for international students, a reduced course load). A student who submits materials after August 15 can still defend and graduate in the fall 2024 semester, but will enroll in and pay for normal dissertation research credits.

Steps for Dissertation Research



 Step 1: Assemble Dissertation Committee

The dissertation committee guides the candidate in development of the dissertation research proposal, makes final judgments about the adequacy of the proposal, is available for consultation during the research work, guides the candidate in preparation of the dissertation document, and decides when the dissertation is ready for defense. It is the student’s responsibility to maintain regular contact with their chair and meet deadlines for drafts or deliverables.

  • The three-member dissertation committee includes a dissertation chair and two additional committee members.
  • The committee is formally constituted when all three members have signed a Dissertation Committee Membership form and submitted it to the Office of Student Life.
  • Prior to the dissertation defense, two additional examiners join the committee.
Committee Chair

Your primary advisor might serve as chair of the committee, or another faculty member may assume that position. The chair does not vote at the time of oral defense.

The role of the dissertation committee chair is to:

  • Guide the candidate in the preparation of the dissertation proposal, including specification of the research problem, the literature review that helps point the way toward the research, the questions or hypotheses for investigation, and the methodology.
  • Guide the candidate in selection of two additional committee members.
  • Establish procedures regarding proposal development and dissertation draft review.
  • Provide guidance on the research proposal structure and content and set clear expectations for timely completion of the proposal.
  • Provide guidance on the dissertation structure and content and set clear expectations for high quality writing.
  • Set clear expectations for timely completion and guide the candidate toward achieving a high level of quality (technical and ethical) in the dissertation research and document.
  • In consultation with the candidate, select additional examiners (i.e., readers) for the oral defense of the dissertation.
  • Prepare the candidate for the oral defense process.
  • Encourage the candidate to publish their dissertation after successful completion.

The dissertation committee chair must have the following qualifications:

  • Hold an earned academic doctorate.
  • Hold a GSEHD regular faculty appointment, either full- or part-time (visiting faculty not permitted). Selection of dissertation chairs who do not hold a regular faculty appointment or are outside the program area require approval by the Dean’s Office. In this case, a member of the candidate’s program faculty must participate as a member of either the research committee or the examining committee at the point of defense.
  • Have expertise that matches the candidate’s topic area.
  • Have an active research agenda as characterized by the departmental personnel guidelines.
  • Either (a) have experience serving as a member in no fewer than two dissertation committees, including the defense of the dissertation, or (b) in the absence of such experience, be mentored by an experienced GSEHD dissertation chair selected by the faculty member’s department chair.

What happens if your chair retires or departs GSEHD?

Emeritus and departing faculty may continue to serve as the dissertation chair for a period of two years, if the student has an approved proposal at the time of their departure. After two years, the student must reconstitute the dissertation committee by selecting a new chair.

Committee Members

The role of the two other dissertation committee members is to guide the candidate, in conjunction with the chair, through development of their independent research and the achievement of a high-quality product and oral defense. Both are voting members at the time of oral defense.

These committee members must have the following qualifications:

  • Hold an earned academic doctorate, or an earned terminal degree, and a faculty appointment for at least one year prior to joining the committee.
  • Have expertise that matches the candidate’s topic area and research.
  • Among the chair and the two committee members, at least one is to be knowledgeable about the methodology to be used in the dissertation research and designated as taking responsibility for guiding the research methodology.
  • It is strongly recommended that one committee member come from outside the candidate’s home program; he or she may also come from outside of GSEHD and even outside of GW. Check with your program to see their requirements for committee membership.
  • Committee members must not have a relationship with the candidate that poses a potential conflict of interest (for example, serving as the candidate’s job supervisor, friend, or colleague).
  • If not a current GW regular-status member, a copy of the committee member’s curriculum vitae must be submitted to the Office of Student Life.

If you need to substitute a committee member:

To make a change in committee membership after it has been formally constituted via the Dissertation Committee Membership form, the chair, the candidate, and the committee members being dropped and added should sign a memorandum indicating their concurrence with the requested change and send the memorandum to the Office of Student Life.

Please note that committee members generally require a reasonable amount of time to review drafts and provide feedback, particularly if they receive a draft during certain times of the year. With that in mind, please discuss deadlines and schedules with your committee in advance.

Two Additional Examiners for the Dissertation Defense

Two additional examiners (voting) are selected by the dissertation chair on the basis of their expertise and interest in the candidate's topic area, and must:

  • Hold a doctorate for at least one year prior to the defense.
  • Have a professional background and experience that is relevant to the candidate's topic area.
  • Not have a relationship with the candidate that might pose a conflict of interest.
  • If not a current GW faculty member, a copy of their curriculum vitae must be submitted to the Office of Student Life.





  Step 2: Draft and Defend Your Dissertation Proposal

Your dissertation proposal forms a working plan that is used by you and the committee to guide the research, evaluate progress, and provide ongoing feedback.

  • Your dissertation committee will provide guidance/approval to proceed with research following a dissertation proposal defense, as detailed below.
  • Please note: You will not collect data during this phase. As noted by the GW Office of Human Research policies, you may not begin actual data collection until you have all the necessary written approvals following the proposal defense. Noncompliance may result in a prohibition against the use of the data in your dissertation and possibly misconduct charges.
Drafting the Proposal: Content and Style Guide

  The GSEHD Dissertation Content and Style Guide provides an in-depth description of each section included within a dissertation. Please note, these are guidelines only and alternative formats may be allowed, with permission.

Content: The dissertation proposal should include those elements normally found in Chapters 1 to 3 and the References of the dissertation. It should state the research questions, position the expected research in the existing literature, indicate expected results, outline the structure of the dissertation, and indicate the time frame for carrying out the research tasks. Under certain circumstances, the Associate Dean of Doctoral Studies may allow approval of a proposal with less information with a formal request.

Style/Formatting: The proposal should be prepared according to a recognized scholarly format, usually the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (Seventh Edition). University Formatting Requirements apply to the font type and size, page margins, page numbering, page order and line spacing for the entire document and to the content and formatting of the front pages. The chair of your dissertation committee and the instructor of your Pre-Dissertation Seminar (8998) will also provide guidelines for the proposal.

Styles for formatting bibliographies, footnotes, and/or endnotes should be consistent with the chosen style used to format the body of your document. For more information on citation styles and citation tools, visit GW's Writing Styles webpage. The GW Libraries provide free access to RefWorks, a cloud-based tool for organizing your research and creating bibliographies.

Template: Download the GSEHD Dissertation Title Page to Abstract Page template.

  • Instructions: Open the template and save it under a new name. The text highlighted in yellow on the new document may be edited with your specific information. Please delete the optional pages you do not wish to use. (The shading or highlight will not display when printed or converted to PDF.)
    • To remove the square parenthesis from the template:
      • Under the Review tab, click on "Restrict Editing."
      • A dialogue window will open on the right side of the screen.
      • Uncheck "Highlight the regions I can edit."
      • The square parenthesis will be removed.
  • Example: Download a Dissertation Sample Format (GSEHD). This is for illustrative purposes only. Do not use it as a template.

Direct questions about school-specific guidelines to docgsehd@gwu.edu.


Proposal Approval Process


First: Defend Dissertation Proposal

Before conducting dissertation research, your research proposal must be reviewed in an open forum (the proposal defense) and approved by your dissertation committee.

Proposal Defense: What to Expect

The committee has a responsibility to review the proposal and ensure that it will produce worthwhile and high-quality research.

The proposal defense is an informal proceeding, and the format is at the discretion of the dissertation chair. Please ask your chair for a briefing on the format.

During the defense, you may be asked about your rationale for certain aspects of the proposal, asked for more details about the literature or the proposed methods, or challenged about the appropriateness of proposed procedures. Your competency with the research methods will be assessed. During this consultation, the committee might suggest, and sometimes require, changes to improve the research. Those changes may be reviewed by the full committee or just the chair, depending on their feedback and directions.

Scheduling Defense

Please work with your dissertation chair to schedule your proposal defense, as each program has different policies regarding when and how proposal defenses take place.

Note: Students must be enrolled in courses in the semester in which they defend their proposal.


Formal approval is indicated by committee members’ signatures on the Dissertation Proposal Approval form. This form, along with the CV of any committee member who is not on the GSEHD faculty, must be submitted to the Office of Student Life (docgsehd@gwu.edu) to become an official part of your academic record.

Next: Obtain Permission to Collect Data after the Proposal Defense

Following an approved proposal defense, you must determine if your study requires Office of Human Research (OHR) / Institutional Review Board (IRB) review and seek appropriate approval to proceed with research.

The Office of Human Research assesses whether (a) the proposed research will expose human participants to risks, (b) practical precautions have been taken to minimize and inform the participants of those risks, and (c) the remaining risks are justified by the potential benefits of the research.

You are not authorized to collect data for your dissertation until you have received OHR/IRB approval.

IRB Submission Process

This section outlines the IRB process. Before submitting a proposal to the IRB, the student (and chair or whoever is acting as the PI for the study) must complete Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) online training.

Step 2
Determine if your study requires IRB approval (see below)

Step 3
If IRB approval is needed, work with dissertation chair to submit forms via the online GW iRIS system

Step 4
Dissertation chair, and then departmental rep review and approve via GW iRIS system

Step 5
OHR reviews and approves via GW iRIS system


Note: You will use the online GW iRIS system to submit all required documentation to get your study approved by IRB.

To determine if your study requires IRB review, submit a Human Research Determination form in the GW iRIS system.

  • If it is determined that your research does not warrant IRB oversight, complete the Certification of Research Exclusion form and submit it to IRB.
  • If your study requires IRB approval, please work with your dissertation chair to prepare and submit your electronic IRB approval forms via the GW iRIS system.

The Office of Human Research may communicate directly with you to ask for further clarifications or additional protections for human participants.

If you do not receive approval, you should consult with your dissertation committee chair about how to proceed.

If you need to make changes to your study after it has been approved, you must file a request with the IRB to modify your study. No modifications can be made until you receive approval.

Students who have an IRB designation of “expedited” or “full review” must submit a Continuing Review form to the Office of Human Research every 12 months.





  Step 3: Enter the Research Phase

Once you have received approval from your dissertation committee and OHR/IRB, you may enter the research/data collection phase of the project.

Register for Dissertation Research Course

Candidates will enroll in CNSL, CPED, EDUC, HOL, SEHD, or SPED 8999 while conducting dissertation research. Candidates will take a minimum of 12 and maximum of 24 credits of 8999, at a rate of three or six credit hours each fall and spring semester, until they successfully defend their dissertation or reach a total of 24 credits. Summer registration is optional.

After completing 24 credit hours of 8999, candidates can register for one credit hour of Continuing Doctoral Research (CNSL, CPED, EDUC, HOL, SEHD, or SPED 0940) each fall and spring semester until they defend their dissertations. Registration in 0940 for dissertation research is not permitted until you have completed 24 credits of 8999.

Half- or Full-Time Certification: GSEHD can certify students as half- or full-time while they are enrolled in Dissertation Research using a Half-Time/Full-Time Certification Form. For most forms of financial assistance, this will make you eligible to either receive aid or defer previous loans. Please work with the Financial Aid Office to confirm that this applies to your situation. GSEHD can also certify international students as full-time for visa purposes while they are enrolled in Dissertation Research; please reach out to the International Services Office for more information.






  Step 4: Complete Written Dissertation

Continue building on your dissertation proposal, using the same template and formatting (as detailed again below).

Content and Style Guide

The GSEHD Dissertation Content and Style Guide provides an in-depth description of each section included within a dissertation.

  • Please note, these are guidelines only and alternative formats are permitted, with permission. Write the body of the manuscript (chapters, bibliography and appendices) in a style appropriate for your field of study or GSEHD's school-specific guidelines.
  • University formatting requirements apply to the font type and size, page margins, page numbering, page order and line spacing for the entire document and to the content and formatting of the front pages.
  • Ensure that your document is accessible for everyone, including people with disabilities, by following standard guidelines. Learn more about creating an accessible dissertation >
  • Example: Download a Dissertation Sample Format (GSEHD). This is for illustrative purposes only. Do not use it as a template.

In addition, you are required to use a recognized scholarly format for the dissertation, typically the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (Seventh Edition).

Styles for formatting bibliographies, footnotes, and/or endnotes should be consistent with the chosen style used to format the body of your document. For more information on citation styles and citation tools, visit GW's Writing Styles webpage. The GW Libraries provide free access to RefWorks, a cloud-based tool for organizing your research and creating bibliographies.

Direct questions about school-specific guidelines to docgsehd@gwu.edu.

Determine Final Timeline

When planning a thesis defense, keep in mind university ProQuest submission deadlines, the time that the examining committee requires to read the thesis, as well as time needed after the defense for revisions. You'll want to begin planning with your committee to determine the timeline for review/approval in order to meet your desired graduation date and the associated deadlines.

Start with your final deadline and back up from there to determine a deadline for each step. Work with your chair/committee to determine availability and feasibility and set firm dates.

  • Start with the ProQuest submission deadline for the semester you plan to graduate. We strongly recommend that you upload your dissertation at least one week prior to the deadline to allow sufficient time to make any required formatting changes to your document.
  • Work with your committee to schedule the date for your oral examination (note the "last day to defend" deadline), ensuring there is enough time to make any needed edits before the ProQuest deadline. (If you do not submit your final dissertation before this deadline, you will have to wait until the next semester to graduate.)
  • The final dissertation and Request for Dissertation Defense Form must be submitted at least 30 days prior to the desired defense date.
  • The committee must review and approve the written dissertation document before you can submit the request form. You'll want to allow at least 30 days for the committee to review your proposed final draft, provide their feedback, make needed edits, and complete the cycle as needed.
  • This timeline should provide the date that you need to have your finalized draft completed. You might work with your chair to set milestones and deadlines throughout the writing process as well.
Request Permission to Use Published Works

If your dissertation includes extended quotations, published scales or tests, or other material owned by others, be sure to seek permission from the author(s) or publisher (view sample letter).

If you intend to use your own previous or future publications, including co-authored works, the publisher must grant you permission, and it may impact your ETD publishing options.

Find additional information about your rights and responsibilities in ProQuest’s copyright guide.

Begin Preparing for Final Submission

It is recommended that you begin considering several publication issues, such as copyrighting your work and copyright compliance, creative commons licenses, publishing options, etc., before you are ready to submit your final draft.

Because obtaining copyright permissions takes time, start this process long before you are ready to submit your manuscript to the ProQuest ETD Administrator. For guidance on copyright, direct your questions to the Libraries’ Compliance Officer.

Learn more about preparing for publication >



  Key Action Items:

  • Determine Final Deadlines/Timeline
  • Complete written dissertation
  • Begin preparing for final submission




  Step 5: Defend Your Dissertation in an Oral Examination

Once your dissertation document is completed and approved by your committee, you will complete an Oral Examination (AKA Oral Defense or Dissertation Defense). This is a formal presentation and examination of your research and findings to a five-member committee. You will demonstrate your competency and understanding of the subject matter and the significance of your research contribution, as well as your ability to think critically, respond to questions, and engage in scholarly discourse with experts in the field. The committee will determine if the dissertation is acceptable and whether you satisfactorily defended it.

Eligibility to Proceed to Defense

In order to defend, students must:

  • Submit all dissertation materials at least 30 days in advance of the defense and by the posted deadlines.

  • Have completed all program requirements, including at least 12 credits of dissertation research (8999), and successfully defended their proposal (IPGs in 0940, 8998, and 8999 are permitted).

  • Be registered and in good academic standing in the semester of defense.

    • Students will usually be registered in 8999 or 0940 during their defense. They may also occasionally be registered in Continuous Enrollment (CE), a zero-credit, zero-cost option.

  • Not have an active academic standing or time limit hold on their account. If students do have one of these holds, they must appeal to PMAC to either resolve the academic standing issue or receive a time extension before becoming eligible to defend.

  • Receive approval from their chair and committee that the dissertation document is ready to defend.

Action Item: Submit Required Forms & Documents

Step 1: If you have met the above requirements and your committee has approved your written dissertation document, you must submit the Request for Dissertation Oral Examination.

  • While completing this form, which constitutes your formal submission of materials and request for defense, you will be asked to attach the following additional materials:
    • Dissertation Approval Form
    • CVs of any committee members who are not current GW faculty members, if not previously submitted
    • Completed dissertation
      • Once the dissertation is submitted to the Office of Student Life, no changes can be made to the document before the oral examination.
  • Please note, these materials must be submitted in full at least 30 days before your dissertation defense. Partial submissions cannot be accepted.
Step 2: Submit an online Application for Graduation for the appropriate semester. All graduation application deadlines are listed on the Office of the Registrar’s website.
Format of Oral Defense

Students can choose between two formats to defend their dissertation:

  • A virtual defense, which will be conducted via a scheduled Webex meeting.

  • An in-person defense, which will be conducted on either the Foggy Bottom or VSTC campus.

    • During an in-person defense, no more than one committee member may participate virtually, and the candidate and the chair must be present at the site of the examination.

The dissertation oral examination is in an open meeting that is publicly announced (see the calendar below). Guests may attend, and you may wish to attend another student’s defense before your own to familiarize yourself with the format. Please notify the candidate if you plan to attend a defense.

Oral Exam Committee

The dissertation oral examination committee includes five members:

  • The dissertation committee chair (nonvoting)

  • The two other committee members

  • Two additional examiners (The dissertation chair contacts and secures the additional examiners.)

If desired, the student can ask an additional GSEHD faculty member to participate as a nonvoting, non-questioning presider. Students may choose to do so if there is a faculty member who they would like to be involved without taking on official committee duties.

All committee members and examiners must agree on a date, time, and format (in-person or virtual) for the defense.

See the "committee" section above for additional details and requirements.

Presider: One of the committee members, other than the chair, will serve as the presider. The presider directs the defense using the instructions set forth in the Presider Memo (linked below).

  • The committee member serving as presider may be an active examiner, participating in the questioning of the candidate and the votes.

  • -OR- The presider may not be a member of the examining committee and are present solely to moderate. (They do not have a voting or examining role.)

  • The presider must be a GSEHD faculty member (tenure track, contract, or visiting).

  Download the Presider Memo for an In-Person Defense >
  Download the Presider Memo for a Virtual Defense >

Responsibilities of Each Involved

Chair Responsibilities:

  • Assist candidate in completing and submitting the following forms to the Office of Student Life at least 30 calendar days in advance of the dissertation defense and in agreement with all specified deadlines.

    • Request for Dissertation Oral Examination form (online form)

    • Dissertation Approval Form (submitted through online form above). Before signing the Dissertation Approval Form, committee members should be satisfied that the document is ready to defend. Once the dissertation is submitted to the Office of Student Life, no changes can be made to the document before the oral examination.

  • The chair, usually in collaboration with the candidate, is to arrange for additional examiners to join the committee and arrange a date and time for the oral examination. These steps are indicated on the Request for Dissertation Oral Examination form.

Doctoral Candidate Responsibilities:

  • Submit all materials via the Request for Dissertation Oral Examination form online at least 30 calendar days in advance of your dissertation defense and in agreement with all specified deadlines. (see "eligibility" section above for more information)

  • Distribute copies of the final dissertation to the members of the examining committee at least 30 days before the scheduled date of the oral examination.

Office of Student Life Responsibilities:

  • Review the student’s academic history and report any discrepancies to the student. Any remaining grades of “IPG” in 8998, 8999, or 0940 will be converted to grades of “credit” as part of the review process.

  • Review the membership of the proposed dissertation oral examination committee for compliance with GSEHD regulations.

  • Make logistical arrangements for the defense by reserving the physical room or creating the virtual meeting.

Sequence of Events

Set-up of the room

  • Candidate and chairperson at one end of table, presider at other end, examiners along sides, any observers along walls.

Examination Session

  • Open the examination by indicating name of the candidate and degree

  • Statement of the purpose of the examination, which is to determine whether the dissertation is acceptable and whether the candidate satisfactorily defends it.

    • These decisions will be made at the conclusion of the examination by the four examiners. (The chair is present but does not participate in the examination or the decision.)

  • Permit the candidate to make a brief introductory statement

    • Keep the statement to about five minutes (optional). It is not necessary to summarize the content of the dissertation. Tell the examiners anything that may be helpful to them in understanding the research, your background, or the relationship between the two.

  • Each examiner will be given an opportunity to introduce questions. Once a question has been introduced, any other examiner who is interested in the same general area may feel free to enter the questioning at that point.

  • It is hoped that the initial questioning will proceed expeditiously enough that there will be an opportunity for a second round.

Decision Period

  • The candidate and all observers will leave the room, or enter a breakout room if the defense is being conducted virtually, while the committee considers the acceptability of the dissertation document.

  • The committee will discuss their decision. There will be a motion, and when that motion is seconded, a vote will take place. Two negative votes defeat a motion.

After decision is made – bring the candidate and guests back into the room and announce the results.


At the conclusion of the examination phase of the defense, the candidate and all observers are asked to leave the room while the committee considers the acceptability of both the dissertation defense and the dissertation document.

Possible decisions:

  • Accept: All errors are corrected, and recommendations which had consensus in the course of the examination are incorporated. The examiners delegate to the chairperson the responsibility for seeing that this is done.

  • Accept conditionally: Any examiner who cares to do so may withhold his or her approval until the revised document has been submitted to him or her and is approved.

  • Reject conditionally: The examiners establish conditions under which the dissertation may be reconsidered and accepted. This may or may not include another oral exam.

  • Reject: The dissertation is judged totally unacceptable. The candidate has no alternative except to produce a new study, if permitted to continue.

If the dissertation defense is successful, the student must make any required edits and submit the final version of the document to ProQuest before the ETD deadline. (see "final steps" section below for more information).

  • A student who is unable to make the required revisions before the deadline may enroll in Continuous Enrollment (CE)* in the subsequent semester to finish and submit the revisions. If the revisions are accepted, the student will graduate that semester. A student who does not have final committee approval for the dissertation within two semesters will be terminated from the doctoral program.

    • *Please note: CE status, a zero-credit option, is limited to two semesters. International students living in the US are not eligible for CE and should enroll in 0940 if they require an additional semester to make edits to their dissertation document.

If the dissertation document is acceptable but the oral defense is unsuccessful, the student may request a second oral defense. On the second attempt, a student must pass the oral defense and have the dissertation voted acceptable by the committee. If the student fails both oral defenses, the student is automatically removed from the doctoral program, and must appeal to the Post-Master’s Appeals Committee for reinstatement if interested in continuing.






 Scheduled Dissertation Defenses


  • Once a defense has been scheduled, it will be placed on the calendar below.
  • Guests may attend, but please notify the candidate if you plan to attend a defense.






 Step 6: Final Steps Following Dissertation Oral Exam


Once you have successfully completed the oral defense, you must:

  1. Work with chair to make edits: Make any final edits to the document based on your committee’s feedback, and, if necessary, obtain approval/signatures from committee members.
  2. Decide whether you want to copyright your work: GW generally discourages students from copyrighting their dissertation unless the research has some commercial value. Please see the GW Electronic Thesis and Dissertation (ETD) Best Practices for more information regarding open access vs. traditional publishing and copyright. Direct questions to the Libraries’ Compliance Officer. ProQuest will assess a $95 fee for open access publishing.
  3. Submit Electronic Thesis and Dissertation (ETD) Approval Form: After your chair/committee approves the final draft, both you and your chair must sign the ETD Approval Form and submit it to docgsehd@gwu.edu. If you do not yet have an ETD submission number when you are filling out the form, you may leave that item blank.
  4. Doctoral Candidates Only, Complete the Certification Page (this replaces the signature page in the electronic document): Insert it in the electronic dissertation immediately after the title page (view sample). Fill in the date of your dissertation defense and the names and professorial titles of the members of your committee (Only include your dissertation director(s) and the two readers who are members of the core research proposal committee).
  5. Upload your final dissertation and receive formatting approval:
    • The University uses the ProQuest ETD Administrator to facilitate the submission/approval process of GW electronic theses and dissertations. By submitting to the ProQuest ETD Administrator, the final and approved version of your thesis or dissertation will be deposited to ProQuest's Dissertation and Theses Online Database and the University's institutional repository, GW ScholarSpace.
      • A dissertation or thesis should only be uploaded AFTER the faculty adviser has signed off on the final, approved version of the thesis or dissertation.
      • The Steps in ETD Submission website will guide you through the process of electronically submitting your dissertation to ProQuest.
      • The document must be converted to a PDF before uploading. Be sure to check your PDF page by page to make sure the conversion worked correctly with no missing pages, errors in images or fonts, etc. Refer to ProQuest's tips on preparing manuscripts, including how to embed fonts in your document.
      • Submit the completed ETD Access Approval Form to docgsehd@gwu.edu when you have uploaded your dissertation to ProQuest.
      • Gelman Library will review your submission and may require you to make formatting edits and re-submit your document before accepting it if your document does not follow the above formatting guidelines. They will notify you via email if your submission requires edits and when your submission has been accepted.
        • We strongly recommend that you upload your thesis or dissertation at least one week prior to the ETD Approval Deadline to allow sufficient time to make any required formatting changes to your document. (Note: a single formatting review takes about 2 business days to complete. If you have substantial formatting edits to make, this approval process can take several business days.)
        • ProQuest’s instructions for revising and re-submitting your manuscript appear on their page ETD Administrator: FAQs.
        • View the ETD Approval Workflow for an overview of the process.
      • Your dissertation is not considered final until Gelman Library has accepted it.
        • To check the status of your submission, log into your ETD Account and click on the tab labeled My ETDs. The status is displayed as a hyperlink next to the Status field.
  6. Submit Survey of Earned Doctorates: The University requires students to submit the Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) before clearing you for graduation. Please complete the questionnaire online and send your certificate of completion to docgsehd@gwu.edu.
  7. Finalize IRB logistics: If required, complete the Study Closure Form to terminate your research and submit it to the Principal Investigator (PI) for signature. Exempt studies do not require a closure form. You should submit this form through the iRIS system and reach out to the IRB office directly with any questions at 202-994-2715 or ohrirb@gwu.edu.
  8. Finalize GSEHD logistics: Notify GSEHD’s Office of Student Life (docgsehd@gwu.edu) if the title of your dissertation has changed, or if you have any questions about the process. Otherwise, you will receive your graduation clearance from us after Gelman Library accepts your submission.





 Dissertation Support Resources


Dissertation Support Group

The GSEHD Dissertation Support Group (DSG) provides doctoral students a repository of materials to refer to while writing a dissertation. Each semester the DSG hosts several workshops designed to assist students in the research and writing process, as well as online support sessions where doctoral students, faculty, and alumni provide mutual support. For questions, email Doctoral Student Services at docgsehd@gwu.edu.

GW Libraries

The library is here to support you in all stages of your research, including research strategy, finding materials and sources, analyzing data, citation management, and more. Access their "Get Research Help" page for a comprehensive list of support resources.

In addition, review the GW Libraries' guide developed to help doctoral students in researching and writing their dissertation. The guide provides resources for choosing your topic, finding examples of other dissertations written by GW students, publications to guide you through the process, and funding opportunities.

If you're conducting a literature review and are interested in other ETD authors' findings on your topic, the library has you covered. Search library and web resources for Dissertations and Theses from GW and other national and international institutions.

GW Writing Center

The GW Writing Center offers free, peer-based support to students and faculty from across the university. Schedule a consultation for one-on-one support for support at all stages of the writing process.

Student Research Commons

The Student Research Commons is a hub for finding research fellowships, funding opportunities, and other related resources.

ETD Submission