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Dissertation Defense


A dissertation is required of every candidate for the Ph.D. degree. The form of the dissertation must conform to the procedures set forth in the booklet of Preparation and Submission Manual for Doctoral Dissertations and Master's Theses, available online.

A final draft of the dissertation and an email attachment of the dissertation must be submitted to each member of the committee at least two weeks prior to the final examination. Please note that Graduate Division policy requires that committee members receive a final draft of the dissertation a minimum of four weeks prior to the defense. Students should ensure that their outside committee members consent to the shorter period between receipt of the final draft and the final examination.

A student must have completed 6 quarters of academic residency, of which 3 quarters must be between advancement and the final examination/defense of the dissertation, which shall be public. Residence is established by the satisfactory completion of six units or more per quarter, at least some of which must be at the graduate level.

Publications in lieu of a Dissertation

Publications may be used in place of a written dissertation (aka “Staple Dissertation”). Final decisions about the requirements associated with this option rest with the dissertation committee, but departmental guidelines are as follows:

  • Three published papers may be used in lieu of a dissertation, though a brief introduction and conclusion should be prepared.
  • The three papers should be related in a coherent way.
  • The student should be first author on all three papers.
  • The papers should be published in high quality, refereed journals.
  • The work described in the publications should have been performed while the student was enrolled in a graduate program at UCSD.

In addition to our departmental guidelines, the Graduate Division maintains their own rules about using publications as dissertation chapters. Final approval for the use of published papers is from the Graduate Division. Requests must be submitted to the Graduate Division at least three weeks before the dissertation defense. You may schedule a meeting with the Graduate Division. Published work to be submitted as a dissertation must be accompanied by the appropriate permissions from co-authors and copyright holders. For more information, see page 43 of the Preparation and Submission Manual for Doctoral Dissertations.

Oral Defense

An oral defense of the dissertation is required. The oral defense will be public. Ph.D. candidates should provide sufficient advance notice to the department to allow for appropriate public notification (a minimum of two weeks notice is recommended). The Dissertation Committee must and other members of the department and the public may attend the defense. After the student has presented his or her work, the audience may ask questions. After general audience questions, the Committee will meet in private with the student. After this private meeting, the committee will confer to determine whether awarding the Ph.D. is appropriate given the defense.

Graduating Between Quarters 

(winter break, spring break, or summer)

Students graduating in between quarters may need to pay a filing fee ($188) in order to submit their thesis to the Graduate Division. The Graduate Coordinator will prepare and route the DocuSign General Petition form for you.

If you will be on leave of absence the quarter you plan to graduate, remember:

  • Contact the Graduate Coordinator to file the needed paperwork before the first day of classes of the quarter of leave.
  • You are eligible to remain in graduate student housing, but contact their main office for details.
  • You will not be allowed to use any campus facilities and do not have Student ID card privileges (e.g. no working in the lab, bus passes, library privileges, rec facilities).
  • You will not have Graduate Student Health Insurance coverage. Contact Student Health Insurance for assistance with securing health insurance.

Leaving after Completion of Ph.D.

Students must vacate their offices at the end of the quarter of their defense. Students defending in the summer must leave their offices by September 1. All personal belongings and other materials must be removed. Student exams less than one year old must be given to the Student Affairs Office; exams older than one year must be shredded. Should a graduate student become a post doc in the Department of Psychology, he or she must vacate student office space. The faculty member sponsoring the post doc is responsible for providing an office.