Thesis and Thesis Defense


The thesis defense is the culmination of a student’s work at Northwestern.   Students are required to write a thesis document, which will include: 1) a scholarly Introduction to the field and the background/rationale for the specific questions addressed by the thesis research, 2) a series of data chapters describing research conducted by the student, and 3) a final Discussion chapter.  Data chapters may be the same or very similar to published papers/manuscripts on which the student is the first author.  For published/manuscripts papers on which the student is not the first author, the text should be cut or revised to focus on the research conducted by the student.  The Introduction and Discussion are expected to be original work written specifically for the thesis.

A draft of the thesis should be submitted to the thesis advisor with sufficient time for the advisor to evaluate it before distribution to the Thesis committee.  Students may not distribute their thesis to their committee until the thesis advisor provisionally approves it.  Once the advisor approves the thesis, it then should be submitted to the Thesis committee at least two weeks before the scheduled private defense date.  Thesis committee members must agree before the defense that the thesis is at a level worth defending.  If any committee member has a serious and justifiable objection to the thesis as written, the committee member will make his/her concerns known to the thesis advisor, student, and NUIN Director, and the thesis defense must be rescheduled.

Thesis Defense

If the committee members agree that the thesis is of acceptable quality, the thesis defense will include a Private Thesis Defense and a formal Public Thesis Seminar.  The public seminar should not be advertised until the private defense has been passed and should follow the private defense by no less than a week in order that there be ample advance notice.  Any thesis revisions that are agreed upon as reasonable by the Thesis committee must be completed successfully before the PhD Final Exam Form is signed by all Thesis Committee members. Students are strongly encouraged to engage in regular communication with their committee members.  In the rare circumstance that a consensus cannot be reached regarding necessary revisions, a student or thesis advisor may appeal a Thesis committee’s recommendations to the NUIN Director.  Final submission of the written document must conform to any requirements of the Graduate School.