The Thesis Defense is a presentation of the student’s independent research topic, an overview of the experiments completed, and a summary of the analyzed data and results. Most students are able to complete their PhD within five to six years after entering the CMB Program. The Thesis Defense must be completed within five years after completion of the Preliminary Exam. For more information on this policy, see the Graduate School Academic Policies and Procedures website. It is also important to be aware of the Graduate School’s Degree Deadlines when deciding when to defend and deposit your thesis.
We encourage you to review Preparing for Graduation (a list of resources compiled by CMB to help you prepare for your thesis defense and graduation) well in advance of scheduling your thesis defense. If an in person meeting is not possible, please see the CMB Virtual Meeting Guide.
The UW-Madison Committee on the Future of the Dissertation has created some general Proposed Standards for Examining Dissertations, which might be useful to students and their committees as they prepare their dissertations. Be sure to detail your contributions and the contributions of others on the title page of each research chapter in your written dissertation. For example, if data or specific figures were generated by others in your lab, acknowledge this contribution. In addition, if the work in the chapter has been published, provide complete citations including the title, names of all authors, book or journal, volume number, page numbers, and year of publication. You can also find sample dissertations through the Proquest UW-Madison Dissertations & Theses search on the UW-Madison Libraries website (note: we’ve had the best luck finding theses using the searches under the “In Library Databases” section). If a publication or a patent is pending, students may request an embargo on their thesis for up to two years, so it is possible that recent theses will not yet be available.
Requirements to Complete
A Few Months Prior to the Thesis Defense (“Six-month meeting”):
- A few months prior to the thesis defense, students should have a meeting with their committee to determine whether they are ready to move on to the thesis defense. The committee should agree the student is ready before the thesis defense is scheduled. This meeting usually occurs about six months prior to the defense but the timing can vary significantly. At the six-month meeting, students should present an outline of their thesis to their committee (an outline example can be found on the Progress Report page under Six-Month Meeting). Please fill out and submit a Progress Report Form and check the box indicating that this is your six-month meeting.
At Least Three Weeks Prior to the Thesis Defense:
- Schedule the Thesis Defense with the Thesis Committee
- Send an email notification with the scheduled date, defense location, defense time, thesis title, and listing of thesis committee members to the CMB Office
- The CMB Office will then request a warrant from the Graduate School
- Upon approval, the Graduate School will issue the warrant to the CMB Office electronically
- When the warrant has been received from the Graduate School, the CMB Office will email the warrant directly to the student
- Read through the Graduate School’s page on “Guide to Preparing Your Doctoral Dissertation” and follow the instructions outlined here to submit your Thesis Defense.
- If changes in the Thesis Committee are made after a warrant has been requested, then a new request must be made to the Graduate School for approval and issuance of a new warrant
At Least Two Weeks Prior to the Thesis Defense:
- Submit a copy of the Thesis Defense to all members of the Thesis Committee
- The CMB Office will create a Thesis Defense flyer and distribute this announcement to the current CMB faculty trainer and graduate student email list, publish it in the weekly e-newsletter, and post it on the calendar of events on the CMB website
- Notify your departmental payroll coordinator of the date you are expecting to defend and deposit your thesis
At the Thesis Defense:
- All five committee members must be present
- Give a presentation about the research
- Defend and answer questions asked by the Thesis Committee
- Obtain signatures of all Thesis Committee members on the Thesis Defense warrant
Following the Thesis Defense:
- Submit Thesis Defense electronically
- Contact the Graduate School (262-2433) to schedule an appointment for the final review (final review appointments are now optional)
- All corrections and revisions of the Thesis Defense must be made before submitting your Thesis Defense
Submit the Following Materials:
- To the CMB Office:
- A copy of the warrant, signed by all Thesis Committee members
- Alumni Information Form
- To the Graduate School:
- Thesis Defense warrant
- Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) certificate of completion
- Graduate School Doctoral Exit Survey (DES) certificate of completion