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Completing the Ph.D. Thesis

Continuous Registration

After a student has passed the comprehensive examination and has met the two-semester residency requirement, no further registration for credit will be required. However, status as a Penn State student must be maintained by continuous registration for at least the fall and spring semesters beginning with the first semester after both of the requirements mentioned above have been met. Continuous registration must be maintained until the student passes the final oral examination (thesis defense), regardless of whether or not work is being done on the thesis during this interval.

Registration may include non-credit full-time Ph.D. thesis research, EDTHP 601, or 1 or more credits of thesis research, EDTHP 600 or EDTHP 610 (thesis research off-campus). This registration decision may be based on the student’s employment situation, student loan requirements, etc.

All international students must be registered for at least 1 credit during each regular (fall and spring) semester, even if an exception to full-time enrollment has been approved. International students who fail to register may jeopardize their status.

Final Oral Examination

The final oral examination provides an opportunity for the student to make a formal presentation of his/her completed thesis research. Typically, soon after the start of the exam, the committee will confer about the proposal without the student for about 15 minutes. The student then is called back in, and then usually gives a brief presentation. The committee may have questions both during and after the presentation. The exam will be scheduled only after the thesis has been approved by the chair, read by all members of the doctoral committee, and revised by the candidate to incorporate the major revisions suggested by committee members.

It is the responsibility of the student to provide a written copy of the revised thesis to each member of the committee at least two weeks before the date of the defense (unless a faculty member requests only an electronic copy).

The final examination is oral, open to the public, and related in large part to the thesis. A favorable vote of at least two-thirds of the members of the doctoral committee is required to pass. The student should bring the appropriate signatory paperwork to the exam for the committee to sign if the student passes. The result of the final oral examination will be sent to GES and entered on the candidate’s official academic record.

Often students will have revisions to complete after the defense. These revisions are completed in consultation with the thesis advisor. A student does not officially graduate from the program until the revisions are submitted and approved by the thesis advisor.

Scheduling the Final Oral Examination (Thesis Defense)

The student who has satisfied all other requirements for the degree will be permitted to schedule a final oral examination (thesis defense). The student is responsible for coordinating the availability of his or her doctoral committee members to establish the date and time of the exam. The EDTHP staff assistant will reserve a conference room when the student provides the confirmed date and time and will process the appropriate paperwork through GES. GES requires notification two weeks in advance of the final oral examination.

Thesis Submission

The student is responsible to ensure that the thesis strictly adheres to the guidelines set forth in Penn State’s Thesis Guide. The Guide provides requirements and guidelines for the preparation of both master’s theses and doctoral dissertations, and may be viewed online (  Both the format review and final copy must now be submitted online.