Dissertation

Once the student has been admitted to candidacy, they must form a dissertation committee consisting of five faculty members, with at least three drawn from across the Department of Statistical Sciences and Operations Research and/or the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics and at least one drawn from outside these two departments. The student’s advisor will chair the committee and the committee must be approved by the Graduate Program Director and the Graduate Dean of the College of Humanities and Sciences.

Please note that a faculty member is not obliged to serve on a committee or advise a particular student. You are requesting a significant amount of time and effort from them and they must allocate their time according to their other duties at the university. If you do not make significant progress in a given semester, they may assign a grade of U and you may be terminated from the program. However, if you do make progress then you have the chance to make a significant contribution to research in this field and possibly have a significant impact on a variety of businesses, non-profit organizations or government agencies.

Once a dissertation committee has been formed, all students must complete the Admission to Candidacy Form and submit it to their dissertation adviser.

Once the student has been admitted to candidacy, formed their dissertation committee, and all other requirements have been fulfilled, the student will propose a dissertation topic through both a written proposal and a proposal defense.

A written dissertation proposal will be submitted to the committee at least two weeks prior to the proposal defense, including a full review of the relevant literature. At the defense, the student will give an oral proposal of their work, the committee will question the student, and the committee will determine if the student is ready to begin their dissertation work. The committee will also give their advice and requirements to the students at this point. To allow this advice to be integrated in to the dissertation work, the proposal defense must occur at least 9 months prior to the final defense of the dissertation. The graduate program director will then either be informed that the student is ready to begin their dissertation work or that the student must prepare a modified or new proposal and defend that proposal at a later date.

Once the dissertation proposal has been successfully defended, the student will initiate their dissertation work. Each student must take at least 18 credits of dissertation research (SYSM 798 Dissertation Research) resulting in a dissertation of material publishable in refereed journals and approved by the candidate’s committee. The student is expected to work closely with the advisor during this period and to keep his or her committee updated on the major achievements.

The final dissertation document must adhere to VCU Graduate School guidelines and must be provided to both the advisor and the committee well ahead of the proposed defense date. In addition to the dissertation document itself, the student must demonstrate that the work is publishable in refereed academic outlets by submitting with the advisor at least one paper to a refereed academic journal or other form of refereed publication and by either preparing a second paper for submission or presenting the work at an academic conference. This requirement will be verified by the advisor and the dissertation committee.

Once all members of the committee agree that the student is ready to defend the dissertation (defense approval form), the student will post announcements of the defense at least two weeks prior to the defense date. At the defense, the student will give an oral presentation of the work; committee members, other faculty members, and audience members will be given a chance to ask questions of the candidate; the committee will then privately deliberate the result of the defense. At this point the committee can decide to pass the dissertation as is, to pass the dissertation with required changes verified by the committee, or to require that the student must perform another defense after significant additional work is performed. In the worst case, a student that is demonstrating no progress towards a passable dissertation may be terminated from the program.

In cases where there is disagreement between the committee members whether the dissertation is ready to be defended or whether the dissertation should be passed, the PhD program director will assess the situation and can ask for a majority vote to make the final decision.

The VCU library handles the archiving of dissertations. VCU now requires that all dissertations are submitted electronically. Click here to get more information on the electronic thesis and dissertation requirements.