Dissertation and Final Examination Process

Each doctoral candidate must complete a dissertation demonstrating original and significant research and must pass a final oral examination on the dissertation.  This is exam is called the defenseIf you have questions about the process, please speak with your dissertation chair and/or PhD coordinator for your program. 

The defense process is similar to the proposal.  Here's the information Susan Jackman will need from you by e-mail at least 2 weeks before the date of your defense:

  • Scheduled date, time, and location (room number) for your proposal
  • Title of dissertation
  • List of committee members, noting who your chair is. Details regarding the committee requirements are available online.

Bob McDonald, the PhD Program director, approves of all committees.  Once Susan has his approval, she'll process the paperwork for your defense and give the forms to your dissertation chair. To pass the defense, signatures are required from your committee members. The signature form is returned to Susan Jackman for processing. 

The Graduate School awards degrees quarterly: December, March, June and August. Deadlines for filing for the degree and graduation are found on the Graduate School’s academic calendar. Students should file the Application for Degree Form through CAESAR when they plan on defending and submitting their dissertation for a particular graduation date.

Regular email announcements are sent to students from the PhD Office reminding them of upcoming degree deadlines.  

Here are some helpful links for the PhD degree completion:

Please note that the Kellogg PhD Office does not handle the dissertation submission process.  You will work directly with the Graduate School.  The dissertation is delivered directly to the Graduate School online.  If you have questions, here are the advisors (Student Services representatives) sorted by the student's last name, who can help:


  Graduation and Degree Verification

August, December, March graduates will receive invitations to participate in the June graduation ceremonies.  Susan Jackman provides more information about the ceremonies in April.  The ceremonies include the Graduate School’s Hooding Ceremony, Northwestern’s Convocation, and the Kellogg’s graduation ceremony.  You can attend all ceremonies or pick and choose. If you wish to purchase (not rent) a cap and gown, information is found here. Information on rentals will be provided in April.

Diplomas are mailed from the Graduate School and more information about that process is found here.  For proof of graduation, you can request two documents:

  • You can request a Northwestern transcript after graduation occurs.  Your degree and degree date will appear on your transcript. 
  • You can request a certificate from the Graduate School acknowledging that you completed the requirements for the PhD degree.  This certificate is signed by the Dean of Students of the Graduate School.  That certificate is available to you when all forms and the final version of the dissertation have been submitted and approved by a Student Services representative. To request a certificate, send an email to gradservices@northwestern.edu with your name, EMPL ID, and address (email or US Mail) where certificate should be mailed. The certificate should be ready in 1-2 business days.