Proficiency in significant original research, a major requirement for the Ph.D., is demonstrated chiefly in the dissertation. Students are encouraged to look beyond the dissertation to its publication.
After passing the qualifying examination, the candidate files two copies of the dissertation prospectus, revised if necessary, with the department and submits a special form called "Notice of Title, Scope, and Procedure of Dissertation," to the Office of Graduate Studies. The student should also register the thesis in progress with the American Historical Association.
After passing the oral and written portion of the qualifying examinations, the student, in consultation with their advisor, should assemble a dissertation advisory committee consisting of at least three faculty members. The Office of Graduate Studies refers to this committee as the research advisory committee. The student's primary advisor usually serves as the Chair of the dissertation advisory committee. In the History Department, the Chair of this committee may be an associate, full, or, in special cases, emeritus professor. One function of the dissertation advisory committee is to review and approve of the dissertation prospectus at the dissertation prospectus defense.
After acquiring the status of Ph.D. candidate, the student should continue to meet periodically with the dissertation advisory committee.
In order to earn the Ph.D., the student must circulate their dissertation and defend it in a meeting with the dissertation defense committee. As stipulated by the Office of Graduate Studies the dissertation defense committee consists of a minimum of five members. At least three committee members must be from the History Department. At least one must be from outside of the History Department, meaning from other units on campus or from another university entirely. Four of the members must be tenured or tenure-track. The Office of Graduate Studies stipulates that the chair of the committee must be a Washington University tenured or tenure-track faculty member.
According to the rules of the History Department, in agreement with the rules of the Office of Graduate Studies, in the chair of the dissertation defense committee may, in special cases, be emeritus.
The student, who may still receive other grants or take part in a mentored teaching experience, is expected to work diligently in dissertation research and writing and to keep the dissertation supervisor informed of progress in a formal conference at least once every semester. Individual supervisors may require more frequent conferences.
The dissertation writer should also to stay in contact with other members of the advisory committee. Furthermore, the candidate should take part in the Dissertation Writers' Workshop, attend the annual Graduate Colloquium, participate in mock job interviews and presentations, and other social gatherings of the department.