The Catholic University of America

The Dissertation Defense

The dissertation defense is the capstone of the Ph.D. program in musicology.

Scheduling the Defense

Preparing for the Defense

 

Scheduling the Defense

The dissertation defense occurs during the last semester in which a Ph.D. student is registered. The defense must occur during the fall or spring semester; it is not possible to hold a defense during the summer months.  It is not necessary to register for anything other than dissertation guidance during the semester in which the defense takes place.
 
Before the defense can be scheduled, the student must submit the “Oral Examination Request for Approval” form, which is available on the website of the Dean of Graduate Studies. Before this form can be submitted, all members of the dissertation committee must assert in writing that they have read the entire dissertation and that they give permission for the scheduling of the defense. Absolutely no action on the defense can be taken until this occurs. It is the student’s responsibility to set up a time table with the members of the committee to ensure that all reading will be completed in time to schedule the defense during the desired semester. The student submits the form to Irina Leslie, Administrative Assistant for the School of Music, who will obtain the necessary signatures and move forward with scheduling the defense.
 
The defense should be scheduled at least one week before the deposit deadline for dissertations, to give the candidate enough time to make any changes or corrections requested during the defense, and also to allow for sufficient time for the candidate to check the formatting of the document with David Long in the office of the Dean of Graduate Studies.  (Although the deposit deadline for January graduation is generally not until early January, it is strongly recommended that students deposit the dissertation before Christmas break.)  It is thus highly recommended that the defense be scheduled prior to the last week of classes. Note also that the “Request for Approval” form must be submitted at least three weeks prior to the proposed date of the defense. Therefore, all members of the committee must have read the entire dissertation at least one month before the end of the semester in which the defense will occur.  
 
 

Preparing for the Defense

 The defense committee consists of the members of the dissertation committee plus a Chair and Secretary who are faculty members outside of the School of Music. The Chair and Secretary are selected by Irina Leslie. While the candidate or a member of the dissertation committee may suggest people for these positions, the final decision is solely at the discretion of the upper administration of the School of Music. The candidate may invite additional faculty members to attend the defense, but only members of the defense committee and the Dean of the School of Music (if present) may ask questions. Any additional observers must be approved in advance by the Dean; otherwise, the proceedings are closed.
 
The procedures during the defense are as follows.  The defense begins with a presentation by the candidate of the main points of the dissertation. The presentation should last approximately twenty minutes, and the candidate may use light notes to help organize his or her thoughts.  These notes should be no more than a page and should not be much more than an outline; by no means should the candidate read from a script during the defense.  The remarks should be prepared as though everyone in the room has already read the dissertation; the goal is not to provide a detailed summary of the dissertation but to explain what make it significant and original.  The candidate may find it useful to prepare a short handout if the ideas in the dissertation are particularly complex. After the presentation, the candidate fields questions by members of the defense committee; the questions relate only to the dissertation and not to other aspects of the candidate’s education (such as courses unrelated to the dissertation topic). The candidate and any invited guests are then excused from the room while the committee deliberates. The entire defense (including the deliberation) lasts no longer than two hours.

 

 

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