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Final Oral Examination

Section 7.10 of the Graduate School Handbook

The final oral examination tests originality, independence of thought, the ability to synthesize and interpret, and the quality of research presented. The final oral examination concerns principles and historic perspective as well as data. The final oral examination includes but is not limited to discussion of the dissertation. The examiners often pursue lines of thought and argument from the data and concepts that have contributed to the research and to its critical evaluation by the student.

Final Oral Examination Committee. The final oral examination committee is composed of the student’s dissertation committee, plus the Graduate Faculty Representative. Other Graduate Faculty members may be added to the committee, subject to the rules of the Graduate Studies Committee. The advisor serves as chair of the final oral examination committee. The advisor of a doctoral student must be a Category P member of the student’s graduate program. Responsibility for conducting and evaluating the final oral examination rests with the student’s final oral examination committee.

Draft Approval. Before a defense can be held, the student must submit a complete, word-processed dissertation draft to the dissertation committee for review and approval or disapproval. All dissertations submitted for format review and approval must be of a caliber similar to that expected of an article submitted to a journal for review. Draft documents that are missing tables, graphs, citations, chapters or sections, etc., are incomplete.  Incomplete drafts cannot be submitted for draft approval or defended.

Scheduling. A dissertation committee member’s approval of the dissertation draft means that the committee member judges it to be of sufficient merit to warrant holding the final oral examination. To schedule the final exam the student must submit an Application for Final Examination on GRADFORMS and have this approved by each dissertation committee member at least two weeks before the proposed defense date. After the final oral examination committee has been approved by the Dean of the Graduate School and the Graduate Faculty Representative has been assigned, the Report on Final Examination and Report on Final Document are made available to the examination committee. The final oral examination must take place during announced university business hours, Monday through Friday.

Graduate Faculty Representative. Once the final oral examination is scheduled, the Dean of the Graduate School appoints the Graduate Faculty Representative. The Graduate Faculty Representative is a Category P Graduate Faculty member who is neither a Graduate Faculty member in the student’s graduate program nor a member of the dissertation committee. The Graduate Faculty Representative is a full voting member of the final oral examination committee. The Graduate Faculty Representative reports a judgment of the quality of the examination, of the dissertation or document, and of the student’s performance to the Graduate School. If the examination is reviewed, the Graduate Faculty Representative also reports to the Graduate School on the fairness of the conduct of the examination and its conformity to Graduate School rules.

No less than one week before the final oral examination, a complete, word-processed dissertation or D.M.A. document draft must be presented to the Graduate Faculty Representative for review and approval. If the Graduate Faculty Representative judges the dissertation or D.M.A. document unsatisfactory or incomplete, the student’s advisor and the Dean of the Graduate School are to be informed no later than one day prior to the final oral examination. After consulting with the student and the dissertation committee members, the advisor may elect to hold the examination as scheduled or postpone it until the situation is resolved.

Attendance and Format. Except when video conferencing is approved by the Graduate School, all members of the final oral examination committee must be present during the entire examination. All committee members are expected to participate fully in questioning during the course of the examination and in the discussion of and decision on the result. Other faculty members and graduate students may attend the examination, subject to the rules of the Graduate Studies Committee. The final oral examination lasts approximately two hours. A presentation of the dissertation research by the student is allowable. At least one hour of the two-hour examination period, however, must be allotted to discussion of the research and to questions of and answers by the student. Local programs may develop additional local protocols and procedures.

Video Conferencing. All examinations involving video conferencing must adhere to the Graduate School’s guidelines for video conferencing in Appendix B.

Postponement. The final oral examination is expected to be held as scheduled; however, circumstances may prompt the advisor to postpone it. Before taking such action, the advisor must consult the student and the other members of the dissertation or D.M.A. document committee, which does not include the Graduate Faculty Representative. Prior to the examination, the advisor must notify the Dean of the Graduate School of the postponement.

Halting an Oral Examination in Progress. If for reasons of illness, fire, or other emergency, the committee members, including the Graduate Faculty Representative, agree that it is necessary to halt the final oral examination, then the examination shall be rescheduled without prejudice to the student. If, however, the committee members unanimously decide that the examination has been sufficient to reach a decision to pass the student, then they shall consider the examination concluded and shall report the result to the Graduate School.