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Guidelines for the Dissertation Preparation and Defense

The dissertation should be prepared according to Graduate Center guidelines, which can be found here: The dissertation should follow the format outlined in the Prospectus Guidelines for the Criminal Justice Doctoral Program – introduction, literature review, conceptual approach to the study, methodology – as well as a results section, discussion section and conclusion. Once the dissertation is complete, the dissertation chair and committee members must sign contact the Assistant Program Officer stating that they have read the dissertation and agree that the student is prepared to defend the dissertation.

Scheduling the Defense

The dissertation defense will not be scheduled until all committee members have read and signed the signature form provided by the Assistant Program Officer. The defense must be scheduled at least 35 days in advance of the exam date. This is a Graduate Center policy and no exceptions will be made.

The Defense

The dissertation defense is an oral examination that is intended to assess the student’s original research project. The student must demonstrate competence in a specific research methodology, command of the literature in the field, and a conceptual understanding of the policy implications and/or the theoretical contribution of the research to the field.

This Dissertation defense is open to all doctoral faculty and students as well as other invited guests, and it is run by the dissertation chair. The student should prepare a brief (20-25 minute) presentation of the dissertation using PowerPoint or handouts, focusing primarily on the method, findings, and importance of the findings. The dissertation chair and committee members can ask the student questions about the research focusing on any aspect of the dissertation. At the conclusion of questions by the committee, the chair must invite questions from the doctoral students and faculty attending. If other experts in the field are attending the defense (e.g., director of a research institute, police chief, etc), they may also be allowed to ask questions at the discretion of the chair.

Upon completion of defense, the student and all guests must leave the room while the committee members discuss the student’s work. There are four possible outcomes for the exam: (1) pass with no revisions, (2) pass with minor revisions, (3) pass with major revisions, and (4) fail. If a student receives a result of pass with minor revisions, the student’s supervisor must review the revisions and sign that the revisions are sufficient. If a student must make major revisions, all the committee members must review the revisions and agree that they are sufficient to pass the examination. Students who fail must make the suggested revisions and retake the examination.

Checklist for the Dissertation Defense

  • Signed confirmation from chair and committee members that student is ready to defend.  Form must be requested by Assistant Program Officer.
  • IRB certificate of approval on file at the Graduate Center
  • 35 days notice to the Assistant Program Officer