Doctoral Oral Defense Procedures

Updated March 18, 2020: As part of continuity planning related to COVID-19, and to minimize the impact on students planning dissertation defenses, we have made the following modifications to our policies and procedures: 

  • We are temporarily modifying some of our standard policies and procedures regarding form submission and required signatures - visit this page for details.

  • The hard copy Certificate of Completion has been replaced by an electronic approval process. Approval instructions will be sent to your committee members prior to your defense. 


The information on this page pertains to doctoral students only. Master's students may or may not be required to hold a defense of their thesis or project; confer with your department for more information. 

Preparing for the Oral Defense

All doctoral students must hold a formal public defense of their dissertation on a date that is acceptable to the dissertation committee. Defenses may take place on any date, but in order to graduate in a given term, a student must defend on or before the deadline for that term. The defense should be held on campus whenever possible, but remote defenses are also allowed (see Attendance Policies below). 

Students are expected to provide the committee with a full draft of the dissertation at least 3 weeks prior to the formal defense. It is also generally expected that the committee has tentatively approved the dissertation prior to the defense. 

If the committee has any reservations about the acceptability of the dissertation, aside from minor revisions that may be discussed at the defense, it is recommended that the defense be postponed until such time as the committee is generally in agreement the defense will be successful.  


Deadlines

  • To graduate in a given term, the oral defense must take place by Friday of week 9 of that term.

  • The student is expected to provide the committee with a full draft of the dissertation at least 3 weeks before the defense date.

  • The deadline to apply for oral defense is 2 weeks before the defense date.

  • The committee must log in to GradWeb and certify the results of the defense within 2 weeks after the defense. 

  • The final, committee-approved dissertation must be uploaded within 2 weeks after the defense.

Doctoral Degree Completion Deadlines


Committee Members' Attendance at the Oral Defense

  • The preferred best practice is to have all members of the dissertation committee physically present at the final oral defense
  • Effective Fall 2021: Fully remote defenses are allowed

Attendance Policies


Instructions for Applying for the Oral Defense

  1. Submit an application for advanced degree in GradWeb. The priority deadline is the second Friday of the term. Specific dates for each term are listed here.

  2. Submit an application for oral defense in GradWeb.

    • Prior to applying, you should already have obtained a provisional agreement from your committee members that they will be available on the specified day and time you wish to hold your defense.

    • Please be sure to allow yourself enough time for the online process of obtaining email confirmations from the faculty so that you can meet the application deadline of 2 weeks before your defense date.

      We recommend starting the process at least 3-4 weeks before your defense date.

    • If any of the committee members are unable to attend—in accordance with attendance exception policies—you must indicate this as part of the online process.

    • When you submit the oral defense application, each of your committee members will receive an email asking them to log in to GradWeb and confirm (or waive) their attendance.

  3. After all of your committee members have submitted their confirmation in GradWeb, the graduate coordinator for your department will log in to GradWeb and submit the oral defense application to the Division of Graduate Studies on behalf of your department. 

    • The Division of Graduate Studies must receive the departmental approval no later than 2 weeks before the defense date.
  4. Approximately one week before your defense date, the Division of Graduate Studies will send an email to you and your committee authorizing the defense to proceed and providing instructions to the committee for submitting their approval after the defense. 

  5. All committee members must log in to GradWeb and certify the results of the defense within 2 weeks after the defense. 

    • If any of your committee members were not present at the defense, they are still responsible for logging in to GradWeb within 2 weeks and certifying their approval of the defense. 

Additional Notes About Your Oral Defense

  • If you hold your oral defense after the established term deadline, you will be considered an applicant for graduation for the next term.

    Registration requirements for the final term will vary depending on when you are able to submit your final dissertation to the Division of Graduate Studies.

  • Defending during the breaks between terms: The Division of Graduate Studies allows defenses to be held during the break between terms, but some departments may have restrictions on whether students can hold defenses at these times. Please check with your department before scheduling a defense during a break.

    If you schedule your defense during a term break, you will be considered a graduate of the term following the break. Registration requirements for the final term will vary depending on when you are able to submit your final dissertation to the Division of Graduate Studies.

  • Counseling psychology, school psychology, and clinical psychology students: Students in these programs may hold the defense and obtain approval of the final dissertation before embarking upon the required year-long internship. The degree will be awarded once the internship is successfully completed.