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 Preparation 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; be sure to register.
  2. File the Intention to Receive Degree Form as required.
  3. Clear date and time with all members of your committee.
  4. Proofread your dissertation and have someone else do so.
  5. Provide committee with reading copies of your dissertation 3 weeks in advance.
  6. Format check a copy of your dissertation through the Graduate School Office several weeks in advance.
  7. Check with the DGSA that the Final Exam Form has been sent to the Graduate School a week ahead.
  8. Pick up Final Exam Certificate from the Graduate School and bring it to the defense.
  9. Come to exam with enough sleep and earn a clear pass.
  10. Have committee sign Exam Form, Dissertations, Abstracts.
  11. Return the original Exam Form to the Graduate School, and bring a copy of the form DGS office.
  12. Make corrections and submit 3 dissertation copies and abstracts.
  13. Pay for microfilming, binding, & (optional) copyrighting.