Graduate Comprehensive Examination, Oral Defense & Research Policy

Custodian of Policy: Graduate Council

Relevant Minnesota State System Policy:

Effective Date: April 2018

Last Review: Spring 2023

Next Review: Spring 2030


In all graduate programs, a final integrating experience which assesses the body of knowledge that has been acquired through the course work and research is required. No degree is granted simply as the record of the accumulation of appropriate courses with adequate grades. The form of the final requirement differs among degree programs, but always includes an oral defense. In it, the examining committee discusses the dissertation, thesis or project/action research/portfolio research, the creative endeavor, or the integrating paper, and assesses the student's mastery of the several components of the degree course work.

Written Comprehensive Examination

Candidates in some graduate programs must demonstrate competence in the major field in a written, comprehensive examination. The exam is normally taken at the completion of the course work and prior to undertaking the research component of the degree program. The major department or program will determine the nature of the examination which must be satisfactorily completed and reported to the Graduate Studies Office. A student who fails the comprehensive examination may repeat it during a subsequent term with program approval. A second failure will result in termination of degree program enrollment.

Oral Defense

All graduate students, regardless of program, must complete a final oral defense.

Students who fail the final oral defense cannot receive a passing grade on the project or thesis and will not receive the degree. Students may repeat the oral defense during a subsequent term with program approval.

Research Components

Every doctoral candidate will register for nine credits of Dissertation 799. Doctoral candidates will register for the nine credits in the final two semesters of the scheduled eight-semester cohort. Credit for the dissertation requires a successful dissertation defense in front of the dissertation committee and the completion of any related requirements as noted by the advisor.

A part of the program of every degree candidate completing a thesis is the demonstration of ability to do individual, independent work of a creative or investigative nature in an area related to the major field through the preparation of a thesis. The thesis will be supported by the work represented in 2-4 credit hours of registration in Thesis 699. No more than 4 hours of 699 may be counted in satisfying the minimum requirements for a degree. Credit hour registration in a given term may vary with the nature of the study, according to the department or area, and on the previous agreement between the student and the advisor for expected research effort and adequate supervision.

Project/Action Research/Portfolio:
Students enrolled for Project/Action Research/Portfolio (692, 695, 696, 795, or 796) complete a 1-6 credit project which will integrate the studies included in the individual's program. The project must be approved by the student’s committee.

Research Involving Human Subjects:
If research is to involve human subjects, the research plan or project will be reviewed by an approved university procedure to assure the protection and rights of those subjects and the procedure established for obtaining informed consent. Research of this type may not be initiated until it has been approved by a thesis or project examining committee and the Institutional Review Board (IRB). Forms are available online on the IRB website Allow at least four (4) weeks during the academic year for IRB approval.