Doctoral Dissertation

A doctoral student writes a dissertation based upon original investigation and showing mature scholarship and critical judgment as well as familiarity with tools and methods of research. The subject must be approved by the student’s major department.

  1. Every dissertation presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for an advanced degree must represent the equivalent of at least 30 semester hours of work.
  2. The student is responsible for notifying the Graduate School of the exact title of the dissertation on or before the posted deadlines during the semester in which the doctoral degree is to be conferred.
  3. The dissertation must comply in mechanical features with the specifications for theses and dissertations available in the Graduate School.

The final grade is withheld until the dissertation is completed. In progress (IP) grades are assigned during each semester until the defense is successfully completed and the final copy of the dissertation is accepted by the examination committee, at which time the final grade for all dissertation hours is submitted to the Graduate School.

In addition, the doctoral dissertation should meet the following conditions:

  • Be filed electronically at by the posted deadlines in the Doctoral Packet for the semester in which the degree is to be conferred. 
  • A signature page with original signatures from the chair of the student’s committee and at least one other committee member must be submitted to the Graduate School by the same submission deadline.
  • Submission of the Survey of Earned Doctorates Form online at

Dissertation Defense

After the dissertation has been accepted for defense by the student’s committee, a final examination on the dissertation and related topics is conducted. The following rules apply to the dissertation defense:

  1. PhD students 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 final examination.
  2. 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 no later than the posted deadline for the semester in which the degree is to be conferred. This information should be provided on the Doctoral Examination Report and Leaflet.
  3. This examination is wholly or partly oral, the oral part being open to anyone.
  4. 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. 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.
  5. A student who fails the examination may attempt it once more after a period of time determined by the examining committee.