Doctor of Philosophy Program Guide: The Day of the Defense

What it is and who goes

  • The Final Examination is a one- to two-hour oral examination, conducted by the Dissertation Committee.
  • The Final Examination is a formal requirement of the Graduate School and attended by at least four members of the Dissertation Committee, including the Director, at least two regular members, and the GSR.
  • The Final Examination is allowed to take place only if the Dissertation has been completed and passed by the Reading Committee.
  • The Final Examination is a defense of the Dissertation intended to extend and engage the topic of the Dissertation, intellectual training and background, including issues of pedagogy. It might also be used productively to help the student think about the next step.

How It Is Conducted

  • Prior to the exam, the Dissertation Director picks up the Final Examination warrant from the English Graduate Office.
  • Dissertation Director officiates.
  • Students may bring one note card but no other written materials.
  • At the beginning of the defense, the student is asked to step out of the room while the Committee discusses logistics, how to conduct the defense and their approach to questioning.
  • Students may be asked for clarification or amplification of issues raised in the dissertation, questions about further research and professional plans.
  • At the conclusion of the defense, the student is asked to step out of the room while the committee discusses the student’s performance. Upon arrival at a decision, the committee chair invites the student back into the room to inform the student of the committee’s decision.
  • The Dissertation Director marks the decision and secures signatures from all committee members on the Final Examination warrant.
  • The signed warrant must be returned immediately to the English Graduate Advisor for conveyance of the examination results to the Graduate School through MyGradProgram.