Thesis and Oral Defense
The final checkpoint in the MS program is the thesis defense, which is given in the student’s last semester. This defense is open to the public and is an in-depth explanation of the student’s MS research. The defense is the final examination in the Masters’s Thesis program. It can be broken down into three parts: a written exam, a public oral exam, and a closed oral exam.

Written Thesis
The thesis manuscript serves as the written portion of the exam. The thesis’ contents, results, and conclusions associated with the student’s MS research are provided to the supervisory committee for their review and evaluation at least 2 weeks prior to the oral defense. For formatting and organization of the manuscript, please follow the manuscript guidelines outlined by the Graduate School. At a minimum, the thesis must:

  • Include a thesis summary that is a succinct description of a student’s accomplishments and the deliverables achieved.
  • Reflect an understanding of the current and past state of knowledge in the chosen research area through a comprehensive literature review of the subject
  • Clearly state the goals of the research and justify its value to the engineering and scientific community
  • Demonstrate a fundamental and original contribution, which significantly advances engineering science in the chosen area of research

Oral Defense Format
The student will coordinate the required public announcement and scheduling of the defense with the Robotics Graduate Coordinator. The chair of the student’s committee will also chair the defense. The chair will at a minimum:

  • Open the defense session by introducing the student and their research topic.
  • Announce any specific rules pertaining to the defense (e.g., hold questions until the end of the presentation).

The defense begins with the student’s presentation of their MS research for approximately 45 minutes. The student will be evaluated on presentation skills as well as the content. Members of the audience must be allowed ask the student relevant questions. After the public question-and-answer session, the audience will be excused. After the open portion of the exam, the closed oral exam begins. The committee may pursue additional discussion and questions with the student. The acceptability of the research effort, the content and conclusions of the thesis , and the student’s oral defense are considered along with other factors, as appropriate. The committee then dismisses the student and votes to determine whether the student passes the exam. The chair then meets with the student to inform him/her of the committee’s decision, and the reasons for that decision.

The outcome of the thesis defense is reported on the MS-Thesis Report of the Final Oral Exam form.

  • The student will receive a “Pass” on the defense if the majority of the committee members concur.
  • The student will receive a “Pass with Corrections” if the majority of the committee requires minor changes to the student’s Thesis but do not feel that the student needs to publicly defend their research again. In this case, the committee will also decide if the chair or the entire committee needs to verify that the requested changes have been made.
  • The student will receive a “Fail” if the majority of the committee requires changes to the Thesis and agree that the student must publicly defend their research again.
  • The chair of the committee must return the completed form to Graduate Advising within one week of the defense.

Manuscript Approval
The last step to confer an MS degree is formatting and submitting the department approved thesis to the Thesis Office.

  • Once the committee approves the thesis content and the student has passed their oral defense, they must obtain department approval by providing the Graduate Coordinator with:
    • their manuscript
    • signed approval and defense forms
    • a Grammarly report showing that no major grammar, spelling, or punctuation errors are in the manuscript
  • The student’s Graduate Advisor will indicate any required changes to the thesis’ formatting
  • The student must complete all required changes before submitting it to the Thesis Office.
  • Once the manuscript is uploaded to the Thesis Office’s submission system, all committee members and the department chair will provide their electronic approval of the thesis.
  • Once any Thesis Office corrections are finished, the student must then work with the Thesis Office to submit their manuscript to ProQuest (or USPACE) for online viewing.
  • The thesis must be approved by Thesis Editor no later than eight months from the date of the oral defense. This eight-month deadline includes thesis corrections, supervisory committee approval, department chair approval, and final approval by the Thesis Office. If this requirement is not met, any prior approvals of the thesis will be voided, the student will have to re-register for at least one thesis credit, and re-defend the thesis.
  • After each of these steps is completed, the student will be cleared for graduation. Please note that a student is not considered “graduated” for merely passing the defense. The thesis must also successfully pass corrections and be published before a degree may be awarded.