All doctoral programs and some master’s programs at UALR culminate in the completion of a dissertation or thesis. The purpose and content of dissertations and theses varies by program area, but their supervision is universally handled by a member of the UALR graduate faculty as chair and by a committee of graduate faculty. This sections outlines the Graduate School’s expectations for graduate student and graduate faculty interaction and responsibilities on dissertation and thesis committees.
Graduate Student Responsibilities
Concerning Rules and Requirements
- Be familiar with the Graduate Catalog and the rules and guidelines of the specific program they are enrolled in.
- Be thoroughly familiar with the current edition of the Dissertation and Thesis Guidelines, the core document that describes what is expected in a dissertation/thesis, including UALR’s unique conventions. This document includes all post-proposal and post-final defense steps that are required of students.
- Be aware of and comply with established defense and manuscript submission deadlines held by individual programs and the Graduate School.
- Obtain and maintain appropriate research certifications. Students may be required to complete human subject research training and responsible conduct of research (RCR) training. Students conducting research involving human subjects, animals, or biological materials must submit research protocols for review to the Institutional Review Board (IRB), Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), and/or Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) before they begin their research.
Concerning the Dissertation or Thesis
- Craft and execute the dissertation or thesis through all its phases, including completion of a final manuscript that has been properly edited and that follows all of the conventions described in the current edition of the Dissertation and Thesis Guidelines published by the UALR Graduate School. Students with inter-institutional (e.g., UALR and UAMS) should check with their program coordinator to determine which institution’s guidelines to use for thesis and dissertation formatting.
- Submit only original work and properly cite the works of others that inform the study. Students should be familiar with UALR policies on academic dishonesty and plagiarism. Misconduct in these areas is treated seriously and may result in a range of penalties up to and including academic dismissal.
- Make substantive progress towards completion of their degree requirements, especially while being supported by a graduate assistantship. This applies even during the summer when the student may not be enrolled in classes.
Concerning the Committee
- Use the committee chair as the primary point of contact for developing ideas, selecting an appropriate committee (in consultation with the graduate coordinator), and developing early drafts. The committee chair should also serve as the gatekeeper for submitting materials to the committee and submitting a final manuscript to the Graduate School.
- Use the committee members as secondary points of contact for developing ideas, reviewing drafts, and submitting a final manuscript.
- Schedule regular meetings with the committee chair to discuss the project and its development. With the chair’s approval, students may also schedule meetings with members of the committee.
- Take personal initiative to move the project forward and discuss with the chair any problems that arise. If issues arise that cannot be resolved with the committee chair or that are best discussed with another person, the student may opt to discuss them with (in this order) the graduate coordinator; program or department chair; dean of the college; and the dean of the Graduate School.
- Recognize that crafting a dissertation is an ongoing process between the student and the chair and, often, between the student, the chair, and the committee.
- Maintain contact with their committees and make timely revisions when requested.
- Be mindful of the academic schedule of their chair and committee members. Students who want to finish and defend work over the summer (when faculty members’ availability may be limited) must get permission from their chair and committee members during the spring semester. Once permission has been granted, regular contact with the chair and committee members should continue over the summer. Before the end of the spring semester, the student and the chair should agree upon a method of contact and communication for the summer months.
- Check with their chair and committee members to find out if and when faculty may be unavailable due to off-campus duty assignments (OCDA). Depending on the faculty member’s schedule, students may be able to make arrangements to work with a chair or committee member on OCDA. Alternatively, the student may need to consult with the chair to identify a temporary or permanent replacement. Students must also be respectful of the fact that chairs and committees have many other time-intensive duties. Students must maintain realistic expectations about faculty workloads around holiday and vacation times as well as normal busy periods (e.g., beginnings and ends of semesters).
- Students who do not meet with their committee chairs over the summer should schedule an appointment with their chair within the first two weeks of the fall semester to provide evidence of their progress.
- Negotiate expectations early in the research effort regarding the publication of research and the ownership of research results generated as part of the dissertation/thesis project. Issues to be negotiated include authorship, the number and frequency of submissions, and any programmatic expectations concerning works published prior to the dissertation/thesis defense.
Committee Chair Responsibilities
- Recognize that, as the committee chair, he/she is a mentor who works closely with the student and has significant impact on the student’s training during his/her dissertation/thesis.
- Provide timely and thorough guidance on all aspects of the student’s graduate study, including the development of projects, the development of manuscript drafts, and the ethical conduct of research.
- Recommend appropriate members to serve on the committee and indicate when the student may circulate the drafts and the final version of the manuscript to members of the committee.
- Advise the student on proposal and final defense protocols.
- Ensure that students and their manuscripts are adequately prepared for the proposal and the defense.
- Facilitate the defense, take notes for the student at the defense, and discuss with the student any revisions that may be needed after the defense has been concluded.
- Help students develop appropriate timelines and procedures for completing dissertation or thesis. Students need to know how to schedule a defense date, how to prepare their manuscripts for the defense, how far in advance of the defense date the finished manuscript must be submitted to the committee, and the Graduate School’s deadlines for submitting the manuscript for review.
- Be accessible to students for dialogue and meetings as needed.
- Respond to student drafts in a timely manner. In general, committee chairs should provide feedback within 10 working days of receiving a draft. If more time is needed, the chair should contact the student to acknowledge receiving the draft and indicate how much additional time may be required for a response.
- Graduate faculty members who are chairing multiple committees should discuss their workload honestly with their students, setting clear, realistic expectations about how often and how quickly students can expect to receive feedback.
- Be thoroughly familiar with the Graduate Catalog as well as the rules and guidelines of the student’s specific program.
- Be thoroughly familiar with the material found in the current edition of the Dissertation and Thesis Guidelines, the core document that describes what is expected in a dissertation or thesis, including UALR’s unique conventions. This document includes all post-proposal and post-final defense steps that are required of students by the Graduate School.
- Maintain UALR graduate faculty status and certifications in the areas of human subjects research, animal research, biosafety, and the responsible conduct of research, if applicable.
- Monitor the student’s progress towards fulfilling all federal, state, local, and institutional compliance requirements. These include, but may not be limited to, IRB, IACUC, IBC, and RCR training (as defined in Item 4 under the section on “Graduate Student Responsibilities: Concerning Rules and Requirements”).
- Provide the editorial and citation support that students need to prepare a correctly edited manuscript or refer students to an outside resource for this purpose. Manuscripts with errors that are received by the Graduate School will be returned to the student for corrections.
- Respect the power differential that exists between the student and chair and not abuse the trust placed in the chair as a member of the graduate faculty and research mentor.
- If the student is a doctoral candidate, the chair should be present at graduation to hood the student unless alternative arrangements have been made.
- If the chair is scheduled for an OCDA (off-campus duty assignment) or takes a leave of absence during the regular academic year, the chair is responsible for informing all students for whom she/he is the primary academic advisor. The chair has two options:
- The chair can continue advising and assisting the student as normal, in which case the chair and the student must agree upon a method of communication while the chair is absent.
- The chair, in consultation with the student, may identify another qualified graduate faculty member–either temporarily (for the duration of the OCDA) or permanently–to serve as chair.
Committee Member Responsibilities
- Collaborate with the committee chair to provide timely and thorough guidance to the student as a mentor on all aspects of his or her graduate studies, including the development of projects, the development of manuscript drafts, and the ethical conduct of research.
- Respond to student drafts in a timely basis. Generally, committee members should provide feedback within 10 working days of receiving a draft. If more time is needed, the committee member should contact the student to acknowledge receiving the draft and indicate how much additional time may be required for a response.
- Graduate faculty members who are serving on multiple committees should discuss their workload honestly with students, setting clear, realistic expectations about how often and how quickly students can expect to receive feedback.
- Inform the committee chair of any feedback being provided to students outside of the formal defense settings.
- Respect the power differential that exists between a student and a committee member and not abuse the trust placed in the chair as a member of the graduate faculty and research mentor.
- Maintain UALR graduate faculty status and certifications in the areas of human subjects research, animal research, biosafety, and the responsible conduct of research, as applicable.
- If the committee member is scheduled for an OCDA (off-campus duty assignment) or takes a leave of absence during the regular academic year, she/he is responsible for informing all of the students on whose thesis/dissertation committees she/he is serving as a committee member. The committee member has two options:
- The committee member can continue advising and assisting the student as normal, in which case the member and the student, in consultation with the committee chair, must agree upon a method of communication while the member is absent.
- The committee member, in consultation with the student and the committee chair, may identify another qualified graduate faculty member–either temporarily (for the duration of the OCDA) or permanently–to serve as his or her replacement on the thesis/dissertation committee.
Conflicts occasionally arise between students and their dissertation/thesis chairs or committee members. Sources of conflict may include but are not limited to disagreement about a timeline for completing the project, disagreement about the direction of the study or the interpretation of the results, and disagreement about the content, style, and editing of the dissertation or thesis manuscript.
If a conflict is disrupting the progress of the dissertation/thesis, the student should follow the procedures below.
- The student must first make a documented attempt to resolve the issue with the chair or committee member who is involved in the conflict.
- If unable to resolve the conflict, the student may follow up with the chair (except in those instances when the conflict is with the chair), followed by the program coordinator or the department chairperson.
- If the conflict cannot be resolved within the department to the satisfaction of all parties, the chair or the student may forward the disagreement in writing to the dean of the Graduate School for further mediation.
Students should be aware that some committee members (including chairs) may resign from a committee if the student does not make timely progress toward completion. In addition, some students find that even without overt conflict, they may not be satisfied with their chair or with a committee member and wish to make a change.
Both students and faculty members can initiate action to change the membership of a committee, but this should be a collaborative, consensual process whenever possible. Students who wish to change committee members should demonstrate courtesy by communicating about the change directly with the faculty involved. Likewise, faculty who wish to resign from a committee should demonstrate courtesy by directly informing the student.