The Final Semester Before Graduation

In the semester when the Dissertation is to be completed there are important application deadlines that must be met. Please refer to the Graduation Dates and Deadlines and the Thesis and Dissertation Formatting instructions for more information, both available from the Graduate School.

The candidate must submit an Application for Graduation in PAWS early in the semester in which graduation is anticipated. After reviewing the candidate’s records to determine eligibility, the Graduate School will forward the approved application to the Biological Sciences Graduate Program Director.

Once a candidate’s defense date has been set, the Graduate Program Assistant returns the application to the Graduate School. By the week before the defense, the Graduate School sends a Warrant for the final oral examination/defense of the Dissertation to the Graduate Program Assistant. On the day of the defense, the candidate must bring this Warrant for the Ph.D. Advisory Committee to sign. The completed Warrant must be returned to the Graduate School within ten (10) working days of the defense.

Final Oral Examination

The final oral examination is a public defense of the Dissertation but may also cover the general fields of the primary and secondary areas of study. The examination may not be taken until all other degree requirements are satisfied. The date of the defense must be posted publicly one week prior to the defense. A majority of the Ph.D. Advisory Committee must approve the Dissertation in order for the student to pass.

The major professor must approve the dissertation before it is presented to the rest of the Ph.D. Advisory Committee. Students should provide final dissertation copies to all Committee members at least two (2) weeks in advance of the defense to allow sufficient time for review.

The final oral examination must be taken within five (5) years after passing the Preliminary Examination. Candidates who exceed this time limit may be required to retake the Preliminary Examination and be admitted to candidacy a second time. All components of the Ph.D. program must be completed within ten (10) years of matriculation.


By signing the final examination Warrant, the candidate’s Ph.D. Advisory Committee makes a recommendation to the Dean of the Graduate School concerning the merit and acceptability of the Dissertation.

The Graduate School further reviews the Dissertation to ensure that all specifications regarding style and format have been met. Dissertation format requirements are found at the Thesis and Dissertation Formatting website. The Graduate School holds a workshop on formatting and graduation requirements every semester. The successful Ph.D. candidate is one who has met all requirements and specifications of the degree program. Attendance at graduation ceremonies is optional, but students are urged to attend. On the platform, each candidate and advisor are presented to the Dean of the Graduate School and the Chancellor and hooded at the platform by his/her major professor or proxy. Dates for ordering graduation attire are set by the Office of the Secretary of the University.