Dissertation Review & Final Oral Exam (Defense)

The materials on this intranet page provide quick links to key forms and supplemental guidance on exam steps and expectations. Always follow the step-by-step instructions and timeline provided in the Graduate Student Handbook and GSSP’s PhD Degree Completion Steps to meet all exam requirements, and consult your area handbook to understand area-specific expectations and norms.

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The final steps to earn the PhD have three stages, which must proceed in order:

  1. All committee members designated as reviewers read the full manuscript and certify that the PhD candidate can proceed to the final oral exam.
  2. A public dissertation defense followed by a closed-door final oral examination by the committee is required by the graduate school. 
  3. Revisions of the dissertation manuscript, if required, based on feedback from the committee; final formatting work; and deposit of the final dissertation manuscript. 

Structure of the Defense

The Graduate School requires all doctoral students to hold a public presentation of their dissertation projects. You may also invite colleagues, family members, and friends outside of the department. The defense should be scheduled for a two-hour period.

  1. Deliver a 40-45-minute presentation on your project to the audience. Slides with speaker notes (PowerPoint, Google Slides, or similar) are strongly recommended.
  2. Take questions from the audience for 10-15 minutes, ending the public presentation ~55 minutes into the first hour. The examining committee refrains from asking their questions during this time.
  3. During the second hour, all but the candidate and examining committee members are dismissed from the room. The Committee asks additional questions and votes on the defense.

Important: Consult your area handbook for any additional requirements for your area.


  • Committee Submission Workflow - Review examination committee policies and declare or update the examination committee. Submit the semester before you plan to defend when possible.
  • Reviewer’s Report Form - initiate the electronic workflow when you distribute your dissertation manuscript to your committee. You will have the option to attach an electronic copy of your dissertation if desired. Plan to initiate this workflow about three weeks before the defense and final oral exam when possible, but at least one week in advance.
  • Scheduling forms for GSSP and department - see Scheduling, below.
  • Final Oral Examination Results form - the link to initiate this form for your committee chair will be emailed to you after you have scheduled your oral exam and been cleared by GSSP to proceed. 


  1. Check the Department of Psychology calendar to identify potential scheduling conflicts with departmental programming and meetings.
  2. Consider using Doodle or a similar scheduling tool to identify times in common with your committee members for the oral final exam. 
  3. At least two weeks before your exam:
    • Contact your Area Support Specialist and tell them:
      • The date and time of your oral defense
      • The names and emails of your committee members
      • The name of the faculty member who is serving as the chair of your committee
      • The modality of your defense (in-person, hybrid, or remote)
      • Location of your defense:
        • Note: In most cases, your area support person will schedule your defense in N219. If you’d prefer your defense to be scheduled in N391, N491 (Paterson-Sunnette Room), or N639, please let them know when contacting them.
  4. Complete the Public Dissertation Defense Announcement Form 
    • Note: All fields with an asterisk (*) are required. This includes the…
      • title of your thesis
      • abstract of your thesis
      • names of your advisor(s)
    • After the form is submitted, an announcement regarding your defense will be sent to the full department before your oral exam. A reminder will be sent to the full department the day before your oral exam.
  5. At least one week before your exam:
    1. Schedule your oral exam with GSSP. This is separate, and in addition to, departmental scheduling.


  • All committee members designated as reviewers must read your dissertation and certify that it is ready for oral defense. This is communicated by the Reviewers’ Report Form. You will receive email notifications communicating the results. 
  • Committee chairs communicate oral exam results verbally at the end of the exam and report the results using an electronic form. You must initiate this form using the link provided in GSSP’s scheduling confirmation email. You will receive confirmation emails from GSSP when the results form has been received and processed.
Pat Frazier
Director of Graduate Studies (DGS)
N571 EltH | 625-6863
Laura Luepke
Associate Director of Graduate Studies (ADGS)
S243 EltH | 626-3483
Hope Savaria
Graduate Program Support & Event Specialist (GPSES)
S244 EltH | 625-0377
Heidi Wolff
Curriculum and Graduate Services Specialist (CGSS)
S258 EltH | 624-5002
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