Dissertation Defense

All Ph.D. students must prepare and defend a written dissertation describing their research study and its outcomes before their advisory committee.

Pre-defense and Draft Dissertation

In most cases, students will undergo a closed pre-defense presentation with members of their committee, followed by a revision period during which they will address any concerns raised by their committee about the scope or quality of their work. Students should plan to provide their committees with a complete draft of their written work no later than two weeks prior to the scheduled pre-defense to allow time for review. Following the pre-defense, the committee will make recommendations regarding how much time should be allowed before scheduling the final defense. The final defense occurs no sooner than two weeks following the pre-defense and only when all committee members agree that the student is ready to proceed.

Final Examination/Dissertation Defense

All doctoral candidates must take a final oral and/or written examination. This examination must be scheduled no earlier than six months after successful completion of the preliminary examination. The format of the final examination is set by the advisory committee and typically consists of a defense of the dissertation and doctoral research. In addition, the student may be asked questions on subjects covered in coursework or other questions that are designed to determine the student's depth and breadth of knowledge in the subject area.

A student must be appropriately registered during the semester of the final examination/defense (see Degree Completion Enrollment Requirements). Final examinations/defenses are usually scheduled within periods beginning with the first day of classes for a given semester or session and ending with the last official day of examinations. Examinations are not usually administered between semesters or sessions.

  • At least two weeks prior to the date of the final examination, a Request to Admit Candidate to Final Examination must be submitted to the Graduate School via the Electronic Signature System recommending the time, date, room number, building, title of thesis or dissertation, and names of the committee members.
  • Scheduling the exam requires approval by all members of the student’s committee, who may require submission of a revised document plus review time prior to approving the exam. Students should consult with their committee members and agree on a timeline for the final defense before scheduling the final exam with the Graduate School.
  • The defending student should submit the request, obtaining appropriate room reservations and verifying that all committee members can attend before submitting the form.
  • After the final defense has been scheduled with the Graduate School, students should prepare a brief announcement of the defense including date, time, location, title, name, and a short abstract. The announcement should be submitted via email to the Graduate Coordinator, for distribution to the faculty and graduate listservs in the department.

All final examinations are open to the public and faculty members are encouraged to attend and participate in such meetings. Defenses typically begin with a short committee-only meeting, followed by an open presentation and Q/A session, followed by a closed committee meeting and outbriefing of the student. Students should bring at least one copy of the final dissertation draft and supporting materials to the defense for review by non-committee members. Students are responsible for reserving a space for the final defense and arranging for and setting up any equipment required for the final presentation.

The Graduate School will notify the student’s Advisory Committee of the examination via email. Final results should be registered by the student’s advisor in the Graduate School Electronic Signature System, and must be confirmed by the Advisory Committee within 24 hours or as soon as possible after the examination. Students should verify several days before the exam that the advisor has received notification and take appropriate measures to verify the exam schedule with the Graduate School if notification has not been received.

To pass the final examination/defense, a candidate is allowed at most one negative vote. If a student fails the examination/defense, one full semester (a minimum of 15 weeks) must elapse before the second examination is scheduled. Not more than two opportunities to pass any one examination are allowed. Students failing any of the mandatory examinations two times will be dropped from the university.