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Preparing for a Master's Defense


Prepare for the Defense

After completing the research required for your thesis, you must decide on a date for the master’s thesis defense. You should also inform your Graduate Administrator that you have started the process to prepare for your defense. A master’s thesis defense committee must include your advisor, a second faculty member from within your program, and a faculty member from outside of your department.  Please note: If the Advisor is not within a student's program the committee would consist of four members: the advisor, two faculty within the program and and one outside faculty member.

Selecting a Defense Date

The academic calendar includes important dates for defense for each semester of the academic year. When you and your advisor begin thinking about defending, check the academic calendar for deadlines. Defenses may be held on any day the Arts, Sciences and Engineering Graduate Studies office is open for business (i.e., not weekends, evenings, or holidays, or the days between Christmas and New Years).

It is permissible for a member of your committee to participate in the defense remotely via Skype, with the exception of your advisor—you and your advisor must both be physically present in the room for the defense. Participation of a committee member by Skype must be approved by the AS&E Dean of Graduate Studies before the thesis is registered for defense.

When all members of your committee have agreed to a specific date and time for the defense, inform your Graduate Administrator of the scheduled defense date as soon as possible. Your Graduate Administrator will advise you of any program-specific requirements for the defense as well as prepare your thesis defense paperwork. This paperwork requires signatures from your advisor and the department chair/program director, indicating their approval that the thesis is ready for defense. Check with your Graduate Administrator to determine if you or the Graduate Administrator will obtain the signatures for your paperwork. You should provide your committee members at least one week to read and comment on your thesis before the thesis defense.

International Students and Work Visas

We strongly recommend that international students meet with an International Services Office (ISO) representative. The ISO will provide information on visa options, documentation, and timelines for applying for a visa for employment in the US.

Registration Categories for Defense

In your final semester (the semester in which you defend), if you have completed all your credit requirements, you will register for one of the following registration categories:

899: “Master’s Thesis” non-credit bearing registration category that indicates the Master’s student has completed all of the requirements for the degree except the thesis and is in residence as a full-time student.

  • You must be in residence full-time.
  • You are eligible for student health insurance, loan deferments, and University housing, but you are not eligible for financial aid in the form of student loans.

895: “Continuation of Enrollment” non-credit bearing registration category that indicates the Master’s student has completed all of the requirements for the degree except the thesis and is not in residence as a full-time student. When registered for Continuation of Enrollment, your time status is “X”, meaning less than part-time.

  • Appropriate if you have left the University prior to completion for a job or personal reasons but have a defense planned during the upcoming semester.
  • You are not eligible for student health insurance, loan deferments, University housing, or financial aid in the form of student loans.

Thesis Writing and Guidelines

The University of Rochester offers the manual “Preparing Your Thesis” to graduate students to help you to bring your thesis up to the required standard of organization, appearance, and format for the University of Rochester. Note that while this document is specifically for PhD Dissertations, the same formatting rules apply for Master’s theses. Before preparing the defense copy of your thesis, check the contents of the manual carefully. The manual does not deal with the art of scholarship. There are numerous guidebooks and style manuals available for thesis writers. However, before beginning the writing of your thesis, you should consult with your Advisor regarding preferred styles.

Including material produced by other authors in your thesis can serve a legitimate research purpose, but you want to avoid copyright infringement and plagiarism in the process. Republishing someone else's work, even in abbreviated form, requires permission from the author or copyright owner and proper attribution. You must receive permission from the author(s) and include it with your submission before it can be published in your thesis.

Rooms for Your Defense

You must reserve a room for your oral presentation and for your closed exam. Check with your Graduate Administrator to determine who will schedule the room for your thesis defense.

Printing and Binding Your Thesis for Defense

You must provide copies of the thesis to your committee members. You should check with your committee members to see if they prefer printed copies or electronic copies (or both). If they select printed copies, these copies do not need to be printed on heavy-weight, expensive paper unless there is the need to do so for figures and images.

Printing and binding a thesis can be expensive. Most students use the Copy Center to print and bind their theses. If you have questions about the process, including turn-around time for the finished product, call (585) 275-3879 or visit the Medical Center Copy Center location. Binding at the Copy Center is black tape binding. Printing at the Copy Center includes a proof before the final copies are printed and this can take up to a week; it is advisable to check into turnaround time well before printing is needed.

On occasion, some students use FedEx/Kinkos to print and bind their theses. FedEx/Kinkos offers a 24 hour turn-around time for printing and binding, which is a plastic spiral and is perfectly acceptable. Although requesting a proof copy will extend the turn-around time at FedEx/Kinkos, it is advisable to do so before your final copies are printed. Printing costs are generally higher at FedEx/Kinkos.

Registering Your Thesis

“Registering” simply means that you have presented a thesis document, which you intend to defend, to the AS&E Dean of Graduate Studies. Your thesis must be approved as ready to defend by your advisor, as noted by the Advisor signature on the Master’s Thesis Defense Appointment Form (note that this form can only be accessed by staff). Registration must occur on a date that allows 5 full working days to pass between the registration date and your actual defense date. When registering your Master’s thesis, you must present a bound defense copy of your thesis to the Graduate Studies Office, Lattimore 207-209.

The copy of your thesis that you register will be returned to you usually within a few days before or after the defense, with possible corrections that must be addressed in the final thesis.