Thesis Defense

Computer Science Graduate Studies


About two months before the intended defense date, the student should negotiate with the committee the dates for delivery of the various drafts of either their thesis or project documents.

One to two weeks before the intended defense date the student should pick the time and the date, clear it with the committee, and reserve a room. The student should send an e-mail message to the Graduate Advisor that contains the thesis/project title, abstract, defense time and location. The Graduate Advisor will advertise the defense, and also select a faculty member to moderate.

The final document should be complete at least one week before the defense. At this point the student should have received approval from all committee members. One copy should be submitted to the department office by this time; it will be made available for public perusal before and during the defense.

Please note that the Graduate School requires that all students must be registered in CS 5399 (Thesis II) or CS 5397 (Projects II) for thesis or project, respectively, on the date of their defense.


The first phase of the defense is intended primarily to disseminate the results of the student’s research. It is public; anyone can attend. After the moderator introduces the student the student presents the work. Questions from the audience are allowed, as long as they seek answers that would clarify the subject matter. If the student answers incorrectly or does not know the answer, it is acceptable for other people in the audience to answer succinctly. Any further discussion will be delayed to phase two of the defense.

The second phase of the defense is intended primarily to evaluate the quality of the student’s work. This will typically last about 15 minutes. At this point, questions are allowed from anyone, and only the student is allowed to answer. The moderator will ensure that the discussion is focused on the student’s work and reflects the fact that this represents only six credit hours of work, by a novice researcher, who may not have a deep knowledge of the field of study and may not have explored all aspects of the problem. The student should, however, be able to know and explain not only his/her own work but its relevance more generally and how it relates to other work in the area.

In the third phase of the defense the committee members meet privately to evaluate the student’s work. They may call the student in to ask further questions. The outcome of the evaluation may be pass, pass with conditions, or fail. If the student passes, the committee will sign the Defense Form, which the student must provide, and the Application for Graduate Degree. The committee will also discuss the grade to be assigned, based on the evaluation of the work, the document and the presentation. (A grade given to the last 3 credits of work automatically carries to the other 3 credits, but it is possible to assign a different grade for each 3-credit portion.) If the student passes conditionally, the committee will decide how the conditions will be evaluated and how this will affect the grade, and report this in writing to the graduate advisor. If the student fails, the committee will give the student appropriate feedback and furnish a written report to the graduate advisor.