Education Dissertation

Policies and Procedures

Steps for Completing Dissertation Requirements

  1. Dissertation Chair Selection & Registration in Dissertation Research
  2. Committee Formation
  3. Proposal Preparation
  4. Ensuring Originality of Content through TurnItIn
  5. Preliminary Oral
  6. Institutional Review Board (IRB) Process
  7. Final Defense
  8. Dissertation Final Clearance
  9. Continuous Enrollment Status
  10. Publishing of Final Document
  11. Degree Posting

Each step is outlined below:

1. Dissertation Chair Selection & Registration in Dissertation Research (ED 791, EDEL 791, EDOL 791, or PGLC 791)

Throughout coursework, the student considers possible areas for research and interacts with faculty about dissertation ideas. When the student wishes to formally register in Dissertation Research (ED 791, EDEL 791, EDOL 791, or PGLC 791), Form A1 is filed which requires the signature of the faculty member who will serve as chair and approval from the Academic Program Director. Students can register in 791 once they have completed the first two research courses: 766 Quantitative Methods and 767 Qualitative Methods.

To file, the student must send the completed Form A1 to

The dissertation chair must be either a full-time GSEP faculty member or other Pepperdine faculty member who has been formally endorsed to serve as a chair by the Dissertation Advisory and Support Committee. A list of faculty who have current endorsement to serve in the chair role is available here and in the Courses Dissertation Success site. Faculty serving as chair hold different doctoral degrees including PhD, EdD, or professional doctoral degrees such as the JD or PsyD. The primary consideration in selecting a chair should be focused on the working relationship between the student and the faculty. While selecting a chair based on content and/or method experience is common, it is not required, as other committee members can provide that expertise. Students needing help identifying a chairperson may consult with their Academic Program Director and/or the Dissertation Advisory and Support Committee by sending an email to Dr. Kay Davis ( If a student needs to change their dissertation chair, a new Form A1 must be filed.

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2. Committee Formation

Two other faculty members comprise the dissertation committee. When the student wishes to form their committee, Form A2 is filed which requires the signatures of the chair, committee members, and Academic Program Director

To file, the student must send the completed Form A2 to

Each committee member must possess an earned doctorate, awarded more than 2 calendar years from the time of committee formation, from an academically accredited institution. One of these two committee members must already be affiliated with Pepperdine University as a full time or adjunct faculty member. One member may be an individual from outside of Pepperdine who can provide special expertise in content, theory, or methods. For non-Pepperdine committee members, the chair must provide rationale for their inclusion on the committee using the provided space on Form A2. A resume or CV for the external committee member must accompany Form A2. Approval from the Dissertation Advisory and Support Committee is required for all non-Pepperdine committee members.

For PhD students, it is preferable that at least one of the committee members holds a PhD and that one committee member is from outside the Education Division. Exceptions must be approved by both the faculty Academic Program Director and the Dissertation Advisory and Support Committee.

Form A2 must be approved by the Academic Program Director prior to filing for the Preliminary Oral. Concurrent filing for Committee Formation and Preliminary Oral may create a delay in scheduling. Students and chairs are encouraged to file Form A2 four to six weeks before the anticipated date of the Preliminary Oral.

If a student needs to change the committee membership, a new Form A2 must be submitted for approval.

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3. Proposal Preparation

The student's chair works individually with the student throughout the proposal development process. Numerous drafts of each chapter are reviewed by the chair over a 3 to 6 month process. Each faculty chair has different strategies and practices for supporting student progress and for when committee members are asked to provide guidance during proposal preparation. The chair, in collaboration with the other committee members, decides when the student's proposal is ready for the Preliminary Oral.

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4. Ensuring Originality of Content through TurnItIn  

Prior to scheduling the Preliminary Oral, the student submits the dissertation proposal (the first three chapters of their dissertation) through Turnitin via the "GSEP Writing Support" course in Courses. Click here for Turnitin Instructions. The student forwards the report to their chair, who reviews the Turnitin report, ensuring that the bibliographic and quoted material are excluded from the results, and works with the student to resolve any issues related to originality, extensive and/or improper quotation, etc. In cases of matching text, students have the opportunity to correct and resubmit their proposals through Turnitin as needed. The dissertation chair is responsible for ensuring that the proposal is free of plagiarism.

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5. Preliminary Oral: Presentation of Proposal

To schedule a Preliminary Oral, the student must have had their committee approved by the Academic Program Director (Form A2).

To file for the Preliminary Oral, the student emails the following to

  • Form P1 (Preliminary Oral Schedule Request), completed and signed by committee
  • An electronic copy of the dissertation proposal reviewed by the committee

A minimum of two weeks between filing and the oral presentation is required and strictly enforced. This is to ensure that all GSEP faculty have an opportunity to review the proposed research and comment to the chairperson.

After the Preliminary Oral, the committee signs Form P2 (Preliminary Oral Completion) which indicates the outcome of the Preliminary Oral. There are four possible outcomes:

  1. The student passes with modifications, to be completed and resubmitted before they may continue.
  2. The student passes with modifications, but they may continue progress.
  3. The student passes with no modifications, and they may continue progress.
  4. The student does not pass the Preliminary Oral.

If there are any requested changes from the committee, the chair summarizes these in a letter and informs the student. Following the Preliminary Oral, a copy of the proposal and Form P2 are maintained on file with the Dissertation Support office.

A student is considered a "Doctoral Candidate" when the Preliminary Oral is passed. This title can be used instead of "Doctoral Student." Two ways to indicate this advancement are: Jane Jones, Ph.D. Doctoral Candidate or Jane Jones, Ph.D. C. in Global Leadership & Change.


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6. Institutional Review Board (IRB) Process

Once the doctoral candidate has successfully completed the Preliminary Oral, candidates must, under the direction of the chair, submit an application to the Graduate & Professional Schools IRB.

All doctoral students must receive University IRB approval before implementing the research methodology. Even if data collection does not involve human subjects, all student research is subject to IRB review.

Education Division Methods Review

All education division students submitting expedited or full review applications must first submit their research proposals to the Education Division Methods Review Committee for approval before submitting the proposal for GPS IRB review. For information about the Education Division Methods Review, please contact Dr. Kay Davis at

Details of the GPS IRB process and application forms are available at the Pepperdine Community IRB Page.

NOTE: Candidates must communicate with their chairperson any changes in the methodology. If changes impact human subject considerations, candidates need to submit modifications to the IRB for review and approval.

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7. Final Defense - Presentation of Manuscript

The Final Defense is open to the academic community and guests of the candidate. The intent of the Final Defense is to demonstrate that the doctoral candidate has obtained the level of scholarly achievement which permits them to be recommended to the university for the doctorate. At the Final Defense, candidates defend the dissertation findings and participate in scholarly challenges to methodology, analysis, and conclusions.

To file for a Final Defense, the doctoral candidate emails the following to

  • Form F1 (Final Defense Schedule Request)
  • Form F2 (Information for Final Defense Announcement)
  • Professional Photo
  • Electronic copy of dissertation manuscript

A minimum of two weeks between filing and the Final Defense is required and strictly enforced. This is to ensure that the Final Defense is announced on the Education Division Dissertation Calendar, where all GSEP faculty have an opportunity to view upcoming orals, review the manuscripts, and provide feedback to the chair.

Although chairpersons may conduct the Final Defenses differently, they generally consist of three components.

  1. The student presents their research findings.
  2. A question and discussion period follows.
  3. A decision is made by the committee.

After the Final Defense, the committee signs Form F3 (Final Defense Completion) which indicates the outcome of the Final Defense. There are three possible outcomes:

  1. The student passes with no modifications.
  2. The student passes with modifications required.
  3. The student does not pass the Final Defense.

If there are any requested changes from the committee, the chair will summarize these in a letter and inform the student. Following the Final Defense, a copy of the manuscript and Form F3 are maintained on file with the Dissertation Support Office.

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8. Dissertation Final Clearance

When the candidate has obtained the approvals and signatures of the committee members, all doctoral candidates must submit their dissertations to the Dissertation Support Office for Dissertation Clearance. A clearance by the Dissertation Support Office is required to ensure that Pepperdine University format requirements and APA style guidelines have been maintained.

Submission of Dissertation Manuscript

The student should submit the following to the Manager of Writing Support:

*Form F4 will also be signed by the Dissertation Reviewer upon confirmation of dissertation clearance.

Once the Manager of Writing Support has confirmed that all necessary forms and the dissertation versions are received, the student will receive an initial contact email outlining the process for review of the dissertation. If any format changes are necessary after an initial review, the assigned reviewer will return the edited PDF to the student to make revisions and resubmit an updated version. Dissertation clearance will be given once all requested changes have been implemented.

The suggested submission deadline is six (6) weeks prior to the end of the term in which the degree is posted. Manuscripts will be accepted after this deadline for review; however the Dissertation Support Office may not be able to complete all the necessary arrangements in time for the degree posting that term.

Once the manuscript has been cleared, the cleared dissertation and clearance letter outlining the final steps for degree completion will be emailed to the student. The second half of the F4 form is signed by the assigned reviewer confirming clearance.

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 9. Continuous Enrollment Status

Dissertation students who have successfully completed their Final Defense and submitted their manuscript and all necessary forms for Dissertation Clearance by the drop/add deadline are placed in ED 792, Dissertation Completion, for a required fee of $100.

Students are eligible to enroll in ED 792 for up to two consecutive terms. If the dissertation has not been cleared and/or the dissertation submission to ProQuest has not been completed within two terms, the student will be re-enrolled in the appropriate Dissertation Research course (ED 791, EDEL 791, EDOL 791, or PGLC 791) at the current tuition rate by program.

Enrollment in ED 792 constitutes part-time student status, which impacts financial aid eligibility and loan deferment.

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10. Publishing of Final Document 

The final dissertation must be uploaded to ProQuest UMI/ETD Dissertation Publishing. This will be the final version of the dissertation that will be published, unless otherwise noted by ETD Administrator.

Dissertation Submission Steps:

  • ProQuest UMI/ETD Submission: Electronically submit your final dissertation to ProQuest ETD Administrator
    • Create a new user account to upload the final PDF version of your dissertation to UMI/ETD.
    • Select a publishing option (Traditional, Open Access, Open Access PLUS) and complete the agreement.
    • Personal bound dissertation copies and copies for the chairperson/committee members can be ordered through the UMI/ETD submission.
    • All fees are paid by credit card at the time of initial submission.
  • Graduation Application: The Graduation Application should be submitted to the Manager of Writing Support at this time. 

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11. Degree Posting

Once the Dissertation Support Office has received all the necessary items for the degree posting, the Dissertation Support Office informs the Office of Student Information and Services that all doctoral requirements have been fulfilled and that the record can indicate that degree requirements have been satisfied.

The degree is posted in the term in which all requirements have been completed at the following times:

  • Fall: Mid-October (to accommodate manuscript clearance during August)
  • Fall: The last day of the term
  • Spring: The last day of the term
  • Summer: The last day of the term

For exact dates, view the GSEP Academic Catalog. Degree completion and ability to use the credential of "EdD" or "PhD" occurs when degree requirements have been met and the degree has been posted to the transcript. "Graduation" is defined as the date the doctoral degree is posted, not the date of the commencement ceremony, which generally occurs only once a year in the summer. To participate in the commencement ceremony, individuals must have passed their Final Defense (with or without modifications).

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