Scope and Purpose
The Final Oral Examination normally consists of a public presentation and defense of the student’s dissertation research. Its purpose is to subject the research and claims to scrutiny by the community of scholars as a final evaluation before awarding the degree.

Preparing for the Defense
Before the defense can take place, the adviser and at least two other members of the student’s committee must agree that the dissertation is in substantially completed form. The defense should be announced at least two weeks in advance.

The student must be registered during the semester in which the Ph.D. Defense is held.

New PhD Defense Presentation Policy

Due to the constraints on the dissertation advisory committee members’ schedules and possibly due to late scheduling, the majority of recent defenses have taken place at times when many of the faculty and students are not able to attend, ultimately defeating the purpose of a dissertation defense presentation.

Therefore, we ask that each defending PhD student schedule his/her dissertation defense at 4PM on a Monday or Wednesday (so it does not clash with other scheduled department colloquiums). Under the circumstance that it is not possible to schedule the defense in this time slot (perhaps due to unavailability of dissertation committee members), the student must schedule and give a separate dissertation “presentation” before the defense date on a Monday or Wednesday 4PM time slot.

Please make sure to schedule well in advance to find an available MW time slot.

CS faculty voted approval on 11/1/19

The dissertation advisor is the host and Master of Ceremonies at the defense.

A typical agenda for a Ph.D. defense is as follows:

  • Welcome; Introduction of the Candidate by the Advisor
  • Presentation by the Candidate (about 50 minutes) emphasizing the original contributions claimed by the candidate.
  • Questions from the audience
  • Public questions from the Guidance Committee
  • Break
  • Committee meets privately with Candidate
  • Committee excuses Candidate to make and record its final decision
  • Committee invites Candidate to return to discuss the final decision and discuss what actions should come next.

Evaluation of Results
The guidance committee determines whether the student has passed the Final Oral Exam and usually makes specific comments on the dissertation document, especially what additions or changes will be required before it will be accepted.

The Final Oral exam is rarely failed, but when it is failed, the failure is most often due to a presentation that does not boldly present the results and claims of the research. The presentation cannot simply explain the background and significance of the research, it must present results and make claims. How the student handles questions for the audience and the committee are also important factors in determining the overall performance on this exam.

If the student passes this exam, the department will notify the Graduate School. The only remaining hurdle before the student may be admitted to candidacy and apply for award of the degree is the submission of the final signed copies of the dissertation to the Graduate School.

If the student does not pass this exam, another presentation may be scheduled at a later date.