Admission to Candidacy, Qualifying Examination, and Dissertation Defense
The qualifying examination (QE) consists of a written research proposal and an oral defense of the proposal before the student’s Ph.D. committee. The written portion consists of two parts: a detailed literature survey of the research area and a proposal outlining the research questions, preliminary results, proposed schedule and success metrics. The oral presentation covers both of these components, as well.
The QE is often taken in a student’s third year but no later than the fourth year of the program. Once a student has been admitted to candidacy, the dissertation must be completed within four years or a petition for an extension must be submitted. A student cannot take the QE and defend within the same academic semester.
In order to schedule the QE, the student will first appoint a committee. Committee requirements are as follows:
- Minimum of four members
- Three from within the student's department/program
- One from outside the student's program
- All must be Graduate Faculty
Please note that although the minimum is four members, it is recommended to have a minimum of five members to ensure there are enough signatures in the case that a member is unable to attend or chooses not to sign. Also, if a non-Graduate Faculty member or an external member is chosen as part of the committee, a justification letter from the academic advisor as well as the member’s curriculum vitae will need to be included in the request. An example justification letter is available.
Once the student is ready to appoint the committee and schedule the exam, the student should contact the program coordinator for additional instructions. The forms needed to schedule the QE and appoint the committee will be due three weeks prior to the assessment, so please ensure that this is initiated in advance to allow time to plan, schedule, and submit these forms by the deadline.
Please review additional information regarding the qualifying examination in the Graduate School Catalog: https://www.vanderbilt.edu/catalogs/graduate/graduate-school/index.php
The dissertation defense consists of an oral defense of the dissertation before the student’s Ph.D. committee. Students will complete the dissertation defense during the final months of the student’s program but no later than the deadline for the expected degree conferral date.
The Ph.D. committee assigned for the student’s qualifying exam will remain as the committee for the dissertation defense unless a request for an adjustment is submitted.
Once the student is ready to schedule the exam, the student should contact the program coordinator for additional instructions. The form needed to schedule the defense will be due three weeks prior to the assessment, so please ensure that this is initiated in advance to allow time to plan, schedule, and submit the form by the deadline.
Please review additional information regarding the dissertation defense in the Graduate School Catalog: https://www.vanderbilt.edu/catalogs/graduate/graduate-school/index.php