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Plan to Defend Meeting

The format and logistics of the Plan to Defend / Plan to Finish / Approval to Write / Final Thesis Committee Meeting are similar to those of a regular Committee Meeting.


The Department recommends that the final, Plan-to-Defend Committee meeting be held at least six months prior to the planned Oral Thesis Defense date.


At least one week prior to the final Thesis Committee Meeting, the student will send copies of the Final Thesis Report document to the Thesis Committee members. The Final Thesis Report delivered prior to this meeting is effectively an annotated Specific Aims that describes the results of the student’s research and what they plan to write in the Thesis Dissertation — e.g., chapter topics.

Comments from the committee at the Plan to Defend / Approval to Write meeting are substantially different from those at a normal committee meeting. The Committee is focused on the preparation of the dissertation, interpretation of the results, and future plans of the student. Students should arrive prepared for discussions on these topics. 

Progress Report Form

Students should bring a Thesis Progress Report form for their Thesis Committee Chair to complete and return to the BE Academic Office (16-267).

Meeting Format

The Plan to Defend meeting follows the same general format as a regular Thesis Committee Meeting, but in addition to a brief presentation summarizing research results, the students will give an overview of the contents of the thesis document.

At the end of the meeting, the student, the advisor, and the Committee should agree upon concrete milestones necessary for the student to graduate in the proposed timeline. See the Gantt Chart below.


At this point, the Thesis Committee can recommend that the student begin preparing for Graduation.

As necessary, the Thesis Committee will prepare a set of comments, suggestions, or requirements for further experiments, more careful data analysis, more rigorous interpretation, etc.

If the Committee feels that there are still some experiments required to complete the dissertation, then another meeting (or at least e-mail communication) is required to let the committee know when the experiments are complete, so that they can give approval to proceed with the graduation process.

In many cases in the time between the Plan to Finish meeting and the Oral Defense of the thesis, experiments are often done for revisions for publications. These may be experiments not requested by the committee but requested by the reviewers and decided upon by the student and the advisor if they want to publish in that journal. Because the student and the committee cannot control the pace of the reviewer’s comments to papers, such experiments would not delay the approval to the graduation process or require an additional meeting with the committee.

Objective Timeline (Gantt Chart)

At this meeting, students are strongly encouraged to share with their Committee a Gantt Chart illustrating the timeline towards their defense date, including specific objectives and deadlines leading up to the anticipated Defense.

Below is an example Gantt Chart for a final, Plan-to-Defend Thesis Committee Meeting (December) prior to the Thesis Defense (May). Each student should expect to have different milestones and timing in their chart. For instance, manuscript submissions, reviews, and revisions may take a substantially different amount of time. Students should consult with their advisors about plans for submission and completing revisions when building their Gantt Chart.