After taking the required courses, but generally before taking electives, a student in good academic standing is ready to move toward beginning the thesis or dissertation. As early as about halfway through coursework (but in the first year for M.A. students), begin to identify a research area and select a faculty advisor. Decide what general area to pursue and have exploratory conversations with the professor or professors who do research in that area. They'll give advice on further courses (if any) needed to prepare for research in that area. M.A. students submit the DECLARATION FORM during their first year of coursework (but no later than April 1) declaring the thesis (or non-thesis) option and listing the planned area of research, with the agreement of an advisor and approval of the DGS, and department head.
The main element of the thesis or dissertation is sustained research under faculty guidance, involving a series of steps in which experts in the area of study guide the project through preparation and the examination process. Thesis and dissertation examinations in the Department of Communication are not adversarial but mentoring in character. The official process begins at the end of coursework, and doctoral students must also complete the Preliminary Examination.
The following steps are a general guide, but details and regulations of the process leading to the final defense appear on the Graduate College web site. The individual student, not the advisor or Director of Graduate Studies, is responsible for meeting all graduation requirements.
Develop Research Proposal. Work with the advisor to choose on a research project and develop a proposal. Normally,
the proposal includes the following sections:
- Literature Review
- Research Plan and Methods
- Justification or Importance and Limitations
- Arrange a Proposal Meeting. When the advisor considers the proposal ready, arrange a meeting and provide copies of the proposal to committee members at least two weeks in advance. Prepare the Proposal Approval Form and take it to the meeting. At the meeting, present the research plan to the committee, which will evaluate the proposal and determine whether to approve the research or require additional work before you can proceed. A copy of the signed, completed Proposal Approval Form must be in your file.
- Secure IRB Approval. Research involving human subjects (including secondary analyses of existing data from human subjects) requires approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB).
- Proceed with the Research. Once the committee has approved the proposal and the campus IRB has approved the protocol, the research may proceed. The advisor guides the process with assistance from other committee members.
- Official Approval of the Defense Committee.The Graduate College must approve the committee that assists the advisor in supervising the progress of the research and will participate in the oral defense of the final written thesis. Complete the Graduate College’s Committee Recommendation Form three to four weeks before a scheduled defense. (For guidelines, see Committee Composition section of the Graduate College site.)
- Arrange the Oral Defense. After completing the research and getting approval from the advisor, arrange a meeting with the committee for an oral defense of the final written thesis. Send copies of the research to committee members for review not less than two weeks in advance. Following a presentation and discussion of the completed project, the committee will evaluate the quality of the research and determine whether to approve it or, more commonly, to require the additional work needed to make the research acceptable for the degree. Results are recorded on the Examination Report Form and returned to the Graduate College.
- Submit for Format Approval. Once your committee has approved any additional revisions of the research, submit the final draft to the Assistant to the Head for format approval. Then make any required formatting changes prior to submitting the thesis to the Graduate College.
- Deposit with the Graduate College. Provide an electronic copy of defended and approved thesis with the Graduate College, together with all necessary paperwork.
- Deposit with the Department/Advisor. Provide an electronic copy to the Director of Graduate Studies (a separate copy for the advisor is optional). The University Library (Daley) sends out copies of thesis and dissertations for binding for only $7.55 each, and you can have as many copies bound as you want. It takes about two weeks. Just bring your thesis or theses and a check to Acquisitions on the first floor of the Library. Their phone number is 996-2753. The binding should match those on the shelves of the department library with the name, title, and other information foil-stamped on the spine and front cover.
The advisor provides guidance through the initial stages of developing the research proposal.
Guide to Paperwork
Upon approval of the proposal but before beginning research, send a protocol through the IRB process. See detailed information and forms on the UIC IRB site.
- Receive a current Certificate of Investigator Training. Attend Human Subjects Investigator Training, either through on-campus training sessions or using an online course.
- Submit a proposal to the Department IRB. The committee meets as needed during regular semesters. Prepare the required paperwork, submit it for committee review, and allow two weeks for a response.
- After passing departmental review, the paperwork goes to the campus IRB, which meets usually twice a month. Allow at least two weeks to receive a response, and expect to then provide further information or revisions before resubmitting the protocol if required.
The Director of Graduate Studies must receive the finished thesis or dissertation at least two weeks before the deadline that the Graduate College sets for depositing before graduation.
The director checks the format for consistent headings, margins, table of contents, cover page, list of tables, list of figures, appendices, bibliography, and so on. The format must follow that specified by the Graduate College site in the Thesis Manual.
Along with the Examination Report Form, signed by committee members to indicate success in the oral defense, also include the Format Checklist (next section), with each item marked off, when submitting the work for format approval. Download the checklist PDF.
This checklist includes common items submitted incorrectly for format approval. These and all the format guidelines needed to submit a correct document appear in the Thesis Manual.
- The titles listed in the TABLE OF CONTENTS, LIST OF TABLES, and LIST OF FIGURES are identical (words, organizational system, and capitalization) to those in the text.
- A summary appears as required.
- The page number appears in the bottom center of the first page of each chapter.
- All citations follow the style manual consistently.
- No citations are missing.
- For works by multiple authors, names appear in the first and subsequent citations according to the style manual.
- A curriculum vitae appears as required.
- The titles of all tables appear in all capitals.
- The legends for all figures appear in the correct place and follow the correct format.
- The entire text follows the rules of capitalization carefully and consistently throughout.
- After the initial check, correct any format errors and resubmit the corrected version to the Graduate Director for a second check. Multiple format checks, if needed before final approval, will delay completion and may make it impossible to go through graduation until a later date. The student, not the Graduate Director, is responsible to track the process and win format approval.
- Successfully completed a sufficient number of courses, as required by the program
- Completed the total required hours of courses and met the minimum of 500-level courses
- Have at least the minimum credit hours of thesis or dissertation research
- Completed any required comprehensive or preliminary examination
- Succeeded in the oral defenses meeting with committee members
- Made all required revisions at each stage
- Submitted the online “intent to graduate” form by the appropriate deadline
- Submitted an electronic copy of the defended and approved work with the Graduate College
- Deposited Red Border in manila envelope with “Thesis/Dissertation Information Form” affixed
- Completed program within five years of start date as degree-seeking student