PhD Dissertation Checklist

Professor Fisher's dissertation proposal/defense question checklist.

You will want/need to have thought about answers to these questions in great detail if there is even a minimal chance that Professor Fisher will attend your PhD proposal and/or defense...

  • What is the original contribution of your work to the field?
  • What are the major limitations of your approach/process/methodology?
  • What would experts in the area of your research identify as the major criticism(s) of your work? How would you respond to their comments?
  • What are other methods that one could use which would 'compete' with your dissertation work? Why is your approach more favorable? What factors led you to select your approach?
  • What distinguishes your PhD dissertation from a series of MS thesis projects?
  • What would the next steps be in the development of your project (for the next student)? What are the major recommendations you would suggest to a new student wishing to extend your work in this area?
  • How did the advice of your Committee member, Prof. XXXXX, contribute to your project? How many times did you meet with your committee members?
  • How does your work build off of previous work of your PhD advisor? At what point (for what topics) did you take the lead, rather than your advisor? (i.e. at what point in your research did your advisor ask you what should be done, rather than you ask your advisor what should be done?)
  • What graduate level classes (inside or outside of the department) most contributed to your research project? Of the material covered in those classes, what topics were most closely associated with your research? For someone not familiar with that area, can you succinctly describe (in 3-5 minutes) the basics of that topic, how it relates to your project, and how your dissertation extends the community's knowledge/understanding in that area?
  • Summarize the critical aspects of your work in X minutes (where X = 1, 2 or 5).[If you can't do this, you don't understand the contributions of your work.]
  • How would you describe your work to a group of Y? (where Y = senior undergraduates in your field, senior undergraduates in science/engineering outside your field, science/engineering freshmen college students, or high school students) [If you can't do this, you don't understand the contributions of your work.]
Stevens Lab