The Defense and Graduate School Review

The Defense

Scheduling and Notification

You must defend your research. Because the final, "completed thesis" must be submitted to the Graduate School by the established deadlines (approximately seven calendar days before commencement), the defense should be scheduled to allow time to make final corrections to the manuscript before submitting it for Graduate School review. Note: The thesis defense should be completed at least one month before the last regular class day.

Consider the following timeline when planning the defense:

  • 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 defense should be scheduled with sufficient time before the submission deadline for you to make final corrections after the defense. You should work with your committee chair on a timeline including a defense date as early as possible in the semester in which you plan on finishing.
  • The committee chair sends to the following a memorandum of invitation to the defense, with the abstract included (email is preferred): 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 your successful defense, the committee and the department chair sign signature pages for the copies to be bound; you are required to produce a minimum of two bound copies: one for the library and one for the academic department. You can order more; the binding process is not expensive, and you may wish to give copies to your mentors and family members. Remember to order one for yourself as well!
  • You should take 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. Ask your committee chair to arrange for the signatures in ink. Provide a pen to use that has good quality dark ink (blue or black).
  • Note: Each member must sign; the Graduate School will not accept proxy signatures.
  • If a 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, take the corrected draft on plain paper (single sided please) and original signed signature pages to the Graduate School by the draft deadline.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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:
  • Any copies for binding should be provided in a separate manila envelope with your name, department, and degree written on the outside.
  • Receipts for the binding costs.
  • A PDF of the complete document including all pages should be emailed or brought in on a removal drive. Note: the signature page should be UNsigned. This will be the document that is published through the online library.
  • A signed release form (original signature on paper), authorizing the library and the University to share your document through the online library.
  • A completed indexing form (MS word, emailed).
  • A routing form describing how to distribute any copies other than the department copies.
You will pay for binding the copies. Simply go to the Student Accounts office and tell the staff person that you need to pay for binding (they will need to know the number of copies). The cost (as of March 2014) is $9.00 per copy. Note: The Student Accounts office is right next door to the Graduate School, but it closes at 4 PM in order to balance out accounts each day. When the items required for a "completed thesis"* are  submitted by the final "completed thesis" deadline, the Graduate School will notify the Records Staff to enter the dissertation or thesis title on your transcript and change your grade for all thesis or dissertation credit to "S." When the student's department receives the bound copies from the bindery, the department will process them in the manner you specify on the routing form.


*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.