PhD Dissertation Standards

To provide Ph.D. students with a sense of what constitutes an acceptable dissertation, the department has adopted the following outline of dissertation standards. This statement is not intended to be a complete rule regarding what constitutes an acceptable dissertation, but rather to specify a set of expectations. The dissertation committee is responsible for upholding high standards by determining whether the dissertation meets these expectations.

Dissertations can follow either a traditional or a 3-essay approach. A traditional dissertation presents an in-depth economic analysis of a particular problem or issue of substantive public or disciplinary concern. The dissertation should be organized into chapters presenting conceptual, theoretical, and/or empirical economic analyses that investigate various facets of the problem. Such a dissertation should draw overall conclusions, possibly including policy implications that summarize the significance of the results.

A 3-essay approach does not include the traditional in-depth investigation and analysis of a particular problem or issue. In lieu of such in-depth analysis, the 3-essay approach is expected to produce three self-contained papers, each of which should form the basis for a publishable paper.

For either approach, an acceptable dissertation must develop results that can form the basis for at least three publishable papers. The dissertation committee must deem that each of those three papers has a legitimate chance of publication,  and at least one of them in a major field journal. 

All dissertations should be organized in chapters such that the ultimately publishable papers are in distinct chapters as much as practical. Elements such as a broad introduction to the topic, detailed literature review, documentation of data sets, or in-depth background material are often valuable to include, but a chapter containing only those elements does not qualify as a publishable paper.

On the matter of co-authored work...

Inclusion of co-authored material in dissertations is acceptable with full disclosure of co-authorship and submission of letters from all co-authors clearly specifying each co-author's role. In such cases, the dissertation should include a foreword that explains the student's role in the co-authored work. The dissertation committee should assure that the student has made a substantial intellectual contribution to such work. At least one of the publishable papers must represent the student's sole-authored work, and should be of sufficient quality that it has a legitimate shot at being publishable in a major field journal.

Graduate School policies state: "It is recognized that a graduate student may co-author work with faculty and colleagues that should be included in a dissertation. In such an event, a letter should be sent to the Dean of the Graduate School certifying that the student's examining committee has determined that the student made a substantial contribution to that work. This letter should also note that inclusion of the work has the approval of the dissertation adviser and the program chair or Graduate Director. The letter should be included with the dissertation at the time of the submission. The format of such inclusions must conform to the standard dissertation format. A foreword to the dissertation, as approved by the Dissertation Committee, must state that the student made substantial contributions to the relevant aspects of the jointly authored work included in the dissertation. " In addition, Graduate School policies at this site state: "A graduate student may, upon recommendation of the dissertation director, and with the endorsement of the home graduate program's Graduate Director, include his or her own published works as part of the final dissertation. Appropriate citations within the dissertation, including where the work was previously published, are required. All such materials must be produced in standard dissertation format.”