Final Examination (Defense)

When the dissertation has been completed, the student should submit an unbound copy to each member of the research committee as the initial step in scheduling the defense of the dissertation. All members of the research committee should read the dissertation in its entirety before attending the defense. At this stage both the student and the faculty members must extend certain courtesies to each other. It is the responsibility of the student to give faculty members sufficient time to read the dissertation without making unreasonable requests of them based upon University Graduate School time limitations, immediate job possibilities, contract renewal, or some other reason. Similarly, a faculty member should not keep a student's work for inordinate periods of time because of the press of other duties. Once a faculty member assumes membership on a research committee, it becomes another part of his or her teaching assignment, comparable to conducting regularly scheduled classes.

After the committee members have read the dissertation, there should be direct communication (either in writing or orally) between the research committee chairperson and the other committee members about its readiness for defense. Readiness for defense, however, is not tantamount to acceptance of the dissertation; it means that the committee is ready to make a decision. The decision to hold a doctoral defense, moreover, is not entirely up to the research committee. If a student insists upon the right to a defense before the committee believes the dissertation is ready, that student does have the right to due process (i.e., to an oral defense) but exercises it at some risk.

If the decision to proceed with the defense of the dissertation is made against the judgment of one or more members of the committee, or if one or more members of the committee disapprove of parts of or the entire dissertation, the committee member(s) should not resign from the committee in order to avoid frustration or collegial confrontation. The University Graduate School urges that such committee members, after ample communication with both the student and the chairperson, remain on the committee and thus prevent the nomination of a committee that might eventually accept what could be unsatisfactory work. Such a committee member could agree that a dissertation is ready for defense but should not be passed (or should not be passed without substantial modification). There will, of course, be situations in which the membership of research committees should or must be changed (e.g., turnover of faculty), but changes because of modifications in the dissertation topic or some equally plausible reason should be made early in the writing of the dissertation.

Thirty days prior to the scheduled defense of the dissertation, the candidate must submit to the University Graduate School a one-page announcement of the final examination. This announcement must follow a format available in the Guide to the Preparation of Theses and Dissertations (“The Format Guide”) - for use by students admitted to IU Graduate School
Programs located at IUPUI. The Format Guide is available at the  IUPUI Graduate Office website. The announcement contains, among other things, a summary of the dissertation (not less than 150 words) which is informative and contains a brief statement of the principal results and conclusions.

Once the final examination has been scheduled, the announced time and place of the defense must not be changed without the approval of the dean. Any member of the graduate faculty who wishes to attend the final examination is encouraged to do so; it is requested, however, that the faculty member notify the chairperson of the research committee in advance so that space can be arranged. With the approval of the research committee and the consent of the candidate, other graduate students may attend the defense of the dissertation; normally such students will act as observers, not as participants.

At the end of the oral examination, the research committee must vote on the outcome of the examination. Four options are available to the committee: (1) pass, (2) conditional pass, (3) deferred decision, and (4) failure. If the decision to pass is unanimous, the dissertation is approved once it is received by the University Graduate School along with an acceptance page signed by the members of the research committee. If the decision is not unanimous, majority and minority reports should be submitted to the dean who, within 10 working days, will investigate and consult with the research committee. Upon completion of the dean's investigation and consultation, another meeting of the research committee will be held, and if a majority votes to pass, the dissertation is approved when it is received by the University Graduate School with an acceptance page signed by a majority of the members of the research committee.

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