Rules of the Road for PhD Dissertation Students

With thanks to Professor Laurie Williams, whose M.S. Milestone Table served as the inspiration for the table below!

The following are Ph.D. Dissertation completion milestones for those students who have chosen Dr. Antón as their Ph.D. advisor. It is important for students to adhere to this schedule to ensure a valuable research contribution to the software engineering comminity and a quality Ph.D. dissertation.

A Ph.D. advisor's role is to help pace each Ph.D. student and help expose the student to the experiences they need to establish a strong record as a researcher. This does not happen all at once; students need time to develop as researchers and to develop a strong record. This document is intended to help Dr. Antón's students plan their Ph.D. program by serving as a milestone road map.

In the table below, time T is the semester in which a student would like to graduate and Y# refers to the year of enrollment in the NCSU Ph.D. program. T-1 is one semester before a student would like to graduate and so forth. Students can proceed throughout the program at their own pace, but are expected to complete their milestones on schedule. Students cannot advance to T-1 until all T-2 milestones are completed and approved. That means a student's graduation date will be pushed out a semester(s) when milestones are not completed on time.

National averages for Ph.D. completion is around 5.5 years from entrance to grad school to degree completion. The schedule below is ambitious and intended for students who enter the NCSU Ph.D. program with an M.S. degree. Some students enter the Ph.D. program, expecting to graduate within four years; the schedule below provides a road map for these students. The milestones to successfully transition from one semester to the next, however, hold true whether a student graduates in four, five or six years. The pace of advancement is based upon each student's progress, which is greatly influenced by work ethic and ability to remain focused.

The schedule below does not take field work (e.g. summer internships) into account. Field work can be very beneficial for students and can serve to better ground one's research within a broader context. A one semester internship, however, will likely delay a student's progress in the Ph.D. program by up to a year. It is up to the student to weigh advantages and disadvantages of such opportunities as they arise in consultation with his/her advisor (and maybe committee).

In addition to the publications resulting from independent study or thesis hours, students who are funded by Dr. Antón are expected to publish at least one high quality paper (e.g. NCSU technical report, workshop paper, conference paper or journal paper) during each semester that they receive funding. Each paper has to be be approved by the advisor as being of appropriate quality. Those students funded to develop software must, at a minimum, publish a Technical Report about the given software artifact. This is to ensure that students have a strong publication record by the time they graduate. Additionally, it ensures that students remain focused and are appropriately disseminating the results of their work. Students that are experiencing a medical hardship (e.g. learning disabilities, hospitalization, etc.) are encouraged to meet with Dr. Antón to arrange an appropriate schedule.

By the time a Ph.D. student graduates, he/she should ideally have a minimum of six high-quality research papers published, accepted for publication or under review for publication. Additionally, this varies from specialization to specialization. However, to be most competitive for academic positions, at least 2 strong journal publications with the advisor are important. This is more feasible to accomplish in five years than it is in four.

Completion of first year course work, including CSC 600 (Computer Science Graduate Orientation).
• Completion of second year course work.

• Work w/ Dr. Antón in some capacity (e.g. as a student /TA in a class she teaches or as an independent study student.

• Dr. Antón will not sign a "Plan of Work" as a student's advisor until the student has succesfully completed both the gradute level Software Engineering and Requirements Engineering courses.

• Successfully pass "Written Preliminary Examination," based upon work performed in six credits of CSC 890 (Doctoral Preliminary Exam).

• Successfully pass "Oral Preliminary Examination."

• Begin "Annotated Bibliography" of all papers read in area of research interest. Each bibliography entry should look something like this:

[BI96] B Boehm & H In. Identifying Quality-Requirements Conflicts, IEEE Software, 13 (2), pp. 25-35, March 1996.

Keywords: requirements engineering, conflict identification

Followed by a one paragraph abstract that addresses the following:
  • Summary
  • Contribution(s)
  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Open issues / Opportunities for research, enhancement, or extension

A abstract/paragraph should be no longer than 5 or 6 sentences.

T-5 or earlier

(typically Summer or Spring, if earlier)
1. Maintain and extend "Annotated Bibliography."

2. Completion of a 6-page "Dissertation Topic Selection Proposal" comprised of the following sections:

A.  Thesis Statement
B.  Motivation Statement (why it is worthy of research)
C.  Theoretical underpinnings for research
D.  Significant prior research (demonstrate lack of prior solution)
E.  Proposed research approach or methodology (alternatives)
F.  Potential contributions of research and importance of each

3. When Dr. Antón approves the 6-page proposal because she and the student agree the topic is research-worthy, the student will expand the proposal into a 20-page "Dissertation Proposal."

4. Student and Dr. Antón collaboratively choose appropriate committee members and schedule a meeting with entire committee to explain research plan to thesis committee members. This meeting serves to identify student and committee members' mutual expectations, and prevent last minute surprises.

5. Write one high quality publishable workshop, conference or journal paper w/ Dr. Antón and submit to a mutually agreed upon workshop, conference or journal.

6. Students are also encouraged to write a solo paper for submission to an appropriate Doctoral Workshop. This enables students to receive valuable feedback and guidance from senior non-NCSU researchers.

(typically Fall)
1. Maintain and extend "Annotated Bibliography."

2. Conduct research activities according to committee-approved schedule, documented in "Dissertation Proposal."

3. Write one high quality publishable workshop, conference or journal paper w/ Dr. Antón and submit to a mutually agreed upon workshop, conference or journal.

(typically Spring)
1. Maintain and extend "Annotated Bibliography."

2. Conduct research activities according to committee-approved schedule, documented in "Dissertation Proposal."

3. Write one high quality publishable conference or journal paper w/ Dr. Antón and submit to a mutually agreed upon conference or journal.

(typically Summer)
1. Maintain and extend "Annotated Bibliography."

2. Complete all research activities (research completed, but thesis not yet written).

3. Write one high quality publishable journal paper and one high quality publishable conference paper w/ Dr. Antón and submit to a mutually agreed upon journal/conference.

(typically Fall)
1. Maintain and extend "Annotated Bibliography."

2. Complete detailed outline of all dissertation chapters. Submit detailed outline to Dr. Antón for review and approval no later than first week of semester.

3. Begin writing dissertation according to approved outline.

4. Completion of Job Search Package: Student must prepare a detailed curriculum vitae, list of references, list of three publications, as well as a list of all academic and/or industrial positions for which he/she wishes to apply. This package must be submitted to Dr. Antón for review before end of November, April or July (respectively).

5. Upon approval of final Job Search Package by Dr. Antón, student will submit his/her final job application package to prospective employers (typically in December for academic positions).

(typically Spring)
1. Complete dissertation according to approved outline and submit to Dr. Antón in its entirety by end of 3rd week in semester T. A poorly written dissertation (e.g. poor grammar) that is in need of major editing shall be returned to the student and the defense date will be postponed accordingly.

2. Job interviews.

3. Once Dr. Antón has approved the dissertation, student shall submit it to the remaining Ph.D. committee members (at least one month prior to the defense date).

4. Write one high quality publishable journal paper w/ Dr. Antón and submit to a mutually agreed upon journal.

5. Publish "Annotated Bibliography" as sole authored NCSU technical report.

6. Defend thesis.

7. Revise dissertation and obtain final approval from NCSU thesis editor.
© 2003-2007 A.I. Antón

Updated: 2.25.07...