Dissertation Guidelines

Dissertation Guidelines

A dissertation should be the culmination of course work completed in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications by a doctoral student. A dissertation is theoretically based, scientific research directed and critiqued by an academic committee selected by the graduate student.

Dissertation Proposal

The proposal consists of the first three chapters of the dissertation and outlines the capstone research to be conducted as part of completion of the doctoral degree. The proposal must be presented to the student’s academic committee and formally defended in front of that committee before the start of primary data collection. The proposal includes:

  • An introduction that outlines the problem that will be examined, the purpose and importance of the research, a brief introduction of the theory and methods used in the study, and an overview of the dissertation’s chapters. (12-15 pages)
  • An exhaustive literature review outlining the previous research conducted on the subject, an extensive explanation of the theory being used in the study, and research questions and/or hypotheses that the dissertation will address. (30-40 pages)
  • methodology of the data being used in the study. As applicable to the research method used in the study, the methodology will include but may not be limited to the sample and how it will be collected, operationalization of definitions used in the study, measurements used in the study, timeline for gathering/analyzing data, and other materials pertaining to the validity of the data collection. The methodology is the most important aspect of research design. Be thorough in explaining plans for data collection. Fail in the methodology and the research fails. (15-20 pages)
  • plan of action will outline the timetable for the dissertation, beginning with a proposal defense date and ending with a dissertation defense. Be specific with dates about data collection, writing the results and conclusions. (1-2 pages)
  • References of all materials used in the proposal (pages as needed)
  • Dissertation proposal total: About 60-80 pages (+ references)

NOTE: The dissertation proposal generally will be presented and defended following successful completion of the comprehensive exams. The proposal and comprehensive exams may be defended at the same time.


The dissertation generally consists of five chapters: the introduction, literature review, and methods, each revised in accordance with committee recommendations; and the results and discussion/conclusion chapters. Other organizational schemes may be more appropriate for some topics. The complete dissertation must be presented to the student’s academic committee and formally defended in front of that committee. The dissertation includes:

  • A revised introduction. (12-15 pages)
  • A revised literature review. (30-40 pages)
  • A revised methodology. (15-20 pages)
  • Results of the research that answers the research questions or addressed the hypotheses. Analysis of data should be explained. A clear understanding and summation of the results are to be included. Charts, tables and graphs are to be included in the results section. (15-20 pages)
  • discussion provides context to the results and explains why the results are what they are. The discussion can also introduce additional results that are not addressed by the RQs or Hs. The discussion should circle back to the literature review and explain how and why this study added to the theory and the practical implications. The discussion should incorporate the results of the current study into the results from previous work. The author should be able to contextualize what it all means to the larger research. The discussion should include the study’s limitations and questions for future research. (15-20 pages)
  • Conclusions summarize the key points of the research and its implications. (5-10 pages)
  • References of all materials used in the proposal. (pages as needed)
  • Dissertation total: about 100-125 pages (+ references)

NOTE: Page numbers are rough estimates. Actual length of each dissertation chapter will vary depending on each student’s research questions and research approach. KU Thesis and Dissertation Formatting Guidelines.