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School of Medicine Virginia Commonwealth University VCU Medical Center

Student Policies and Procedures

Stages in Degree Completion

  1. Validation by Advisor and Student Advisory Committee that the body of research is an adequate basis for writing of the thesis/dissertation.
  2. Student files the Graduation Application; Graduation Applications are obtained from the Office of Graduate Education.
  3. Advisor approves thesis/dissertation in “all but” final form as satisfactory for defense.
  4. Defense is scheduled using the GradTrak system.
    • Scheduling in GradTrak to occur as soon as possible but no later than 2 weeks prior to the examination date.
    • All Student Advisory Committee members sign scheduling form confirming receipt of thesis and defense date. (Chair and/or Graduate Program Director also signs scheduling form).
    • Completed scheduling form and thesis/dissertation copy is registered in the Office of Graduate Education at least 2 weeks in advance of the defense date.
    • Thesis and dissertations should conform to University formatting requirements as listed in the most current Thesis and Dissertation Manual; additional forms required for degree completion are provided.
  5. Defense implementation.
    • Prior to the defense (10 - 14 days) the Chair of the examining committee receives the student file containing the defense report form and Permformance Evaulation forms from the Office of Graduate Education (for the Ph.D. defense, the Chair is the faculty advisor; for an M.S. defense, the Chair is appointed by the Office of Graduate Education).
    • Following the defense, the student file, the completed defense report form bearing all Committee signatures, and Performance Evaluation forms are returned to the Office of Graduate Education.
  6. Thesis/Dissertation Completion.
    • All corrections, both substantive and in format are made.
    • The student uploads the thesis/dissertation to the VCU Digital Archives.
    • The Advisor, Student Advisory Committee members and the Department Chair sign the ETD Approval Form in black ink; one and only one original ETD Approval Form is required.
    • The student brings the original copy of the executed ETD Approval Form and all required forms to the Office of Graduate Education.
    • The School of Medicine Deans’ signature is obtained by the Office of Graduate Education (one to two day turnaround) and student is notified; copies of forms as required are made. Phd students will need to provide completed copy of the Survey of Earned Doctorates prior to return of ETD Approval Form.
    • The student acquires the final ETD Approval Form signature from the Graduate School Dean on the Monroe Park Campus; PhD students will submit the Survey of Earned Doctorates at this time.
    • Publication with ProQuest (All doctoral dissertations must be published with ProQuest. Dissertations are submitted directly by the student through the UMI/ProQuest’s ETD Administrator site for VCU. Submitting to ProQuest does not satisfy the university’s requirement of submission. You must submit to the VCU Digital Archives separately in order to fulfill this requirement for graduation.)

Getting It Done Tips

  1. Initiate Writing early.
  2. Write Early and Often.
  3. Even in advance of being “approved” for “writing it up,” you can and should be writing. Experimental protocols, sections of background that will be part of the introduction, figures, references, etc. can all be worked on as you go. This establishes the habit of writing in a way that is consistent with the thesis/dissertation format and will give you a head start on what is otherwise a daunting task.
  4. Communicate with your Advisor and Committee.
  5. Communicate with your Advisor and Committee. We cannot stress this point enough.
  6. Advance planning with your advisor will avoid nasty surprises; for example, giving your advisor your thesis/dissertation to review two weeks before his/her competitive renewal is due in Washington is unlikely to be well received. Similarly, do not wait until you have the defense copy ready for distribution to your Committee to determine if they are available for the planned defense date. This sounds pretty obvious, but we have had examples where a student has “discovered” that a Committee member is on sabbatical leave two weeks before the planned defense date.
  7. Direct “process” questions to the Office of Graduate Education.
  8. Please do not rely on what someone tells you about the process. The odds are that they will not remember everything and may inadvertently misinform you.
  9. Allow time for “post-defense” recovery and completion of corrections and the final requirements for degree completion.
  10. Inevitably, the minute that your Committee says “congratulations!” at your defense, your mind and body will say, “I'm done!” NO YOU ARE NOT! It isn't easy to recover your focus to take care of the remaining details, but they are no less essential to completing your degree. No one has ever eagerly looked forward to corrections, copying, etc. but this MUST be done.
  11. Plan your overall schedule well in advance. Once you have created what you believe to be a reasonable period in which you can complete writing, double the time allotted.

As anxiety increases, comprehension of instruction/reminders of what needs to be done seems to decrease. We understand that you “got to get done.” Help us help you to do so and please understand (particularly near the end of any term) that many of your peers will have transferred their anxiety to the Office of Graduate Education in advance of your arrival. It would also be very helpful if you would let the Office of Graduate Education know in advance of your coming.

Degree Completion/Frequently Asked Questions


  • What can be done if a member of the Committee has a conflict, creating a problem in scheduling the defense?

    With the approval of the Advisor and the involved Committee member, a colleague (who must be a member of the Graduate Faculty) can substitute at the defense. In cases where a Committee member is unavailable for a prolonged time period (e.g. study leave, illness), it may be prudent to replace the individual on the Committee. Please remember that your Committee must be re-approved using the GradTrak system, if the Committee membership is changed.

    It is possible for Committee members to participate in the defense through teleconferencing and/or video conferencing. In such cases, the Chair signs the defense form for the geographically distant faculty member.

  • How far in advance of the defense should the thesis/dissertation be distributed to the Committee members for reading?
    The student must distribute the document at least 2 weeks in advance of the defense. Faculty may require a longer interval for reading the thesis/dissertation and, within reason, this is prerogative of the faculty. The student should ensure in advance that all Committee members are agreeable to a given “reading period”.
  • Does the Committee have to read the thesis/dissertation before scheduling the defense?
    No. The Advisor has the responsibility to his/her colleagues for indicating that the document is “good enough” to serve as the basis for the defense. When the Advisor signs the scheduling form he/she is indicating that this is the case. Committee member signatures on the scheduling form indicate (1) receipt of the document and (2) agreement to the defense date/time.
  • Does tuition have to be paid for an additional term if the thesis/dissertation copies do not reach Cabell Library by the University deadline?
    Yes. An individual must be registered (enrolled) in the term in which degree requirements are completed. The defense does NOT constitute completion of degree requirements.
  • How are students/faculty supposed to know about all these details?
    We employ a variety of mechanisms to transmit information which include:
    1. A calendar of deadlines and due dates is available from the Office of Graduate Education, Room 1-023 Sanger Hall.
    2. “Degree Completion Workshops” are held early in the Fall, Spring and Summer terms.
    3. The School of Medicine website on the Graduate Student - Student Policies and Procedures web page.