Ph.D. in Engineering

Research Proposal Defense

The research proposal defense is an oral examination administered by the candidate's Dissertation Committee.


The purpose of the Research Proposal Defense is to test the validity of the dissertation proposal and the candidate's fitness to carry out the research work proposed.


The examination may be taken no earlier than the semester in which the candidate completes the eight credits of coursework as required by the focus area. The candidate must have finished the candidacy examination requirements.

Required Actions

The candidate is required to do the following:

  1. The candidate must complete and submit a Research Proposal Examination Request Form (PDF) to the Ph.D. in Engineering mailbox (207 Russ) no later than 30 days before the scheduled defense. The dissertation advisor and Program Director must sign this form.
  2. The format of the proposal must conform to the regulations outlined by the Graduate School in the Graduate Policy and Procedures Manual. The substance of this proposal forms a major part of the oral portion of the exam. As such, it must be a complete document with a thoughtful, in-depth treatment of the dissertation topic. It should be substantial enough to form the basis of a meaningful oral examination, establishing a worthy research problem and developing an effective research plan. It should only be written after the student has done enough work on the problem to speak meaningfully about it, including discussion of the preliminary investigations. Above all, it should be a technically sound and scholarly document.
  3. At least two weeks prior to the scheduled defense, the Research Proposal must be submitted to the candidate's Dissertation Committee.

Examination Format

On the day of the defense, the examination begins with a short presentation by the candidate outlining the problem chosen, the procedures and methods to be used, the work already completed, and the additional work proposed to be completed for the Ph.D. degree. The Dissertation Committee then questions the candidate. The committee may also ask questions of a more general nature in order to test the adequacy of the candidate's preparation for the proposed research. At the conclusion of the examination, the dissertation advisor announces one of four decisions:

  1. The candidate passed the Research Proposal Defense and may proceed to independent study and research for the doctoral degree.
  2. The examination is temporarily adjourned. The candidate must revise the Research Proposal and be examined again within the next six months.
  3. The candidate failed, but may submit a new Research Proposal and submit to another Research Proposal Defense after completing additional coursework, independent study, or research.
  4. The candidate failed and will not be readmitted to another examination.

Members of the Dissertation Committee must sign a Record of Research Proposal Defense Form. A copy of the signed form will be given to the student and dissertation advisor.

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