Dissertation and Oral Defense

After you have completed your research and are beginning to plan the writing of the Dissertation, a meeting must be convened with your Advisory Committee before writing commences.  The purpose of this meeting is to plan with the Committee how your research will be presented in the Dissertation, its scope and the details of organization.  You should not begin writing your Dissertation until you and the Committee agree on its content and format.  You should also complete Part III of the Certification Form and file it with the Program Office.

As part of the thesis planning, you should consult the Graduate School’s Guide to Preparing your Doctoral Dissertation: https://grad.wisc.edu/currentstudents/doctoralguide/. These publications contain important information concerning formatting your thesis, submission of your thesis, and deadlines for completion of degree requirements.

You and your Advisory Committee will set a date for the Oral Defense of the thesis.  The date chosen for the defense must allow sufficient time prior to your departure from the University for revisions suggested by the Committee to be incorporated into the final version of the Dissertation.  At least three weeks before the final Oral Examination, you should submit the Ph.D. Final Oral Committee Form to the Graduate School.  This form is available in the Program Office and at the Graduate School in Bascom Hall.  No later than two weeks before the defense and after the details have been approved by your major professor, you should provide the Program Office with the date, time, and place of the Oral Defense and an abstract of the thesis.  An announcement of the defense will be e-mailed to Program faculty, Program students, and other neuroscientists on campus.

The completed Dissertation should be delivered to your Committee at least two weeks before the oral defense.  If the Dissertation is submitted later than this, the date for the defense will be rescheduled automatically by your major professor to allow at least two weeks for review.  Any change in this schedule must receive prior approval in writing by all members of your Committee.

The thesis defense consists of a public presentation of the thesis followed by a closed meeting with the Advisory Committee.  At the conclusion of the defense you will be asked to leave the room and the Committee will discuss whether to accept the thesis.  This decision will be based on the quality of the public presentation and of the written Dissertation.  The Committee will not approve the Dissertation until it is judged to be a satisfactory final version acceptable for the Ph.D. degree and for submission to the Graduate School.  One copy of the final version of the Dissertation should be submitted to the Graduate School and three copies to the Program.  The Program will bind three copies of your Dissertation: one each for you, your major professor, and the Program’s permanent collection.

While the details of your Dissertation will be determined by you and your Advisory Committee, all Dissertations are expected to be of publishable quality and to conform to a general standard.  The expected Ph.D. thesis consists of two or three published or publishable manuscripts on which you are the first author.  The Dissertation should be written in a style that is compatible with that commonly used for manuscripts published in major scientific journals.  Thus, the Dissertation may consist of a series of published papers or publishable manuscripts, accompanied by an informative introduction that includes sufficient background information so that all neuroscientists should be able to comprehend the significance of the thesis.  Appropriate bridging chapters and a substantive, global discussion that integrates the chapters also should be included.

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