PhD Dissertation Requirements

The Department’s long-standing emphasis on original research is a key element in the Candidate’s educational development.

The thesis defense has two stages: i) a final Thesis Committee Meeting report, and ii) a defense. The final Thesis Committee Meeting involves only the student and the Thesis Committee but it must include all members of the Thesis Committee. In highly unusual circumstances, the Chair of the Graduate Committee may approve faculty absences or substitutions for the preliminary exam. Such approval must be obtained in writing at least one week in advance of the meeting. Approval is only possible with written support from the chair of the Thesis Committee and the faculty member to be replaced or absent.

At least one week prior to the final Thesis Committee Meeting, the student will email PDF copies of the final thesis report document to the thesis committee members. The final thesis report usually will involve a brief presentation summarizing research results and the contents of the thesis document. The Thesis Committee will prepare a set of comments, suggestions, or requirement, as necessary for further experiments, more careful data analysis, more rigorous interpretation, or improved expression. If the Thesis Committee discovers major deficiencies, a second progress report may be required.

The Thesis Defense is open to the public. The defense can only be scheduled after all deficiencies identified in the final Thesis Committee meeting report have been addressed. In no case will the defense occur sooner than two weeks after the final Thesis Committee meeting. At least two weeks prior to the defense, the Candidate will email PDF copies of the final thesis document to the Thesis Committee members. The committee members must decide within these two weeks if the thesis document is acceptable to proceed to defense. The committee members must decide within these two weeks if the thesis document is acceptable to proceed to defense. If the thesis is unacceptable, the defense will be rescheduled following correction of the thesis. It is the student’s responsibility to reserve a classroom for the Thesis Defense. If the student wishes to reserve one of the BE Classrooms (56-614, 16-220), they should contact the BE Academic Office, any other classroom reservation must be reserved through the Registrar’s Office.

The defense begins with a formal presentation of approximately 45 minutes based on the thesis. The floor is then opened to questions from the general audience, which is thereafter excused. The Thesis Committee, and any other MIT faculty that wish to remain, continue the examination of the Candidate in private. The Candidate and any non-Thesis Committee faculty still present are finally excused from the room for the final Committee deliberations and decision. A majority yes vote is required to approve the thesis. It is the responsibility of the Thesis Committee Chair to give the Committee’s decision whether the thesis is satisfactory or unsatisfactory to the Candidate and to the BE Academic Office. In the event of vote not to pass, the Thesis Committee will make recommendations as to needed changes to render the thesis satisfactory. The revised thesis will then be submitted for a second final defense.

Note: Students are advised to keep in mind that the months of May and August tend to be the months where scheduling a presentation may be difficult because of faculty unavailability.