The Dissertation Proposal and the Oral Qualifying Examination

After the Written Qualifying Examination (WQE), the second formal requirement of the Ph.D. program is that the student prepares an extensive dissertation proposal, and defends it in an Oral Qualifying Examination (OQE). Students are encouraged to start work on their proposals while taking courses in preparation for the WQE. The proposal should be completed and accepted one year of passing the WQE.

If conducting research for the purpose of fulfilling the requirements for a doctoral degree, students should be award that if the research will entail the use of human subjects (medical procedures, questionnaires, interviews, etc.) in addition to receiving the approval of the doctoral committee, students must also seek the approval of the appropriate Institutional Review Board (IRB) at UCLA, prior to the initiation of the research project. Please see the Office for Protection of Research Subjects‘ site for further details.

Before submitting a proposal, the student must appoint a doctoral committee. The student must submit the names of the members of the committee to the Student Affairs Officer at least three weeks before the scheduled oral examination. A Nomination of Doctoral Committee form is available in PDF format.

The proposal must contain (a) an introduction to the problem to be studied and its general context, (b) a review of the relevant literature, (c) a description of the methodology to be used, and (d) a time schedule of the work to be done for completion.

The proposal must be reviewed and formally accepted at an Oral Qualifying Examination (OQE) by the doctoral committee. The chair of the doctoral committee acts as the student’s advisor, and chairs the OQE. This examination is open only to the doctoral committee and the student. All members of the committee must be present. The OQE form must be obtained from the Student Affairs Officer (SAO) before the examination, and returned to the SAO upon completion of the examination.

Durng the OQE, the committee is expected to require the candidate to evaluate the significance of the chosen topic of research, to justify the methodology to be used, to demonstrate the feasibility of completing the research, and to provide criteria for evaluating whether the research has been completed. Furthermore, the committee is expected to test the candidate’s knowledge in the specific field chosen for the dissertation research by detailed questions concerning the literature and problem areas within the field.

Each member reports the examination as “passed” or “not passed.” A student may not be advanced to candidacy if more than one member votes “not passed.” Upon majority vote, the OQE may be repeated once.

Advancement to Candidacy

After the OQE, the SAO sends the “Report on the Qualifying Examinations for the Ph.D. Degree” to the Graduate Division, which in turn records the results and conveys them to the Registrar. The student will be billed on their BAR account and will formally advance. At this point the student submits an approved copy of the dissertation proposal and any required forms to the SAO.

Dissertation Research

The third formal requirement of the Ph.D. program is that the student research, write, and defend a dissertation. The candidate should work closely with his/her faculty advisor (the chair of the dissertation committee) in doing the dissertation research and writing, and should consult, as necessary, with members of the dissertation committee and other faculty members.

The dissertation must be reviewed and formally accepted by the candidate’s dissertation committee in order for the student to earn the Ph.D.

The Final Oral Examination (Oral Defense)

A Final Oral Examination (FOE) is required of all IS candidates, at which the dissertation committee and other faculty and students require the candidate to defend the dissertation and may test the candidate’s knowledge of the field. All committee members must be present.

The FOE is scheduled by the student with the dissertation committee, allowing sufficient lead-time since faculty schedules may be difficult to coordinate. The student is responsible for scheduling a room for the oral defense with the administrative assistant to the faculty. The student must bring the “Result of the Final Oral Examination” form to the exam (obtained from the SAO).

The Department’s MIT Lab provides technical support for dissertation defenses: see Technology Support: Thesis & Dissertation Defenses for further details.

Regarding technical support for dissertation defenses, technology is installed in Rooms 111, 121, and 245 for your presentation. For information and policies contact the Educational Technology Unit at or (310) 825-8365 once your defense date is assigned.

The dissertation reading copies need not meet the stylistic standards established by Graduate Division for a “perfect copy.” (Margins may be incorrect, photocopies are acceptable, etc.) They must, however, be completed in all substantive ways, including chapters, etc. A “perfect copy” must, of course, be prepared and submitted to Graduate Division after the FOE.

The FOE is open to all interested faculty members and students, who are encouraged to attend. The chair of the dissertation committee, in consultation with the doctoral candidate and other members of the committee, will establish the protocol for the defense and announce this protocol at the beginning of the defense. Protocols include, but are not limited to, such procedures as whether or not observers will be allowed to ask questions and, if questions are permitted, when they may be asked, etc. The observers may participate in the examination, as directed by the chair of the dissertation committee, but do not have a vote.

The dissertation committee must decide whether the dissertation (with modifications as needed) is accepted or is not accepted. It selects from its membership, by unanimous agreement, the certifying members who will read, approve, and certify the dissertation. A minimum of three members must be certifying members, two of whom must be from IS and one must be from an “outside” department. The chair of the committee must serve as a certifying member. If a committee has co-chairs, both must serve as certifying members. At least two “inside” and one “outside” certifying members must hold professorial appointments at the University of California.

The certifying members (whether the entire committee or a sub-committee selected by the entire committee) read, approve, and certify the dissertation. There may be one negative vote if all members of the Committee are certifying; none if fewer than the entire membership are certifying. A negative decision is indicated by refusing to sign the dissertation approval page and by a letter from the chair of the dissertation committee to the Dean of the Graduate Division.