The Final Defense Process

Note: Each candidate is required to successfully complete a minimum of 12 Dissertation credit hours (Ed.D.) / 15 Dissertation credit hours (Ph.D.) and defend the Dissertation. The candidate must be enrolled in a minimum of 2 Dissertation credits (LEAD 7999) during the semester in which the Final Dissertation Defense is held.

When the Chair is satisfied with the quality of the written work (including any revisions requested at the Pre-Defense) and determines the Dissertation is ready for Final Defense, the Chair distributes the final complete draft of the manuscript and the Final Defense PowerPoint to all members of the Committee via the Dissertation course space (UTC Learn) at least 14 days in advance. The Chair will then contact the candidate and Committee to set a Final Defense date and time at least 14 days in advance. It is the Committee members’ responsibility to be as flexible as possible when scheduling the Final Defense. To qualify for graduation in a given semester, the Final Defense must take place at least 14 days prior to the “deadline to submit dissertation and dissertation exam results to the Graduate School for X graduation,” as published on the Graduate School website (links: Thesis and Dissertation and Graduate Calendar).

  1. Once the date and time have been established, the Chair will notify the Program Office ( via email and will submit the Dissertation title and abstract for the campus announcement.

  2. The Program Office will reserve an approved meeting location, distribute appointment invites to the candidate and Committee, and will submit the Notice of Defense information to the Graduate School. The Notice of Defense must be submitted at least 14 days in advance, according to Graduate School policy. The Graduate School shall publicly announce the date, time, and location of the Final Defense via email to the campus community.

  3. The Chair will guide the candidate in preparing for the public research presentation and private defense. The majority of Committee members must contribute synchronously at the Dissertation defense. A PC-based computer, projector, and Internet access will be available at the defense location. The candidate is responsible to being able to access an electronic copy of research and presentation materials for the defense (a backup plan is strongly recommended). The candidate will present a 25-35 minute oral defense of the study with an emphasis on the findings and the conclusions. The oral defense may not exceed 45 minutes. Family members and friends may be permitted to attend, however, candidates should be aware that the defense is an official proceeding and their work will be publicly reviewed and potentially criticized. The typical defense consists of a public forum that is open to the entire University community.

  4. At the start of the defense proceeding, the Program Director/Advisor will outline the defense proceedings and the Dissertation Chair will introduce the Committee and candidate.

  5. After the candidate’s oral presentation, Committee members and guests will be given an opportunity to pose questions related to the research. The Chair will act as moderator to keep the exchange relevant and timely.

  6. Once all general questions have been addressed, any guests in attendance will be asked to adjourn. The Committee will then meet with the candidate in a private session.

  7. Following the private session, the Chair will ask the candidate to leave the room while the Committee deliberates. Only the candidate is to return to the examining room for feedback from the Chair and Committee.

Evaluation of the Final Defense

There are three possible results from the Dissertation Committee vote:




The evaluation of Pass indicates that a majority of members of the Dissertation Committee concluded that the candidate met or exceeded the requirements set forth in the Dissertation Proposal, however s/he may be required to make editorial and/or formatting modifications to the Dissertation.

An evaluation of Re-examination indicates that two or more members of the Committee found substantive problems in the work or the defense of the Dissertation. The members of the Committee will prepare a list of modifications or improvements required before a second Dissertation defense will be scheduled. The re-examination will occur in the same or subsequent semester unless the Dissertation Committee and the Dean of the Graduate School grant additional time to effect the necessary changes.

An evaluation of Failure indicates that the majority of the Dissertation Committee judged the quality of the candidate’s Dissertation and the defense of the Dissertation to be below the standards expected of doctoral level scholarly performance. In the event of a result of Failure, the candidate may petition the Chair and Program Director for the opportunity for re-evaluation.

Final Dissertation Approval and Digital Submission

Following the successful Final Defense:

  1. The Chair will request that the Program Office circulate the Examination Results Form for digital signatures from each Committee member and the Program Director/Advisor. The Program Office will submit the Examination Results Form to the Graduate School for processing.

  2. The candidate will make any additional revisions as recommended by the Committee and will submit the revised manuscript to the Dissertation course space (UTC Learn) for the Chair to review.

  3. Once the manuscript has been approved by the Chair, the Chair will notify the Program Office ( via email that the manuscript is ready for initial formatting review at the program level.

  4. Once the initial program-level formatting review is complete and the candidate has made any additional revisions, the Program Director/Advisor will notify the Program Office ( via email to send the candidate information regarding next steps.

  5. The Program Office will provide the candidate with the following:  

    • A pre-populated Verification of Standards and Bibliography Software Form to digitally sign and return to the Program Office. The Verification Form indicates that the Standards for formatting were followed, verifies the bibliography management software used, provides the name of the software (EndNote), and indicates the word processing software used (Microsoft Word) to produce the dissertation. Once the Verification Form has been digitally signed by the candidate and returned to the Program Office, the Program Office will submit the Verification Form to the Graduate School for processing.

    • Instructions to submit the Dissertation manuscript electronically to the Graduate School via UTC Scholar for formatting review (link: Thesis and Dissertation). The candidate should list the Dissertation Chair (or Co-Chairs) as a co-author(s) in UTC Scholar. Submission deadlines are posted to the Graduate School website (links: Thesis and Dissertation and Graduate Calendar). The Dean of the Graduate School (or an appointed representative) will review the Dissertation to ensure compliance with the Thesis and Dissertation Standards, which can be found on the Graduate School website (link: Thesis and Dissertation). Graduate School standards stipulate that all theses and dissertations must use bibliography management software. The Learning and Leadership Program requires all candidates to use EndNote bibliography management software. Compliance with UTC formatting / style guidelines is the responsibility of the candidate.

  6. Upon completion of the initial format review, the Dissertation manuscript will be accepted or returned to the candidate for corrections. The candidate must make the requested corrections and resubmit a revised electronic copy for review. The review process continues until the document is confirmed as acceptable.

  7. Once the Dissertation manuscript is accepted, the candidate will receive an email that the document has been posted, which means the Graduate School Dean has accepted the document and the Dissertation requirement has been filled. Questions regarding the UTC Scholar submission process may be directed to the Graduate School Dean at

  8. The candidate should forward a copy of the UTC Scholar notification to the Dissertation Chair (or Co-Chairs) and Program Office (

  9. The Program Office will provide the candidate with information regarding final steps in preparation for Commencement.

Note: There is no fee for electronic submission of the Dissertation to UTC Scholar. The final transcript and diploma may be withheld until the UTC Scholar submission and approval process has been successfully completed.