The dissertation is expected to be a mature and competent piece of writing, embodying the results of significant original research. Physical requirements for preparing a dissertation (i.e., quality of paper, format, binding, etc.) are prescribed online in the Guide for the Electronic Submission of Theses and Dissertations; a copy is also available in the Graduate School Office. For specific aspects of form and style, students are advised to use Kate L. Turabian's A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (Eighth Edition, 2013). Special physical problems regarding preparation of dissertations should be taken up with the Assistant Dean for Student Programs.

Graduate students also have the option of submitting their dissertation electronically, to facilitate access to their work through online databases. Students must be registered at Duke during the semester in which they defend their dissertations and therefore must take their final dissertation examination while classes are in session. It is best to schedule a final examination (the so-called "thesis defense") early in the fall or spring semester. Examinations during the summer terms are almost impossible to arrange and should be avoided, if possible. Examinations between semesters are permitted only in exceptional cases.

Checklist for Doctoral Dissertation Defense

  1. Schedule exam during school semester. At the beginning of the semester be sure to register for continuation and to complete the Apply to Graduate process in DukeHub.
  2. Go to the Graduate School's Preparing to Graduate to be sure your plans meet all graduation related deadlines.
  3. If your dissertation committee remains the same as your preliminary committee, send an email indicating there is no change to gradacademics@duke.edu & to DGSA. If there are changes, contact DGSA immediately.
  4. Clear date and time with all members of your committee. As soon as you do this, email dechelle.harris@duke.edu to reserve a room for your defense date (tell her if you have special AV needs, or will be skyping during the defense). When you get confirmation of the room, email it to the DGS and DGSA, and each committee member.
  5. Proofread your dissertation and have someone else do so.
  6. Provide committee with reading copies of your dissertation 3 weeks in advance.
  7. Format check a copy of your dissertation through the Graduate School Office several weeks in advance (following these procedures outlined). Initial submission of dissertations into UMI/ProQuestmust take place at least two weeks prior to the defense date and no later than the established initial submission deadline for that graduation term.
  8. At least 2 weeks before defense date, ask Advisor to email Advisor Letter to gradacademics@duke.edu (with your name in the subject line) stating they have read your dissertation and it is ready to defend.
  9. Ask DGS to email Department Defense Announcement form to the Graduate School at gradacademics@duke.edu at least 2 weeks ahead.
  10. Prior to defense date, pick up Exam Card from the Graduate School at your exam card appointment (you schedule this here after you get email notification from the Graduate School). Bring exam card to the defense.
  11. On defense date, come to exam with enough sleep and earn a clear pass.
  12. Have committee sign Exam Card & the Title & Abstract Signature pages. Have Advisor sign the Duke Space licensing agreement.
  13. Return the original signed Exam Card, Title & Abstract Signature pages, and Duke Space licensing agreement to Graduate School, and bring a copy of these forms to DGSA's office.
  14. Make corrections and submit 3 dissertation copies and abstracts.
  15. Pay for microfilming, binding, & (optional) copyrighting.