Dissertation Defense - Final Examination
A final public oral examination—usually over the general field of the dissertation—is required of every candidate for the doctorate. It may be scheduled at a suitable time after the dissertation (not necessarily the final version) has been read by the advisory committee. The examination may not be administered until at least three weeks have elapsed following the candidate's submission to the Graduate School of the notification form giving the time, place, and other information pertaining to the examination. This form is available from the Graduate School at this link. The examination is conducted by the advisory committee and the Graduate Dean, or a professor designated to act in place of the Graduate Dean. All members of the committee participate fully in the examination and cast a vote. Professors other than members of the committee, including the Graduate Dean's representative, may participate in the examination but have no vote in determining the outcome.
The chairperson of the advisory committee should convene the examination by introducing the candidate, giving his or her background, and indicating the general procedures to be followed. Although some variation in procedure from department to department and from committee to committee is likely, the following general procedures are appropriate. Initially, the candidate should be given a short period of time (from 20 to 30 minutes) for an overview of the research project for the benefit of those in attendance who have not read the dissertation. After this presentation, the candidate should be questioned by members of the committee in a way that will require a genuine defense of both the dissertation and its research procedures. All members of the committee should have read and thoroughly familiarized themselves with the dissertation before the examination, and copies of the document (not necessarily in final form) should be available for reference during the examination.
After committee members have examined the candidate, others in attendance should be permitted to raise questions or make comments. As indicated earlier, the examination is a public affair and the candidate should be able to defend his or her work before anyone who cares to question it. When ample opportunity has been given for questions from the audience, those not on the doctoral committee should be excused while the committee asks any final questions it chooses. When the committee is satisfied, the candidate should be dismissed from the room while the committee deliberates and comes to a decision concerning the adequacy of the candidate's performance. When a decision is reached, the candidate should be informed, and the committee chairperson should forward a report of the outcome to the Graduate School for the record.
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