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Lynch School of Education

Doctoral Policies and Procedures

lynch school of education

The following policies and procedures are specific to the Lynch School. Please refer to University Academic Policies and Procedures for additional information.

Updated June 2011

Beginning a Doctoral Program
Admission to Doctoral Programs
Financial Support: Loans and Scholarships

Academic Programs and Requirements
Designing a Doctoral Program
Year of Residence
Comprehensive Examinations
Leave of Absence/Withdrawal
Continuation and Extension
Independent Study
Cross Registration/Boston-Area Consortia

Academic Policies
Academic Integrity
Academic Standing
Grievance Procedure

Dissertation Process
Dissertation Proposal
Completing a Human Subjects Review Application
Scheduling a Final Defense
Public Dissertation Defense
Summary of Faculty Roles and Responsibilities

Awards and Robing
Graduation Procedures

In addition to the information contained here, please consult the web pages for your particular program and the following Lynch School and University-wide websites for additional information.

Student Start Page
Will Open In New WindowBC Office of Student Services
Will Open In New WindowUniversity Academic Services



Beginning a Doctoral Program



Admission to the Doctoral Programs in the Lynch School

Formal admission to the doctoral program occurs only when the student receives a signed letter of acceptance to a doctoral program in the Lynch School from the Office of Graduate Admission, Financial Aid, and Student Services.

Non-degree (Special) Students
Students admitted as non-degree students who hope to become doctoral students must complete the normal application process expected of all doctoral applicants. Admission as a non-degree student implies nothing relative to the status of an application for a degree program.

No more than 12 credit hours earned as a non-degree student may be applied to a degree program, and only if considered appropriate by the advisor, Program Coordinator, and/or Department Chair.

International Students

All International students who apply to the Lynch School of Education must meet the same testing requirements as domestic students in addition to any TOEFL requirements. When making an admission decision, faculty will use TOEFL scores and other relevant information to evaluate the student, recognizing that an international candidate’s performance on the GRE may not adequately represent the candidate’s potential for graduate work (1/4/2008).

Admission to a Program vs. Candidacy for a Degree
Doctoral students are not formally admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree until they have been notified by the Lynch School that they have successfully completed their coursework and passed their comprehensive examination. Students must be doctoral candidates to present a doctoral dissertation proposal. This proposal must be approved by the Dissertation Committee and the Institutional Research Board (Human Subjects Review Committee) before a student can collect data for their dissertation research.   

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Financial Support: Loans and Scholarships

Financial Aid
Financial aid for doctoral students at the Lynch School of Education is available through a variety of both internal and external sources.

BC Financial Aid main page

Lynch School Financial Aid page 

Assistantships and Fellowships (General Information) 
Each year the Lynch School makes available a limited number of graduate assistantships and teaching fellowships. Awards are given for one year and students seeking continued funding must reapply on an annual basis.

Incoming Ph.D. Students
Letters of acceptance to the Ph.D. programs at the Lynch School include information about an incoming student’s assistantship or scholarship. Accepted students are asked to respond in a timely fashion in order to facilitate the maximum support possible for all students. Department Chairs, Program Coordinators, and the Office of Graduate Admission, Financial Aid, and Student Services are available to answer any questions students might have about their offer of admission or assistantship.

Types of Assistantships
Graduate research assistants are typically involved in research activities such as library searches, literature reviews, data collection, data entry and analysis, and report writing. In addition, assistants may be asked to help faculty in grading exams, keeping records, photocopying, helping with research for classes, and other tasks.

Teaching assistants may teach or assist in large lecture courses. Opportunities are also available for advanced doctoral students to serve as teaching fellows, i.e., to teach courses in selected undergraduate or master’s programs. (Students should check with their specific department on graduate teaching assistant policies). One course each semester is the requirement for receiving half an assistantship (10 hrs/week) and teaching two courses per semester is the requirement for receiving a full assistantship (20 hrs/wk). In addition to planning class meetings, conducting classes, meeting with site supervisors and evaluating students, teaching fellows will keep regular posted office hours and have students evaluate the courses using the standardized university evaluation form.

Graduate office assistants provide administrative assistance to faculty who coordinate doctoral and masters programs, or to the master’s practicum coordinator. Graduate office assistants also work in the Office of Graduate Admission, Financial Aid, and Student Services, the Office of Undergraduate Student Services, the Office of the Dean, and the Office of the Associate Dean of Faculty and Academics. Responsibilities may include a variety of tasks such as helping to maintain program records, preparing newsletters, organizing admissions materials, meeting with students and engaging in a wide range of administrative tasks.

An award of a full-time graduate assistantship carries the expectation that the student will be available for 20 hours per week for nine months, that is, September through May. Half-time graduate assistants should be available 10 hours per week for the same period of time. The specific times that students work are negotiated with the supervising faculty member so as to not conflict with any courses that the student may be taking. Persons who have graduate assistantships should be aware that vacation days during the year follow the University employee calendar, not the student class calendar.

A limited number of graduate assistantships are available for the summer. Responsibilities, length of service, and stipends vary and should be clarified prior to accepting the appointment.

Assistantships usually carry a stipend (service and non-service) and tuition remission. Amounts vary depending upon the program in which the student is enrolled and the type of award.

Students who are awarded a graduate assistantship or a teaching fellowship must be enrolled as full-time doctoral students and may not carry any incomplete coursework. Students accepting assistantships or fellowships may not accept any additional commitment of employment without prior consultation with and permission of their advisor, the Department Chair, the Lynch School Associate Dean of Graduate Studies, and, for Counseling Psychology students, the Director of Training.

Selection and Assignment Process
The two co-existing purposes that serve as a rationale for awarding graduate assistantships are the training needs of our doctoral students and the need to meet departmental administrative and teaching responsibilities and faculty research goals. Related to the first, assistantships are assigned to help doctoral students obtain sequential exposure to experiences involving research, teaching and administration. As such, students who have not had a particular type of assistantship experience (e.g., teaching) are usually provided with that opportunity in the course of the graduate experience. Assignments are made in an effort to best meet both sets of needs, within the constraints of available resources and opportunities.

The Lynch School seeks to offer support to all full-time Ph.D. students for the first two years of their doctoral study. It is expected that students will support their studies through participation with faculty in externally funded research in years 3 and 4 or through teaching fellowships. Keeping in mind both sets of needs, graduate assistantships are typically assigned in the following way.

Faculty review graduate student assistantship applications to identify graduate research assistants who match the needs of their research and outreach scholarship projects. For returning students, this process generally begins in February after faculty members are notified of Lynch School research assistantship allocations. Prior student experience and competencies, as well as student interests, schedule availability, and opportunities for professional development of the student, are some of the factors often considered by faculty in selecting graduate assistants.

The Program Coordinators for the doctoral and master’s programs, the Department Chairs, and the administrative officers of the Lynch School also review applications at this time to identify possible candidates for administrative assistantships based upon student interests, skills, and schedule.

The Department Chair reviews faculty requests to assess matches between faculty choices and student preferences, and discusses these with faculty in the process of facilitating student assignments. They seek to facilitate this process in a way that ensures that all students participate in a variety of research and teaching experiences over the course of their doctoral training.

Although efforts are made to meet student preferences and offer a range of experiences, there are realistic constraints to the process. For example, student opportunities to work with specific faculty are based upon allocations to faculty made by the dean’s office and upon external funding secured by individuals through faculty grants. Student opportunities to obtain desired experiences are limited by the nature of faculty projects at any point in time. To meet the funding requests/needs of students, they may be offered assistantships with faculty in their department, and, on occasion, with faculty outside their department or in administrative offices in the Lynch School.

Efforts are made to announce awards for returning students by early May. Summer funds are exceptionally limited and decisions about their distribution are made by Department Chairs and the appropriate administrative officers.

Letters of award are sent out from the Office of Graduate Admission, Financial Aid and Student Services and students may accept or decline the award. Students have three weeks to inform the office if they are going to decline the award. Some faculty members choose to contact identified graduate research assistants students personally before the letters are sent out to clarify responsibilities and determine the student’s willingness to accept the terms of the award. Similarly, the Department Chair typically discusses teaching opportunities with graduate students before these assignments are finalized.

All students are required to complete a confidentiality form and return it to the Office of Graduate Admission, Financial Aid and Student Services prior to beginning their assistantships. This confidentiality agreement must be renewed each year a student works at the Lynch School.

It is important to note that the program cannot guarantee that graduate assistantships will always be available.

Dissertation Support

Internal Funding
The Lynch School provides support through Will Open In New WindowDissertation Fellowships and Will Open In New WindowDissertation Development Grants funding opportunities.

Diversity FellowshipsBoston College has resources that support a number of fellowships offered to especially promising students from diverse backgrounds who are beginning their doctoral studies. 

Will Open In New WindowResearch Funding (Graduate School of Arts and Sciences)

Will Open In New WindowGraduate Student Association website

Will Open In New WindowSpecial Group Funding Requests (pdf)

External Funding
The BC Office of Sponsored Projects (OSP) website provides links to external dissertation financial support, including fellowships, fellow programs, and other foundation-based support. It also links students to national and regional opportunities that emerge for graduate student support. This website is updated periodically to bring students the most current listing of grant and scholarship opportunities including external dissertation specific funding. 

Information on Conference Reimbursement (GEA)
The Graduate Education Association is preparing on funding possibilities for graduate students presenting at professional conferences. Coming soon!

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Designing a Doctoral Program

Role of the Academic Advisor
Following acceptance into the Lynch School, students should meet with their academic advisor (identified in the acceptance letter or shortly thereafter by the Program Coordinator or Department Chair) at their earliest convenience.

The advisor will assist in the initial design and, if necessary, later modification of your Program of Studies. The academic advisor must approve any transfers of credits from other universities and must approve, if necessary, a Petition for an Extension of Time to complete studies. Agreement to act as an academic advisor on the part of a faculty member does not imply responsibility for directing a dissertation.

Students may request a change of advisor after consulting with their current advisor and clarifying the availability of a new advisor. Requests should be forwarded to the Program Coordinator and/or Department Chair, who should then notify the Office of Graduate Admission, Financial Aid and Student Services of the decision.

Program of Study
By the fall semester of the 2nd year in the program, all Ph.D. and Ed.D. students, except for those in the Ph.D. program in Curriculum and Instruction, should complete a Program of Study form following extensive consultation with their advisor. Ph.D. students in Curriculum and Instruction should complete their Programs of Study no later than the beginning of spring semester in the first academic year of their program. Once the Program of Study receives appropriate approval signatures, the office of the department in which the student is completing his/her degree (the “Department Office”) acknowledges this in a letter sent to the student. Please consult individual program descriptions for specific requirements. The programs of study are available in PDF format on the web pages for the specific Lynch School program. Students should be sure to keep copies of all official documents in their records.

Students who fail to submit an approved Program of Study to the office of the department in which they are completing their degree prior to these deadlines will not be allowed to register for courses for their following semester of study. The registrar will place a block on the student’s account until he or she files a complete Program of Study. (Effective 4/06).

Changes to Programs of Study
Any time it is necessary to change a student's approved Program of Study, a Course Substitution Form (pdf) must be completed. The student is responsible for getting appropriate approval signatures.

Since the approved Program of Study form is the document used to clear the student for graduation, any changes to it should be properly approved in a timely manner. Approval for any course substitution must be obtained prior to registering for the course in question.

Transfer of Credit
Students who wish to have credits transferred from another university to their doctoral program at the Lynch School must comply with the following regulations:

  • completion of at least six credits at Boston College in a doctoral program
  • maximum of six graduate credits transferred from other accredited colleges or universities
  • courses used to satisfy the requirements for another degree cannot be transferred into a doctoral program
  • a grade of "B" or better at the graduate level
  • course(s) being transferred must have been completed within the past 10 years
  • official transcript must be sent directly to the office of the department in which they are completing their degree program

A Will Open In New WindowTransfer of Credit form (pdf) should be completed and signed by the student's academic advisor and then sent to the Department Office.

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Year of Residence

Most doctoral students in the Lynch School must spend one academic year "in residence." Doctoral students in Counseling Psychology are required to complete three years of full-time residency.  Students in the Ed.D. MESPA/PSAP program fulfill their requirements by participating in all available academic and professional activities associated with the program during their three years of coursework. Residency is designed to provide each student with a combination of coursework (full-time for two consecutive semesters) and apprenticeship experience within their area of graduate studies.

It is assumed that students in residence will have more time to interact with peers and faculty in formal and informal educational experiences. This combination of experiences allows students to be immersed in the intellectual community of the University with the least possible distraction. Students should consult their individual program handbooks for more specific program guidelines for fulfilling the residency requirement.

While the purpose of residency is uniform across the school, the nature of the experience is shaped by the requirements of each program and the specific interests and needs of the student.

Some students, for example, may have an apprenticeship experience through supervised teaching and/or research with faculty. Others may participate in a one-year colloquium. Still others may complete an off-campus research project supervised by a faculty member. Some of these options may lead to a pre-candidacy paper or other products.

Students and their advisors make all arrangements relative to the year(s) of residence. This is typically noted on the student’s Program of Study. Once the residency requirement has been completed, the Program Coordinator and/or Department Chair should so certify, via email, to the Office of Graduate Admission, Financial Aid and Student Services, with a copy to the student.

Students cannot be cleared for graduation unless this requirement has been met. Students who are unable to meet this requirement may want to consider a Certificate of Advanced Education Specialization (CAES).

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Comprehensive Examination and Admission to Candidacy

Registration for the Comprehensive Examination

Students not taking another Boston College course for credit in the semester in which they will be taking the comprehensive exam must also register for ED/PY 998 Doctoral Comprehensives for that semester. Students who are registered for a Boston College course for credit in the semester in which they are taking the exam still must complete this form but need not register for ED/PY 998 Doctoral Comprehensives.

Please click here to download the registration form.

Specific requirements for the exam are set by the program faculty, and students should make inquiries regarding format, length, and scheduling of the exam to the appropriate program faculty.

Grades assigned to Comprehensive examinations are:

  • Pass with Distinction (PWD)
  • Pass (P)
  • Fail (F)

A student who fails the PhD Comprehensive examination may take it once again, no sooner than the following semester, and at a time designated by the Department. Ed.D. students should confirm with their Department Chair about the timing of a second administration of the Comprehensive Examination. In the case of a second failure, no further attempt is allowed.

Following oral and written components of the exam, the Chair of the comprehensive committee submits an official ballot, graded and signed by each member, to the Department Chair. Students are then officially notified of the results by the Department Office.

Once the student has passed the comprehensive exams, the Department Office will send a letter officially recognizing his or her admission to candidacy. 

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Leave of Absence/Withdrawal

Leave of Absence
Doctoral students who wish to interrupt their programs for one or more semesters must file a Graduate Leave of Absence/Withdrawal Form for that semester.  The request will be reviewed by the Director/Coordinator (if applicable) and the Department Chair. Once the form has been signed, it should be submitted to the Office of Graduate Admission, Financial Aid and Student Services for approval by the LSOE Associate Dean of Graduate Studies. An approved leave frees the student from registering for courses and paying fees. A leave of absence is granted for no more than two consecutive semesters.  

Maximum Duration
All requirements for the doctoral degree must be completed within eight consecutive years from the commencement of doctoral studies. Doctoral studies commence with the first term in which the student is officially registered for a course at Boston College following admission to the doctoral program. Leave time is considered a portion of the total time limit for the degree unless an exception has been approved by the Program Director/Coordinator, the Department Chair, and the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies at the time the form is submitted.

Graduate students (master's and doctoral) requesting readmission from a Leave of Absence must contact their Department Chair and the Office of Graduate Admission, Financial Aid, and Student Services at least six weeks prior to the semester in which they expect to enroll to ensure appropriate class and field placement. The Readmission Request Form for Doctoral Students should be submitted to the student’s Program Director/Coordinator and Department Chair for approval. Once department approval has been obtained, the form should be sent to the LSOE Associate Dean of Graduate Studies for final approval. 


Doctoral students who were discontinued due to time-to-degree limits, or otherwise fail to maintain continuous matriculation and allow their matriculation to lapse, may apply for reinstatement if they wish to re-enroll. Readmission to the Lynch School, and to candidacy, requires the submission of the Lynch School Doctoral Readmission Request Form. The Request Form is approved by the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies, in consultation with the appropriate Department Chair. If absence from the program is beyond the eight-year time limit allowed by the University for completing the doctoral degree, the student will be required to demonstrate currency in the field by taking a qualifying examination and/or additional course work, at the discretion of the doctoral program. Approval of Requests for Readmission is extremely rare, and by exception (updated: 11/2/2010).

Deferral of Admission
Graduate students (master's and doctoral) who have not begun coursework are not required to file a Leave of Absence form. However, they are required to obtain a deferral of admission by contacting the LSOE Director of Admission and Financial Aid at least six weeks prior to the planned start date for their program. [Please note:  Not all doctoral programs allow deferral of admission.] Doctoral students should contact the Program Director/Coordinator and Department Chair of their intended program prior to requesting a deferral. Deferrals are granted for no more than one year. If a student does not take courses after one year following admission to the program, he/she is required to apply for readmission and pay a readmission fee.

Withdrawal From the University
Graduate students may choose to withdraw from the program if they are unable to complete their program of studies in a consistent and timely manner. Students who wish to withdraw must complete the Leave of Absence/Withdrawal Form and submit it to the Department Chair where the student is completing the degree. Once the form has been signed by the academic department, it should be sent to the LSOE Associate Dean of Graduate Studies for final approval.

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Continuation and Extension

Doctoral candidates who have completed all coursework and comprehensive exams must register and pay the fee for Doctoral Continuation (ED/PY999) each academic term of their candidacy.

This registration entitles the candidate to use of University facilities (e.g., library and computers) and the privilege of informally (without record) auditing courses that may be helpful with research.

Students will not usually be allowed to take leaves of absence once they have become candidates.

Extensions beyond the eight-year time limit for the doctoral degree may be obtained only with advisor and departmental recommendation and the approval of the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies.

Extensions are not granted routinely. They must be formally requested and the Will Open In New WindowDoctoral Petition for Extension of Time form (pdf) completed, after discussion with the student’s advisor and/or the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies. If granted, the extension would be for a maximum of one year.

Timely completion is essential to the academic integrity of a degree program.

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Independent Study/Readings and Research
Students may take an Independent Study/ Readings and Research course as part of their Doctoral coursework. Permission must be secured from the supervising faculty member and the proposed course must be an approved part of the student’s program of study. Students must complete the New Window Will OpenDoctoral Readings and Research form (pdf), have it approved by the faculty supervisor and then return it to the Office of Graduate Admission, Financial Aid and Student Services who will sign them up for the appropriate Readings and Research course through Agora. The maximum number of Readings and Research courses that are permitted within any given degree is limited by University policy to the number of electives within a student’s degree program. The Department Chairs and/or Program Coordinator may choose to further limit the number of Readings and Research courses permitted in a particular program.

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Boston-Area Consortium
Graduate students in the Lynch School may cross register for one elective course each semester at Boston University, Brandeis University,a ndTufts University if a similar course is not available at Boston College. Students should contact their Program Directors to review the department’s special rules and regulations. Cross registration materials are available in Lyons Hall.

Graduate Consortium in Women's Studies
The Graduate Consortium in Women’s Studies (GCWS) at MIT (formerly housed at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University) is an inter-institutional enterprise established to advance the field of women's studies and enlarge the scope of graduate education through new models of team teaching and interdisciplinary study. Faculty and students are drawn from six member schools: Boston College, Brandeis University, Harvard University, Northeastern University, MIT, and Tufts University. The Consortium offers graduate courses for credit that are open to all students at participating institutions.  Graduate students enrolled in degree programs at Boston College may with the permission of their department apply to MIT to participate in this program. Course registration forms will be mailed to accepted students. Please consult the New Window Will OpenGraduate Consortium in Women's Studies website for courses and procedures for registering and credit. Students should also complete the cross registration form available in Lyons Hall in order to receive course credit from Boston College.

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Academic Integrity
Boston College expects all students to adhere to the accepted norms of intellectual honesty in their academic work. Any form of cheating, plagiarism, dishonesty, or collusion in another individual's dishonesty is a fundamental violation of these norms.

Cheating is the use or attempted use of unauthorized aids in any exam or other academic exercise submitted for evaluation. This includes

  • data falsification
  • fabrication of data
  • deceitful alteration of collected data included in a report
  • copying from another student's work
  • unauthorized cooperation in doing assignments or during an examination
  • use of purchased essays, term papers, or preparatory research for such papers
  • submission of the same written work in more than one course without prior written approval from the instructor(s) involved
  • dishonesty in requests for either extensions or papers or make-up examinations.

Plagiarism is the deliberate act of taking the words, ideas, data, illustrative material, or statements of someone else, without full and proper acknowledgment, and presenting them as one's own.

Collusion is assisting or attempting to assist another student in an act of academic dishonesty.

Doctoral students ought to already know how to work cooperatively in a community of scholars and fruitfully utilize the work of others without violating the norms of intellectual honesty. Students have a responsibility to know the parameters of collaboration and the proper forms for quoting, attributing, summarizing, and paraphrasing. If a student has any questions or doubts about the parameters of cooperative intellectual activity, they should consult their academic advisor, the coordinator of their Ph.D. / Ed.D. program, or the Office of Graduate Admission, Financial Aid and Student Services.

Faculty members who detect any form of academic dishonesty have the responsibility to take appropriate action. The faculty member also has the responsibility to report the incident and penalty to the Associate Dean. Such reports will remain in students' files until they graduate.

Students are expected to be familiar with the ethical standards of their profession. See the American Psychological Association's Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct and the Ethical Standards of the American Educational Research Association. Students are held to the professional standards outlined in these documents. Students should also consult the University Research Integrity Policy and Guidelines on Misconduct in Science for additional details.

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Academic Standing

A student must earn an average of "B" in all graduate courses and credit hours applicable to the degree except those that are listed as pass/fail (e.g. Dissertation Direction, Dissertation Seminar). Only courses completed with grades of "C" or above may be applied to credit hour requirements for the degree.

In the Lynch School of Education Graduate Programs, a student who receives a grade of "C" or "I" in two courses (six semester hours) or a grade of "F" in an elective course (three semester hours) may be reviewed by the Academic Standards Committee and put on academic probation. A subsequent grade of "C" or "F" in an elective course may be grounds for dismissal from the Lynch School. A grade of "F" in a required course is grounds for review by the Academic Standards Committee and possible dismissal from the Lynch School.

A student who has been dismissed may not register for further study unless reinstated by a majority vote of the faculty in her or his department. Under certain conditions, and with the recommendation of the student's Department Chair, a student may apply to the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies for reinstatement. Ordinarily, at least one semester or summer session must pass before reinstatement.

The program faculty will review a student's progress each academic year and will notify a student of any deficiencies that require correction. All required work in any course must be completed by the date set for the course examination.

All required work in any course must be completed by the date set for the course examination. A student who has not completed the research or written work for a course taken in the fall or spring semester or is absent from the course examination in either semester, may, with adequate reason and at the discretion of the instructor, receive a temporary grade of Incomplete (I). All such I grades will automatically be changed to F on March 1 for the fall, August 1 for the spring, and October 1 for the summer. In extraordinary cases, the student may petition the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies for an exception. A “J” grade is used for a course that continues across two semesters, in which participation in both semesters is required for full credit to be granted. A “J” grade may not be used in place of an “I” grade for uncompleted work.

Financial aid is not available to students with an "Incomplete." Students with graduate or teaching assistantships or fellowships may not carry an "Incomplete." Failure to comply with this requirement may jeopardize financial aid or result in a failing grade or dismissal from the program.

All doctoral dissertation seminars and dissertation direction courses in the Lynch School are offered only on a pass/fail basis.

Grading Policy on Incomplete Grades
All required work in any course must be completed by the date set for the course examination. A student who has not completed the research or written work for a course taken in the fall or spring semester or is absent from the course examination in either semester, may, with adequate reason and at the discretion of the instructor, receive a temporary grade of Incomplete (I). All such I grades will automatically be changed to F on March 1 for the fall, August 1 for the spring, and October 1 for the summer(5/22/2007).

Academic Standards Committee
The Academic Standards Committee is comprised of faculty members and academic administrators in the Lynch School. This committee reviews all cases in which a student's academic record is poor and it recommends to the Associate Dean of Graduate Student Services what action should be taken.

As a result of this review, the committee may recommend the student be placed on academic probation or dismissed from the program, depending on the severity of the academic problem. Students who have been placed on Academic Probation must complete the terms specified by the Committee before they can be considered for readmission to their program.

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Grievance Procedure

Students who believe they have a grievance should meet as soon as possible with the faculty member(s) or administrator(s) immediately involved. If such a meeting results in a mutually agreeable solution, the matter shall be considered closed. If a mutually acceptable disposition cannot be achieved, the student may pursue the complaint under the guidelines set forth in the Lynch School’s Will Open In New WindowGrievance Procedure.

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Overview of Pre-proposal and Request for Approval of the Dissertation Committee

  1. Review the detailed explanation of the Pre-proposal and Request for Approval of the Dissertation Committee (PDF)
  2. Complete the Pre-proposal in accordance with above guidelines
  3. Complete Request for Approval of the Dissertation Committee form
  4. Submit Pre-proposal and Request for Approval of the Dissertation Committee form to Associate Dean of Graduate Studies
  5. Meet with Associate Dean of Graduate Studies
  6. Make any necessary adjustments to Pre-proposal and Request for Approval of the Dissertation Committee; resubmit materials to Associate Dean of Graduate Studies, to be forwarded to the Department Chair for review
  7. Department Chair approves materials and sends a formal invitation to the proposed members of the Dissertation Committee
  8. Once the proposed members accept the invitation to serve on the Dissertation Committee and the student has received a letter from the Department Chair approving the Dissertation Committee, the student can proceed to the development of the Dissertation Proposal.

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Dissertation Proposal
Students who have passed their doctoral comprehensive examination, submitted their Pre-proposal and Request for Approval of the Dissertation Committee Form for Ph.D. (pdf) or Ed.D. (pdf) and have had a Dissertation Committee established and confirmed by the Department Chair must develop a dissertation proposal with the assistance of their dissertation committee. The format of the proposal should be discussed with the committee; once the proposal is completed, and accepted by the committee, the committee agrees to a hearing date. 

At that point, the student gives the Dissertation Chair the Will Open In New WindowAgreement to Schedule a Proposal Hearing form (pdf), which the Chair signs. The student submits this signed form to the Department Office and delivers a copy of the final draft of the proposal to all members of the committee.

Copies of the final dissertation proposal and the completed Agreement to Schedule a Proposal Hearing form should be submitted at least two weeks before the planned proposal hearing. Students are encouraged to submit the dissertation proposals a full month before their hearings so that faculty members have sufficient time to study and reflect upon them. A final decision regarding approval of the dissertation proposal will be made at this hearing.

The Department Office will send an email announcing the date and inviting the members to the hearing. (Please note that proposal hearings are not held during July and August). Failure to comply with these procedures usually results in the delay of the proposal hearing.

For the proposal hearing, doctoral candidates will meet with members of their dissertation committee at the scheduled time to answer questions related to the dissertation proposal. The committee will make one of four decisions:

  • the proposal is accepted
  • the proposal is accepted with stated qualifications
  • the proposal is rejected in its present form, but may be revised and resubmitted at a later date; another proposal hearing will be held
  • the proposal is rejected

When the members of the committee are satisfied with a proposal, they will sign a ballot that approves the proposal, and this ballot will be filed in the Department Office. All members of the committee must sign the ballot before the proposal can be considered accepted.

If the student and all committee members agree, members of the University community may be invited to the proposal hearing (updated: 1/23/2008).

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Timeline for Dissertation Submission
March 31 is the last date a student can have an oral defense in order to be considered for May graduation. Students must submit their dissertation revisions and edits to their Dissertation Chair by April 1. The final dissertation, successfully incorporating the revisions of the committee members and Chair, and the signed ballots must be submitted to the Graduate Student Services Office by April 1 (updated: 1/15/2013).


Completing a Human Subjects Review Application 
After the Dissertation Proposal has been approved by the committee, students are required to complete an Application for Approval of Research Projects Involving Human Subjects and submit it to the Institutional Review Board (IRB). Before submitting this form, students should become familiar with APA (American Psychological Association) and AERA (American Educational Research Association) ethical standards and principles.

Doctoral students must have a certificate indicating that they have completed the required training course before submitting a proposal to the IRB (Please see the Will Open In New WindowIRB website for a list of courses online and at BC). This certificate should be secured prior to the Dissertation Proposal hearing, ensuring that the student is familiar with the Human Subjects Review process prior to the hearing.

The Human Subjects Review application must be approved by the Dissertation Chair and the student’s Department Chair before it is submitted. Students should also visit the Lynch School Human Subjects Review webpage and the Will Open In New WindowIRB website for further details on this process. It is the policy of the Boston College IRB that no data may be collected for the dissertation research prior to the approval of the Human Subjects Review application.

Students should be advised that if their proposed studied is “high risk” it must be reviewed by the full Human Subjects Review committee and that this committee is not required to meet regularly during July and August.

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Scheduling the Final Defense

After informal approval of the dissertation by each of the committee members, students will schedule a tentative date for their defense hearing using the Will Open In New WindowAgreement to Schedule a Final Defense form (pdf). The Dissertation Chair should sign this agreement and the student should submit the completed form to the Department Office at least 14 days prior to the defense. One copy of the dissertation abstract must also be submitted electronically to the Department Office at that time.

The defense is posted as a public hearing, and copies of the abstract will be given to interested parties upon request.

A final draft of the dissertation must be submitted to each of the committee members at least 14 days before the defense. This final draft must be complete in all respects and editorially acceptable for final approval at the time of the defense.

Failure to comply with this procedure will result in the defense being delayed.

Final defenses may not be held in July and August. For doctoral students to participate in May graduation ceremonies they must have defended their dissertations and have all of their materials prepared for the submission of their dissertations by April 1.  If this date falls on a weekend or holiday, it will fall on the next university class day.

Students should refer to the Will Open In New Windowguidelines for submitting completed dissertations to the Lynch School before preparing final dissertation, since regulations contained in that set of guidelines do have an impact on format.  The guidelines also indicate the online submission process for the final dissertation.

Candidates must complete the Doctoral Checklist and Information Sheet online form, which will be submitted to the Graduate Office in Campion 135.  The online form is posted on the Doctoral Student Forms web page. The Department Office will send the Committee Chair the title pages to be signed by members of the Dissertation Committee indicating their official approval of the dissertation after the final defense. One of these pages will be inserted into the final dissertation and the other will be kept in the doctoral student's permanent file.

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