Wilfrid Laurier University Graduate Calendar - 2012/2013
Canadian Excellence

Doctoral Dissertation Guidelines

The dissertation is the culmination of a doctoral candidate's program. All PhD candidates are required to complete an original dissertation that makes a significant contribution to the existing knowledge in their field. If dissertation research involves humans, approval must be obtained from the WLU Research Ethics Board; if it involves animals, approval must be obtained from the WLU Animal Care Committee (details are available from the WLU Office of Research Services).

In order that the dissertation may be subject to the scholarly criticism of all members of the university community, it is placed on display in the Graduate Studies Office two weeks prior to the oral defence. The oral defence is also open to any member of the university community.

These guidelines are meant to be advisory rather than prescriptive, to give programs minimum standards for doctoral dissertations. Programs are free to adopt these guidelines, or adapt and augment them, to meet individual program needs and requirements while keeping in mind the high standards expected of students graduating with doctoral degrees from Laurier. Students are expected to follow all protocols in fully consulting with their supervisors, committees and graduate coordinators in preparing for and writing their dissertation.

It is essential that all programs make clear their policy on whether they permit both dissertation format options, and what of the listed elements are pertinent to students in their programs, in order to maintain procedural fairness and transparency.

In either case, all dissertations are subject to dissertation defense procedures as specified by the policies and procedures set out by the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies of Wilfrid Laurier University.

Traditional Dissertation Format

This work is understood to be a structurally unified body of work, with each part contributing to the development of a coherent whole, with an overarching research question/concern that is developed through a succession of chapters or sections (though this does not necessarily mean parts might not be excerpted for publication). The guiding principle here is that the manuscript most closely resembles a book.

The traditional dissertation can include the following components:

  • Title Page
  • Copyright page
  • Declaration of Co-Authorship/Previous Publication
  • Abstract
  • Dedication (if applicable)
  • Acknowledgements (if applicable)
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Tables (if applicable)
  • List of Figures (if applicable)
  • List of Appendices (if applicable)
  • List of Abbreviations, Symbols,
  • Nomenclature (if applicable)
  • Body of thesis (divided into various chapters)
  • Bibliography/References (note that the Bibliography/References section can either precede or follow the Appendices) 
  • Appendices (include copyright releases here where applicable)

 
Multiple Manuscript Option (MMO)

Under this option, the dissertation is a coherent body of work; however, the apparatus of the dissertation will normally include, among its other elements, three articles suitable for publication in peer-reviewed journals, and these articles derive from the findings, methods and/or literature review sections of the dissertation.

The MMO is in every way the equal of the traditional form of the dissertation in terms of research and writing. The two or three articles are meant to be component parts of a much larger work that fulfills the conditions of a traditional dissertation, including an overarching research question, thesis, methodology, literature review, and appropriate theoretical contexts and approaches.

Normally manuscripts included in the MMO Dissertation are exclusively or primarily authored by the doctoral student. Any exceptions to this practice must be approved by the appropriate graduate coordinator in consultation with the departmental graduate committee and the doctoral candidate's supervisor and supervisory committee. If manuscripts are co-authored by the student and others, this relationship should be explicitly stated with regards to the nature and extent of contributions to the work by all parties involved. This statement should be included in the thesis, pertinent to each section of the work, along with a justification of the co-authorship, and signed off on by the student's supervisor so as to clarify the nature of the work in advance of the oral defense.

The MMO usually includes the following components:

  • Title page
  • Copyright page
  • Declaration of Co-Authorship/Previous Publication (if applicable)
  • Abstract
  • Dedication (if applicable)
  • Acknowledgements (if applicable)
  • Statement of originality
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Tables (if applicable)
  • List of Figures (if applicable)
  • List of Appendices (if applicable)
  • List of Abbreviations, Symbols
  • Nomenclature (if applicable)
  • Body of thesis, divided into (at least—individual programs many require additional components):
  • Introductory chapter to the entire thesis
  • Separate studies/manuscripts (two or more)
  • Final chapter (general discussions and conclusions) to relate the separate studies to each other and to a relevant discipline or field of study
  • Appendices: This section to contain details of methodology, tabulated data, and other pertinent data. Copyright releases from publications must be included here.

Note that when a student, prior to the dissertation defense, submits a manuscript for publication that will be included in the dissertation, he/she should be advised that acceptance of a manuscript from a journal is separate from and does not constitute acceptance or approval by the advisory committee. It is the responsibility of the examining committee to determine if the dissertation fully meets degree requirements.