PhD

Dissertation Defense Policy

The Defense and its Purpose

Prior to the dissertation defense, the candidate will submit a final draft of the dissertation to the supervisory committee, which the supervisory committee will read and agree is the version of the dissertation that is ready for the final examination. The candidate and the supervisory committee will set a date for the dissertation defense.

The candidate will comply with the Graduate School requirements for scheduling the final examination. These requirements are:

  • Select a final examination time with your supervisory committee and have your Supervisory Committee Chair notify the Ph.D. Program Advisor or the Ph.D. Administrative Assistant of the scheduled time.
  • Complete the online request for final examination at least 3 weeks prior to the examination date.

The Graduate School will then determine if the candidate has met the minimum requirements and, if approved, will wait for either the Ph.D. Program Advisor or the Ph.D. Administrative Assistant to approve the exam. Before approving the exam, the date and time of the exam will be verified with the Committee Chair. Once approved, an email will be sent to the Committee Members that the final examination has been scheduled. An online warrant will be issued, which will be printed by the Ph.D. Program Advisor prior to the examination.

The Ph.D. Program Advisor will give the warrant to the Supervisory Committee Chair. After the exam, the Supervisory Committee Chair returns the form to the Ph.D. Program Advisor or the Ph.D. Program Assistant who records the outcome of the exam with the UW Graduate School.

Internal Review

If the Supervisory Committee consists of an non-UW external faculty member at the time of the Dissertation Proposal Defense, an Internal Reviewer is not required (see Ph.D. Supervisory Committee policy). If an Internal Reviewer is appointed , then at least three months prior to the dissertation defense, the Chair of Supervisory Committee or the Candidate contacts potential Internal Reviewers to identify someone who is available and willing to act as an Internal Reviewer of the dissertation. The Chair of the Ph.D. Program, in consultation with the Chair of the Supervisory Committee, must finalize the Internal Reviewer selection no less than 8 weeks prior to the defense. Eight weeks prior to the defense, the Candidate will give the Internal Reviewer a complete copy of the dissertation that has been reviewed by the other members of the Supervisory Committee at least once and revised based on committee feedback.

The Internal Reviewer’s role is to provide an assurance of the quality of the dissertation and to provide feedback on the dissertation. The Internal Reviewer’s role is not to change the nature of the dissertation as agreed upon in the dissertation proposal defense, but to read and evaluate the dissertation and to provide feedback, as desired by the Candidate, the Chair of the Supervisory Committee, and the Reviewer, based upon the execution of that proposal as explained by the Chair of the Supervisory Committee. The Internal Reviewer must provide feedback to the Candidate and the Chair of the Supervisory Committee no less than 4 weeks prior to the defense. The Internal Reviewer participates as a voting member in the final examination.

The Dissertation Defense

In the dissertation defense, the Candidate makes an oral presentation of his/her dissertation to the Supervisory Committee (see Supervisory Committee Policy) and the public. The Committee, in consultation with the Candidate, will determine the appropriate length of the oral presentation and question-and-answer session.  A typical dissertation defense will take two hours.
The Candidate, assisted by the Chair as necessary, schedules a date, a time, and a room for the defense.  The Candidate submits details, including the date, time and location of the exam, names of their committee members, title of the dissertation, as well as a dissertation abstract,  regarding the defense to the iSchool Web calendar, the Ph.D. Program Advisor, and the Chair of the Ph.D. Program in addition to sending email announcements to relevant faculty, staff, and student lists inviting the public to attend.

Immediately Prior to the start of the examination:

  • The Candidate must be physically present at the exam.
  • The Chair (or at least one Co-Chair), the GSR, and one general committee member must be physically present at the exam.
  • If the Candidate is not physically present, then the exam must be rescheduled. 
  • If the Chair is not physically present, then the exam must be rescheduled. 
  • If the GSR is not physically present at the time of the exam, a substitute GSR may be secured subject to Graduate School rules.  If no GSR can be found, then the exam must be rescheduled.
  • If a general member is not physically present then, the exam should be adjourned and rescheduled to a later time/date.
  • A majority of the Supervisory Committee must be physically present at the exam.  E.g. a Supervisory Committee with the minimum 4 required members (Chair, GSR, and 2 general members) must have the Chair, the GSR, and at least one general member physically present at the exam. A Supervisory Committee with 5 members (Chair, GSR, and 3 general members) must have the Chair, the GSR, and at least one general member physically present at the exam.  The remaining general member may be ‘present’ via the use of audio/visual technology

Once the Exam Starts:

  1. The Supervisory Committee will meet initially in private, with or without the Candidate present.
  2. The Chair announces when the Candidate and the public may join the Committee for the defense.
  3. The Candidate presents the work of the dissertation.
  4. Prior to the defense, the Supervisory Committee will decide on the elements of the defense.  The Chair should inform the candidate of these elements at least one month prior to the defense.  Elements of the defense include: length of candidate presentation; schedule of questioning by the Committee; schedule of questioning by the public; order of questioning, that is, whether the public questions first or members of the Committee question first. 
  5. Finally, the Supervisory Committee reconvenes in private, without the Candidate, for deliberations. The members vote for one of the following:

a. Accept:  The Supervisory Committee passes the dissertation as is, with no revisions required. 

b. Accept with revisions: The Supervisory Committee passes the dissertation contingent on revisions. Approval of the revisions may be delegated by the Supervisory Committee to (1) the Chair alone, (2) the Chair and selected members of the Supervisory Committee, or (3) the entire Supervisory Committee. 

1. The Committee informs the Candidate verbally of the revisions required. 
2. The Chair, in consultation with the Committee, prepares a written description of the required revisions and designates which Committee members must review the revisions.
3. The Chair and the Candidate determine the date by which the revisions must be completed.
4. The Chair distributes the written description to the Candidate and the Committee within 24 hours of the dissertation defense.  A copy of this document is given to Student Services to place in the student’s permanent academic record.
5. The Candidate submits the revisions to the designated Committee members by the deadline.
6. Within two weeks after the revisions are submitted by the Candidate, the Chair and designated Committee members review the revisions and inform the Candidate whether the revisions are accepted or rejected.
7. If rejected, the Committee recommends, as outlined below, to either permit a second defense or to drop the Candidate from the program.
8. If the revisions are not completed successfully within the parameters dictated by the Graduate School (see link to Relevant UW Policy below), another Final Examination may be required within six months.

c. Reject: The Supervisory Committee does not accept the dissertation and/or the defense. In case of rejection, the Committee may recommend either

1. that a second defense be permitted after a period of additional preparation, or
2. that the Candidate be dropped from the Ph.D. program in Information Science at the University of Washington.

**In all cases, a simple majority vote is required. Any members of the Supervisory Committee who do not agree with the majority opinion are encouraged to submit a minority report to the Dean of the Graduate School.

6) The Candidate will comply with the Graduate School requirements for submitting the dissertation once it has been accepted by the committee. Within 60 days of the defense, the Candidate will submit one paper copy to the Graduate School,  one PDF version to the Information School’s Student Services, and one paper copy to each member of the committee.