Description: The final examination for the Ph.D. degree is the Defense of Thesis. The Defense consists of two parts. One part is public and the other private. The two parts must be scheduled in a contiguous time block, usually at least three hours in length. In the public part, the student presents a seminar on the thesis that is advertised on campus and is open to the public. Faculty and graduate students in the Gianforte School of Computing typically attend. The student's Ph.D. committee is required to attend. 

The candidate, with oversight from his or her advisor, is responsible for ensuring that the defense is advertised.  Contact the CS Departments' administrative staff to send an e-mail to all CS graduate students and faculty at least one week prior to the defense.  In addition, notification should be sent to The Graduate School at least two weeks in advance.

The private part is held immediately after the public presentation. Typically, this is attended only by the student's graduate committee. The committee will have read the dissertation carefully and will ask the student questions about the dissertation, probe the student's knowledge of his or her dissertation topic, point out errors in the dissertation, congratulate the student on contributions made, and provide helpful comments.

The Defense will be held after the dissertation is deemed ready by the student and advisor. The actual Defense must be scheduled in accordance with The Graduate School rules. The student should give a polished draft of the dissertation to the committee members at least two weeks before the defense is to be held.

Publication Expectations: Each Ph.D. student must submit at least one paper on the dissertation topic to a mainstream conference or journal. Paper(s) will normally be co-authored with the student's advisor and possibly others. Evidence of the submission must be presented at the time of the Defense of Thesis exam. This is a minimal requirement, and the student's advisor may require more. A Ph.D. student will be more employable for an academic or industry position if the student has been involved in numerous publications. It is thus highly recommended that the student and advisor publish intermediate results along the way to the degree. Graduate students should note that this requirement is intended to help them establish their credentials in preparation for future employment.

Timeline: The Defense is expected to be taken within 3 years of passing the Comprehensive exam. The maximum time allowed between the Comprehensive exam and the awarding of the Ph.D. degree is five years. For exceptional students, the dissertation defense may occur as early as two semesters after the Comprehensive exam.

Outcomes: There are four possible outcomes for the Defense:

  • The student passes and can graduate. The dissertation must be submitted to The Graduate School for final acceptance and publication.
  • The student passes conditionally, but must make corrections and modifications to the dissertation as agreed to by the graduate committee at the time of the defense before submitting it to The Graduate School for final acceptance and publication.
  • The student fails, but is given the opportunity to retake the exam. A minimum of six months and a maximum of 12 months must elapse before the exam can be repeated. Note: The Defense can be held at most twice.
  • The student fails and is dropped from the Ph.D. program.

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