The Defense and Graduate School Review

The Defense

Scheduling and Notification

You must defend your research. Because the final, "completed" thesis/dissertation must be submitted to the Graduate School by the established deadlines, the defense should be scheduled to allow time to make final corrections to the manuscript before submitting it for Graduate School review. Consider the following timeline when planning the defense:

  • The defense should be scheduled with sufficient time before the draft submission deadline for you to make final corrections after the defense. You should work with your committee chair on a timeline that includes a defense date as early as possible in the semester in which you plan on finishing.
  • At least two weeks before the defense, you should submit a close-to-final draft of the entire manuscript to all committee members. The draft should be complete and in acceptable format.
  • Within one week, the committee should return the draft to the committee chair with written criticisms and statement of conditional approval. In some cases the committee will meet directly with you as a group or individually to go over comments with you.
  • If the committee recommends substantial changes, the chair will typically meet with you to decide on the best plan of action.
  • The committee chair sends to the following people an invitation (email is preferred) to the defense, with the abstract included : faculty members interested in the topic (minimally all faculty in the department), the department chair, the program coordinator, the dean of the college, the dean of the graduate school, and other graduate students in the department or program. This notification should be sent at least four working days before the defense.
  • Following a successful defense and IF you plan to get copies of your manuscript bound, the committee members and the department chair should sign the signature page. In this circumstance, make sure you have taken the appropriate number of signature pages on good paper (archival quality bond) with you to your defense; that is the best time to get all signatures. Faculty can be hard to get in touch with over semester breaks, especially in the summer. Signatures should be in blue or black ink only.
  • If the defense is not successful, you will be told by the committee chair specifics about the work to be done before another defense is attempted.

Graduate School Review and Approval

Once you have successfully defended, you will work with the Graduate School to complete the process.

  1. When all corrections are made after the defense, your committee chair must send an email to, copying you and all committee members, along with the department chairperson, and include:
  2. submit an electronic copy (PDF format) of the full, corrected manuscript to the Graduate School (at) by the draft deadline. The email should verify that your thesis was approved by all committee members; should specify the style format used; and the email should
  3. Provide a cover sheet with your contact information and specific information on the style manual consulted for the manuscript: APA, MLA, Turabian, Chicago, etc. If you are using the guidelines for a specific journal or publisher, please provide copies of the guidelines for authors.
  4. The Graduate School thesis/dissertation reader reads the document, notes any corrections to be made, and returns the manuscript with corrections noted. The Graduate School will contact you to pick up the documents for revision. This can take 10-15 days depending on the number submitted each term and where your document is in the order received.
  5. Once any required corrections have been made, return both the original submission and the corrected manuscript to the Graduate School. If the manuscript is in good form, the Graduate School notifies you to make final copies (if desired) and to prepare the PDF document for the online archive. If not, you will be provided with information on what needs further correction.
  6. If you have made all corrections and there are no further changes needed, you will be told that you are "cleared for binding." Once you are cleared for binding, to finish the process and receive the Dean's signature, the following must be submitted to the Graduate School:
    • A signed release form (original signature on paper, then scanned and sent to, authorizing the library and the University to share your document through the online library (NC Docks).
    • A completed indexing form (emailed to

Thesis Binding: This is not required, but you or your committee may wish to get bound copies of your manuscript. Instructions for binding options are available HERE. Please note that bound copies should have original, "wet" signatures on the signature page of the front matter. (No signatures are required on electronic-only copies posted to NC Docks.)

*A "Completed Thesis" includes the final, edited copy ready for publication; printed copies ready for binding (if applicable); and, binding/shipping payment (if applicable).

Graduation and Commencement

When you have successfully completed all program requirements—including the dissertation or thesis—you are eligible for graduation. All graduate students must apply for graduation during the first month of the semester in which they intend to complete program requirements. The application is online through your appalnet account.

You must apply to graduate in order to trigger the checkout process, even if you are not planning on attending the ceremony.

There are two commencement ceremonies: May and December. Summer and Fall graduates are recognized at the December ceremony, Spring graduates are recognized in May. Each graduate student will be introduced on stage individually. Attendance at the commencement ceremony is desirable but not required. You can purchase the commencement regalia—cap, gown, and master's or doctoral hood, or specialist scarf—through the University Bookstore.