Ph.D. dissertation prospectus and final dissertation defense

Students should work with their dissertation adviser to finalize their proposal. Once the adviser approves the draft, the proposal is sent to the entire dissertation committee for review. Faculty are given a minimum of three weeks to read the document and give feedback, preferably in writing.

The dissertation committee should meet following this time period to discuss the proposal, and then decide whether it is defendable. The student is not present at this meeting. Only after all committee members agree that the proposal is defendable, can an oral defense of the dissertation proposal be scheduled.

Note: This pre-defense meeting is a change from our previous policy.

One of two outcomes is decided at the pre-defense meeting

Option one

The committee decides to move forward with the proposal defense; the student makes revisions required by the committee, preferably provided to the student in a written summary based on the discussion at the meeting. The advisor works with the committee to schedule a proposal defense date.

Option two

The committee decides not to move forward with the proposal defense; if this is the outcome, then the process restarts. The student will work with their adviser and will resubmit to the committee a revised proposal. Ideally, the student would provide the committee with a memo indicating the specific revisions (similar to a response memo for a manuscript) that were made in response to the committee's concerns and suggestions. The committee will then have a minimum of 3 weeks to read the revised proposal and decide if this version warrants a defense. If the committee deems the proposal acceptable the advisor will work with the committee to schedule a defense date.

After a successful defense, students submit a Conflict of Interest Form along with the Prospectus and Record of Approval Form. The candidate and each member of the dissertation committee must disclose any potential conflicts and sign the form.

Final dissertation defense

The process outlined above is the same, with one exception. Pre-defense paperwork must be submitted to the Graduate School at least two weeks prior to the final dissertation defense (conflict of interest, final report form, and advertisement of the defense). The Graduate School reviews the paperwork and if approved will send to the adviser prior to the defense. After a successful defense, the committee will sign the bottom portion of the final report form for submission to the Graduate School.

See Ph.D. final defense. It is recommended that the advisor use the pre-defense committee meeting to sign all paperwork.

Defending the dissertation and graduating in the same semester

If students wish to graduate the same term they defend their dissertation, students must deliver a full draft of the written work to all committee members at least six weeks before the last day to defend in the semester in which they graduate. Failing to do so will not give committee members adequate time to read, comment, and approve moving forward with the dissertation defense before the Graduate School deadline. Keep in mind students often have some revisions following the oral defense.