Dissertation Defense

Checklist for Doctoral Dissertation Defense

  • Schedule exam during school semester; be sure to register.
  • File the Intention to Receive Degree Form as required through DukeHub.


May Degree: January 25
September Degree: July 1
December Degree: November 1
  • When applying the Intent Form, check to make sure committee members up to date.  If not, notify DGSA with correction. After filing this form you may soon be contacted by someone at the graduate school to schedule the various things that have to take place before you defend.
  • Clear date and time with all members of your committee, the notify DGSA to reserve a room for the exam.
  • Be sure to notify the DGSA if a committee member will be out of town during the exam so they can get permission to participate remotely and get the instructions to the committee member.
  • Only 1 committee member can participate remotely unless special permission is given by the DGS and Graduate School Dean.
  • Once you know your Dissertation title, send it to the DGSA so they can send the departmental announcement to the Graduate School.
  • Proofread your dissertation and have someone else do so before handing it to your committee.
  • Your final copy of the dissertation should be distributed to your committee 1 month in advance.
  • Once the Chair of your committee has read your dissertation and approves it ready to defend, they must send an announcement to the graduate school (gradacademics@duke.edu), cc DGSA, stating that they have read it and is ready for defending.
  • Format your dissertation using the Graduate School dissertation template. You will be contacted by the Graduate School to schedule a format check.
  • ALL dissertations are submitted electronically. Before submitting the dissertation, be sure to review all information/webpages.
  • Pick up Final Exam Card from the Graduate School and bring it to the defense.
  • Come to exam with enough sleep and earn a clear pass.
  • Have committee sign Exam Card, Dissertation and Abstract pages. The DGS must sign the Exam Card. Unless the DGS is on the committee, leave the Exam Card with the DGSA to get their signature. 
  • The DGSA will need a copy of each of these documents before it goes back to the Graduate School.
  • Make corrections and submit 3 new dissertation copies and abstracts.
  • Pay for microfilming, binding, & (optional) copyrighting.

NOTE: The DGSA only takes care of scheduling a room for the exam and sending the departmental announcement of the defense. Everything else is handled through the Graduate School.

Please also see the Graduate School's Summary of Steps for Electronic Submission of Thesis and Dissertation.

Obtain and follow the technical rules for dissertation form provided by the Graduate School, otherwise the dissertation may have to be re-edited or reprinted. Refer to the "Guide for the Preparation of Theses and Dissertations". For more specific aspects of form and style, the student is advised to use A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations by Kate L. Turabian, or other approved manuals of style. A satisfactory dissertation must utilize proper citational practices throughout.

Note: All dissertations must be submitted electronically

Your dissertation committee will usually be the same faculty members who served on your Portfolio Examination committee. With the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS), you may have two faculty members as co-directors in lieu of a second reader. In addition, a penultimate draft of the dissertation should be sent to the other three (or four) readers well in advance of the defense in order to anticipate any problems and take into account relevant criticisms in preparing the final version of the dissertation. You should check with the chair of your committee to see how far in advance the complete draft should be sent before the exam. You should also bear in mind the need for time for revisions of the thesis between the defense date and the deadline for submission of the finalized thesis in order to graduate on time.

Schedule the Dissertation Workshop within one semester of the Portfolio Exam. Otherwise, you risk running out of funding, and running out of time to defend your dissertation.

Graduate School Requirement: The doctoral dissertation should normally be submitted and accepted within two calendar years after the preliminary examination is passed.

The final composition of your doctoral committee should be given to the DGSA at least one month before the defense date.

Your Defense must be passed within 4 years of the date of your Portfolio Examination. Should the dissertation not be submitted in a timely manner, the candidate may, with the approval of the committee and the Director of Graduate Studies, petition the Dean of the Graduate School for an extension of up to one year. If this extension is granted and the dissertation is not submitted and accepted by the new deadline, the student may be dropped from candidacy. Students dropped from candidacy must then pass a second Portfolio (Preliminary) Examination to be reinstated as candidates for the degree. In such cases, the new time limit for submitting the dissertation will be determined by the dean of the Graduate School in consultation with the candidate's committee.

In order to defend your dissertation and graduate, after the doctoral committee has been approved you need to log into your DukeHub record and complete the "Intention to Receive Degree."  There you will see the deadlines for final submission of the dissertation. Please see the following Graduate School website for the deadlines for final submission of the dissertation, and for the filing of the "Intention to Receive Degree."