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Dissertation Procedures

Defense of Dissertation Proposal

This consists of at least two parts: a research proposal written in the NIH F31 format (without budget) based on the student's proposed dissertation research, and an oral examination held at least two weeks later. The latter includes an oral presentation describing the proposal followed by questions from the Dissertation Committee. The questions may cover any area related to the proposal topic and will probe the student's background knowledge and understanding of the proposal.

The Dissertation Committee serves as the Examining Committee. The Committee members are the only faculty present at the examination and they alone are responsible for evaluating it. Three grades are possible: Pass, Pass with conditions, and Fail. At least three of the five Examining Committee members must approve a passing grade.

Defense of the dissertation proposal should take place by the end of the student's third year of study. The student will arrange for their Proposal Defense under the guidance of their Dissertation Committee and Mentor. 

Research & Dissertation

Upon completion of the dissertation research, a student presents his or her results in the form of a dissertation consisting of publishable first authored manuscripts plus an introduction and discussion; additional material may be included in an appendix. The dissertation should be prepared in accordance with the guidelines established by the Graduate School.

Dissertation Defense

At least 2 semesters (7 months) before the final presentation of the dissertation, the student should notify the Graduate Program Director in writing of his or her intention to defend the dissertation. If necessary, the applicant should nominate persons in addition to the Dissertation Committee to form a final Examining Committee of at least 5 members. The composition of the Examining Committee must be approved by the Director of the Graduate Program and then by the Dean of the Graduate School at least 6 months prior to the final examination by filing a Nomination of Members for the Final Doctoral Examination Committee Form with the Graduate School. All members must have a Ph.D. or equivalent, and three must be regular members of the Graduate Faculty. At least one member of the final committee must be from outside the Department. One member of the Examining Committee is designated by the Dean as his or her representative; this person assures that the examination is conducted properly and settles intra-committee disagreements over examination procedures. The Examination Committee is chaired by the Dissertation Advisor, who also determines the time and place of the defense.

The dissertation defense may be held no earlier than two weeks after all members of the Examination Committee have received the completed draft dissertation. A Certification of Completion of Doctoral Dissertation Form must be submitted to the Graduate School by the Committee Chairperson and the readers of the thesis at least two weeks prior to the scheduled date of examination. Simultaneously, the Announcement of Ph.D. Dissertation Defense Form, completed by the student, is also submitted to the Graduate School so that it may be distributed to the academic community. (It is the student's responsibility to file duplicates of all forms with the Program Coordinator.) Upon receipt of these forms by the Graduate School, the Report of Examining Committee Form and Guidelines for the Conduct of the Final Doctoral Oral Examination are sent to the graduate faculty member selected to represent the Dean at the defense. The Graduate School is required to notify all members of the Graduate Faculty at least two weeks before each examination.

The format of the examination is an open seminar, with questions permitted from anyone present. After the seminar, the Examining Committee meets privately to evaluate the student; additional questions may be asked of the student at this time. Final approval of the dissertation rests with the Examining Committee. Votes in favor of passing by four committee members (regardless of the number on the Committee) constitutes approval of the dissertation.

A student may defend a dissertation no more than twice.