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Appendix C – Steps in the PhD Program

The following list summarizes the primary steps in the process of earning a Doctor of Philosophy in Communication and Information in the College of Communication and Information at the University of Tennessee. It does not substitute for the full details provided in this guide or other official university publications.

  1. August of the first year – Orientation session including introduction to first-year adviser.
  2. Take required first-year courses.
  3. Submit research work for presentation at a conference and/or publication in a journal.  This should be an ongoing process throughout your program – think of every class paper as a potential conference paper.  
  4. April 1 of first year – complete draft program plan and get approvals from first-year adviser and associate dean.
  5. Spring of first year – Graduate Studies Committee performs first-year review.
  6. Start of second year – identify a program chair (may be same or different from first-year adviser).
  7. Typically by the end of the second year assemble a full program committee and complete the final program plan.
  8. As you near the end of coursework, work with your program chair and other members of your program committee to define the areas of your comprehensive exam and begin preparing for the exam.
  9. As you near the end of coursework you should also begin to define your dissertation topic.
  10. After completion of coursework, take comprehensive exam (must be done within five years of enrollment)
  11. Write a brief overview (about 3 pages) of your planned dissertation topic.
  12. Two weeks after answers to the written exam questions are distributed to the program committee, meet with the committee for an oral defense of the comprehensive exam and a discussion of your dissertation topic.
  13. File Admission to Candidacy form with the Graduate School immediately after successful completion of comprehensive examination – no later than a semester prior to intended graduation. The Associate Dean’s signature (as the Graduate Program Director) is required and a copy must be filed with the Associate Dean’s office.
  14. Assemble dissertation committee (may be the same as or different from the program committee). File a Doctoral Committee Appointment form with the Graduate School. A copy must also be filed in the associate dean’s office.
  15. Work with your dissertation chair to prepare a formal dissertation proposal and distribute to your committee for review.
  16. Two weeks following distribution of proposal, meet with your dissertation committee for a formal defense of the proposal. A dissertation proposal form is available (See appendix G) should the chair and student wish to use it as evidence of the committee’s approval of the dissertation proposal. Usage of this form, however, is not a requirement. 
  17. Conduct your dissertation research and write the full dissertation with direction as needed from your chair and committee.
  18. Schedule an oral defense of dissertation (after chair determines you are ready for defense) and submit your dissertation to all members of your committee at least two weeks prior to that date.
  19. File the “Scheduling Defense of Dissertation” form with the Graduate School at least one week before the examination. Obtain this form from the Graduate School’s online site.
  20. Orally defend your dissertation research.  
  21. Each member of the Dissertation Committee must sign the dissertation defense pass/fail form.
  22. Dissertation chair needs to bring the dissertation defense pass/fail form to the Associate Dean’s office where a copy will be made for the student’s file. The chair then submits the original copy to the Graduate School.
  23. The final dissertation approval form (ETD [Electronic thesis or dissertation]) must also be signed by all committee members upon dissertation finalization. The student should submit the form to the Graduate School. 
  24. The final version of the electronic dissertation needs to be uploaded into TRACE (see the Graduate School Dissertation Consultant for guidelines on doing so.) 
  25. Submit one copy of dissertation to the associate dean’s office for archiving in the college.  It is also customary to provide a copy of the dissertation to the committee chair.


*Each student is responsible for applying for graduation at the appropriate time (Discuss this with your dissertation chair.)

**Each student is responsible for meeting with the Graduate School’s Dissertation Consultant to ensure that the dissertation is in the required format. The Graduate School will not accept the dissertation until this has been completed.

***The PhD program must be completed within eight years of first enrollment.