Admission to Candidacy
This is a formal step in the graduate degree process and must be completed by the end of your sixth semester. Admission to candidacy occurs when you have successfully completed:
• All major coursework
• Both foreign language and tool requirements, and
• The prelims portfolio requirement
If you have not completed your minor, you must also declare one and have it approved by signature of the grad advisor. ABD [all but dissertation] status, which brings you a raise in your TA stipend, requires paperwork. Keep in good contact with the Graduate Division during this phase. Students not admitted to candidacy by the end of their 6th semester will be placed on probation.
While you are writing your dissertation, you need to be continually enrolled in English 990 (Dissertation Research). If you do not sign up for these credits each semester by the registration deadline, you will face a stiff financial penalty when you try to re-enroll. You must always be enrolled during the semester in which you plan to defend your dissertation– even if that means the summer. Stay in good contact with the Graduate Office about these enrollment procedures.
Within six months after you have finished course work, you will be expected to have completed a draft of your dissertation proposal and defend it at a conference with your five-member dissertation committee (see more below). Proposals generally range from 12-30 pages plus a bibliography. Your dissertation director will be your main guide in formulating a dissertation project and drafting a proposal. You must arrange the proposal defense by contacting committee members and finding a two-hour time period when all can meet. You also need to secure a meeting room and contact the Graduate Office Coordinator in advance to prepare the necessary paper work, which you should bring with you to the defense. Following a successful defense, the dissertation committee will sign their approval of the proposal and you can put in on file in the Graduate Division.
The quality of your dissertation project–along with the quality of your teaching record–is perhaps the most important factor in how you will fare on the job market. The best projects are those that are sensitive to their moment in the field, ones that proceed from a knowledge of the past, a sense of the significance of the present, and a vision of the future direction of the field. While our individual life circumstances often draw us to particular kinds of projects, dissertations should have a public significance within the field of CompRhet and be approached with that significance in mind. Thinking about the parts of the field with which you most want to affiliate–the conversations you want to be in, the audiences you seek, the kinds of things you want to be reading and doing–all should figure into the search for a dissertation question. Dissertations also need a realistic scope: you should be able to complete your thesis in a year or two. It should also employ methods with which you have had some earlier preparation and, ideally, experience.
Your dissertation committee will consist of a minimum of 5 faculty members (at least three from Composition and Rhetoric) and at least one from outside the discipline of English/Composition and Rhetoric. Four of the five members must be from the UW-Madison campus.
You will need to work out with your director a procedure for sharing your work with the wider dissertation committee. Your director needs to be the first pair of eyes and may approve drafts of chapters to be circulated among other faculty members. Some directors and students prefer that an entire draft be completed before circulating it to other readers. In other cases, all committee members play ongoing and active consulting roles. It is up to you to reach an understanding with your director and committee members about their roles.
It is the custom of this area to hold the dissertation defense only after a draft of the thesis is finished. It is your responsibility, in consultation with your director, to schedule a time and place for the defense according to everyone’s availability. As a courtesy, all dissertation committee members should have a copy of your dissertation one month prior to the defense. Normally, some revisions are requested as an outcome of the defense.
It is important to be in good communication with the Graduate Division as completion of the dissertation nears, as there are forms to fill out and procedures to follow. Also, be sure you are familiar with Graduate School regulations for formatting and delivering the thesis to the Graduate School. You must make an appointment ahead of time to be “signed off” for your degree.
Because so much research in CompRhet involves observing, interviewing, and sometimes testing human beings, faculty and students alike need to be knowledgeable about guidelines affecting such research. Because of heightened scrutiny of universities that receive federal funding, the University of Wisconsin has developed rather elaborate oversight procedures for anyone doing research involving human subjects. According to university guidelines, students who conduct research in order to fulfill course requirements are not required to seek approval from a Human Subjects Committee (although gaining informed consent is always wise). However, if you ever want to try to publish this research–or think you might–then you must have prior approval. We recommend in most cases, if you are planning research with human subjects as part of your graduate coursework, that you become certified through the tutorial and submit your plans and consent forms to the Review Board. You should allow at least a month for the review.
The Office for Human Research Protections now requests that all investigators at UW-Madison who are conducting research on human subjects have training in the form of an on-line tutorial. The training module takes about 30 minutes to complete.
According to University policies, all projects involving human subjects must be reviewed by a human subjects committee, such as the Social & Behavioral Science IRB in the College of Letters and Science. The IRB meets about once a month and proposals are reviewed as they are received. Approval is granted for one year and then must be renewed annually. Application forms are available online. Please contact the SBS IRB office at 263-2320 for more information.