The dissertation encompasses is the second half of the journey to getting a PhD in OILS. This page provides details regarding all of the major milestones associated with the second part of the program.

Dissertation Committee

Once the student has been advanced to candidacy, a Dissertation Committee will be formed. The Dissertation Committee (whose members often include those on the Program of Studies Committee) is charged with the supervision of a doctoral candidate’s dissertation activities, including the review and approval of the student’s dissertation proposal. The Dissertation Committee shall have at least four members, all of whom must be approved for graduate instruction and have established competence in the field of the dissertation or some aspect of it. The Director of the Dissertation shall be a tenured/tenure track University faculty member in the OILS Program, and must have demonstrated research or professional competence in the general area of the dissertation and in the methodology applied. The second and third members shall also be tenured/tenure track faculty. The second member is from the OILS program. The third member must be from outside of the Program/Department. If the third member is from outside the University, he/she must be tenured/tenure track faculty at another University in a similar program. The fourth member can be from either outside or inside the University.  Please note that conflict of interest situations may arise when students have potential conflict of interest relationships with committee members.  Possible relationships include immediate or frequently associated family members, and coworkers/supervisors.  Please consult with the dissertation advisor/committee regarding potential conflict of interest issues.

The "Appointment of Dissertation Committee" Form should be filled no later than the first semester of 699 enrollment. If the Committee changes, a revised form must be submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies along with a written rationale for the change. Please see the UNM Catalog for more details on the Dissertation Committee.

Dissertation Proposal

Each candidate for the PhD will prepare a Dissertation Proposal. The Proposal helps faculty decide whether a projected dissertation study has been well planned and is worth conducting. A formal Proposal Hearing will be conducted by the Dissertation Committee to approve the proposal, prior to the start of the actual research. Contact should be made with the OILS Program Coordinator approximately four weeks prior to the desired date of the Proposal Hearing to start the necessary paperwork.

Both traditional and non-traditional (hybrid) dissertation options are accepted. Students should choose an option in consultation with their committee members. Students and committee members are encouraged to consider the student’s career goals in shaping the dissertation option choice.

  • If choosing the traditional option, the proposal consists of chapters 1-3 of the dissertation.
  • If choosing the hybrid option, the proposal consists of chapter 1 (Introduction); paper 1 (conceptual piece); and a more detailed methods section than would be included in most publications.
  • The introduction should include the following information:
    • List of the three planned papers; usually, the three papers include one conceptual piece, written in the style of a Review of Education Research or a Human Resource Development Review article, and two empirical articles.
    • Proposed venues for publication/dissemination and intended audiences. These should be discussed and revised as needed during the proposal defense.

Proposed co-author(s) if any, for the papers. This is open to negotiation and should be informed by practices outlined by organizations like the American Psychological Association (http://www.apa.org/research/responsible/publication/)

Dissertation Hours

During the course of their dissertation work, doctoral candidates are required to enroll in a minimum of 18 hours of dissertation (699) credit. Enrollment in 699 should not begin prior to the semester in which the student takes the doctoral comprehensive examination. Only those hours gained in the semester during which the comprehensive exam is passed and in succeeding semesters can be counted toward the 18 hours required.

The Doctoral Candidate must enroll for dissertation hours (OILS 699) on a continual basis until the dissertation has been accepted by the Dean of Graduate Studies (excluding Summer Semester). Normal course registration deadlines apply and must be met. Doctoral Candidates must be enrolled the semester in which they complete degree requirements (including the Summer Semester).


The dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy must demonstrate an ability to conduct independent research and competence in scholarly exposition. Both traditional and non-traditional (hybrid) dissertation options are accepted. Students should choose an option in consultation with their committee members. The dissertation should present original investigation at an advanced level, of a significant problem and should provide the basis for a publishable contribution to the research literature of the major field.

If the student and committee have selected the hybrid option, students should follow these guidelines:

  • Abstract. The student should write an overall abstract. Students are encouraged to write structured abstract, following the guidelines set by Kelly and Yin (2007). The abstract should detail the findings per each paper in turn.
  • Introduction. Per university requirements, the dissertation must include an introduction. This should introduce the problem(s) addressed by the research, and generally follow the introduction in a traditional dissertation. In addition, the introduction must identify the venues/audiences for each of the three papers. List of the three papers and their audiences/venues. For work that has already been published or disseminated, a citation should be included.
  • Three papers. Usually, the three papers include one conceptual piece, written in the style of a Review of Education Research or a Human Resource Development Review article, and two empirical articles. The papers must be of publishable quality and the venues/audiences must be agreed upon by a majority of the committee.
  • Multi-authored papers. In many cases, the papers included as part of the dissertation may be multi-authored. Regardless of the number of authors, the student must have done the bulk of the research and preparation, meaning at least 51%; thus, the student must be the first author on the publication. In the introduction to the dissertation, the student should briefly explain the role of each of the authors in any multi-authored section or chapter of the thesis or dissertation. Authors may be included who were not on the committee where appropriate, and being a committee member does not guarantee authorship.
  • Conclusion. Per university requirements, the dissertation must include a conclusion chapter. This should concisely report main findings from the three papers, tie the three papers together where feasible, and provide implications for research and practice.
  • Appendix. In addition to any instruments or protocols, students, in consultation with committee members, should consider including a more detailed methods section and data management procedures. Information about metadata and published datasets may also be included at the discretion of the student and committee.

If the student and committee have selected the traditional option, students should follow these guidelines:

  • Abstract. The student should write an overall abstract. Students are encouraged to write structured abstract, following the guidelines set by Kelly and Yin (2007).
  • Introduction. The dissertation must include an introduction. This should introduce the problem(s) addressed by the research. Typically, the introduction includes a rationale for the study, the purpose of the study, the research questions, the significance of the study, delimitations to the study, limitations of the study, and organization of the dissertation.
  • Literature Review. Also called background literature, this section should include a theoretical framework, conceptual framework, and send link between the introduction and then. The literature review should involve synthesis or critical analysis, and not just review prior research. Strong literature reviews don’t simply report prior findings, but also help the readers understand the methods used to arrive at those conclusions. The conceptual organization for the literature review helps distinguish it from an annotated bibliography.
  • Methods. The methods chapter should include a description of and rationale for the chosen methods; introduce the setting, participants, and any relevant materials; describe data collection procedures and instruments, including any data management or data processing conducted; and describe all data analysis techniques in enough detail that another researcher could carry them out.
  • Results. The reporting of results varies by research methods; quantitative methods typically lend themselves to a results section that reports and interprets statistical results. A qualitative approach might include a transcript that has been analyzed or the results of coding. These are only examples as there are various mixed-method approaches as well. In either case the results should be presented in addition to the inferences that the researcher draws from them.
  • Conclusions and Implications. Typically this includes discussion of the findings in reference to the literature reviewed earlier in the dissertation. The conclusions are typically presented concisely along with implications related to the particular venues/audiences of interest; this might include, for instance, a particular scholarly audience (e.g., the learning sciences, human resource development); a methodological audience; a policy audience; and/or a practice audience (e.g., NGOs, museums, specific types of business or industry, higher education). Future directions are commonly reported, and additional limitations to understanding or caveats may be needed.

Final Examination For Doctorate

The Doctoral Final Oral Examination (defense) is the last formal step before the awarding of the highest academic degree and is conducted with due regard to its importance as such. The contents of the examination are the dissertation and its relationship to the candidate's major field.

The final examination provides an opportunity for the student to communicate his or her dissertation findings to a wider group of scholars and for the members of the examination committee. In order to graduate in a given semester, the completed manuscript must be turned in no later than the published dates in November, April, and July. The examination is open to all members of the faculty.

Dissertation proposal or defense logistics and timeline

  • Students should talk to their advisor regularly regarding the progress of their dissertation.
  • Students should at least touch base with all dissertation members once BEFORE the actual presentation.
  • Logistics
    • The pre-final draft of the dissertation will be sent to the committee members AFTER the dissertation chair approves the pre-final draft.
    • Schedule the presentation date/time with the committee members (at least 2 months BEFORE the presentation). Do not schedule the dissertation defense/proposal until the dissertation chair agrees.
    • Schedule a room for the presentation with the OILS staff.
    • Submit an announcement of examination (AOE) form once the presentation date/time/location are determined (AOE forms are only necessary for dissertation defense; proposal hearings do not require an AOE form).
    • Send the "final draft" to the chair at least 6 weeks before the presentation to allow time for revision(s).
    • Committee members/dissertation chair may provide feedback to the candidate in 2 weeks, and the candidates should revise the "final draft" and then send it to the dissertation chair.
    • Once the dissertation chair approves the draft, send the draft to the committee members (at least 3-4 weeks before the presentation). The dissertation chair may suggest additional revisions, and the candidate should revise the draft during that time.
    • Make ALL necessary changes and send it back to the chair at least 2 weeks before the presentation.


  • It is the students responsibility to advocate for more meetings if needed.
  • Final dissertation (with all updates approved by the chair/committee after the defense) has to be submitted to OGS (the Office of Graduate Studies) by the following deadlines: 4/15 (spring graduation), 7/15 (summer graduation), 11/15 (fall graduation).


Kelly, A. E., & Yin, R. K. (2007). Strengthening structured abstracts for education research: The need for claim-based structured abstracts. Educational Researcher, 36(3), 133-138.

Questions about the PhD Program?


PhD Program Contact

Victor Law
OILS Program Director
(505) 277-2565


242 Zimmerman Library

Ph.D. Forms

Comprehensive Exam Guidelines

Mid-point review policies and procedures

Mid-point review form

Program of Study Planning Grid

Thesis Committee Form