These policies represent common standards across all graduate programs in the Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences. Where these guidelines are silent, each discipline may provide unique guidelines so long as they are not in conflict with these common policies.

Theses and dissertations should be a significant work of scholarship that provides a novel contribution to scientific and/or professional knowledge and/or practice, and are worthy of publication within the pharmaceutical sciences and pharmacy administration areas. Students may address related research questions and share information from literature reviews, but may not co-author the same dissertation.

All students are required to complete and defend a thesis or dissertation as part of the degree requirements except for students in the MS Industrial Pharmacy degree and non-thesis M.S. programs. Students must successfully defend their theses or dissertations to a committee composed of faculty members and discipline experts.

A student, after consultation with his/her advisor, will seek faculty members and eligible experts to comprise the thesis/dissertation committee. Members for the committee should be sought who bring an appropriate range of knowledge and skills that will ensure the highest quality of thesis/dissertation scholarship. All committee members shall meet the requirements for Graduate Faculty Status, as defined by GSPS policy. Proposed committee members who are not GSPS faculty should submit a CV for review by the ADRGP. The proposed thesis or dissertation committee is subject to the approval of the ADRGP.

Conflict of Interest

Students may not select committee members with whom they, or their advisor have personal or professional relationships that would compromise academic judgments. Committee members must disclose any potential conflict of interest. Final approval of committee members is approved by the ADRGP.

Composition of Committees

THE THESIS COMMITTEE - Master of Science (M.S.) thesis committees will be comprised of not less than three members, including the Chair. A majority of the members of the thesis committee, including the research advisor/committee chair, must be faculty from the student's GSPS discipline. Experts from other institutions may also qualify for service as members on thesis committees. Except in unusual circumstances, the Chair and members must have an earned doctorate. The thesis committee must be selected and approved no later than one year following matriculation of the M.S. student into the GSPS. Thesis committee members may be removed at the written request of the thesis advisor to the ADRGP. The request must include a justification for the removal.

THE DISSERTATION COMMITTEE - Before a Ph.D. student achieves candidacy status by passing the Comprehensive Examination (see Comprehensive Examination policies), a preliminary dissertation committee (‘core committee') comprised of at least three members must be established by the end of the first year following matriculation as a Ph.D. student. A majority of the preliminary committee must be composed of GSPS faculty from the student's discipline. Following student designation as a Ph.D. candidate, the full dissertation committee will be comprised of not fewer than five members, including the Chair. A majority of the members of the dissertation committee must be members from the student's GSPS discipline, including the research advisor/Chair. One dissertation committee member shall not be GSPS faculty from the student's academic discipline. This individual must work in a research field close enough to the dissertation subject to allow for expert assessment of the dissertation. Experts from other institutions may qualify for service as members on doctoral committees. The full dissertation committee must be selected and approved no later than 60 days following the granting of Ph.D. Candidate status. Approval of the proposed committee must be communicated in writing (with an explanation if the proposed committee is not approved), to the committee chair within ten working days of submission to the ADRGP. Dissertation committee members may be removed at the written request of the dissertation advisor to the ADRGP. The request should include a justification for the removal. Following review, exceptions to the above standards for dissertation committees may be granted by the ADRGP upon the request of the Dissertation Chair.

Thesis and Dissertation Committee Meetings

Initial Meeting

The initial meeting of thesis or dissertation committees will occur within 60 days from the time the committee is approved. During the first meeting the committee will review the roles of particular members of the committee and review and approve or request revision of the written thesis/dissertation proposal.

Meetings to Evaluate Progress

Following the initial meeting to approve the thesis/dissertation proposal, thesis and dissertation committees will meet at least once per year. It is expected that all committee members (including external committee members and readers), will participate in all meetings. The student will provide a signature page to the ADRGP documenting member attendance following each scheduled committee meeting. Committee chairs must document the proceedings of all committee meetings. Reports should summarize the student's progress, highlight the critical points of discussion and, most importantly, document committee recommendations. Copies must be provided to the student and to the student file in the GSPS no later than two weeks after a committee meeting.

Pre-defense Approval Meeting

Prior to scheduling a defense, a final committee meeting will be held to ensure that the committee is satisfied that the specific aims of the proposal have been met and that the quantity and quality of the research is acceptable. Defenses must not be scheduled until this meeting has occurred. Notification that the pre-defense approval meeting was held must be sent to the ADRGP before scheduling the defense. Students must keep in mind the dates for submission of materials to the GSPS prior to graduation in a given semester.

Scheduling of Meetings

The student candidate is responsible for scheduling committee meetings, although the research advisor should facilitate this as necessary. The ADRGP will monitor compliance via his/her annual meeting with the candidate. Failure to schedule and hold an annual committee meeting may result in the candidate's termination from the program.

Duties of Committee Members

Committee Chair

The Chair must be a member of the GSPS faculty. Ordinarily the Chair will represent the discipline in which the student is enrolled. A Co-Chair may also be selected if requested by the candidate in consultation with the Chair or at the discretion of the ADRGP. Co-chairs must be full time GSPS faculty members. It is anticipated that the discussions between student and Chair to form a thesis or dissertation committee will result in clear roles for each committee member. Expectations should be made clear to all during the committee formation process. In the event of an emergency circumstance (e.g., the committee member has a medical emergency, leaves the School, etc.) the Chair, student and ADRGP will work together to decide on an appropriate accommodation or replacement. The intent is that the student will be able to maintain expected progress. Any disputes arising out of the constitution or operation of the student's thesis/dissertation committee will be submitted to the ADRGP for resolution. Responsibilities and anticipated expertise of committee members are outlined below. Students should review discipline-specific guidelines for any additional program requirements.

Responsibilities of the Committee Chair include, but are not limited to: a. Helping the student define a project and refine the thesis/dissertation proposal; b. Helping the student with the selection of other committee members; c. Helping the student establish and maintain a thesis/dissertation timeline; d. Guiding the student through the proposal process, issuing formal approval of the proposed project with the student's application to the IACUC or IRB, as needed; e. Reviewing early drafts of the thesis/dissertation; f. Ensuring that professional standards of academic integrity and excellence are maintained; g. Encouraging the student to share scholarly work with the larger scientific/professional community through presentations and publication.

Committee Members

Among the total membership of the committee including the Chair, particular areas of expertise and roles should be included. Please note that these roles and areas of expertise may overlap.

a. Content expert: At least one member of the committee, who may or may not be the Chair, will have expertise in the field of study of the student's research topic and serve as the subject matter expert in guiding the student's research.

b. Research methodology expert: At least one person on the committee, who may or may not be the Chair and who may or may not be the content expert described above, will have expertise in the research methodology used in the dissertation study. If other than the Chair, it is the student's responsibility (in consultation with the Chair) to find a qualified individual for this position. Responsibilities of this person on the committee include, but are not limited to:

  1. Providing support to the student in the area of research methodology;
  2. Supporting the committee chair in the performance of his or her responsibilities;
  3. Ensuring appropriate research methodology;
  4. Specialized needs.

c. Beyond the required committee members additional committee members, including those that serve as non-voting "readers", may be selected to fill specialized needs of the thesis/dissertation. They may include anyone whose credentials meet the requirements described in the beginning of this section. The student, in consultation with the Chair, will select members based upon the dissertation topic, research methodology, and availability to serve. Responsibilities of additional committee members include, but are not limited to:

  1. Reviewing the thesis/dissertation proposal for scholarly significance or for expansion of knowledge in the specific content area;
  2. Assisting with the development of the thesis/dissertation proposal and final thesis/dissertation;
  3. Readers who review the proposal/dissertation, provide formal feedback, but do not have the responsibilities of a formal committee member.

Thesis/Dissertation Proposal

The thesis/dissertation proposal is an initial-working document between a student and the committee. The student will be expected to complete the thesis/dissertation as specified in the approved proposal, unless the student and members of the committee mutually agree to a change. The committee will be notified of substantial revisions to the proposed research. Substantial revisions of the research plan will be incorporated into the working document and reviewed/approved at the next meeting of the committee.
The thesis/dissertation proposal will include:

The thesis/dissertation proposal will include:

  1. Title page
  2. Signature page
  3. Table of contents
  4. Introduction
  5. Literature review
  6. Hypothesis and specific aims
  7. Methodology
  8. Equipment and supplies
  9. Tentative timeline
  10. References

Each member of the student's committee will independently evaluate the thesis/dissertation proposal. The student, with the research advisor's assistance, shall plan a first committee meeting to describe and summarize the proposal. The committee may accept the proposal as presented or require revisions. When the committee determines that the student may proceed with the research study, they will indicate their approval by signing the Thesis/Dissertation Proposal Approval form.

The student will meet regularly with the Chair. The frequency of meetings will vary depending on the nature of the project and the need of the student. The purpose of these meetings is for the research advisor to provide technical direction regarding the project and to maintain oversight regarding the process. The thesis/dissertation committee will meet as a whole at least once a year to review the progress of the student toward completing the thesis/dissertation.

Thesis/Dissertation Format

Students should follow the Dissertation Style and Format Guidelines adopted for all Duquesne programs.

Thesis/Dissertation Defense

Students should carefully review the timeline for completing the thesis/dissertation process.

Students must submit an electronic version, or a bound printed copy of the thesis/dissertation to the committee (upon committee member request) no less than 10 business days (two weeks, excluding holidays) in advance of their scheduled defense. Binding of the final draft of theses/dissertations will be funded by the office of the GSPS. The thesis/dissertation committee will evaluate the document representing the completed research study, and will participate in an oral discussion of the document at the defense. The Dean, ADRGP or their representative, will participate in all defenses. Additionally, the Dean, may select an external reviewer from either inside or outside the GSPS to provide additional independent feedback regarding the content and process of the dissertation defense.

Binding of the final draft of theses/dissertations will be funded by the office of the GSPS. The preparation of and notification for a defense will be consistent with the directions presented in the Thesis and Dissertation Guidelines.

  1. The defense will be under the direction of the graduate advisor/committee chair.
    The initial phase of the defense will be an oral presentation of the research findings by the candidate.
    1. The oral presentation will be open to the general public unless prior permission for a closed defense is obtained from the ADRGP.
    2. All members of the thesis/dissertation committee will be present unless extenuating circumstances prevent it. (Reasonable accommodation such as video or teleconference will be made to permit examination of the candidate by any committee member not physically present for the defense.)
    3. The oral presentation will ordinarily not exceed one hour.
  2. Immediately following the presentation, there will be questioning of the candidate by the audience that will ordinarily not exceed 20 minutes.
    Following questioning by the general audience, questioning will continue during a closed session attended by the committee, and the ADRGP or her/his designated representative.
    1. Observers may be invited to attend the closed session by the Chair, but will not participate in the questioning.
    2. There will be no time limit to questioning during the closed session, but reasonable accommodation should be made for brief recesses as necessary.
  3. The thesis/dissertation committee chair will not participate in defending the student's work or answer questions posed to the candidate. The committee chair/research advisor is present only to ensure fair proceedings.

Outcomes of the oral defense: Pass - If the candidate is judged by the committee and the Dean [or his/her representative(s)] to have made an acceptable thesis/dissertation research presentation, and in addition was successful overall in responding to the questions of the committee, the candidate will have passed the oral examination and the committee may sign Oral Defense Approval Signature Page.

Fail - If the candidate is judged by the committee not to have made an acceptable research presentation, or was not successful overall in responding to the questions of the committee, the candidate will have failed the oral examination. The candidate will be afforded a second opportunity to pass the oral defense examination. If the candidate fails the oral examination a second time, (s)he will be terminated from the program. The determination of whether a candidate passed the oral defense will be by unanimous agreement of the committee.

Outcomes of assessment of the thesis/dissertation document:

  1. The committee may agree that the thesis/dissertation document is of outstanding quality and needs no editorial or substantive revisions, and may sign the Dissertation Approval Signature Page indicating final approval.
  2. The committee may require changes that members believe will strengthen the thesis/dissertation. The student will be asked to make those changes before committee members officially sign the Dissertation Approval Signature Page indicating final approval.

When all committee signatures are secured and the dissertation has final approval, the student will submit the final version and supporting documentation to the GSPS ETD representative. When a student has finished these requirements, the student will be officially finished with the program.

In order to receive a diploma, a student must have earned committee approval and obtained full signatures on the Thesis/Dissertation Approval Signature Page ("must have defended successfully"). In addition, the student must have passed all coursework including the final dissertation credit, have removed all deficient grades from the transcript, and met all financial obligations.