Thesis Defense for Doctoral Students
Ph.D. Thesis Defense Guidebook
(Last Updated April 2012)
The Mechanical Engineering doctoral degree requires depth of knowledge in the dissertation/research area as well as breadth of knowledge across the Mechanical Engineering curriculum. Before completion of the doctoral degree, students must have their dissertation accepted for defense by the student's committee. They must then pass a dissertation defense, which is a final examination on the dissertation and related topics. In the defense, the student is expected to clearly and concisely explain their research and discuss how it relates to other research in the field. This is an opportunity for recognition of completed doctoral work. It is also an opportunity for discussion and formal evaluation of the dissertation.
Preparing for the Defense
The student should first submit their dissertation for review by the committee and should allow at least 3 weeks for review. Prior to the defense, the student should speak with all members of the committee to assess their areas of interest and concerns. This will help to anticipate any questions that will be asked. At the defense bring a copy of the dissertation for reference. The student should coordinate scheduling the examination with the committee, and should schedule the examination for two hours.
The following guidelines are provided for the doctoral dissertation defense:
- The student must be registered as full time, regular degree-seeking students at CU-Boulder, for a minimum of 5 dissertation hours during the semester in which they pass the examination.
- Students must notify the Graduate School of their final oral examination at least two weeks before their scheduled examination date. The examination must be scheduled not later than the posted deadline for the semester in which the degree is to be conferred.
- This examination is wholly oral, and open to the public for the first portion of the examination.
- The examination is conducted by a committee appointed by the chair of the major department and approved by the Dean of the Graduate School, which consists of at least five persons, one of whom must be from outside the student's major department. Three of the members must be CU-Boulder Graduate Faculty. Three of the members must be ME faculty. The chair and outside member of the committee must have regular or tenured Graduate Faculty appointments. The other committee members must have either regular or special Graduate Faculty appointments. More than one dissenting vote disqualifies the candidate in the final examination. The committee chair and a majority of the committee must be present on the Boulder campus for the examination.
- A student who fails the examination may attempt it once more after a period of time determined by the examining committee.
- Students must prepare a professional oral presentation that covers what was written in their proposal. This presentation should generally be 45 minutes in length. This presentation shall be delivered at the final examination to the examination committee. The oral presentation portion of the examination is open to all students and faculty. Questions are entertained at the end of the presentation.
- The final part of the examination is closed to only the student and the examination committee. During this portion, questions are entertained that cover the field of concentration and related fields.
Recommendations for During the Defense
Stay calm and listen carefully. The examination may at times be more like a conversation. You will be asked questions and you may also ask some questions. There will probably be conversations among committee members. Committee members may even disagree with you or challenge your ideas. It is a good idea to pause to collect your thoughts if you are unsure of a question. Also repeat the question to make sure you understand it. Know what to say when you don't know the answer to a question. You are not expected to know all the answers and it is better to acknowledge that you don't know the answer than to try to fake it.