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Doctoral Steps

This guideline presents the major steps involved in a typical student's dissertation process. While this document includes all Rackham required steps, there may be additional departmental requirements. For example, the steps for Music Performance and Music Conducting may vary in the order presented and requirements differ slightly. Rackham recommends that students check with their departmental advisor.

Completion of these steps does not guarantee conferral of your degree. The final conferral decision is the responsibility of the Rackham Graduate School.

Responsible roles are listed in the legend and are indicated to the left of each step. Some steps have prerequisites which are noted with reference number(s) for the steps that must first be completed. Many steps provide links to supporting documentation, PDF forms*, and/or other websites that are useful in the dissertation process.

Student Committee Chair Committee Department Rackham
Student icon Committee Chair icon Committee icon Department icon Rackham icon
Steps for Candidacy and Forming a Dissertation Committee
Step Prerequisites
Student iconDepartment icon 1. Establish advisor
Student icon 2. Review the resource titled, "5.1 Candidacy Requirements"
Student icon 3. Complete coursework as agreed upon with advisor 1
Student icon 4. Complete departmental requirements (e.g. qualifiers, proposals, work experience)
Student iconRackham icon 5. Pass preliminary exams by deadline
Department icon 6. Complete Advance to Candidacy request for Rackham to review 3, 4, 5
Rackham icon 7. Approve Advance to Candidacy 6
Student icon 8. Form dissertation committee after reviewing guidelines (PDF)*
Student iconDepartment icon 9. Complete Dissertation Committee Form and submit to Rackham for review
Rackham icon 10. Approve dissertation committee 9
Steps for Research and Writing of Dissertation
Step Prerequisites
Student icon 11. Learn about formatting and templates in Microsoft Word | Sign up for a workshop
Student icon 12. Review "Dissertation and Abstract Format Guidelines" (PDF*) and "Dissertation Self-Editing Checklist" (PDF*)
Student icon 13. Review the resources titled Completing the Doctoral Degree Requirements and "5.4 Doctoral Requirements"
Student iconCommittee Chair icon 14. Define and shape research in consultation with chair (use Current Research@University of Michigan and ProQuest Digital Dissertations as helpful resources) 8
Student icon 15. Consult with a library subject specialist and conduct a literature review
(Also check Library borrowing privileges and reserve a study carrel)
Student icon 16. Utilize a bibliographic management tool | Sign up for a workshop
Student icon 17. Conduct research 14
Student icon 18. Write and revise dissertation/abstract (PDF*) (iterative) 17
Student icon 19. Obtain information on copyright law (refer to ProQuest) 18
Student iconCommittee icon 20. Hold pre-defense meeting with dissertation committee 8
Student icon 21. Revise dissertation/abstract as necessary (use graduate formatting guidelines [PDF*]) 19
Student icon 22. Review "Abstract and Dissertation Format Guidelines" (PDF*) and "Most Common Formatting Errors" (PDF*) to confirm correct formatting
Steps for Defense and Evaluation
Step Prerequisites
Student icon 23. Register online for Rackham group pre-defense meeting and submit date, time, and location of oral defense
Student iconRackham icon 24. Attend scheduled group pre-defense meeting and bring one complete copy of dissertation to note any formatting corrections 10, 20
Student iconRackham icon 25. Get evaluation forms (instructions) from Rackham and deliver to committee members with a copy of the dissertation and abstract at least ten business days before defense 24
Committee icon 26. Submit completed evaluation forms (instructions) to Rackham three business days before defense 25
Student icon 27. View your committee on Wolverine Access to verify that evaluations have been returned to Rackham 26
Student icon 28. Pick up packet from Rackham and deliver packet of completed evaluation forms, Final Oral Examination Report, and Certificate of Dissertation Committee Approval Form to the dissertation committee chair at the defense 27
Student iconCommittee icon 29. Do oral defense of dissertation 28
Committee Chair icon 30. Return Final Oral Examination Report to Rackham 29
Student icon 31. Submit final dissertation/abstract revisions as necessary to committee chair 30
Committee Chair icon 32. Return the Certificate of Dissertation Committee Approval Form (instructions) to Rackham 31
Student icon 33. Prepare for post-defense meeting with Rackham and bring all paperwork requirements
Student iconRackham icon 34. Complete post-defense meeting with Rackham and complete all requirements 24, 31
Student icon 35. Check Student Accounts Office for financial status
Steps for Degree Conferral
Step Prerequisites
Rackham icon 36. Approve degree for conferral if all degree requirements are met
Student icon 37. Receive diploma at commencement (April/May & December only) or the Office of the Registrar will mail it approximately two weeks after conferral date 36

* Because of a bug in some internet browsers, it is recommended that you download any web-based PDF document to your hard disk before viewing instead of opening the document in the browser window. PC Instructions: Right mouse-click on the link and select "Save Link/Target As." MAC Instructions: Hold Option and mouse-click on the link and select "Save Link/Target As."