by Augie Morado
Deadlines are coming up as we approach the middle of the semester, and Ph.D. candidates preparing to defend in Spring 2020 should be aware of the March 10 deadline for two major milestones: submitting a request for an oral defense and submitting a pre-defense draft of the dissertation to the Graduate School.
The former milestone is straightforward enough, and the form for it can be found here, but the pre-defense draft, what it entails, why it exists, and how to submit it is perhaps less obvious.
What Is the Pre-Defense Draft?
Simply put, it is the copy of your dissertation that you submit to the Graduate School Dean’s Office when you request an oral defense. The pre-defense draft will be read by the dean’s designated reader. Although the dean is an ex officio (i.e., non-voting) member of each dissertation committee (including yours!), the dean is also just one person and thus unable to attend every defense. Therefore, the designated reader reads the pre-defense draft and attends the oral defense, where they may ask the defending students questions. Following the defense, the designated reader reports to the dean to summarize the events.
What Should the Pre-Defense Draft Contain?
According to The Graduate School’s Quick Guide for Faculty, the pre-defense draft should be essentially finished “with respect to research methods, results and analysis, including relevant figures, data and references.” However, the extent to which the pre-defense draft is complete depends on the needs of your committee and department. After all, it is expected after a successful defense that your committee will ask you to make at least slight revisions for the final, post-defense version.
Do I Have to Submit a Pre-Defense Draft?
Yes. It is also important to note here that the pre-defense draft is required only for doctoral dissertation; masters theses need not apply.
The pre-defense draft of the dissertation serves two purposes.
First, it ensures quality control of the draft and the defense so that both are at a graduate level of academic rigor. It ensures that all involved parties – you, your committee, and Graduate School – are doing their part to guarantee that the dissertation meets the high standards expected of an original scholarly contribution to knowledge.
Second, submitting the pre-defense draft protects defending students from being treated unfairly by their committee during the defense. Although you should expect your committee to ask challenging questions about your dissertation, these questions should be motivated by intellectual curiosity and not unreasonable, deliberate efforts to trip you up. Having a pre-defense draft of your dissertation on file as well as a designated reader to attend your defense and report to the dean means the Grad School can step in and mediate if a problem between you and committee arises.
How Should I Submit the Pre-Defense Draft?
A copy of your pre-defense draft should be printed single-sided and delivered to the Graduate School, located in Williston Hall 100, either in person or by mail. At this time, the Graduate School does not accept digital copies of the pre-defense draft.
|Williston Hall 100, the Graduate School's current location.|
When Should I Submit the Pre-Defense Draft?
The pre-defense draft should be submitted at least three weeks before the scheduled defense. Remember that the results of the oral defense are due by March 31 for May 2020, so do plan accordingly as you prepare to send the pre-defense draft.
For additional clarification regarding upcoming deadlines for the Spring 2020 semester, please consult the Graduate Deadlines page. For further questions regarding the pre-defense draft, check out the Draft Version (Dissertations Only) section of the Quick Guide for Faculty (linked above, but linked here as well).
Also, please submit your pre-defense draft to only the Graduate School Dean’s Office, as the Thesis and Dissertation Office does not need to see a pre-defense copy. Having said that, we are more than happy to assist with formatting and any other questions related to the pre-defense draft. Even as we continue our transition into Williston, we are still open from 10 am – 2 pm Monday through Thursday on the first floor of Holmes Student Center near the tables past the Starbucks: look for the sign and walk on up! We can also still be reached by email at Thesis@niu.edu.