Review of Dissertations: The University Reader


The assistance of university readers is required in evaluating all doctoral dissertations since the Graduate School staff cannot possibly possess in-depth knowledge of all dissertation subjects.

If a university reader has not already been appointed, the major professor nominates several names as the potential university reader on the Doctoral Dissertation First Submission Approval Form.  The university reader must be on the Graduate Faculty and from outside the student’s department. The major professor may request appointment of the university reader at any time during the student’s doctoral work.

The primary role of the university reader is to represent the entire Graduate Faculty of Auburn University and advise the Graduate School on the quality of the dissertation from the standpoint of originality, significance, research, analysis, accuracy, and overall scholarship. The reader will recommend to the Graduate School that the committee proceed with the final oral examination or that the document be returned to the student for further work. The judgment of the university reader is viewed as advice to the Graduate School and is not binding. The Graduate School evaluates each report and may recommend appropriate changes in the manuscript. However, the university reader should be aware of the importance the Graduate School places upon the reader’s opinion in making the final decision on the acceptability of a dissertation. When the Graduate School has reviewed the reader’s evaluation, both the student and the major professor will be informed of the reader’s comments and recommendations and of the Graduate School’s decision. The university reader will be notified of the disposition of the dissertation by the Graduate School.

Recommendations by the reader should be considered and addressed by the student and the advisory committee either through revision of the dissertation or by response in writing to the Graduate School. The Graduate School expects that appropriate changes will be made and that the student will be able to address during the final oral examination all questions raised by the reader. It is anticipated that the reader will be willing to assist the student and committee, at least by explaining comments and recommendations.

Since the role of the university reader is one of advisor to the Graduate School, it is not expected that the reader will have the same level of involvement with the student and the dissertation as do members of the advisory committee.

Should the Graduate School not approve the dissertation, based on the recommendation of the university reader, the student can modify the dissertation along the lines suggested by the reader. When the modifications have been made, the student and major professor should submit the revised draft to the Graduate School along with a statement identifying the changes and addressing those recommendations of the university reader not incorporated into the work. However, if the student and the advisory committee believe that the objections raised by the university reader are invalid, the student and the major professor have the option of addressing the criticism of the reader in writing to the Graduate School and requesting that the dissertation be reviewed by a second reader. Based upon its evaluation of the first reader’s report and the response from the student and the major professor, the Graduate School may appoint a second reader who will have the same role as the first reader.

If the first university reader does not recommend approval and the second one does, the final decision will be made by the Graduate School. If both readers judge the dissertation unacceptable and the Graduate School concurs, it is the responsibility of the student to undertake the work necessary to correct deficiencies.

The university reader is the designated Graduate School representative at the final oral examination and is expected to be an active participant. The reader must be consulted about the date and time. Arrangements should be made to furnish the reader, as well as other committee members, a copy of the approved draft of the dissertation at least three days in advance. In the case of a second university reader, the designated Graduate School representative usually will be the second reader.

At the final examination, the university reader will serve both as advisor and observer for the Graduate School to assure the quality and validity of the examination. The reader also may raise questions and issues regarding the dissertation. The reader will judge the examination and sign the form providing an official report to the Graduate School.

The student may pass only with unanimous approval of the examining committee except that a negative vote by the university reader alone is insufficient to fail a candidate. In such cases, the university reader reports concerns to the Graduate School for the dean’s consideration.

Last modified: March 27, 2016