PhD Candidacy & Dissertation


Doctoral students must have submitted at least two publications/presentations/posters to peer-reviewed journals or proceedings approved by their committee before candidacy.

Entrance into Candidacy

Candidacy is a designation controlled by the UT Graduate School. The student must formally apply to the Graduate School for admission to Candidacy, and as such the student is responsible for ascertaining the procedures required by the Graduate School at the time of their application and ensuring that they are followed. One element of the procedure is recommendation for Candidacy by the School of Information GSC. Entrance into candidacy may occur prior to or immediately following the successful dissertation proposal defense.

The School of Information GSC, represented by the School of Information members of their committee, will recommend a student for candidacy once the student has completed the qualifying procedure and identified their entire dissertation committee.

Once a student is approved for candidacy by the Graduate School, the student’s enrollment requirements are governed by Graduate School policies. Following Graduate School rules, candidates are required to enroll in Dissertation Readings (INF X99R, the X signifying that the course may be taken for three, six, or nine credit hours) in their first semester of candidacy, and Dissertation Writing (INF X99W) in all subsequent semesters.

Two years after admission to candidacy, the graduate school will ask the GSC whether to extend the student’s candidacy. The GSC may recommend that the student's candidacy be extended for one year or that the candidacy be terminated for lack of satisfactory academic progress. Recommendations are forwarded to the graduate dean for approval. Extensions are uncommon and extensions beyond one additional year very uncommon.

Proposal and Dissertation Defenses

Students must publicly present and defend a proposal for a dissertation and, once the dissertation is complete, they must publicly present and defend the completed dissertation. The procedures for the two defenses are similar; they are described below together, with notes indicating anything specific to proposal or dissertation defenses.

While the rules for the dissertation proposal are determined within the School of Information, the Graduate School has specific deadlines each semester by which dissertation defenses and formal Doctoral Graduate Applications must be filed. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that a dissertation defense is scheduled early enough to meet these deadlines and to undertake any revisions prior to these deadlines.

Preparation and Scheduling

This procedure applies for both proposal and dissertation defenses. In addition, for dissertation defenses, the student must review and follow the Graduate School procedures.

At the start of semester in which the student plans to defend, the student must:

  1. Discuss their plans with your committee chair.
  2. Poll their committee for possible two-hour times (“placeholder” dates), avoiding the last three weeks of the semester and preferring Fridays 12-3 p.m., a time slot that the School of Information GSC has reserved for student events. In other words, most School of Information GSC members should be free for a Friday meeting during the 12-3 slot if given a selection of three or more dates. However, this slot may not work for your external committee member(s). Also, check your committee members’ teaching schedule online to avoid including obvious conflicting times.
  3. Over the first month of the semester, narrow down the list of possible times to a single placeholder time and book a room. During the semester students should keep in touch with their committee to ensure they can still make the placeholder time. Students should not announce or place their defense in the calendar until their committee chair and committee have all approved the document (see below).

At least full four (4) weeks prior to the proposed date the student must:

  1. Circulate a final draft to their committee for their approval.
  2. Ask their committee chair to poll committee members for their approval of the defense.
  3. Work with committee members to find a time and room to hold the defense (ideally one of the placeholder times).
  4. For dissertation defenses, students must obtain the graduate school’s “Request for Final Oral Examination” form (“the pink form”) and plan for their committee members to sign it.

At least a full two (2) weeks prior to the proposed date the student must:

  1. Have approval from committee chair and committee.
  2. Have a time and place agreed to by the committee chair and committee.
  3. For dissertation defenses, have submitted the signed “Request for Final Oral Examination” form to the graduate school.
  4. Have placed a printed copy of the proposal or dissertation in the tray in the workroom.
  5. Have placed an electronic copy on UT Box and have a working link for people to download the PDF. There is no particular place the file must be, but it must be accessible for the email announcement below.
  6. Draft an announcement email with:
    • Title and Abstract
    • A link to the PDF file of the proposal or dissertation 
    • Date, time, and location of defense
    • Names of committee members
  7. Ensure that their committee chair sends that announcement email to these lists. If the committee chair cannot send to the list the student must subscribe and forward their committee chair's announcement email. See
    • si-gsc (all faculty)
    • si-phd (all doctoral students)
    • the-insider (the school at large)
    • ischool-colloq (those interested in School of Information research events)
  8. Ensure that the event is added to the School of Information research calendar by forwarding the announcement email to
Procedures for Defenses

The defense is chaired by the committee chair and follows this procedure:

  1. The committee chair welcomes the doctoral community, describes the procedure and introduces the student and committee members.
  2. The student presents their proposal or dissertation. Unless there are special circumstances, this presentation will be 20 minutes for proposals and 30 minutes for dissertations. Note that, in both cases, the defense will not exceed two hours total.
  3. The committee chair opens the floor to questions from any non-committee member of the audience (up to 20 minutes).
  4. The committee chair closes the floor to questions and invites the committee members (including the committee chair) to discuss the presentation with the student, typically asking questions in turn. Committee members may invite members of the audience to contribute during this period, otherwise the discussion remains between the committee and the student (as required, typically 45-60 minutes).
  5. The committee chair calls the committee into closed session; only committee members and members of the GSC remain in the room, all others are asked to leave. The student retires to a prearranged location and waits for the committee chair to call them back. The committee then proceeds to evaluate the defense. The closed session ends when the committee has reached consensus (as required, typically up to 30 minutes).
  6. The committee chair invites the student back to the room to communicate the result of the defense and discuss the committee evaluation (as required, typically 10 minutes). Students may invite one School of Information doctoral student to serve as a recorder for this portion of the defense, but that individual will only serve as an observer and note taker and cannot participate in the proceedings. Otherwise, this discussion is private, including only the student, committee members, and any GSC members who elect to stay.
  7. The committee will complete all paperwork required by the Graduate School (note: students need to obtain any required paperwork prior to the defense).
Following the Defense

Within a week of the defense, the committee chair writes a letter to the student, conveying the result of the defense and summarizing the consensus requirements and advice of the committee. These requirements typically include specific revisions that are to be made to the document and a time-frame for those revisions. This letter is sent to the student, copying the graduate coordinator, who will add the letter to the student’s file.

If the committee has requested changes, the student must reply within two weeks of receiving the letter from their committee chair (or prior to the relevant deadlines for submission of the dissertation to the Graduate School, whichever comes sooner). The student's response letter should address each point from the committee’s letter, describe the changes made (or remaining to be made), show how the changes meet (or will meet) the revision requirements. The response letter is sent from the student to the committee chair,copying the graduate coordinator, who will add the letter to the student’s file.

Submission of Dissertations to the Graduate School

In the case of a completed, successful dissertation defense, the student then prepares the completed dissertation for review by the Graduate School, ensuring that they follow all formal Graduate School requirements, including formatting requirements.