To complete the requirements for the Ph.D., you must write a dissertation based on
a substantial amount of original research and submitted in acceptable form. The dissertation
must represent a significant scholarly effort and make an original contribution to
the scholarship of your field.
You will determine the dissertation topic in consultation with a Full Graduate Faculty
member in the dissertation field who agrees to direct the research. The director and
you will then choose a Dissertation Committee to be chaired by the director. The Graduate
Coordinator must approve the committee, which must comprise at least four members,
of which the director and at least two other members must have Full Graduate Faculty
status. The rest of the members must have at least Associate or Adjunct Graduate Faculty
status. We recommend but do not require that one member be outside the discipline,
department, or university. Those outside the university must apply for Adjunct Graduate
Faculty status (the form is http://www.memphis.edu/gradschool/graduate_faculty/gradfac.php), and if the Graduate Coordinator judges them to meet the additional qualifications
for Full Graduate Faculty, they may be counted toward the number of three members
with Full Graduate Faculty status required. In addition, it is now possible for a
University of Memphis faculty member to share the direction of a dissertation with
someone outside the university, who serves as a “Adjunct Research Co-Mentor.”
All graduate committees, including this one, should normally consist of tenured and
tenure-track faculty. Other instructors at University of Memphis, untenured or non-tenure
track instructors from other institutions, and unaffiliated scholars, with appropriate
graduate faculty status may serve, but only with the approval of the committee chair
and by a formal petition to the Graduate Studies Committee providing a full explanation
of the reasons for the request.
After choosing the committee, fill out a committee form: http://www.memphis.edu/gradschool/pdfs/committee_form.pdf (pdf). Submit it to the office and Graduate Coordinator.
Within one semester after passing the comprehensive examination you must present a
prospectus of the proposed dissertation in a colloquy attended by the Dissertation
Committee. You should develop your prospectus in close consultation with your dissertation
advisor, and before you present you need to get the approval of your Dissertation
Committee. Your chair should then e-mail the Graduate Coordinator with permission
for you to present.
The presentation is not intended as an examination, but rather as an informal forum
in which you can discuss ideas and receive suggestions and criticisms. Note that you
may present your prospectus at any time after the comprehensive exam, even immediately
afterward if you are ready to do so. The department schedules one or more sessions
for this every semester, depending on need.
Your prospectus should not be lengthy (about seven pages of text and a three-page
select bibliography should be a maximum; we may refuse to accept longer ones). It
should begin with a clear statement of the question your research will answer, then
go on to explain why that question is important to ask (its historiography), and how
you propose to go about answering it (your methods, your sources). All discussion
should center around your research question, so you should not include a sequential
literature review or a detailed description of each primary source. Since you are
at the beginning of your research, you do not need to include a full plan for the
completed dissertation or a definite thesis. But you should include a bibliography
of the most important primary and secondary sources that you expect to use.
Above all, you must explain how your research will make an important contribution
to historical scholarship and our understanding of the historical period or subject
that you are studying. Although your dissertation may use primary sources restricted
to a very narrow time and place, you must always address the larger questions that
you plan to answer through your research, and how those answers (whatever they might
be) will contribute to our understanding of larger historical issues, and advance
or revise scholarly interpretations. No local history or historical narrative suffices
for a dissertation, no matter how much research is necessary to write it, unless it
goes beyond the local or descriptive in its analysis. No oral history suffices unless
it critically analyzes the collected material and uses it, and other sources, both
primary and secondary, to construct a coherent argument that has value beyond the
stories of those you interviewed.
Be sure your name and a provisional title appear at the top of the first page, as
well as the names of the chair and other members of your dissertation committee, that
the pages are numbered, and that you use footnotes (not endnotes) when called for.
We realize that as your research proceeds, you may need to modify any provisional
thesis, the scope of the project, or your methods.
All history faculty and graduate students are invited to this colloquy, and all other
interested persons are welcome. The department schedules several dates during each
fall and spring semester for these presentations. You should sign up for one of these
sessions (but not a particular time) with the Graduate Coordinator or Graduate Secretary.
In times of high demand you may have to postpone your presentation, but this should
not delay your dissertation work, since you can obtain the approval of your committee
for the prospectus.
At least a week before the colloquy you should send an e-mail to the Graduate Coordinator,
with the prospectus as an attachment (with the name "[your last name] prospectus).
The Graduate Coordinator will forward your e-mail, so that you should write it to
the faculty and graduate students, inviting them to come. Be sure to include the date,
time, and room.
Your oral presentation should last for no more than ten minutes, and must be purely
oral, without a presentation of slides or other audio-visual materials, unless you
have special permission from the Graduate Coordinator for exceptional reasons.
After the committee approves your prospectus, you must register the dissertation with
the Graduate School. You can find the form at http://www.memphis. edu/gradschool/form/tdproposal.php, under the title “Thesis/Dissertation Proposal Defense.”
You must complete your dissertation and all other requirements within 12 years from
the end of the calendar year in which you began the Ph.D. program. (This limitation
does not apply to course work from your master’s degree.) After beginning to take
dissertation credit, you must register for at least one credit of History 9000 (Dissertation
Research), each fall and spring semester until you graduate. However, at the end,
no matter how many you have taken, only twelve will count towards the degree.
All members of the Dissertation Committee should make themselves available to help
you throughout the dissertation process, especially to give advice and read and critique
chapters as they are written. Obviously, some members whose work is not directly related
to yours may not choose to read early drafts unless they agree and you want them to.
You must submit a complete rough draft of your dissertation to your entire committee
one month before the end of the semester preceding that in which you plan to graduate
and arrange to meet formally with the entire committee before the end of the earlier
semester to discuss your draft. Within a week after that meeting the committee will
provide you, in writing, a clear statement of what revisions in general would be necessary
to turn it into an acceptable dissertation. This will give you adequate time in most
cases to incorporate the suggestions before the deadline for the defense in the next
semester. You should also meet separately with each committee member for further advice.
After incorporating committee members’ suggested revisions and completing the final
draft, you must pass an oral examination/dissertation defense dealing primarily with
the dissertation and its relation to your major field. Your Dissertation Committee
conducts the defense, and all members must attend. Committee members who cannot be
in Memphis for the defense may participate through a telephone or computer audio connection. Department
faculty and graduate students are invited to the defense, so the candidate should
send information on time and place to the Graduate Coordinator at least one week in
The committee must agree unanimously for you to pass. Bring to the exam the form (http://www.memphis.edu/gradschool/form/defense.php) for the committee to sign, as well as three copies of the signature page of the
dissertation, on the correct paper and in the correct format (Note: you should bring
a black pen for signatures, since the Graduate School prefers black). You will only
need one, but it is a good idea to have some spares.). After the defense, make copies
of the defense form for the history office and the Graduate Coordinator, and give
the original to the Graduate School. Do not fill in the results section of the form
until after the exam, since there are several choices.
Assuming you pass, there are three possibilities: pass with no revision, pass with
minor revisions, and pass with major revisions. Even if you hold the defense on the
last possible day before the deadline, you will still have a week or so to make corrections
before you need to submit the absolutely final manuscript to the Graduate School.
But if you pass with major revisions, you will not be likely to have time to graduate
in the same term unless you hold the defense very early.
For the proper format and style of the dissertation, see http://www.memphis.edu/gradschool/tdinfo.php. Also, obtain a checklist of requirements from the Graduate School office or from
their Web page at http://www.memphis.edu/gradschool/pdfs/non-apa_checklist.pdf (pdf).
History students should follow the format recommended by the most recent edition of
Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (Chicago: University of Chicago Press). The Chicago Manual of Style is also acceptable. Note that both manuals also give formats for the work-cited format,
which is not the one we require (the notes-bibliography format). Everyone should have
a copy of one of these books.
It is a good idea to discuss matters of format with the expert on this at the Graduate
School; at the current time and for many years this has been Michelle Stout, email@example.com. She will also be the one to scrutinize your final manuscript and judge that it does
or does not meet the requirements, and she is the one to whom you should submit your
dissertation after making any revisions that your committee has required.
After the completion of any required revisions, your must present your dissertation
to your Dissertation Committee and the Dean of the Graduate School for approval of
the final copy. You must submit your dissertation to the Graduate School electronically.
Make sure you are following the most recent guidelines and meet the deadline. All
submissions must include an unnumbered abstract of not more than 350 words.
For the current dissertation preparation guide and policies on submission to the Graduate
School, see http://www.memphis.edu/gradschool/tdinfo_electronic.php.
Go to https://itweb2.memphis.edu/etd/index.php to see how the electronic system is set up to display and search for submitted theses