Proposal Defense Policy

The Proposal and its Purpose

The Information School encourages and supports the wide range of dissertation topics and methodologies generated from the study of information science. The dissertation proposal represents a formal understanding between the Supervisory Committee and the doctoral Candidate. This agreement outlines the work to be done and the intellectual rigor the Committee expects from the Candidate. The proposal functions as a map guiding the Candidate towards the effective completion of the dissertation project.

The dissertation proposal should substantially advance the doctoral candidate toward completion of the dissertation.  It may take the form of the preliminary chapters of the dissertation.

The Elements

The doctoral Candidate works closely with the Chair of the Supervisory Committee and other voting members of the Supervisory Committee in determining the composition of the dissertation proposal and in writing the proposal.

The proposal should contain detail sufficient to describe the significance, background and rationale for the dissertation and the work the Candidate will perform for the dissertation.

The following list of elements is typical for a dissertation proposal in the information field.  However, the School recognizes that this list may not fit all dissertation proposals and thus should be considered as illustrative only. 

  1. Statement of the Problem – includes the background, context in the information field and in the broader scheme of academic pursuits, key questions, significance of the problem, and description of chosen methodology.
  2. Grounding and Rationale – provides a discussion of need in the area of study which may include a comprehensive review of theoretical, conceptual, technological or methodological precedents which directly relate to the dissertation topic. This section may also include a detailed analysis of the precedents that justify the need for the research, or review the literature that relates to the research.
  3. Research Plan – details the methods that will be used or the processes that will be followed during the course of investigation. This section describes how the questions posed by the dissertation will be addressed.

The Defense

The Candidate, assisted by the Chair as necessary, schedules a date, a time, and a room for the defense.  The Candidate submits details regarding the proposal defense, including date, time and location of the defense, members of the Supervisory Committee, proposal defense title, as well as an abstract, to the iSchool web calendar, the Chair of the Ph.D. Program, and Student Services Office.

At least two weeks before the scheduled proposal defense date, the final written proposal must be submitted to all members of the Supervisory Committee.  At this time or earlier, the voting members of the Committee, in consultation with the Candidate, determine the length and outline the structure of the defense. 

The defense is a scheduled and announced public event.  Any person may attend.  However, the deliberations of the Supervisory Committee are private.

The Process

Students presents their dissertation proposal orally, with visual accompaniment as desired by the candidate, to the supervisory committee and the public.

The dissertation proposal defense proceeds as outlined below. 

Prior to the start of the examination:

  • The Candidate must be physically present at the exam.
  • The Chair (or at least one Co-Chair), the GSR, and one general committee member must be physically present at the exam.
  • If the Chair is not physically present, then the exam must be rescheduled. 
  • If the GSR is not physically present at the time of the exam, a substitute GSR may be secured subject to Graduate School rules.  If no GSR can be found, then the exam must be rescheduled.
  • If a general member is not physically present then, the exam should be adjourned and rescheduled to a later time/date.
  • A majority of the Supervisory Committee must be physically present at the exam.  E.g. a Supervisory Committee with the minimum 4 required members (Chair, GSR, and 2 general members) must have the Chair, the GSR, and at least one general member physically present at the exam. A Supervisory Committee with 5 members (Chair, GSR, and 3 general members) must have the Chair, the GSR, and at least one general member physically present at the exam.

Once the Exam Starts"

  1. The Supervisory Committee may meet initially in private, with or without the Candidate present.
  2. The Chair announces when the Candidate and the public may join the Committee for the defense.
  3. The Candidate presents the key elements of the dissertation proposal.
  4. The Supervisory Committee and/or the public questions the Candidate.
  5. The public may question the Candidate as time permits.
  6. Finally, the Supervisory Committee reconvenes in private for deliberations.  The voting members vote for one of the following:
  • a. Accept—a PDF version of the proposal will be submitted to Student Services. The proposal will be available to the public for reading.
  • b. Accept with minor revisions—the Committee requests minor revisions, which are approved by a process that is established by the Chair. A PDF version of the proposal will be submitted to Student Services. The proposal will be available to the public for reading.
  • c. Accept with revisions—revisions require approval by the Chair and selected members or the supervisory Committee.  See Process** below.
  • d. Reject—the Supervisory Committee may recommend either 1) that a second defense is permitted after a period of additional preparation, or 2) that the student is dropped from the Ph.D. program in Information Science at the University of Washington.

A simple majority vote is required. In the event that a simple majority vote does not occur, the deliberations of the Supervisory Committee are continued and a decision is made within ten days of the proposal defense date.

If after ten days the Supervisory Committee cannot make a decision, then the candidate may reconstitute the Committee, and schedule a new defense.

*Process for “Accept with Revisions”

The revision process proceeds as follows:

  • The committee informs the candidate verbally of the revisions required and the date by which revisions are to be completed.
  • The chair, in consultation with the committee prepares a written description of the required revisions. A copy of the letter is provided to Student Services to place in the student's permanent academic file.
  • The chair and the candidate determine the date by which the revisions must be completed, normally within 3 months.
  • The chair distributes the written description to the candidate and the committee.
  • Two weeks after the revisions are submitted by the candidate, the committee informs the candidate whether the revisions are accepted or rejected.
  • If accepted, a paper copy and PDF version of the proposal are submitted to Student Services; at least one copy is available to the public for reading.
  • If rejected, the committee recommends, as outlined above, to either permit a second defense or to drop the student from the program.
  • If the revisions are not completed successfully within the specified time period, the chair may extend the time for revision to up to one year from the date of the proposal defense. After one year, the chair may petition the Ph.D. committee for an extension.
  • If the revisions are not completed successfully in the time frame designated, and if the supervisory committee and the Ph.D. committee concur, the proposal is rejected and the student is dropped from the Ph.D. program in Information Science at UW.