Navigating the Exam-Dissertation Sequence

A Visual of the EDS

Each of the Six seminars includes a series of milestones. Those milestones lead to your four examinations.

A Visual of the 5-Chapter Dissertation, by Methodology

While we ask you to focus on one step at a time, this resource demonstrates how your manuscript will come together.

Requirements and Timeline

Flexible Pacing and Registration

Registration for a seminar course is based on a single term.

  • You will earn an incomplete until all work is finished for the relevant seminar.
  • You can not register for more than one EDS course at a time.
  • While registration is set up for 8 weeks (6 weeks for summer), most of our part-time students needs a full semester to complete each major milestone. Therefor, we do not impose specific deadlines. Deadlines are the discretion of each student.

Anticipated Duration: It may take you at least two years to complete the full Exam-Dissertation Sequence. Exact duration will depend on:

  • Capacity and time commitment
  • Mastery of the literature review genre and scholarly writing,
  • Volume of reading required to become well-versed in your general and special fields and selected methodology

Refer to the attached table for general guidance on when you should try to complete key milestones in order to achieve a certain graduation term.

Seminar Materials in CGScholar

Finding the Learning Materials

Learning Module “Sections” in the Community

These will direct you to the relevant materials for that step in the process (repeated in the main EDS menu)

Requirements and Milestones

Each seminar includes a series of admin updates in the Community along with works that you’ll submit for peer, advisor, and/or committee review.

Chapter 2: Literature Review

Chapter 3: Theory and Methodology

  • Chapter 3: Theory and Methodology
    • Chapter 3 Part 1: Theoretical Foundation and Research Questions
    • Chapter 3 Part 2: Methodology Design
    • Chapter 3 Part 3: Methodology Implementation

Chapters 1 to 3: Preliminary Exam

  • Preliminary Examination
    • Preliminary Exam Manuscript: Chapters 1 to 3 (Introduction, Literature Review, and Theory and Methodology), References, and Appendix
    • Preliminary Exam Presentation

Chapters 1 to 5: Final Examination

Click the Download button below for a printable version of the 5-Chapter Model and Methodologies PDF

Submission Formats: CGScholar, Word, and PDF

The majority of action items and deliverables associated with these courses will take place within the CGScholar platform, but you should maintain a parallel Word version throughout the process.

See also the Work Submission and Review process web page that includes very specific instructions.

  • Admin Updates: CGScholar
  • Works for Peer Review: CGScholar with sections to align with the approved Graduate College format, attach a Word document to the first section (called Word Version)
  • Advisor and Committee Review: Word document in the approved Graduate College format, attached to the Scholar submission
  • Final Deposit Departmental and Thesis Office Review: PDF

Seminar Summary

Select a card below to view more details for each step

0, 1, and 2. EDS Prework, General and Special Field Seminars (586 and 587)

Description and Duration

The General and Special fields originally are two separate literature reviews and examinations, but they will eventually become a streamlined Chapter 2 for your dissertation.

Expected Duration: These steps together can take six to nine months, with the General Field usually taking longer than the Special Field.

EDS Prework

You should complete the EDS Prework at least one semester prior to officially starting the exam sequence. This will save you time later. Complete the EDS Getting Started Checklist and attend an EDS Onboarding session

General Field

The General Field seminar includes a series of action items and deliverables that prepare you for your General Field exam, including a 5,000-7,000 word Literature Review.

Special Field

The Special Field seminar includes a series of action items and deliverables that prepare you for your special Field exam, including a 5,000-7,000 word Literature Review.

3 and 4. Theory and Methodology and Preliminary Exam (588 and 591)

Description and Duration

The Methodology Research seminar prepares you to write Chapter 3 of your dissertation. Chapter 3 includes your theory and methodology, broken into three parts and projects so that you can receive incremental feedback. Through each of these iterations you will craft a logic model that provides a visual representation of your study, linking the theoretical foundation to the methodology and data collection and analysis strategy.

Expected Duration: These steps together can take six to twelve months to complete, with the Methodology chapter taking longer than the Preliminary Exam. You preliminary exam manuscript must be approved six weeks prior to scheduling the oral examination.

Theoretical Foundation

Chapter 2 addresses what the literature says about theories associated with your topic, while Chapter 3 is about how your selected theory applies to your research study (Part 1). Create a draft of your logic model.

Methodology Design and Implementation

Deeply examine your chosen methodology and its alignment with your study (Part 2) and design the implementation plan (Part 3). This also includes your IRB documentation. Update your logic model.

Preliminary Exam

Streamline your Chapter 2. You will submit your completed Chapters 1 to 3 and present your research proposal to your peers and then your committee during an oral exam. During your oral exam you may be asked to make revisions prior to starting your data collection.

5. Conducting your Research Study (599)

Description and Duration

Once you pass your preliminary exam and take on board any committee feedback, you may begin collecting data. There are also several tasks you can be working on while your waiting for all of your data to come in, including conducting a preliminary analysis of your interim data. Once all data is collected, you can begin your comprehensive data analysis.

Expected Duration: These steps will depend on the duration of your research study and the type of methodology and analysis required, as outlined in your implementation plan.

Data Collection

Execute your research study according to your implementation plan. Plan to evaluate your data and be prepared to make adjustments based on the response rate.

During Data Collection

Follow these tips to make the final dissertation process a little simpler.

Data Analysis

Analyze your data along the way and according to your implementation plan and make any adjustments to your methodology and/or analysis procedures to ensure that the findings are presented in a credible and useful way.

5 and 6. Final Dissertation, Defense, and Deposit (599)

Description and Duration

Drafting and finalizing your dissertation is an iterative and ongoing process. You should expect multiple rounds of feedback and revision prior to being approved to schedule your final defense.

Expected Duration: The drafting and revision process can take at least six months. Your final manuscript must be approved by the start of the term preceding your desired defense semester.

Draft Thesis

Chapter 4 is about your execution, results, and findings. Chapter 5 is about your contributions and conclusions.

Final Defense

Once approved by your advisor, you will present your final exam to your peers and then to your committee.


After committee and departmental review, follow the Graduate College guidelines to deposit your approved dissertation.

See also: Policy on Re-using Work (restricted access)