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 exam is called the defense. If 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.  Two weeks before the date of your defence, please email Susan Jackman the following information:
  • 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.
David Dranove, Faculty Director of the PhD Program, approves of all committees. Once Susan has approval, paperwork for your defense will be processed and forms will be forwarded to your dissertation chair. To pass the defense, signatures are required from your committee members. Please return the signed Final Exam form 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.

Here are some helpful links for the PhD degree completion:

Degree Completion Process 
Degree Completion Checklist (.pdf)
Dissertation Submission Line (UMI) 
Dissertation Formatting Guidelines (.pdf)
Acknowledging Co-Authored Work within the Dissertation

Please note that the Kellogg PhD Office does not handle the dissertation submission process, you will work directly with The Graduate School. For TGS assistance, please direct all inquiries to : gradservices@northwestern.edu.


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 University's Convocation, and the Kellogg School of Management Convocation. 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.

Proof of Graduation

Diplomas are mailed from The Graduate School. For proof of graduation, you can request two documents:
  1. Request a Northwestern transcript after graduation occurs. Your degree and degree date will appear on your transcript. 
  2. You can also request a Degree-Awarding 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.