Ph.D. Final Process

The final process for PhD students in CS consists of writing and depositing the dissertation and passing the final examination. Both components need to be finished by the final deadline.


The student must conduct, under the supervision of a dissertation advisor, a substantial piece of original research in CS and report it in a dissertation that is made public and meets the highest standards of scholarship.

The Graduate School provides specific formatting guidelines as well as links to more general resources for how to go about writing a dissertation.

The members of the final examination committee should receive a copy of the dissertation at the latest three weeks before the exam. After passing the final exam, the student needs to electronically deposit the dissertation and set up a dissertation final review appointment with the Graduate School. Click here for more information about the formal process.

Final examination

The final examination is an oral exam in which the student must explain and defend the contents of the dissertation and exhibit detailed knowledge of the general area in which the reported research falls. Students need to complete the preliminary process before taking the final examination.

The final examination committee consists of five or more members and is chaired by the dissertation advisor. The composition of the committee will be suggested by the dissertation advisor and approved by the Department Chair. All of the following conditions need to be satisfied:

  • At least four of the committee members must be UW-Madison graduate faculty or former UW-Madison graduate faculty up to one year after resignation or retirement.
  • At least two of the committee members must be full-time faculty members of the Department.
  • At least one of the committee members, other than the dissertation advisor, must represent a field outside of CS. Acceptable representatives are: faculty members from UW-Madison or elsewhere who have a full-time appointment in a department other than CS, or are affiliated with a department other than CS; researchers in a field other than CS.

After the student passes the exam, each committee member needs to sign the PhD warrant.