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Oral Defence of the Dissertation

The purpose of the oral defence of a dissertation is to demonstrate to the examiners that the candidate fully understands the work that was completed, how the research was completed, and the meaning and significance of the findings and conclusions. The candidate must also have a clear understanding of how the work fits with the relevant literature and/or practice.

The Dissertation Examination Committee

The Dissertation Examination Committee (DEC) consists of all the members of the Dissertation Advisory Committee (DAC) and an external examiner who is knowledgeable on the subject of the thesis and at arm’s length from the candidate and the dissertation advisor (DA). The external examiner must be approved by the graduate coordinator.

Normally, at least one member of the DEC must be from outside the academic unit/program of the candidate. Thus, if all members of the DAC are internal to the candidate’s academic unit/program, the external examiner may not be.

When the external examiner must come from outside Biology or Chemistry and Biochemistry, normally this person will be a faculty member from another Laurier department. Where there is no available faculty member with requisite expertise in another department at Laurier, a suitable member of another nearby university may be asked to serve as external examiner.

The chair for the defence, appointed by the PhD Program Committee, must be a member of the graduate faculty of the university and be external to the DEC, but may come from within Biology or Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Guidelines for Determining "Arm's Length" of External Examiners

An external examiner must be at “arm’s length” from the candidate and the dissertation advisor (DA). Arm’s length means not being a close friend, a regular or current collaborator, a former supervisor or a former colleague. It also means not being in a conflict-of-interest position with regard to the candidate or DA and not having a vested interest in the outcome of the oral defence.

Scheduling of the Oral Defence

  1. Obtain approval of the Dissertation Advisory Committee (DAC) to schedule the oral defence and survey the committee for availability.
  2. Notify the graduate administrative assistant of the intention and request a room booking for this purpose. The administrative assistant will ensure that the request to schedule oral examination form is completed prior to scheduling the defence date, and will hand it to the student to obtain all signatures.
  3. The candidate is responsible for ensuring that the thesis is submitted in the format required by the current Laurier thesis format guidelines. The candidate is also responsible for ensuring that all members of the Dissertation Examination Committee (DEC) have received a copy of the thesis two weeks prior to the defence.
  4. Provide two additional copies to the Biology office for distribution to the external examiner and the defence chair. It is the responsibility of this office to distribute these copies; however, the costs associated with printing the thesis are to be covered by the student and/or the thesis advisor.

Conduct of the Oral Defence and Role of the Chair

Any member of the university community is entitled to attend the defence. However, the chair has the authority to exclude persons whose conduct disturbs the defence procedures. Non-members of the university community may attend but must receive the permission of the candidate, the dissertation advisor, and the chair of the defence.

After the Defence

Once the committee has made a decision, the candidate will be informed of the decision and will be given an opportunity to offer any comments about the defence, especially with regard to the fairness of the examination and the findings.

The student may be asked to make appropriate revisions. Once these are done in a satisfactory manner, the supervisor (or a person named by the committee) will accept the thesis as it is.

The student must then submit the dissertation/thesis electronically.