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Education / Graduate Education / PhD Programs / Toxicology / People / Current Students / Student Handbook / Writing And Submitting The Thesis

Writing And Submitting The Thesis

Thesis Defense Scheduling and Registration Process

The University establishes all guidelines and policies regarding preparation and submission of a doctoral thesis. Students are responsible for understanding and following the current rules, but the Program Coordinator is responsible for completing and submitting all the required forms. Communication and advanced planning are essential parts of the process. Therefore, after discussing plans with his/her Thesis Advisor and Thesis Advisory Committee, the student needs to inform the Program Coordinator and Program Director of plans to move forward with thesis preparation. Email is acceptable; there is no form to file. Presented below are the general steps involved in registering the thesis and scheduling the defense.  Because the specific deadlines and processes change, it is critical that the student consults the GEPA website for current information and that he/she is in regular contact with the Program Coordinator to ensure that all paperwork is submitted on time.

  1. At least 6 months prior to scheduling the thesis defense, the student should meet with the Thesis Advisory Committee to request approval to wrap up experimental work and begin writing the thesis.
  2. At least 4 months prior to the thesis defense, the following tasks will need to be completed:
  • Your thesis advisor, the Program director, and you will work together to identify 3 individuals to serve as your defense Chair.  The names are submitted to the Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Education, who selects and appoints the Chair for the Thesis Defense. You will need to include your thesis title and abstract with this form.  Guidelines about who may and may not serve as Chair are available on the GEPA website.
  • Students and mentors contact members of the Thesis Advisory Committee AND the appointed Defense Chair to set a specific date and time for the defense. Check the Academic Calendar for updates and ‘black out dates’.  Communicate the chosen defense date and time to the Program Coordinator.
  1. As the thesis defense date nears, the following tasks need to be completed.  Again, the GEPA website and Program Coordinator are good resources to consult regarding deadlines:
  • Work with the Program Coordinator to begin the defense record in the online system
  • Deliver a hard copy of the thesis to each committee member for review. You may also provide an electronic copy, but only with the permission of the committee members and the defense chair (some may prefer hard copy vs. electronic; therefore, it is advisable to make individual inquiries in advance of document distribution). 
  • The Program Coordinator will submit the defense record through the online system. This generates an email to your Thesis Advisor, Advisory Committee, Defense Chair, and Program Director to request the online approval of the thesis submitted for defense.
  • Prior to the defense, the Advisor, Advisory Committee, Defense Chair, and Program Director will approve your thesis for defense. After the thesis and defense record is reviewed and approved by SMD Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Education, the University Dean for Graduate Studies will review the documents and give approval for the defense to proceed. This generates an email to your Chair, Advisor and Advisory Committee announcing the date, time, and location of defense. The Chair receives instructions for the defense, forms and for reporting of the exam outcome.

Thesis Preparation

A booklet entitled “Preparing Your Thesis” is available online at or from the Program Coordinator’s office. This material provides specific information on the format to be followed. It is the student’s (not the mentor’s) responsibility to ascertain that the format of the thesis meets the approval of their Thesis Advisory Committee and follows all rules set forth by the University. The committee for the final examination decides on the acceptability of the quality of the research and the method of presentation (written and oral), following all University guidelines.  

The thesis (and all published papers) must explicitly acknowledge all sources of financial support. It is essential that students also acknowledge any individuals who assisted in the work presented, and clearly describe their specific roles. All data reported in the thesis that were not generated by the PhD candidate must be explicitly noted along with the source of the particular data. 

It will usually take three to four months to prepare the thesis (after all of the laboratory work is complete), and the most common mistake lies in not allowing adequate time for writing and the preparation of figures.  The cost of thesis preparation and copying is the responsibility of the student. Students should notify the Program Coordinator before the actual process of preparing the thesis is started. In this manner, the Program Coordinator can assist the student with the complex process of meeting all due dates of this final part of the PhD process.

Students wishing to leave the program (to take a postdoctoral position, for example) before submitting the final version of their thesis must obtain prior approval from their primary mentor and the Program Director.  However, this early departure is strongly discouraged, and thesis advisors are not obligated to support these requests.  It is strongly recommended that students complete the writing of all publications derived from the thesis work prior to leaving the program. In the past, some students have left the program to take another position prior to completing these publications.  Most often, the responsibilities of the new position have not allowed adequate time to complete the publications in a timely manner.  In the long run, this practice is not good for the student’s career, the advisor’s grant, or the training program.  Since the publication of research data prior to program completion is typical of most PhD programs, students will then be in a position to compete favorably with other job applicants.

Thesis Defense    

The PhD thesis defense in Toxicology is held in the following format:  The first hour of the exam is a public seminar open to the faculty, students, research staff at the University, and as well as any guests.  The student’s presentation should last about 50 minutes, with about 10 minutes allowed at the conclusion for questions from the audience. The student should be selective about the material presented, so that the seminar does not exceed the time available.  Notes, slides, charts, and the usual visual aids for a seminar are permitted; however, the student needs to make arrangements for special audiovisual equipment well in advance. Following the seminar, the student and the examining committee will adjourn to a closed session, where the remainder of the exam will be conducted.

At the start of the closed-door exam, the student will be asked to leave the room for a short period of time. Upon returning to the room, questioning for the oral exam typically lasts 1.5-2.5 hrs. At the end of the oral exam, the student will be asked to leave the room. The committee will come to consensus regarding whether or not the student passed. The results of the closed oral exam and any changes required in the written document are communicated directly (verbally) to the student immediately at the end of the exam. The Chair of the examination committee is charged with the responsibility of conveying the results of the examination in writing to the Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Education and the Vice-Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies.

After successful completion of the PhD oral examination, and after making any necessary corrections in the thesis document, the student must submit a copy of their dissertation in the formats required by the University. A bound hard copy is submitted to the Program Coordinator and will be kept in the student room where all PhD theses are kept.  Students typically give a bound, corrected copy of the thesis to each of the committee members.  Although not mandated by the program, students should determine whether the committee members want a final copy.   

The student must maintain continuous enrollment up until the time of submission of the corrected thesis to the Office for Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs.  If registration must be continued into a new semester, the student must register for TOX 999 - Doctoral Dissertation and pay the appropriate fee.