The Dissertation and the Final Oral Examination (Thesis Defense)

The Electronic Thesis and Dissertation (ETD) website contains guidelines that students must follow as they prepare their dissertations. Students are encouraged to ask the CCAS Graduate Office to check the format of the thesis prior to completion.

When planning a thesis defense, keep in mind Columbian College deadlines, the three week minimum that the examining committee has to read the thesis, and the time that may be needed after the defense for revisions.

A first task in organizing the defense is for the advisor, in consultation with the graduate committee, to assemble the final examination committee. This committee is made up of the thesis advisor (director), the co-director (if applicable), two readers, and two additional examiners; at least one examiner must be from outside the department. Also, another person is selected to serve as chair of the defense.

The PhD candidate, with the assistance of the advisor, must make every effort to ensure that the thesis is free of errors before it is submitted to the final examination committee. The thesis must be submitted to the committee at least three weeks before the defense. Thesis defenses are open to the public; the advisor should ensure that an announcement is sent to the entire department at least a week in advance .

The defense consists of an hour-long talk by the candidate on his or her research followed by several rounds of questions by the final examination committee, excluding the director (and co-director, if applicable). Once the question session ends, the defense is over and the chair dismisses the candidate and the audience. The committee then meets to determine the outcome, which can be

  • the dissertation is acceptable as is,
  • the dissertation is acceptable subject to requested revisions¬†(in this case, the requested revisions are conveyed to the thesis advisor, a subset of the committee is appointed to check and ultimately sign-off on the revised thesis, and a date is chosen by which revisions should be completed), or
  • the dissertation is unacceptable¬†(in this case, the student may write and submit a new thesis).

The chair facilitates this discussion and, at its conclusion, sees that the Final Examination Committee Sign-Off form is completed.

Following a thesis defense at which the thesis was accepted as is, or following the completion of the required revisions and the subsequent filing of the Final Dissertation Approval form, the successful PhD candidate submits his or her dissertation electronically, following the instructions in the Electronic Theses & Dissertations website; this website has links to the ProQuest/University Microfilm (UM) form, which must also be submitted electronically. (See the graduate committee chair for the username and password needed for the UM form.) Paper copies of two additional forms must be submitted to CCAS (Phillips 107): the Electronic Theses & Dissertations Approval (signed by the student and the thesis advisor) and the Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED). It is highly recommended that all of these items be submitted well in advance of the CCAS deadline. After this material has been submitted, the graduate committee chair completes the Graduation Clearance form for the candidate.