College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Agricultural & Resource Economics

PhD Dissertation Standards

To provide PhD 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. Heavy responsibility is placed on the dissertation committee to determine whether each student's contribution is sufficient.

Definition: For the purposes of this document, a publishable paper is defined as a paper that the dissertation committee deems to have legitimate chances of publication in a major field journal associated with the department's areas of intellectual pursuit such as the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, or the Journal of Development Economics.

Dissertations can follow either a traditional approach or a 3-essay approach, although the former is encouraged.

Traditional Dissertation: A dissertation following the traditional approach presents an in depth economic analysis of a particular problem or issue of substantive public or disciplinary concern. It generally includes an overview that captures the scope and significance of the problem in the context of existing literature. Various chapters present 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 significance of the results.

An adequate traditional dissertation should develop results that can form the basis for at least two publishable papers. In many cases, one of these developments will be theoretical and the other will be an empirical application of the theoretical framework. Alternatively, these publishable results may consist of any combination of new empirical results based on properly founded conceptual models and/or original theoretical frameworks or analyses that extend the literature.

We encourage dissertations to be presented in chapters such that the ultimately publishable papers are in distinct chapters as much as practical. In-depth background material, overall introductory material, and overall implications can be presented in other chapters.

3-Essay Dissertation: 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 publishable papers related to a common field of study.

Co-authorship: Inclusion of some 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. Dissertation committees assure that the student has played a substantive role in the development of such work. However, such material should be co-authored with faculty rather than students. No co-authored work should have the possibility of appearing in two dissertations. At least one of the publishable papers should represent the student's sole-authored work. An acceptable dissertation should produce a legitimate job market paper that is entirely sole-authored work.

On the matter of co-authored work, Graduate School policies at 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 forward 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."

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