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Ph.D. Dissertation and Final Examination

Ph.D. Dissertation Defense, Exam, and Filing Instructions (Updated September 28, 2023)

Dissertation Defense and Examination (Ph.D.)

The dissertation and defense are the culminating projects of the Ph.D. degree. The student is encouraged to discuss with members of the degree committee both the substance and the preparation of the dissertation well in advance of the planned date of dissertation defense and final examination.

The Ph.D. final defense and examination consists of an open seminar on the dissertation work followed by a closed examination by the degree committee.  During the examination, the student is expected to explain the significance of the dissertation research, justify the methods employed, and defend the conclusions reached. 

The defense consists of an open seminar by the candidate followed by questions from the audience (approximately 1 hour). The open session is followed by a closed session of the candidate and degree committee members (examination portion). The entire defense and exam may not be longer than three hours.

At the conclusion of the exam, the committee shall vote on whether both the written dissertation and the student's performance are satisfactory to earn a Ph.D. degree from the University of California.

The presentation slides from our PhD Graduation Filing & Procedures Workshop are available to download here: phd_time_to_degree_-_preparing_for_graduation.pdf

Ph.D. Dissertation Defense, Exam and Filing Procedure

  1. Review Graduate Division Checklists
    1. Please visit for Ph.D./M.S. Degree Application Forms and Guidelines.
    2. Complete the Graduate Student Graduation Application during appropriate filing period (Fall: February 16-September 15; Spring: September 16th-February 15; Summer: September 16-June 15).  The application is available on the student portal under “MyStudentRecord.” No signatures are required.
  2. Set Date with Faculty Committee Members
    1. A defendable copy of your dissertation should be sent to your committee members at least three weeks in advance of their defense date.
  3. Announcements
    1. Complete Exam/Defense Date Submission webform to notify SoE Graduate Staff of your defense date. 
    2. Please create your defense flyer announcement and submit it at least 2 weeks prior to your examination date. We will post your seminar announcement to the campus Event Calendar, and send out the announcement to your graduate program one (1) week prior to your examination date. Click here for available flyer templates
  4. Defense Date
    1. At least one (1) week prior to your examination, you and your committee chair will receive an email with documents required to administer the examination. These documents include your current UC Merced transcripts, preliminary examination results (if applicable), Qualifying Examination Report, Approved Advancement to Candidacy Form, and the Report on Final Examination for the Ph.D. Degree Form. The committee chair will be responsible for submitting the signed Report on Final Examination for the Ph.D. Degree Form to the Graduate Staff  via email at within 48 hours of the completed examination.
    2. Your signature page will need to be submitted to the Graduate Division.  Please see information below regarding acceptable approvals/signatures. Submit signature page to along with acceptable approvals.
  5. Finalize Dissertation and Submit Forms to Graduate Division
    1. Make any corrections/edits to final dissertation.
    2. Upload to UC Merced Proquest website by deadline (please refer to )
    3. Submit dissertation signature page by deadline (please refer to ). Please review information below on acceptable signature/approvals for all forms. You must submit to for processing.


Graduate Division Acceptable Approvals/Signatures

1. Adobe Signature - Adobe signature with a scanned image of a wet signature. Please see Adobe's Quick Start Guide, step 4.c .

2. UC Merced Email - Forms should be completed online and forwarded as an email attachment to the appropriate persons for approval. Signers should indicate, "I approve" or "I do not approve" and add any notes they wish in the body of the email, and then forward it (with form attached) to the next person for approval via UCM email. The email approvals should be submitted through a single email trail. The final person to approve/disapprove should forward the form and email trail to, with a copy to the school's graduate coordinator (

3. Wet Signature/Copy of Wet Signature - Traditional original ink signature on paper.

Please note: Forms submitted to Graduate Division without acceptable approvals/signatures will be considered incomplete and will NOT be processed.  Forms must be emailed to When a form is processed the student will receive an email notification to their UCM email account.