Thesis/Dissertation Defense Checklist

Review Graduation Deadlines.

Submit your most recent degree audit worksheet from Degree Works  at least three weeks prior to defense unless, already on file with the Graduate School.

Graduate School Clearance

The Graduate School will confirm that all Syracuse University Graduate School and departmental rules have been followed (i.e. time limits, number of credits, GPAs, etc.) and all degree requirements have been met before the notice of your defense is sent out. The following documents must be on file and approved by the Graduate School for a student to be cleared for their defense:

  1. Degree Audit Worksheet – a signed PDF of your most recent degree audit worksheet, using the student view format. Your advisor must sign and date the top of the PDF. The signed degree audit worksheet is submitted to
  2. Program of Study – if you matriculated prior to 2015 or your degree audit worksheet is unavailable, please submit your final Program of Study with appropriate signatures to
  3. Transcripts –  Documentation for all degree applicable post–secondary coursework. This includes your undergraduate transcript and courses being used for transfer credit. Official degree–bearing transcripts are required for all prior degree applicable degrees received. Please check with your program coordinator to confirm your transcripts are recorded (in MySlice).
  4. Coursework – All coursework must be registered for and grades posted before the defense takes place. Exception: Master’s students with final semester coursework currently in progress.
  5. Additional Degree RequirementsThe Graduate School will confirm that all other requirements for your degree have been completed and all required supporting documentation has been properly filed. This includes the results of your qualifying exam(s) and ABD requirements (if applicable).

File a Diploma Request

Graduating students must notify the University that they intend to graduate through the File Diploma Request process on MySlice. Only students who complete this process are included in degree certification review.

Consult your Advisor

Consult your thesis/dissertation advisor to begin preparation for your defense. Be sure that you are aware of all departmental procedures and regulations that pertain to your thesis/dissertation and oral examination.

Form your Defense Committee

  • Master’s students (and Doctoral of Professional Studies & Doctor of Judicial Science)
    Your defense committee consists of four voting members (including your advisor and oral exam chair). The oral exam chair is a tenured or tenure-track faculty member at Syracuse University who presides over the exam and ensures that the regulations and declared policies of the Graduate School and your department are followed.
  • Doctoral students (excluding Doctoral of Professional Studies & Doctor of Judicial Science)
    At a minimum, the dissertation defense committee consists of four faculty members, including the oral defense chair and the student’s dissertation advisor. The oral exam chair must be a tenured or tenure track faculty member at Syracuse University from outside of the student’s program of enrollment. The chair will preside over the exam and ensure that the regulations and declared policies of the Graduate School and academic unit are followed. The remaining two committee members must be tenured, or tenure track faculty members employed by Syracuse University with relevant expertise and typically from the student’s program and/or affiliated program faculty.At the request of the student and with concurrence of the student’s faculty advisor, an oral examination committee can include more than the required minimum number of committee members.In addition, a doctoral program may elect to require additional oral examination committee members above the minimum for all dissertation defenses. If additional committee members beyond the required four members are desired and/or required by the program, additions can include: Syracuse University non-tenure track faculty member with a Ph.D. or comparable doctorate (e.g., teaching assistant professor) and/or an individual who is external to the University, assuming the individual has appropriate subject matter expertise.

Submit a Request for Exam

A Request for Examination form must be submitted at least three weeks prior to the proposed defense date. The Request for Examination (RFE) form is submitted electronically. Once you have successfully submitted this form you will receive a confirmation email with a PDF document of your RFE form. The PDF must be signed by your advisor and academic unit chair. The signed RFE form must be submitted to the Graduate School electronically at Your request will not be processed until the signed form is received. The signed form provides formal notification to the Graduate School that your department supports your request to proceed with your defense.

Defense Format

We would like all students to defend their thesis or dissertation in-person but we understand that this might not be possible.  Defenses may be held in-person or remotely. The student is responsible for contacting all committee members about the possibility of a remote option for the defense and must make all of the necessary arrangements, including providing the video conference URL to the Graduate School (on the RFE form) and to their department.

Formal Defense Notification

Once a student is cleared to defend their thesis/dissertation, the Graduate School will send email confirmation to all committee members, the student and the department that the defense will proceed as requested. The email will include a committee approval page that lists the members of your oral examination as an attachment. This document is sent to the oral exam chair for signatures at the conclusion of your defense. Doctoral defense notices are posted on the Syracuse University Events Calendar.

Distribute your Thesis/Dissertation

You must submit copies of your thesis/dissertation in the appropriate form to all members of the examination committee, including your advisor and the oral examination chair, at least two full weeks before the scheduled date of the examination. This deadline is strictly enforced. Your defense may be canceled if all committee members do not have a copy of your thesis/dissertation in time. It is required that an additional copy of the thesis/dissertation be deposited with your department two weeks before the defense. The department copy may be reviewed by anyone who wishes to attend the defense.

Hold Your Defense

Consult your advisor about planning for your final oral examination and about any specific defense requirements the department may have. Your defense will take place at the time, place and date requested. At the conclusion of your defense, you will be informed of the status of your defense and advised to proceed accordingly.

Master’s Thesis Defense Format

The school/college will conduct the examination in the manner it considers most effective; the student should contact their department and school/college for specific procedures and guidelines.

Dissertation Defense Format. 

At a minimum, a defense should include a brief oral presentation from the doctoral candidate followed by a rigorous questions and answer session where a student is provided the opportunity to demonstrate subject matter mastery. Beyond these minimum requirements, each program is free to conduct the dissertation defense in a manner considered to be most effective based on norms within a given academic discipline.