Checklist for Defending Your Doctoral Dissertation

  1. Schedule exam during school semester; be sure to register.
  2. File the Defense Announce Form as required.
  3. Clear date and time with all members of your committee.
  4. Provide committee with reading copies at least 3 weeks in advance.
  5. Electronic dissertation must be submitted to UMI/ProQuest at least two weeks before the scheduled date of the student’s exam.
  6. Check with the Administrative Secretary that the Final Exam Form has been to the Graduate School a week ahead.
  7. Schedule an appointment to receive your Exam Card. IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not schedule an appointment until you have submitted your dissertation to UMI/Proquest or master’s thesis to the Graduate School and received an email informing you that your dissertation or thesis has been received and reviewed.
  8. Have committee sign Exam Card, Dissertation, and Abstracts.
  9. Have your adviser return the signed Exam Form to the DGS Office.
  10. Make corrections requested by the examining committee and formatting changes requested by the Graduate School to the electronic dissertation. You will receive an e-mail when your dissertation has been accepted.
  11. Pay for microfilming, binding, and (optional) copyrighting

Basic requirements for preparing a Duke dissertation (e.g., quality of paper, format, binding, etc.) are prescribed in the Guide for the Preparation of Theses and Dissertations available in the Graduate School Office. For specific aspects of form and style, students are advised to use Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. Special problems with regard to preparation of dissertations should be taken up with the Assistant Dean for Graduate Programs. Your dissertationn will be filed online.

Most dissertation advisers will want to see chapters as they are drafted. Chapters revised after the advisers’ reading should be submitted to other members of the committee. The process of commentary and feedback is different with each dissertation, and students should work with their advisers, their committees and, if necessary, with the DGS, to be sure they are getting the counsel they need.

All members of the dissertation committee should have copies of the finished dissertation (complete with table of contents, full citations, page numbers, bibliography and the works) at least three weeks before the final exam. If several members agree to share a copy, that is permissible, but remember that it is important to get a thesis into the committee’s hands and to allow committee members some time to go over it carefully. Given their other obligations, the sooner these persons have access to a student’s work, the more he/she can expect to get back in the way of useful comments.

The dissertation must be submitted to the Graduate School office at least seven days before the scheduled final exam. It should be accompanied by a 350 word abstract (no longer) which will later be sent with the dissertation for microfilming and will be printed in Dissertation Abstracts International.

Before, or at the start of, the semester in which you intend to defend the completed dissertation, you must file with the Graduate School an “Intention to Receive Degree” form, available from the DGS Office. This form, giving the exact title of the dissertation, must be approved by the DGS and the Chair of the dissertation committee. Note that it must be turned in one month before the dissertation is to be defended, and no later than January 25 preceding the May commencement, July 1 for a September degree, and November 1 for a December degree. If you plan to finish in a specific semester, must be sure to file this form. If plans change and you are unable to finish, simply complete the same form again for the subsequent semester.

The DGS Office is required to submit a completed “Final Exam for the Ph.D.” form to the Graduate School Office at least a full week before the scheduled exam. (This notice includes the student’s name, dissertation title and the names of the committee members, as well as the time, place and date of the exam, as agreed upon by the student, the primary adviser, and the committee.) At the same time, a copy of this notice must go out to each committee member to confirm the time and place in writing. Students should check with the Administrative Secretary to the Graduate Program to be sure this has been done.

After this exam form has been received by the Graduate School and the form of the completed dissertation has been approved by the Assistant Dean, the Graduate School will issue a “Final Exam Certificate” to the Office of the DGS. A candidate should remind the Chair of the committee that he or she is responsible for picking up this certificate before the exam and returning it to the DGS Office with committee signatures immediately after the exam.

The final exam is normally administered by all members of the supervising committee (at least four). Successful completion of the final exam requires at least four affirmative votes. The final oral exam shall be primarily on the dissertation. However, questions may be asked in the candidate’s major field. Except in unusual circumstances approved by the Dean, a final exam will not be scheduled when the university is not in session.

A student who fails the final exam may be allowed to take it a second time, but no earlier than six months from the date of the first exam. Permission to take the second exam must be obtained from the professor who directed the dissertation and from the Dean of the Graduate School. Failure to pass the second exam renders the student ineligible to continue work for the Ph.D. degree at Duke University.

Revising and Correcting the Dissertation

The committee may well accept the dissertation on the understanding that the student will make minor revisions and corrections which will be seen and approved by his or her adviser before the dissertation is deposited with the Graduate School. In that case they will sign the exam certificate and the abstract sheets and dissertation signature pages. The student will then have up to 30 days after the exam to make the requested changes and improvements. (Note that this 30 day period for corrections cannot be granted when there are fewer than 30 days left in the semester. In such cases you must check with the Graduate School to determine the deadline for submitting the completed dissertation.)

Depositing the Dissertation

After passing the final exam and making any necessary corrections and improvements, a student brings to the Graduate School Office the original and first two copies (three sets in all) of the finished dissertation, with 3 abstracts signed by the committee. At this time he or she will be required to sign a microfilming agreement and to pay a fee to cover microfilming costs. Duke dissertations are published in Dissertation Abstracts International on microfilm by University Microfilms, Ann Arbor, Michigan. At this time you will also be required to pay for binding to have the original and two copies bound in black covers with gold lettering on the spine. The original and one copy go on file in Perkins library; the other copy goes to your dissertation adviser. (You may get additional copies bound through the Duke Bookstore in the Bryan Center.) At this time you may also pay to copyright your dissertation. This is optional but recommended.

On a card supplied by the DGS office and left with them for forwarding, each candidate should notify the College Art Association office (1) when the topic of his dissertation is approved; (2) if the topic is changed; and (3) when the dissertation is accepted. This information will be published annually by the CAA in the June issue of the Art Bulletin.