The doctoral final oral examination, or dissertation defense, is the last formal step before the dissertation manuscript is submitted and the doctoral degree awarded. The focus of the final examination is the dissertation and its relationship to the candidate’s field of study. Its purposes are:
1. To provide an opportunity for candidates to communicate the results of their research to a wider group of scholars;
2. To afford an opportunity for the members of the examination committee, as well as others (faculty, students, staff, etc.), to ask relevant questions;
3. To ensure that the research reflects the independence of thought and accomplishment of the candidate rather than excessive dependence on the guidance of a faculty member; and finally,
4. To ensure that the candidate is thoroughly familiar not only with the particular focus of the dissertation but also its setting and relevance to the discipline of which it is a part.
At least two weeks before the final examination is held, and no later than November 1 for Fall graduation, April 1 for Spring, or July 1 for Summer, the major graduate unit must notify Graduate Studies of its scheduled date by submitting the Announcement of Examination form. In order to defend during the intersession, the student must be registered for the following semester. The student is responsible for providing each member of the dissertation committee with a complete copy of the dissertation in ample time for review prior to the examination.
The presentation and examination phases of the exam are open to the University community and are published in various sources; the deliberation phase is only open to the committee. At the conclusion of the examination, the dissertation committee members confer and make one of the following recommendations, which must be agreed upon by at least three of them:
- That the dissertation be approved without change;
- That the dissertation be approved subject only to minor editorial corrections: or
- That the dissertation be rewritten or revised before approval.
If the committee chooses either the first or second recommendation, they may decide that no further meetings are needed. In the second instance the director of the dissertation is responsible for seeing that all necessary corrections are made before the dissertation is submitted to Graduate Studies. If the third recommendation is made, the full committee may elect to meet again to determine that their concerns have been addressed.