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Grad Guide – Academics – Defense

Early Steps

Sign up with the Graduate Secretary one semester prior to your defense date, so a preliminary review of your progress can be made and check the graduate school’s deadlines for filing the degree application, first submission of your dissertation, etc.

Scheduling the Defense

Since finding a time that you and all of your committee members are able to meet can be difficult, you should begin the process of scheduling your defense well before the date you actually expect to defend. You may need to be flexible, and you may need to be persistent if you find a committee member unresponsive. When trying to find a date, keep in mind that the graduate school requires that the defense should be no more than six months before the degree award. Also note that between the oral examination and the date of the degree there must be at least two terms. The term the oral examination is passed is counted, if the examination occurs before the midpoint of the term.
Early in the semester in which your defense is scheduled, you should email everyone on your committee as well as the Graduate Secretary. Provide your committee members and the Graduate Secretary the title of your dissertation and check your committee members’ availability. It is not uncommon for someone to be on sabbatical or have some other excuse for not being able to attend your defense. If this happens, you may need to find someone else to serve on your committee in their place. The candidate and the supervisory committee chair or co-chair must be physically present together at the same location. With approval of the entire committee, other members may attend the defense remotely, using modern communication technology.

Preparation for the Defense

It is strongly recommended that you give a good, readable draft of your dissertation to all committee members at least three weeks before your final defense.
It is your responsibility to make arrangements with each committee member for the date and time of your defense. You could ask for cell phone numbers from committee members as well as some possible substitutes in case some committee member can not attend your defense due to sudden, unfortunate situations.
Room reservations should be made at the Front Desk. You should reserve two consecutive periods, one for your presentation (about 40-50 minutes) and another for questions and discussions among committee members. On the day of defense, you should make sure the technological device for your presentation works. If you are not confident enough you can ask people to help you.
Once the Graduate Secretary receives the title of your dissertation, along with the date and time of your defense, all paperwork will be prepared. It is your responsibility to remind the committee members close to the time of your final defense.
Prior to your defense, you should ask your advisor to pick up from the Graduate Secretary the forms which must be signed at the defense. These include the UF Publishing Agreement Form (to be signed by you and the committee chair), while the entire supervisory committee signs the ETD Signature Page and the Final Examination Report. After your examination your advisor should return the entire contents of this folder to the GS, who will check for errors, and then make copies for departmental records.
About a week before you defend, you should send an email to your committee to remind them that your defense is coming, and you might even want to send a day-before or day-of reminder.

A Typical Defense

You should discuss the details of your defense with your advisor, but many people have followed the standard procedure: The first part is a talk of 40 to 50 minutes where you highlight the main results of your dissertation. Then there is a short session for the general audience to ask you a few questions. After that everybody is asked to leave the classroom except you and the committee. The committee will ask you further questions to evaluate the quality of your work. The fourth step is you are excused from the room for the committee to have further discussions on your thesis. If they agree that you pass the defense they will sign the paper work. During this time you should go to a designated area in case the committee may ask you back for further questions and to be available for the committee’s congratualations when you pass.