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 both kinds of defense are similar; they are described below together, with notes indicating anything specific to proposal or dissertation defenses.
The UT 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
The student develops the document (proposal or dissertation) with their Chair and their committee. Once the student and the Chair are confident the document is ready to be defended, the Chair circulates the document to the Committee and gathers feedback about whether the work is ready to defend. The Chair then gives approval to the student to schedule the defense.
This procedure applies for both proposal and dissertation defenses. In addition, for Dissertation Defenses, the student must review and follow the UT's graduate school procedures, go to UT's Graduate School Dissertation Defense Procedures page.
There are things to do at three times:
- Start of semester
- At least 4 weeks out from your intended defense date
- At least 2 weeks out from your intended defense date.
At the start of semester in which you hope to defend:
- Discuss your plans with your chair.
- Poll your committee for possible times ("placeholder" dates), avoiding the last three weeks of semester and preferring Fridays 12-3pm. Since defenses are public and of great importance to the School and University, students are discouraged from attempting to schedule their defenses during summer or other University breaks.
- Over the first month of semester, narrow down to a single placeholder time (and perhaps a later backup time) and book a room. Keep in touch with your committee to ensure they can still make your placeholder time. Don't announce or place your defense in the calendar until your chair and committee have all approved the document (see below).
At least full four (4) weeks prior to the proposed date the student must:
- Circulate a final draft to their committee for their approval; it is usual that your chair would have reviewed prior to this period.
- Work with their chair to poll committee members for their approval of the defense.
- Work with chair and committee members to find a time and room to hold the defense.
- For dissertation defenses, students must obtain the "Request for Final Oral Examination" 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:
- Have approval to defend from chair and committee.
- Have a time and place agreed to by the chair and committee.
- For dissertation defenses, have submitted the signed "Request for Final Oral Examination" form to the graduate school.
- Have placed a printed copy of the proposal or dissertation in the tray in the workroom (labeled "Proposals and Dissertations").
- 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.
- 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
- Ensure that their chair sends that announcement email to these lists. If the chair cannot send to the list the student must subscribe and forward their chair's announcement email. Ultimately it is the student's responsibility to ensure this happens.
- Ensure that the event is added to the iSchool research calendar by forwarding the announcement email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Procedures for Defenses
The defense is chaired by the Committee Chair and follows this procedure:
- The Chair welcomes the doctoral community, describes the procedure and introduces the Candidate and Committee members.
- The Candidate presents their proposal or dissertation. Unless there are special circumstances, this presentation will be 20 minutes for proposals and 30 minutes for dissertations.
- The Chair opens the floor to questions from any non-Committee member of the audience (up to 20 minutes).
- The Chair closes the floor to questions and invites the Committee members (including the Chair) to discuss the presentation with the Candidate, 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).
- The 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 Candidate retires to a prearranged location and waits for the 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).
- The Chair invites the Candidate 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 iSchool 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 and committee members.
- 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 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. This letter is sent to the student, copying the GSC.
After an appropriate period of time, the student provides their chair with a written response to this letter, describing the advancement of their research since the defense. If the committee has requested changes to the document (proposal or dissertation) the student's response letter should address each point, describe the changes made and show how the changes meet the revision requirements. This letter is sent from the student to the Chair, copying the GSC.
Finally, the Chair and the committee approve the changes, informing the GSC and thus conclude the defense.
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 and format.