This page includes the most common questions we receive. We will strive to add to this page as new questions arise.
EDS is the acronym we use to represent the Exam-Dissertation Sequence
The EDS Progress Report helps us keep track of who is actively working on their dissertation and what step you are working on, as well as any obstacles you may be facing. Because the registration system does not always reflect who is actually working on what (see registration questions below), we can’t rely on that.
We have a Google sheet that we use for you to sign-up for our group advising sessions or if you need an individual advising session with Dr. Kalantzis. We also post external committee information there for easy access.
Seminar Courses: Each 4-credit course is meant to help build towards your final dissertation and any relevant exams. These require REGISTRATION REQUEST forms. The course is technically scheduled for 8 weeks (or 6 in the summer), but it is not expected that students will finish the requirements during that time period. The registration is strictly to allow you to earn 4 credits towards your degree. It is common for the requirements to take a full semester rather than a single term. See the registration section below for additional details.
After you successfully complete 586 and 587 and are approved to proceed to examination, you would fill out the Qualifying Exam Request form. When you are approved to proceed to your prelim or final defense, you would fill out the relevant committee request form. See the sections below for the details. These all require forms.
Instructor content on major topics to guide your progress and outline required action items. You should complete these in order, starting with Prefix 0. Each prefix represents a step in the process. 0 prefix should be completed prior to beginning the sequence. Prefix 1 = General Field; 2 = Special Field; 3 = Methodology; 4 = Prelim; 5 = Data Collection, Analysis, and Dissertation Draft; 6 = Final Dissertation
What candidates have to do in substantive terms on their pathway to being a successful doctoral student – prompts for comments or individual updates.
A process for learning and exchanging ideas as doctoral candidates by engaging with each other’s work/views and demonstrating growing expertise.
Individual updates are intended to help you think about your research ideas and build towards your peer-reviewed projects. You should complete these in order.
Projects are aids, drafts, and evolution of what will become your doctoral dissertation. along with peer reviews of others’ work. Some projects are not peer-reviewed, such as the Annotated Bibliographies.
Students deliver two 15-minute oral exams; one for your preliminary and another for your final dissertation. You will also be expected to present to your peers prior to your preliminary and final exam and observe three peers’ presentations.
A literature review is not an essay. It is a scholarly work that groups and synthesizes the literature, and is presented in the voice of the literature. The author’s voice is secondary. Refer to our Literature Review Guidelines and several admin updates (mostly in the General Field section) in the community for more details.
Most students need at least a full semester for each milestone, but others take longer based on a variety of things, including adjusting to a new set of expectations and rigor, capacity, life circumstances, motivation/ commitment, challenges with the literature review genre, reading a greater number of articles, and/or requiring multiple rounds of revisions.
Because each step serves multiple purposes (a course, an examination, and a portion of your research proposal or final dissertation), it is not meant to only take someone 8 weeks, so don’t get discouraged if it takes longer. It is important to not sacrifice quality in order to rush. These works will be sent back for revision until they are acceptable for examination. And with each round of revision, there is a delay, since we have other works to review.
We have received positive feedback from those who participate in the group advising sessions and the library-offered writing retreats.
Each course requires a form in order to register. (See our Forms page for more details)
We sometimes make an exception for this policy. However, you must have all research courses completed. Contact the dissertation advisor and provide the following or something similar: “I have one more course to take (insert course), but it is not offered this term. I’d like to start the exam-dissertation sequence next term and then I’ll take the final course when it is offered the following semester.” Once an approval is received, proceed with filling out the registration request form. You most likely will receive a reply requesting advisor approval. Share the approval email with the person requesting the waiver and copy your advisor. And be sure to add your name to our Google sheet tracker.
Yes, we actually encourage students to begin participating a semester ahead of when they plan to formally begin. Please complete the EDS prework and begin to, at least occasionally, attend the group advising sessions.
Also, because this process does not follow a normal 8 week timeline, it will be very common for you not be registered each term. So registration is not a requirement. The registration is merely to allow you to earn credit towards your 64-credits.
You will receive an incomplete, but it can be changed once you complete the requirements. Please notify the dissertation advisor once all work has been submitted and you are ready to have your grade updated. You don’t need to register for the course again. Per University policy, Incompletes turn into a letter grade after one full semester beyond when you registered (if registered in the Fall, after the Spring the incomplete will become a letter grade if the work has not yet been finished).
We will only allow one incomplete at a time. If your major milestone is ready for peer review, we will approve that you register for the next course. We allow participation in the EDS without being formally registered, since we know that the 8-week timeline is not feasible. The registration is simply to help you earn credits towards your degree. But because these milestones serve a bigger purpose, they aren’t meant to be completed that quickly. But once you have completed the requirements, you can fill out the form to request to register for the next course. You can register up until the 10th day of the semester.
If you will not be registering for a Fall or Spring semester, it will depend. But once you are ready to return, you will need to fill out another form to be reinstated. Also, if more than two semesters pass without registering, we will need to fill out a different form so that you can maintain your netID access (i.e. email address, library log-in, etc.) Note that when on a leave of absence you may not receive certain university communications or library access.
Instead, it is advised that you register for a single credit of EPOL 595 if you are actively working on something, but not ready to move on to the next milestone. Refer to our Registration Policies page for more information.
Financial aid is of course a very personal situation and personal decision. So this response is simply to give you some things to consider. We do not consult on financial aid situations and are not involved in any of the requirements. But most financial aid programs require 6 credits to be considered full-time. We only allow you to enroll in one EDS course at a time. Once you demonstrate close-to successful completion of a milestone, then we allow you to enroll in the next course. One suggestion is to not register over the summer when financial aid programs don’t require you to be registered. But use that time to actively work on your milestones so that you don’t lose more time. But again, this is all very personal.
We will assign a letter grade once your work is eligible for peer review (although we can’t assign a letter grade until the term or semester has concluded). Please note that earning a letter grade for one of the “courses” does not equate to passing a particular exam.
Initially you will receive an incomplete. That grade is changed once you submit a version that is eligible for peer review. Per University policy, incompletes are automatically changed to a letter grade (Unsatisfactory for pass/fail courses) after a full semester (i.e. a Fall incomplete would change to a U after the Spring semester)
U refers to Unsatisfactory for pass/fail courses. An “S” is satisfactory. If you have not completed the requirements by the end of the registered term, then you are assigned an Incomplete. However, per University rule, after a full semester, the incomplete will change to a letter grade (U).
While we try to be proactive and update grades for previous semesters once the requirements have been met, we rely on students to notify us if they need to request a grade change.
You do not receive a grade for EPOL 599 until you graduate. It will appear as “deferred” until you graduate. So no worries about not having the credits – as long as you registered for them, you’ll earn them.
· It is common for each milestone to take at least an entire semester, if not longer. Plan accordingly.
· View the University’s term schedule and the Graduate College’s Final Defense and Thesis deposit deadlines.
· Following the requirements, literature review genre guidelines and the work submission and review process will reduce the review cycle frequency and duration.
· Allow time for all review and revision cycles.
· As you wait for feedback, begin working on your next steps. There is always something to do.
· You can not register for the next course in the sequence until successful completion of the “current” course’s milestone(s). Approval to register for EPOL 595 or 599 are made on a case by case basis
· We approve registration in the next course once you have successfully completed the prior course. (587 approval only comes after you have submitted your general field literature review for instructor approval.)
· EPOL 595 can be a single term or full semester and 599 is full-semester, so you’ll need to follow the deadlines (we advise you register for a full semester of 595 unless you have a specific reason to only register for a single term)
· Similar to the other EDS courses, EPOL 595 and 599 require approval before you can register. Registration instructions are sent once the proper process has been followed:
o EPOL 586, 587, and 591: Seminar Request Form
o EPOL 595: First discuss with Dr. Francis, then fill out the Independent Study Learning Contract (suggested is for the full semester; input your advisor as the instructor)
o EPOL 599: First discuss with Dr. Francis, then she will request EPOL 599 for you
· Summer registration doesn’t contribute to Fall/Spring status, so unless you have a specific reason to be registered, it is suggested to wait until the Fall. But if you have your prelim or final defense in the summer, you must be registered during the summer.
· You don’t have to be registered for the exact thing in order actively make progress. The key is to know what ultimately needs to be done and go at your own pace. The registration piece is to help you earn credit – but the exact registration timing is flexible – except for having to be registered for something during prelim and final defense semesters.)
· You do not receive a grade for EPOL 599 until you graduate. It will appear as “deferred” until you graduate.
· Submission deadlines are not tied to specific terms. Each student sets their own deadlines.
· You will receive an incomplete for 586, 587, and 595 until the work has been approved for peer review. You do not need to register again. Just keep working on your milestone. Once finished, we will update your grade.
· The committee examination takes time, so we do not link examination timelines with your registration approval.
· You must submit your full dissertation draft about six months before when you hope to defend and graduate. This still does not guarantee a specific graduation date, but it is the minimum amount of time needed for the review and revision process. (May graduation would mean a September draft submission date.)
· Refer to the Thesis Office Calendar for the full list of Graduate College-specific timelines: https://calendars.illinois.edu/list/3259
Dissertation Chapters, Formatting, and Structure Questions
Chapter 2 LITERATURE REVIEW is a review of the literature in the field that aligns with your tentative key research question and/or your hypothesis. It is a journey of discovery not an essay style account of what you know. You must not make generalization backed by citations. Instead, it is a synthesized account of what the literature says, in the voice of the literature. That is, it should present in a coherent, appropriately cited, way what you found/discovered that the literature actually says -theories, claims, debates, data, etc. – that enable you to demonstrate you have gained expertise in the field of your investigation – it’s not about a predetermined topic. This is true for both the first part, General Field or second part, Special Field Literature Review: the two qualifying exams.
The Special field review of the literature should emerge from the gaps revealed in your investigation of the general field. This will allow you do dig deeper into the literature in a more focused way and lead towards your own intervention, which should become clearer as a consequence of these two literature reviews. It will also lead to the refinement of your tentative research questions and/or hypotheses. Together these two literature reviews lay the scholarly foundation for Chapter 3 and subsequently your own research intervention/project. But Chapter 2 must focus on what the literature conveys.
Refer to our Literature Review Guidance web page for more details. See also Academic Phrasebook examples.
Your dissertation in an evolving manuscript and will go through different iterations as you progress and become clearer about your purpose, and what it means. When it is deposited with the university it becomes part of the body of literature that others can access who are interested in your field of expertise. It is a published, evidence based, manuscript discoverable by the world.
Short answer: Immediately. While we ask that you prepare and present your iterative work for peer review within CGScholar, it is necessary to maintain a formatted dissertation manuscript with placeholders for any future sections. Refer to the Thesis Office Resources page for important links. Any work submitted to your advisor or committee for examination should be in the approved dissertation format. After your preliminary exam, you do not need to maintain the CGScholar version, but we ask that by the end of your final approved dissertation that you update CGScholar to reflect your deposited version, leveraging the capability to embed videos and other media.
As you progress through the exam-dissertation sequence, your structure will adjust slightly, but not significantly. Be sure to apply the dissertation structure from the very beginning, but indicate placeholders.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Literature Review
Chapter 3: Theory and Methods
Chapter 4: Findings and Discussion
Chapter 5: Recommendations and Conclusions
During the iterative milestones, put “Placeholder” at the end of the title to indicate that it isn’t done yet. For the General Field and Special Field, you would label those headings as 2.1 General Field, then 2.1.1 Introduction, 2.1.2 Definitions, 2.1.3 Theories, etc. Then the Special Field would be 2.2
You will receive an incomplete, but it can be changed once you complete the requirements. Please notify the graduate assistant once you are all We strongly recommend all students procure a copy editor early in the exam-dissertation sequence. Depending on your writing skills, this may be a family member, friend, colleague, or it may need to be someone who does this professionally. We suggest they review your work incrementally as you submit each major milestone. This editing should be done prior to submitting your work for peer review and again before submitting your work for preliminary review or the detailed review by Professor Mary Kalantzis. By the time your advisor sees your work, it should be fully proofread. The advisor review should focus on content and not grammatical or structure issues. You want it to be informative, clear, and easy to read. Your external examiners will undoubtedly be attentive to such issues, and you need to make sure that the Word version of your evolving manuscript is presented according to the Graduate School’s Style Guide and in a publishable format. Images/figures should be clearly legible and numbered and referenced in the body of your text. (The Graduate College recommends numbering based on sections so that if you insert or change figures, you are not renumbering your entire document.)
Certain parts of your dissertation will be “your voice”, but you should still use third person, such as “in the present study…” or “The researcher will…. “. Passive voice is acceptable in your dissertation, which is a common way to avoid first person.
During the examination phases (general and special fields), we ask that you maintain a structured Chapter 2 that differentiates the full General field literature review from the Special field literature review. This makes it clear to examiners where one ends and the other begins, so that they are examining the appropriate sections.
Either during your Chapter 3 works or in preparation for your preliminary exam, you should streamline your Chapter 2 literature review into a cohesive dissertation-focused Literature Review. You should have a single Introduction, a single Theory section, appropriately organized themed sections, a single Gaps in the literature section, and a transition to your Chapter 3. Regarding the gaps in the literature, you can decide how to present the gaps revealed in each case, given that the gaps were based on different sets of literature. You can keep them distinctive or put them together.
While we institute milestones to make this is a more manageable experience, these are cumulative and iterative. Your dissertation is a living document that will go through multiple stages and rounds of revision. Always be attentive to opportunities to enhance your work, even if it passed a previous stage’s review.
For your preliminary exam you are presenting a research proposal – what you plan to do. But after your preliminary exam, you will need to revise your work to be presented in past sense. You may also find that some things changed from what you planned. What did you actually do?
You may also find that you need to revise or expand your Chapter 2 Literature Review as you progress through the remainder of the dissertation process. This is especially true for topics where new research emerges in between the time you wrote Chapter 2 and when you are working on your analysis and final dissertation draft.
And of course, your Introduction, abstract, and other formatting items, such as your Table of Contents will need to be revised based on the most up-to-date details.
While Chapter 2 is about what the literature says about your topic and the related theories, Chapter 3 THEORY & METHODOLGY is about you choosing the theoretical foundation for your specific research study and how that theory aligns to your research goals. It will/may involve the recasting of some part of the theory section of Chapter This means you will need to review it and determine how to select, recast, or augment the theories presented in Chapter 2 for Chapter 3.
Do not repeat yourself, but instead provide the reason and context of your selected theory/s that will inform your methodology and your own research intervention/project. The selected methodology for your own research intervention/project thus follows the theoretical statement here and needs to be cited, explained, along with an action plan.
Chapter 4 is about the execution of your study, that is the application of your selected theory and methodology; an account and analysis of the data you found, but most importantly, the interpretation of the data and how it answers or addresses your research questions and hypotheses.
Chapter 5 is about the implications, recommendations, limitations, and conclusions of your study. What does your study contribute to the field? What additional research still needs to be done? So far, your writing has been evidence driven and objective, in chapter 5 your own voice can return as you sum up the significance of your dissertation.
Refer to the final two pages of the Exam-Sequence Overview PDF for an overview of the 5-Chapter model.
Avoid simply describing and repeating the process of data collection in Chapter 4, as you have already articulated that in Chapter 3. It is necessary to present the data that you found in a clear way, but you also need to incorporate an interpretation of the data and how and to what degree it addresses your research questions and hypotheses. You’ll want to be able to explain why the numbers (quantitative data) or responses (qualitative data) are what they are. Do not assume that the reader has to work this out from spread sheets, graphs and the like. Additionally, you need to integrate your quantitative and qualitative “discussion/interpretation” of your results rather than simply addressing them separately. This will contribute to the triangulation of your data.
Some of your raw results from data collection and the processes involved in gathering it need to go in appendices – eg, description of case, weekly lesson plans, raw responses, etc. The dissertation needs to focus on findings and meaningful scholarly contributions the field – the reader can go to appendices to verify data that supports conclusions and recommendations.
The Appendix should also include your data collection instruments and IRB materials. It may also include supporting materials that provide additional context for your study, such as a lesson plan, policy, or other items referenced in the main body of your dissertation
Literature Review Questions
A good literature review can ensure that a proper research question has been asked and a proper theoretical framework and/or research methodology have been chosen. To be precise, a literature review serves to situate the current study within the body of the relevant literature and to provide context for the reader, such as the purpose, participants, methodology, and the evidence that contributes to a particular claim.
A literature review is a synthesis of what the literature says about a given topic. An essay is your voice, supported by citations. An essay is an analytic or interpretative literary composition usually dealing with its subject from a limited or personal point of view
A literature review can be a type of scholarly article. In this sense, a literature review is a scholarly paper that presents the current knowledge including substantive findings as well as theoretical and methodological contributions to a particular topic.
Literature reviews are secondary sources and do not report new or original experimental work. Most often associated with academic-oriented literature, such reviews are found in academic journals and are not to be confused with book reviews, which may also appear in the same publication. Literature reviews are a basis for research in nearly every academic field.
While the main focus of an academic research paper is to support your own argument, the focus of a literature review is to summarize and synthesize the arguments and ideas of others.
The academic research paper also covers a range of sources, but it is usually a select number of sources, because the emphasis is on the argument. Likewise, a literature review can also have an “argument,” but it is not as important as covering a number of sources. In short, an academic research paper and a literature review contain some of the same elements. In fact, many academic research papers will contain a literature review section. What aspect of the study (either the argument or the sources) that is emphasized determines what type of document it is.
The difference in purpose and requirements is manifested in your qualifying exam questions. The Literature Review Guidelines and Checklist have been created to help prepare you to pass your qualifying exams. When adhered to appropriately, you will be approved to proceed to examination. Once you have completed both qualifying exams, you streamline and revise your literature reviews to become a single Chapter 2 literature review for your research proposal and ultimately your dissertation.
General Exam Question
Write a literature review that provides evidence that you have a command of the wider field of scholarly endeavor associated with the research question(s) you have chosen for your dissertation. A literature review sets the context for your dissertation demonstrating that you have discovered, presented and analyzed the value of the key sources that contain the theories, practices, data, methodologies and applications associated with your research question. (Be sure to refer directly to your research question in the review!)
What is the broad shape of the area in which you are working? What are its main challenges? What kinds of innovative ideas and transformational practices is the field begging, generally speaking? One rough measure of generality might be, if you were to create undergraduate college course introducing students to this general area of knowledge, what would you want them to know? What should they read to get a sense of the critical issues being addressed in theory, research and practice?
The literature review should not merely be descriptive—it should be analytical and critical. However, at the same time it should be a fair representation of the perspectives and voices of a range of people across the field. What are the main issues arising in this general field? The main challenges to be addressed. The questions being asked by the intellectual and practical leaders in the field? Absences or gaps in our knowledge? Work that needs to be done? Of course, you need to map the broad shape of the field to make your case, but the focus here should be your argument about work that needs to be done, which also justifies your dissertation focus.
However, having said this, in a literature review your voice is secondary. This should be a place where you let the field speak. You are there, of course, in the selection of texts and the framework you develop to present them—but subtly so.
Special Field Examination Question
Write a literature review, focusing in on theory and research related to the specific topic you have chosen for your dissertation. In contrast to the literature review you wrote for the general field examination, narrow your focus to research findings relevant to the particular area you will address in your dissertation. Here you demonstrate that you are an expert in the area of empirical research and/or theoretical work that directly relates to (what might become) the topic of your dissertation.
Be sure this section does not repeat the general field section. Revise the general field section as needed, submitting both together with a change note explaining any changes you have made in the light of the special field literature review.
Some issues to address: how the special field is located within the general field; challenges addressed by the special field: how these connect with the challenges of the general field; how the key concepts and theoretical frameworks of the general field are applied, extended or modified in the special field; how the methodologies of the general field have been applied in the special field; the main findings generated by these methodologies
Some questions to consider: What brings you to this special field? What are the main theoretical approaches in your special field? What are the most commonly used methodologies? What are the principal empirical findings? What answers does the literature provide (and fail to provide) to your research questions? Do these answers tend to confirm or deny your hypotheses? What are the practical needs for research and intervention in your special field? What potentials are there for extended application and innovation? What work needs to be done, in general, in particular in your dissertation?
A literature review is more than a summary of the sources, it has an organizational pattern that combines both summary and synthesis. A summary is a recap of the important information of the source, but a synthesis is a re-organization, or a reshuffling, of that information. It might give a new interpretation of old material or combine new with old interpretations. Or it might trace the intellectual progression of the field, including major debates. And depending on the situation, the literature review may evaluate the sources and advise the reader on the most pertinent or relevant information.
Peer-Reviewed Project Questions
In the Exam-Dissertation Sequence, students start their own work in Creator. Follow our Work Submission and Review instructions as you draft, finalize, and prepare to submit your milestone(s).
We set the review deadline in CGScholar sooner than the expected review completion date. The reason for this is so that authors can begin to see review feedback sooner. But out of courtesy, we try to give reviewers at least a week to 10 days to complete a peer review. And we ask authors to wait until all reviews are in before submitting their revised work. Follow up with the Dissertation Advisor if you didn’t receive three peer reviews.
There may be additional steps depending on which project you are completing. But in many cases, yes, you can begin working on the next step while you wait for feedback. Also use this time to do more reading, engage with peers, complete peer reviews for others, or plan ahead. Refer to our Process Document and the Submission Requirements page for details.
The Research Seminars and Dissertation Courses are preparatory for the exams themselves and also enable you to work towards your dissertation while earning credit towards the 64-credit requirement. The exams are typically the final version of the second peer-reviewed project of the related seminar. (See more details)
Once you have received confirmation from your advisor that it is ready for committee review, fill out the required form. Within two days, you should receive an email prompting you to upload your document. Note that for your Exam you should provide a correctly-formatted Word document that also includes the link to your work in CGScholar. If you don’t receive the prompt within a day or two, please contact the Dissertation Advisor.
Your committee may take up to four weeks to review your work and provide feedback – but it could be longer, as the faculty have a lot of responsibilities. While you are waiting, there are several things you can be working on, such as ensuring that your formatting aligns with the thesis office requirements, admin updates for the next course, peer reviews of others’ work, begin drafting your next milestone, etc.
You can proceed with the Admin Updates related to the next step in the process as well as the first project in that step while you wait for committee feedback. While we say that it could be up to four weeks, if you haven’t heard back after 6 weeks (after you uploaded your exam), please contact the Graduate Assistant to request a status.
You are expected to take on board all examination feedback. Your examiners will each have valuable feedback that will strengthen your work. While you are not required to resubmit it for that particular exam, your examiners will see your cumulative work and will review your previous and newly-submitted work. Maintain a detailed change log of how you applied the feedback. Some examiners may ask to see how their feedback was applied and/or request to meet with you to discuss their feedback.
IRB Questions: see The IRB Process
If you are doing research that involves your employer institution or another institution with an IRB office, you should reach out to the other institution’s IRB to seek their advice and requirements. They will either be the primary/host IRB institution or they need to provide a letter of support that you can use for your UIUC IRB application. If they are your primary, you do not need to fill out a UIUC IRB protocol form.
If you are not conducting research related to your employer institution, then you should complete the UIUC IRB process.
If filling out the UIUC IRB protocol form, your assigned faculty advisor is your principal investigator and needs to sign all IRB protocol forms. You are a member of the research team, so be sure to fill out that form as well.
It can take four to eight weeks for IRB approval. You’ll first be assigned an IRB contact, which may take a few weeks. Once assigned, it may take another 2 to 6 weeks for a response. Be sure to plan ahead. You can always submit an amendment if something changes in your methodology.
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