2023-2024 Graduate Bulletin

Master's Thesis Oral Defense

The candidate’s oral defense committee conducts the oral defense of the master’s thesis. The defense must be held at least three weeks before the end of the quarter in which the degree is to be granted.

All members of the defense committee must receive a copy of the candidate’s thesis at least two weeks prior to the scheduled defense.

The defense is expected to be held with the student and committee members being present in person.  However, if circumstances make it impossible for the student and/or committee members to be physically present, a defense with the student and/or faculty participating by conference call, webcast or other medium is allowed if agreed upon by the student, the thesis director and committee members. If a disagreement arises with the format of the defense, the Senior Vice Provost or their designee will work with student, chair and committee members to resolve the matter.

Scheduling of the Oral Defense

Prior to scheduling the defense, the student and thesis director must have established the candidate’s oral defense committee in compliance with the associated policies and have submitted the Thesis/Dissertation Oral Defense Committee Recommendation form (found on the OGE website) to the Office of Graduate Education for review.  

The student must make arrangements for the date and time of the oral defense with the thesis director, committee, and oral defense committee chair.  Students must submit a completed Schedule of Oral Defense form (found on the OGE website) to the Office of Graduate Education and their academic program no later than four weeks prior to the date of the defense.

Conducting the Defense

The oral defense committee chair will preside over and manage the defense process. The chair is responsible for making certain that the defense is conducted in a professional manner and that the student has a fair opportunity to defend the thesis. The chair is expected to provide opportunities for each voting member of the oral defense committee to participate in the defense and to ensure that the examination is of high quality while remaining within proper limits of inquiry. Interested faculty members, and in accordance with departmental policy, currently enrolled graduate students also may attend the oral defense. Before or after the oral defense committee has conducted the essential examination of the candidate, questions may be asked by others present if pertinent and appropriate as determined by the Oral Defense Committee Chair and common practice in the discipline.

When the defense is completed, the chair will request that the candidate and all other persons not on the defense committee leave the room and will call for a motion to pass or fail the candidate. A recommendation to pass can have no more than one negative vote from members of the committee. If the motion is a recommendation to pass, the committee must then agree on the conditions of the recommendation as follows:

  • Pass with no revisions means that only grammatical, labeling or numbering changes are required. Only a limited number of sentence additions or deletions should be necessary.
  • Pass with minor revisions indicates that the candidate will be required to reorganize portions of the manuscript and change some of the content.
  • Pass with major revisions means that a complete chapter or chapters must be rewritten, additional tables are required and interpreted, or the general format must be changed. Responsibility for seeing that needed revisions are made rests with the thesis director, but committee members also may require their approval before final submission.
  • Fail indicates that the thesis content is not of acceptable quality or that the candidate cannot defend the research. In most cases, failing the defense results in the rejection of the student’s thesis and a new or related study usually will need to be undertaken.

A candidate who fails the oral defense may petition the department/program chair for a maximum of one re-defense. The petition should include the reason for the request and committee composition.  The Chair of the program will solicit input from the committee before rendering a decision.  In the case the Chair is a member of the committee the petition goes to the Dean or their designee.  If granted, the re-defense must be scheduled through the Office of Graduate Education and must occur within normal timelines.

The Result of Oral Defense form must be signed by all committee members and returned immediately to the Office of Graduate Education.  The form cannot be submitted by the student. 

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