Thesis, Final Defense & Graduation

The process is not as complicated as it seems from the description here but there are many important interconnected deadlines. Dates will change from year to year and this page may not always be up to date, so the best source for information is at the graduate school page .

The Ph.D. degree is officially conferred at one of only three official graduation dates:

  • May (after the spring semester)
  • September (after the summer semester)
  • December (after the fall semester)

The precise dates change from year to year so see the graduate school listing of deadlines

Step 1. Write your thesis.

When you get close to finishing you'll want to look at the formatting requirements and download the LaTeX template.

Step 2. Apply for graduation

To do this, log into the ACES Student Center, click on the Services tab, and then on Apply for Graduation. If you applied to graduate in the previous term but did not graduate, you will need to apply again for the current term.

Step 3. Select a date for the thesis defense

The completion of this step is subject to the boundary conditions specified in the next two. However, well before the thesis defense you should check with the professors on your committee about their schedule; keeping in mind that at most one committee member (not the chair) may be tele-conferenced (e.g., particpate by skype). The easiest way of identifying the day of the week and time for the defense is to look at all of the committee members teaching schedules and try to find a two hour block when everyone is available.

Step 4. Submit your thesis for format checking.

Again visit the grad school web page for the exact deadline dates.

The initial submission must take place at least two weeks before your defense and no later than 5:00 p.m. on the deadline date. The graduate school web site says that "Initial submission of the dissertation or thesis means that the document is complete.'' Your advisor must send a brief email to the Graduate School which states "I have read the [thesis/dissertation] of (student's name) and it is complete and ready to defend." Small changes in the content can (and probably will) be made after submission but all of the pieces must be there.

After submitting the thesis for format checking, the fun starts. Quoting from the graduate web page:

  • You will receive an e-mail from the Graduate School within two business days informing you of any formatting problems.
  • When you receive the e-mail (and not before), follow the link in the e-mail to schedule a time to meet with the Graduate School staff member who contacted you about formatting issues after your initial submission.
  • The graduate school must receive the letter from your adviser confirming that your dissertation is complete and ready to defend, as well as the departmental defense announcement before we can release your final examination certificate. You must come to the Graduate School to pick up your final examination certificate before your defense.
  • At this appointment you will receive your final examination certificate, and doctoral candidates will have the opportunity to fill out our exit survey.

AT LEAST SEVEN DAYS before the defense, the following must be completed:

  • Copies of the most up-to-date version of the thesis MUST BE given to all committee members for them to read. Some committee members may request more time, so consult with them early to learn their requirements.
  • A public copy of thesis is put in the department lounge.
  • If someone is going to participate remotely then contact Jenny Hirtz who will notify the graduate school. The remote person will be sent a form on which they can record their vote.

Step 5. The Thesis Defense

Again see the graduate school web page for precise deadline dates.

You should allow at least two hours for the defense. See Jenny Hirtz for help finding a room. Many defenses are held in the lounge, but that is also an inconvenience for people who want to access coffee or their lunch.

The first part of the defense when you present your results may (with the permission of your committee) be open to the public. Any guests are excused before the questioning starts.

Upon completion of the defense and approval of the thesis, some paperwork must be completed: Committee members must sign thesis title and abstract pages, defense evaluation form, and the exam card. The DGS must also sign the exam card, before doing that the DGS will want the documents listed above and:

After the thesis it is traditional for you or one of your friends to announce that it is time to come to the lounge and eat some cake.

Step 6. Submission of the final version of the dissertation to the graduate school

This must be done within thirty days of the final defense or by the submission deadline date.: