Final dissertation and thesis defense


Once a computer science doctoral student has completed their thesis, they may proceed to step #8 on the graduation checklist and assign their doctoral examination committee. Members should be updated to reflect who will serve as committee chair and who will serve in a reviewing capacity. Students should remember that an advisor cannot be the chair of the Final Defense Committee. 

The final oral examination committees must consist of at least four qualified individuals to include:

  • At least three members (including the advisor) must be from your major field; in almost all cases, this will be someone whose home department is Computer Science & Engineering.
  • At least one member must represent a field outside the major.

Things to consider:

  • You must select a committee chair, the faculty advisor can not serve as chair.
  • If you have declared a minor, at least one member must represent the minor field. This counts for the outside the major representative.
  • Members cannot satisfy the requirement with respect to more than one field.

All members of the committees and the candidate must participate live either in-person or remotely, the presentation can not be recorded and viewed later by one or more committee members. The final oral examination committee is not required to include the same members who served on the prelim oral committee.

Thesis reviewers for final oral examination

  • A minimum of three major field reviewers and one minor/outside reviewer are required. In the case of multiple minors, there must be a reviewer for each minor.  
  • Advisor(s) must serve as reviewers.
  • Every designated reviewer on the doctoral dissertation reviewer’s report must certify that the dissertation is ready for defense before the doctoral final oral examination may take place.


  • Must represent the major on the final oral committees.
  • The chair of the doctoral final oral examination committee may not be the candidate’s advisor.

Co-advisor (if any)

  • May represent the major or the minor/outside field on the preliminary oral and final oral committees.
  • May serve as chair for the preliminary oral examination.
  • The chair of the doctoral final oral examination committee may not be the candidate’s co-advisor.

Copies of a student's thesis should be given to all members of the committee. It is important to note that all members of a student's committee read his or her thesis; although only those designated as thesis reviewers sign the form indicating that the thesis is ready for defense. Student's must notify their advisor and the other members of the committee at least two weeks in advance that the thesis will be delivered on a particular date. All members of the examining committee must then have at least two weeks to read the thesis after it has been delivered. The reviewers must decide unanimously that the thesis is ready for defense.  Upon completion of the review, designated committee members complete the Reviewer's Report form to certify that a student is ready for defense. All Reviewer's Report forms should be submitted to the Graduate Student Services and Progress Office at minimum one week before the date of a student's Final Oral Examination. 

Once a student's thesis is complete with all requested changes made, the thesis along with a cover page signed by the student and advisor must be submitted to GSSP. In signing the cover page, the advisor is certifying that all requested changes have been made. Students will then be requested to submit a thesis online. The Computer Science and Engineering department also requests that students submit one bound copy of the final thesis to the department. Directions for thesis submission along with thesis formatting instructions can be found here.

Final Oral Examination Procedure

Students are responsible for scheduling their thesis defense with the Graduate Student Services and Progress office via the Final Oral Examination Scheduling system at least one week prior to their defense. The student's thesis must be reviewed by his or her committee and the Thesis Reviewer Report form must be turned in prior to the student's defense.  The Graduate Student Services and Progress office will send a "Final Oral Examination Report Doctoral Degree" form to the chair of the Final Examination Committee, please note that this will not be a student's advisor. Students should verify that this form had been received by the Committee Chair.

The Department of Computer Science and Engineering requires all Ph.D. students to hold their final thesis defense within ninety days of obtaining all committee member signatures on the " Reviewers Report on the Ph.D. Thesis" form which states that the thesis is ready for defense. This form is available in the Graduation Packet available for download at the Graduate School webpage.   Those who fail to take their thesis defense due to scheduling conflicts must resubmit this form to restart the 90-day clock.

To be awarded the degree students must receive no more than one dissenting vote from the total examining committee. Students must make all the necessary changes in the text of the thesis before it is bound. Students must observe all requirements, including submitting one unbound copy of the thesis with the signature of an advisor to the Graduate Student Services and Progress Office, before a degree can be awarded.

Graduate Education policy requires that all thesis defense presentations for doctoral candidates be made open to the public. To ensure transparency, the Computer Science Department requires doctoral candidates to make their full dissertation available to the public prior to the final oral defense. The availability of this copy, along with the time and place of your thesis defense must be communicated to for dissemination through electronic mail to current graduate faculty and students, at least one week prior to your defense date. This announcement must contain a one-page descriptive abstract of the thesis to be defended, the name of the thesis advisor, the names of any co-advisors, and the URL of your thesis. To schedule the Final Oral Examination, the student must notify the Graduate school through the online system. The Computer Science front desk staff can assist with reserving a room if needed. to notify the faculty, peers and the general public of the Thesis Defense.    

After passing the final oral exam, students must turn in the signed  Thesis Defense Report Form to the GSSP office within 24 hours. Upon your departure, please remember to submit to the department a change of address, the name of your first employer (after graduation) and return keys you have for your office and/or the labs.