Final Examination

The special research you conduct as part of your doctoral work is expected to make a clearly articulated contribution to your chosen field of knowledge—a contribution of sufficient importance to merit publication. You must, therefore, prepare a thesis showing the results of your research.

The completed thesis research is reported in a written dissertation thesis document and orally defended before the doctoral committee and other interested members of the Purdue faculty and study body. On the basis of the written document and the oral defense of it, the doctoral committee awards the PhD or specifies the steps that you need to take to address issues preventing successful completion of the degree.

Final Thesis Exam milestones

Important milestones associated with the Final Thesis Exam are identified in PhD Timeline and Milestones.

To become eligible to take the Final Thesis Exam:

  • Inform the Graduate Coordinator of your plans.

    Registration: Let the Graduate Coordinator know the first week of the semester (or prior) of your plan to take the final exam. She will meet with you to discuss the correct registration for you and all the deadlines to be met (including the deadline to be included on the official candidate list for depositing and graduation in the same semester). You can use the exam-only or degree-only registration only if you have taken and received an S for at least 1 hour of research credit in the previous semester. Once you have the date, time, and dissertation title, the Graduate Coordinator will fill out the Form 8, obtain all signatures, and send the form to the Graduate School no less than four weeks prior to the exam. Once the date of your final exam has been set, you must let the Graduate Coordinator know if there are any changes.  

    Late requests to schedule a final examination will not allow sufficient time to process the request. Any requests to schedule an examination less than four weeks in advance must be approved by the ENE Graduate Chair and will be approved only in exceptional circumstances. See Preparing for the Final Thesis Exam. For information on regular-candidacy, exam-only, and degree-only registration, see Graduate School Manual, section V, page 9, G 1&2).

  • Two-semester rule

    Purdue requires that a student be enrolled in research credits (this does not include coursework) during the period between the Preliminary Exam and the Final exam. There is no specific rule regarding the number of research credits other than a requirement of a student being enrolled in research credits during the two semesters between these exams.  Students should also keep in mind that they need sufficient credits for meeting the ENE PhD graduate requirements (e.g., 90 credits total) by the time they request approval for their final exam.  

    The purpose of this rule is to recognize that a student may be using university facilities for their research or advising support from university faculty. If a student does not meet this requirement, the Graduate School will not approve the final exam request. If you are a student who cannot register for research credits during this time, please discuss this matter with your committee and the Chair to explore options.

  • Doctoral committee: Your final examining committee must consist of a minimum of four members of the graduate faculty. All members of the examining committee must be notified of the scheduled examination.

  • Plan of Study: You must have an approved plan of study on file to be considered a candidate for graduation.
  • Portfolio: The portfolio must be completed and shared with your major professor and dissertation committee before the end of the degree term.
  • Thesis guidelines: The thesis must be prepared according to the Graduate School’s Manual for the Preparation of Graduate Thesis in combination with other resources available through the Graduate School Thesis Office.


Graduate School Calendar and Deadlines

The Graduate School, Registrar and Bursar (with Board of Trustees approval) have implemented fee polices for candidate deadlines. A $200 late fee will be charged if you:

  • Request candidacy after the appropriate deadline for the semester. A formal request must still be made of the Graduate School to add you to the graduation candidate roster. If the request is not approved, no fee will be charged.
  • Have been on the graduation candidate roster for the same degree for more than two consecutive semesters. 

You have the right to appeal any of these fees.


Preparing for the Final Thesis Exam

Work with your committee to draft your dissertation

In consultation with your advisor, develop a plan to prepare a thesis 6-12 months in advance of your actual graduation date. Then work with the chair of the doctoral committee and in consultation with other members of the committee as appropriate to write the dissertation document. 

Before beginning to write your thesis, you are strongly advised to review the Graduate School's Formatting Requirements. Access this site in the early stages of your thesis preparation and, later, for details on the proper processing of the thesis. Numerous informational links are available on the site, including links to the Style and Notation Guide for the Preparation of Graduate Theses. There are also YouTube presentations for formatting guidelines and self-checks.

In addition, there are many useful resources for organizing your proposal, such as outlines from the Engineering Education Inquiry course or outlines from research methods electives, as well as AERA guidelines.

In some cases, students may conduct three related studies with the goal of later submitting these three papers for publication as separate documents. Purdue has no official policy on this format or a requirement that the papers be accepted for publication. Remember, only a Purdue committee has the official capacity to assess a Purdue thesis and grant a PhD. Students are expected to follow the general guidelines for thesis formatting, not the style guidelines of the target publication venue. 

While there are no specific requirements for a “three-paper” thesis, it is expected that (1) students provide in the introductory and concluding chapters a summary that integrates the three studies as part of a larger research question, and (2) each paper meets the same scholarly guidelines (e.g., establishes the significance of the study, provides a research design and rationale, etc.).

Determine if the dissertation research project is ready for an oral defense

When you and your advisor think that a written draft of the completed dissertation research project is ready for oral defense, disseminate the dissertation draft to the committee with a request for feedback (e.g., within two weeks). Two matters should be addressed in each committee member’s feedback: (1) whether the document is of sufficient quality to be defended orally (if a majority agrees, the oral exam can be scheduled), and (2) what changes/clarifications, minor or major, are needed in the document prior to holding the oral defense. After all feedback has been received, your advisor synthesizes and communicates it to you, noting any necessary changes.

If your advisor thinks that requested revisions are mutually contradictory, excessive, or unjustified vis-à-vis the original proposal, then the advisor can call a meeting of the committee (this step is not normally needed). The committee meets without you present to consider the collective requests for revision and how to resolve any differences of opinion. Following this process, the advisor provides you feedback about necessary revisions. You will work on appropriate revisions, and when your advisor deems the revised product to be sufficiently responsive and complete, you distribute the revised draft.

Schedule the Final Thesis Exam

When you and your advisor agree that the thesis is ready for committee review, the thesis draft is prepared for dissemination to the committee members, an oral defense is scheduled through the ENE Graduate Office, and the defense is publicly announced. Proceed as follows:

  • Consult with the advisory committee to find a date and time for the examination that is acceptable to all. Determine if all committee members intend to be physically present for the examination. If necessary, make alternative arrangements for committee members that must be absent (e.g., on sabbatical). Chairs or co-chairs must be physically present for your examination. If this is not possible, you must request approval from the Graduate Office before your examination request will proceed. The Graduate Coordinator will reserve the room for the Preliminary Examination. Note: The Final Examination must be completed before the semester deadline (approximately one week before the last day of classes) as indicated by the Graduate School, but we strongly recommend you do not wait until this late date. Check the Graduate School website or the ENE Graduate Office for the specific deadline. If you are registered for “Exam Only”, you must complete your Final Examination by the eighth week of classes (fourth week of a summer session). Set up an appointment with the Thesis Office.
  • At least four weeks before the proposed exam date, submit a request for appointment of examining committee (Form 8) with the ENE Graduate Office, which will seek approval from the Graduate School for your Doctoral Advisory Committee to conduct the examination. Please be aware that late requests to schedule an examination will not allow sufficient time to process a request. Any requests to schedule an examination less than three weeks in advance must be approved by the ENE Graduate Chair, and will be approved only in exceptional circumstances. When the Form 8 is approved by the Graduate School, an approved copy of the form will be sent to the ENE Graduate Office with the following additional materials for the candidate: a) Report of the Final Examination (G.S. Form 11); b) Thesis Acceptance (G.S. Form 9)

  • Each member of the examining committee must receive a copy of the thesis at least two weeks, preferably three weeks, before the date of the final oral examination.


Concluding the Final Exam

At the oral defense, you will provide an overview of your completed dissertation research project. The committee members question you about the project’s goals, issues of design and data analysis, and matters of interpretation. At the conclusion of the oral defense, you will be asked to leave. The committee members then vote on approval and discuss any further changes in the final written product. The advisor shares these changes with you in writing, copying the members of the committee. 

It is presumed that committee discussion at the orals will result in the need for additional revisions and clarifications in the final document. It is expected, however, that any such proposed revisions will be minor, that the forms indicating approval of the dissertation can be signed at the meeting, and that the committee can assign to the advisor the responsibility of verifying that appropriate final revisions have been made. In the event that major revisions are requested, no vote is taken at the time of the orals or forms signed. The advisor shares the changes requested by the committee in writing, copying members of the committee. You are allowed one revision cycle to address the concerns of the committee.

Upon completion of the final changes, a vote is taken if still necessary. A majority of the Committee must approve. If the examination is unsatisfactory, at least one semester or summer session must elapse before the Final Examination is repeated. A new request Form 8 must be submitted. 

If the examination is satisfactory, online forms are completed and signed using the date of the oral defense as the date of completion. The ENE Graduate Office will provide the major professor with a file containing rubrics for the final exam. The major professor must report the results and return all signed forms of the Final Examination to the ENE Graduate Office without delay (within 24 hours) after the examination has been taken. The Graduate School exam form will be signed by the Chair of the Graduate Committee and returned to the Graduate School only when all the rubric forms have been completed.  The final exam report must be received by the Graduate School before the last week of classes of the academic session.

Exam forms include:

  • Exam Rubrics:  Each examining committee member must complete a rubric form. Committee members who attend the examination remotely may send in their completed rubric forms separately. Each completed rubric form will be placed in a confidential summary folder in the ENE Graduate Office. This is to develop a database of the rubric outcomes to be analyzed later to evaluate learning outcomes being achieved and those requiring attention. The rubric outcomes will be anonymous in the database. A decision to share the responses of committee members with the student being examined will be left to the discretion of the student’s advisor and committee.
  • Report of the final examination form (Form 11):  The committee chair should present the examination committee with a Form 11, which is sent to the department by the Graduate School upon approval of the request for an examining committee (Form 8). Each member of the examining committee must indicate approval or disapproval and sign the report form. Only members of the approved examining committee may take part in the evaluation. No more than one dissenting vote is acceptable in certifying a candidate to receive the PhD.  The “Report of the Final Examination” must be signed and returned with your complete file by your major professor to the ENE Graduate Office immediately after the exam.

  • Thesis acceptance form (Form 9):  You should prepare a Form 9 in preparation for the exam; however, if changes to the thesis document are requested, this form may need to be signed by the examining committee after all requested revisions are completed. The Graduate School will not accept Form 9 without a signature of the Thesis Format Advisor. Note: Your major professor is not responsible for format approval and should not sign From 9 at the bottom under “Format Approved by”. 

If corrections to a final thesis cannot be completed before the end of the session, the degree will be awarded the following semester, and you can register for “degree only”. Otherwise, you should proceed toward processing and submitting your thesis through the Graduate School (next section).


Depositing Your Thesis 

Schedule a meeting with the Graduate School Thesis Deposit Office

Go to this link to schedule your meeting. Schedule your appointment as early as possible; most candidates request appointment during the “deadline” week. Choose your appointment time wisely, especially if you want to come in the final week: deadline-week appointments will not be rescheduled. Due to limited staffing at the Graduate School, as well as the large number of people requesting appointments to deposit, especially during the last week, they may only have time to see you once.

Review and follow the appropriate Graduate School guidelines. Details of the process can be found at the Graduate School

Be meticulous and plan ahead! You can avoid nearly all formatting and deposit issues by using online tools and by asking questions in advance, making sure all documents are properly completed. Be careful during formatting.

Once you have submitted your thesis:

  • Give a copy of your dissertation to your major professor and any member of your examining committee who wants one.
  • Give an electronic copy to the Graduate Coordinator so that it may become part of the ENE library.
  • Look forward to the graduation ceremony with your friends and family!

Schedule an Engineering Education exit interview

The Graduate Coordinator will email you the ENE Departure Form and walk you through the process of “checking out” (returning keys, providing forwarding information, etc.).

Contact the administrative assistant to the ENE head to schedule an exit interview with the Head of ENE before your meeting with the Graduate School Thesis Deposit Office. Allow at least three weeks before leaving campus and a two- to three-week period to set the interview time and date. 

All students are required to schedule an exit interview with the program Head and complete the Departure Form.

On myPurdue, check the Graduation tab for all forms and instructions on completing them.

Graduation Ceremony

Once you are on the candidate list, you will see in myPurdue a Graduate tab. Click that tab for information on the graduation ceremony.