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Dissertation Planner: Defense & Closure

This planner aims to help doctoral students through the dissertation writing process.


Once you have completed your dissertation, you must defend it with a final examination. There are a number of steps you must take to set up a defense.  Information about them is available on this Graduate School page. Of particular note, you must:

  • File a Notification of Intent to Schedule a Final Doctoral Examination (NOTIF) with the Graduate School at least eight weeks prior to your anticipated defense date; and
  • File a Request for Final Doctoral Examination with the Graduate School at least two weeks before your defense. 

The Graduate School forms required for your defense can be found here. Additionally, check the Graduate School Calendar for deadlines about commencement and dissertation submission.

Keep in mind that your department and college may have different requirements and procedures for scheduling a dissertation defense. As always, your best bet is to check with your department and advisor about specific rules and procedures that may apply in your case.

Your defense is the final opportunity to present your dissertation as a coherent, intelligent research product to the committee members. You may want to think about these issues before the defense:

  • You may or may not be expected to give a brief presentation at the beginning. Check with your department and advisor about the specific expectations.
  • Focus on the needs of your primary audience (your committee members) either by consulting them directly or considering their feedback to your drafts.
  • Review your notes and rationale for making the decisions you made in your dissertation. For example, why did you include or exclude prominent theories, authors, and/or research methodologies?
  • Remind yourself that at this point you are the "expert" on your research topic and the goal of the defense is to share your expertise and seek feedback.

In the video below, a professor from Texas A&M University provides advice on how to prepare for and what to expect when defending your dissertation. 

Congratulations on successfully defending your dissertation! You are almost done. The final step is submitting your dissertation. You have 60 days after your defense to submit the final version of your dissertation. Details about the submission are available from this page. Also, this guide provides information about the specific steps involved in the submission process.



You did it!

Once you have completed all the university requirements for the completion of your dissertation, you will benefit from reserving some time for personal and professional reflection. Consider different ways that you might bring closure to the dissertation-writing process and to the earning of your doctorate as a benchmark in your life. Look ahead to the future and to the next steps in your career. Take time to celebrate your achievements and to honor and appreciate those who have helped you along the way. Reframe your interests and professional activities outside of the narrow confines of a dissertation. This kind of reconsideration will help you to articulate and pursue new goals for research, publications, teaching, and community service.

You could even think about presenting your research in form of dancing!  There is a “Dance Your Ph.D.” Contest for doctoral students in sciences.  Below is the winning video in the category of Physics in 2015. 

There are different career options for people with a doctoral degree.  You can seek advice from the James W. Stuckert Career Center and the University of Kentucky Alumni Career Services.  There are also online discussions such as Carpe Careers, Careers Café, and From PhD to Life that help you think through your plans for the future. 

If you are interested in pursuing a postdoctoral position, you may find this advice and these 10 simple rules helpful.  For those with a doctoral degree in the Humanities and Social Sciences who plan to develop a career outside of academia, the Careers Beyond the Professoriate site and this piece about non-academic career options will be of interest.  Additionally, this article shows how a doctoral degree in a STEM discipline led one to earn a non-traditional faculty position. 

Select resources for job search are listed on the Help & Resources page

If you need assistance with your job search, you will find helpful resources on the Help & Resources page.  For those who apply for academic positions, a professor offers some advice here.  The following videos provide pointers about job interviews and common mistakes among job seekers. 

If you decide to pursue an academic career, it is likely that you plan to turn your dissertation into a scholarly monograph or several journal articles, depending on the expectation of your discipline.  You as the author are by default the copyright holder of your dissertation and thus have exclusive rights over it.  You can determine whether and when to publish your work without having to seek permission from the university.  Registering your copyright is optional.  However, registration will provide you with more protection in case somebody infringes upon your rights in the future. 

Some book publishers actively approach new doctoral graduates and offer to publish their dissertations as online books.  There have been reports about such publishers and their practices, e.g., this one and this one.  You may want to take into consideration what services the publishers provide before agreeing to publish your dissertation with any of them.  If you have any questions, consult your academic advisor.  You can also contact the academic liaison for your department/college or Digital Scholarship at the University of Kentucky Libraries

When publishing your scholarly work, you should think about retaining your author rights and broadening the availability of your work by open access.  This guide provides information about open access and related issues.  Alternatively, feel free to contact the academic liaison for your department/college or Digital Scholarship for assistance.  For a brief overview of author rights, open access, and their benefits, check out the videos below. 

As you get published and your career grows, you can track the impact of your research in different ways.  In addition to traditional journal-based citation method, there has been increasing discussion about article-level metrics that focus on assessing research on its own merits.  The video below shows a panel discussion about appropriate ways to gauge the importance and influence of scholarly publications.  If you need assistance with tracking research impact, contact the academic liaison for your department/college or Digital Scholarship at the University of Kentucky Libraries.