Welcome from the Office of Thesis and Dissertation Services

Congratulations on your decision to pursue the highest academic degree in your discipline and your admission to one of the six doctoral programs at Texas A&M University-Commerce. We in the Office of Thesis and Dissertation Services are here to help you.

A dissertation is a lengthy and integrated scholarly document written to complete the requirements for a doctoral degree. Through a dissertation, the author asks and attempts to answer one or more questions. Every section of the document has a specific purpose and relationship to preceding and subsequent sections. The University Rules and Procedures (11.04099.R0.23) describe the dissertation as follows:

3.1 A dissertation is designed both:

3.1.1 To demonstrate the student's superior academic competence and scholarship, including the ability to carry out research in the field of specialization.

3.1.2 To contribute significantly to the knowledge of that field.

3.2 The topic, the methodology and the topic's significance must be judged by the criteria that constitutes acceptable research among practicing scholars in the discipline.

3.3 A suitable dissertation topic must have the potential to do at least one of the following:

3.3.1 Uncover new and significant facts or principles

3.3.2 Test a significant theory still in doubt by collecting and interpreting relevant data

3.3.3 Suggest previously unrecognized relationships

3.3.4 Challenge existing truths or assumptions

3.3.5 Afford further insights into little-understood phenomena

3.3.6 Suggest new interpretations of known facts that can alter in some way the body of knowledge that constitutes the field.

While the dissertation process is supervised by a committee of 3 to 6 university faculty, the project itself is conceived, designed, and carried out by the candidate as a demonstration of scholarly competence. The doctoral candidate is therefore the responsible party for all aspects of the project including communication with his or her committee, meeting training requirements, obtaining IRB approval and the completion and filing of all documents required by the department, college dean and the Office of Graduate Studies. The Dissertation Timeline (link located in the top right of the page) will help you navigate the many steps and challenges inherent in earning a doctoral degree.


Your admission to your doctoral program involved two steps. First Graduate Studies reviewed your credentials to determine that you met the standards that apply to all doctoral programs. Then your application was sent to the appropriate department for review. Not all candidates who meet the criteria used by Graduate Studies are admitted to a program. Departments offering doctoral programs are free to use additional standards so long as they are not lower than those used by Graduate Studies. In addition, there are limited spaces available in doctoral programs. The number of students admitted to a program is related to the number of faculty members who are qualified to supervise dissertations. For example, if a department has ten qualified faculty and the average length of time it takes to complete the degree is five years, that department may only admit ten students per year for a total 50 students participating in the program at any one time. In some departments, the number of assistantships available may also be considered as a factor limiting the number of admissions. In summary, admission to a doctoral program is a competitive endeavor and you were chosen because the faculty members expect you to be successful as a student and to make a contribution to your chosen field.

Dissertation Timeline

The Dissertation Timeline represents the process that you will follow to complete your degree. You will note that doctoral programs in the blue area at the top of the figure involve dissertations using empirical methods (quantitative and qualitative approaches). Most programs in the sciences, social sciences, and education use such methods. The red portion on the bottom of the figure addresses dissertations using interpretive methods. Literature and the arts use this approach.

The flags at each step in your doctoral journey are embedded links that will take you to information concerning required actions, required forms, and their distribution that are part of your obligations as a doctoral student. You will need to pay close attention to such information because you are responsible for making sure that every step is carried out correctly and on time. Under several of the flags you will find additional information concerning the skills required to carry out the dissertation process. It is important to note that about 50% of students, who complete their course work toward their doctoral degree, fail to complete the dissertation. They are referred to as ABD (all but dissertation). ABD students are typically excellent students in their classes, but for a variety of reasons they have difficulty with the dissertation process. Clicking on the flag labeled “Preparing for Doctoral Studies” will take you to resources that will help you understand the demands of doctoral education and develop the skills necessary to conceptualize a dissertation project that is doable and contributes to your academic discipline.

For students who work best with checklists, check out our new Dissertation Checklist!