Final Defense

All procedures must be finished by the completion deadline the Graduate School's PhD Office has established for the semester. Students should use the completion checklist to make sure they complete all procedures on time.

Prior to determining a defense date, confirm via STARS that you have completed (or will complete by the end of the semester of your final defense) a minimum of 90 graduate credits – 60 in coursework, including a minimum of 30 credits taken at Wayne State University and 30 credits from 7000-level courses and above, and 30 in dissertation research and preparation.

Confirm via STARS that all your Y grades from previous semesters – with the exception of pre-candidacy (9990), candidacy (9991, 9992, 9993, 9994), and post-maintenance (9995) grades – have been changed to letter grades (If this is not the case, contact the instructor listed for the course with the Y grade.) 

Students must be enrolled in the semester of the final defense.

Procedures before the Final Defense

By the end of the fifth week in their graduation term, a candidate must:

Two weeks before the Final Defense, a candidate must:

  • Submit the dissertation manuscript electronically to the PhD Office for a format check after adhering to all the formatting instructions.
  • Receive tentative approval of the dissertation from all members of the dissertation committee by obtaining their signatures on part 1 of the Final Report form. A pre-defense meeting of the student and whole committee is recommended, allowing committee members to indicate their concerns regarding the dissertation and the student to make needed revisions. Their signatures on the Final Report form indicate approval of the content of the dissertation and its readiness for a public lecture presentation (defense). Consequently, no requests for major revisions of the dissertation should arise at the defense. The graduate director's approval attests the committee meets composition policies. The candidate then submits the Final Report to the PhD Office for approval.
  • The person (either the committee advisor or graduate director) who runs the plagiarism check must check the box and sign their name on the Final Report. (See detailed instructions on how to run a Unicheck report below.)
  • Obtain committee members' signatures on a new Conflict of Interest form and submit to the PhD Office for approval.
  • Submit the announcement publicizing the Final Defense to the PhD Office.
  • Complete the permission form on the Libraries website, allowing Wayne State University Libraries to make the dissertation available to the Wayne State community and the general public through Digital Commons@WSU. Students can control the level of access to their dissertation/thesis through the permission form.

The PhD Office will verify the appropriateness of the committee on the Final Report form and send the Defense form, along with the Graduate Examiner's Report form, to the dissertation advisor for completion following the defense.

Plagiarism Check Policy

The PhD Office requires that all dissertations and theses must be submitted for a plagiarism check through UniCheck prior to the defense. Graduate directors or faculty advisors must run the plagiarism check for their students. 

Directions for Running Dissertation and Thesis Plagiarism Checks through Unicheck

With the switch from Blackboard to Canvas, plagiarism check procedures have changed. We no longer have access to SafeAssign. As a result, plagiarism checks for dissertations and master's theses will now be run through a course on Canvas called the Dissertation Plagiarism Review. Here is the new procedure:

  • Faculty must to be added as "students" to the Dissertation Plagiarism Review course to gain access. To be added to the course, simply email with the request.
  • Once you are added to the Dissertation Plagiarism Review course, login to Canvas, click on the course, and you will see that only the assignment section is open. 
  • Upload the document as an assignment. Please name the document with the student's last name as the first part of the document name eg. Smithdissertation. This is very important, as it will allow the PhD Office to track and confirm your submission.
  • There are two ways to upload a document, either as a draft or final. Draft does not add the dissertation to the institutional database. The final does enter the document into the database to be used for future checks.
  • Review the report. To review the report, go to submission details, which will redirect you to Unicheck. You can download the report by reviewing information under "Grades" in the Canvas site in the plagiarism check course.
  • If the Unicheck report finds that there is less than 15 percent duplication of material from other sources, check the box on the final defense report that states that Unicheck is complete and sign.
  • The PhD Office will verify electronically that Unicheck is complete. If the document you upload is not named to correspond with the student's last name, this verification may be delayed.
  • If the Unicheck report finds that there is greater than 15 percent duplication of material from other sources, the faculty advisor should review the material and provide an explanation about why this level of duplication is permissible.

This link will take you to a Canvas instructional video on how to use Unicheck in canvas. The student view starts at 4:38.

For any questions, please contact Terri Renaud in the PhD Office Student Services office at 313-577-7740 or email


Plagiarism is a concern at universities nationwide, with reports in the Chronicle of Higher Education of whole dissertations being plagiarized. The Academic Standards Committee examined 20 dissertations from graduated Wayne State students. Of those, two had a high percentage of plagiarism. That was a sufficiently high number to warrant a mandatory dissertation/thesis check through UniCheck.

The Office of Research Integrity (ORI)* funded the creation of a handbook on plagiarism and the ethics of academic writing. Even though this was intended for the sciences, it can be applicable to various disciplines. View the ORI's Guide to Ethical Writing.

* ORI is a division of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

Procedures of the Final Defense

The Final Defense is conducted by the student's dissertation advisory committee and is open to the public. It must be publicized by the student's department in advance. The graduate examiner oversees the proceedings and reports the results to the PhD Office. Typically, the dissertation advisor serves as the graduate examiner, though the student or any committee member may request the PhD Office to appoint an external examiner.

Attendance requirements at Final Defense

The PhD Office expectation is that the student and all members of the dissertation committee be physically present at the student's Final Defense of the dissertation. At the very least, the student and the dissertation committee chair(s) must be physically present. For committee members who cannot attend in person, synchronous audio-visual access, such as Skype, is required. The defense will be held during business hours. Electronic signatures on the Defense form will be accepted, but each committee member must sign the title page of the dissertation.

The Final Defense consists of:

  1. The first part of the Final Defense is a public presentation in which the candidate presents the methodology, research and results of the investigation to the committee and the audience, then responds to their questions.
  2. In the second part immediately following the public presentation, the candidate meets privately with the committee and responds to further questions about the research and dissertation.
  3. The final phase is the evaluation, in which the committee discusses the candidate's performance, agrees on any revisions the candidate should make to the manuscript and determines whether or not they passed. The candidate is informed of any required revisions.
  4. The committee's decision is then conveyed to the PhD Office via the Final Report form. 

Procedures after the Final Defense

The PhD Office establishes a completion date by which all requirements must be fulfilled for each term for the degree to be certified.

By the established completion date for the semester, a candidate must: