Document and Final Composition


A written document is required of each candidate for a doctoral degree in music (DMA). A formal proposal describing the proposed document must be submitted to the Supervisory Committee. This proposal may be formally approved at any time during a student's course of study after the Program of Studies has been filed and approved by the Office of Graduate Studies. The DMA document is normally more limited in scope than a Ph.D. dissertation, but demonstrates high standards of scholarship and contributes to existing knowledge. The topic is selected and defined with the guidance of the major professor. As a result of this process, a formal proposal is prepared. The proposal does not have to be a magnum opus: five or six double-spaced pages, excluding the complete bibliography, are customary. The pages of the entire proposal draft (including the bibliography) are to be numbered. These are the issues and questions that are usually dealt with in the proposal.

  1. Why the topic is important and of interest to you?
  2. What has already been published on the topic, and what will your treatment add to the literature and understanding of the topic? How will this study change the view of the subject or break new ground in your discipline?
  3. Research methodology (or methodologies): Will the document rely only on previously published secondary materials? Will you be researching primary source materials? Will there be musical analysis?
  4. Organization of the document, a chapter by chapter outline. Very briefly (one or two sentences) describe what each chapter will cover.
  5. The bibliography: only when using substantial primary sources should it be divided into two alphabets (one for "Primary sources", one for "Secondary literature"). Otherwise, a continuous listing, alphabetically, of all sources actually consulted for the project, should be used. Remember to follow one style manual religiously. Turabian. Each item can be single-spaced, with double-spacing between items.

Once the proposal is approved at a face-to-face meeting of the Supervisory Committee, the proposal, along with a signed in-house proposal cover sheet that is provided by the Glenn Korff School of Music Graduate Secretary, is given to the Secretary.

The DMA document normally concerns music from the student's performing medium and involves analysis of the music and study of the primary source materials relating to it.

The major professor bears the primary responsibility for guiding the research efforts of the doctoral candidate. The major professor should be well informed in the topic area and should have the necessary command of the discipline of scholarship to guide the document to successful completion. The major professor asserts strong supervision over the project to ensure exhaustive research of the topic, a thorough and complete report of the findings, a logical organization of the paper, correct grammar and spelling, acceptable writing style, and appropriate format.

When the topic extends beyond the capabilities of one faculty member, co-major professors may serve the best interests of the student.


While the document is in progress, the major professor may assign a letter grade OR, in lieu of an ‘I’ (Incomplete), use one of the following options:
IP:  (In progress) indicates satisfactory work in progress (i.e., the student is making progress or effort as determined by the faculty supervisor).  The “IP” would stand until the final examination, at which time a grade of “P” or a letter grade for all dissertation hours is submitted to the Registrar.
XP:  (No progress) indicates that the student is not making adequate progress on their thesis or dissertation work. Consecutive grades of “XP” (as determined by the supervisory committee) may result in the GKSOM Graduate Committee taking action to inform the student and Graduate Studies regarding continuation of the student’s graduate study.

Note that on the final transcript, the "IP" and “XP” grades will count towards attempted hours but for Financial Aid purposes, they will count differently.  Both grades will convert to an “I” on the official record if not graded as P (Pass) or with a letter grade.  Because the “XP” grade will not be used in calculating the GPA, no direct academic sanction, such as academic dismissal from the University, will be imposed for earning one or more “XP” grades.


After the document has met with the approval of the major professor, it goes to the Reading Committee. The Reading Committee shall consist of two members, excluding the Chair, chosen from and by the Supervisory Committee. The Chair may nominate the two members of the Reading Committee, but the members of the Supervisory Committee should approve the nomination either by mail or at a meeting of the Committee prior to the submission of the document. The Office of Graduate Studies must be informed of the membership of the Reading Committee at the time of its appointment.

Before the members of the Reading Committee receive the document for review (either in parts or whole), the paper should be at a stage of progress and level of scholarship suitable for critical examination. The document and abstract must be presented to the Reading Committee in time for its review and recommendation of its members at least three weeks prior to the oral examination. The abstract may not exceed 350 words, including the title.

The Candidate and the major advisor should carefully consider the recommendation of the Reading Committee. A favorable report on the abstract and the document clears the way for scheduling the oral examination. If one or both readers indicate qualified approval involving only minor changes, these should be made and reported back to the reader prior to final approval.

An unfavorable report by one member of the Reading Committee may be rejected if, in the judgment of the Supervisory Committee, the report does not constitute a defensible judgment.

The Supervisory Committee should not accept a document which has been disapproved or unfavorably reported upon by both members of the Reading Committee until the basis for the disapproval has been removed. If these criticisms involve extensive changes, the question of rejecting the document entirely or postponing its acceptance until the following semester should be seriously considered by the Supervisory Committee.

The Chair of the Supervisory Committee files in the Office of Graduate Studies at least two weeks prior to the oral examination either:

  1. A recommendation, accomplished by signing the Application for Final Oral Examination, by each member of the Reading Committee indicating general approval of both the document and abstract, or
  2. A statement signed by a majority of the Supervisory Committee indicating that the Committee has taken action to reject an adverse report by one member of the Reading Committee and recommending that the candidate be permitted to stand for oral examination.

The abstract and document must be approved by the Supervisory Committee Chair and the readers prior to filing the Application for the Final Oral Examination or Waiver in the Office of Graduate Studies. The application, signed by the readers, must be presented for approval to the doctoral degree assistant in the Office of Graduate Studies at least two weeks prior to the date of the oral examination. If the oral examination is waived, the deadline is three weeks prior to the last published date for holding oral examinations. A waiver of the oral examination/defense should be considered only under the most adverse circumstances, however; this oral examination/defense is considered to be an integral part of the degree program by the faculty of the Glenn Korff School of Music.

At the time the application is submitted, a preliminary review of the abstract and document is made by the doctoral degree specialist in the Office of Graduate Studies. One copy of the abstract/document is submitted by the student for review. At this time, final oral examination instructions are given to the student, and in addition, information and forms are given to the candidate including the Report on Doctoral Degree, Signature Page (optional), Survey of Earned Doctorates, and the University Microfilms International Dissertation information forms.

The Supervisory Committee has the right to recommend changes in the abstract and the dissertation at the time of the final oral examination. Such changes, should they be requested, normally are made by the student in consultation with the Supervisory Committee Chair and are incorporated in the final versions of the abstract for ProQuest and the document that will be deposited electronically in UNL's Digital Commons. Therefore, prior to the final oral examination, the document should be kept in a form so that changes can easily be made.

A final composition is required of each candidate for the Doctor of Musical Arts Degree majoring in composition. The composition should reflect a high degree of professional craftsmanship as well as exhibiting some qualities of originality. (It is assumed that the incoming DMA composer has already begun to exhibit a degree of stylistic originality.)

The composition should be of sufficient length to represent a major creative statement by the composer. The suggested minimum length should be approximately 20 minutes, however, it is recognized that a very complex work of 15 minutes may represent a greater effort than a longer work in a less complex language.

The media chosen for the composition should be appropriate for the emotional content and formal plan of the work.  While a large ensemble such as an orchestra is preferred, it is understood that such media may present practical performance difficulties. If possible, the composition should be publicly performed and a commitment (either by way of commission or promise of performance) may help dictate choice of media.

It must at all times be understood that creative music writing is an individualized, multi-dimensional activity, one in which composers may adopt diametrically opposite procedures in realizing the composer's creative intentions. 

A formal proposal describing the proposed Final Composition must be submitted to the Supervisory Committee. This proposal may be submitted at any time during the program but the Supervisory Committee will not give final approval until the comprehensive exams have been passed, and the student has been accepted into candidacy. The proposal should be as complete as possible and consist of a general outline of the work. Such "pre-compositional" data might include (1) general duration, (2) performance media, (3) internal breakdown into movements or large sections, (4) texts, if applicable, and (5) theme, if work is based upon pre-existing material.

DMA composers are also required to write a document. A substantial written analysis of the Final Composition is the normal doctoral document for DMA composers. The procedures for guiding the progress of the Final Composition and its analysis, for approving them by the Reading Committee and the Supervisory Committee, and for submitting them to the Office of Graduate Studies are as described earlier for the doctoral document.