This webpage describes steps to completing a PhD degree at UW‑Madison, which include:
- Meet the degree requirements
- Complete your preliminary examinations
- Defend and deposit your dissertation
Steps to Completing the Degree
- Meet the degree requirements
- Complete your preliminary examinations
- Defend and deposit your dissertation
You must meet both the program and the Graduate School requirements for graduation. You should be aware that some programs may have more rigorous requirements than the Graduate School’s minimum requirements. You should visit your program’s website for specific requirements and contact your graduate program coordinator for further information.
Minimum graduate degree credit requirement
51 credits (before or after dissertator status)
A student’s program may decide to accept graduate coursework completed at another institution (earned post-baccalaureate) toward fulfillment of degree credit requirements. To learn more, see Minimum Graduate Degree Credit Requirement and Prior Coursework.
Minimum graduate residence credit requirement
32 credits (completed prior to achieving dissertator status)
The doctoral degree minimum residence credit requirement can be satisfied only with courses numbered 300 and above taken as a graduate student at UW–Madison. To learn more about this requirement, see Minimum Graduate Residence Credit Requirement.
Minimum graduate coursework (50%) requirement
At least 50% of credits applied toward the program’s graduate degree credit requirement must be courses designed for graduate work, including but not limited to online, thesis/research, independent study, and practicum/internship credits. To learn more about this requirement, see Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement.
Breadth and minors
Breadth is a required component of doctoral training at UW–Madison. Given there are multiple paths to breadth, the Graduate School leaves the choice of whether students achieve breadth through a minor or other means up to the specific program. To learn more about minor options and minimal requirements, see Minors.
Grade point average (GPA) requirement
The Graduate School requires that students maintain a GPA of 3.00 (on a 4.00 scale) for all graduate courses (excluding research) to receive a degree (though many programs impose higher standards). All incomplete grades must be resolved before a degree is granted. To learn more, see Grade Point Average (GPA) Requirement and Probation.
Preliminary examinations assess knowledge of areas within the academic discipline. The student must obtain approval of the minor if the major program requires it and complete all the major courses.
Your program should arrange a preliminary committee and a dissertation committee with appropriate expertise to afford the breadth and depth needed in degree examinations. These committees may be composed of different members. The executive committee (or its equivalent) of a program/department is responsible for approving the composition of the preliminary exam and the dissertation committee. You should consult your advisor and your program’s student handbook for the specific function of degree committees (preliminary exam and dissertation) in your program.
To learn more about the functions and criteria of doctoral dissertation committees, see Committees. Use this online committee requirements tool to help you determine whether your proposed committee would meet the Graduate School’s minimum requirements for committee members.
Your program determines your eligibility to take the prelim examination(s). The program must notifies the Graduate School of a student’s admission to candidacy and requests the preliminary warrant a minimum of three weeks prior to the exam date.
Students have five years from the date of passing their preliminary examination to take their final oral examination and submit their dissertation. Failure to complete their degree within this five-year period may result in their having to retake the preliminary examination and be re-admitted to candidacy.
Doctoral Student Experience Survey (DSES)
The Doctoral Student Experience Survey (DSES) collects information at the time students make the transition to dissertator status. The survey covers career aspirations, academic experiences, and academic challenges, among other topics. Complete the Doctoral Student Experience Survey online. The Graduate School will use survey data to help identify strategies to improve student services.
After your program requests the preliminary exam warrant, you will receive an email with the link to the survey. All research doctoral students should complete the survey prior to submitting their signed preliminary examination warrant to the Graduate School.
Dissertator status is a unique fee status and is effective at the start of the semester following completion of all dissertator requirements for the doctoral degree except for the dissertation. The Graduate School requires all dissertators to maintain continuous enrollment of exactly three credits (exceptions may apply during the summer). In rare circumstances where this is not possible, a degree completion fee is assessed to recognize the inevitable use of university facilities up to and including the successful defense and submission of the dissertation. To learn more, see Dissertator Status and the Degree Completion Fee.
Step 0: Pre-checks (optional)
Pre-checks are used to answer formatting questions (e.g., use of tables, graphs, and charts), embargo/delayed release questions, or questions related to the degree granting process. You may submit eight to 10 pages for the degree coordinator to review in a pre-check.
Note: Pre-checks are currently being conducted via email only due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students who wish to have a pre-check should email the doctoral degree coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Step 1: Request your final warrant
Notify your graduate program coordinator to have them request your doctoral degree warrant from the Graduate School at least three weeks before the anticipated date of your final dissertation defense. You must be enrolled during the semester that you defend and deposit; if you want to defend and/or submit your dissertation to the Graduate School in the summer term, you must register for three credits of research for the eight-week summer session.
After your graduate program coordinator submits the doctoral degree warrant request, the Graduate School will review this request and send the approved doctoral degree warrant to your graduate program coordinator.
(New): Due to limited campus operations related to the COVID-19 pandemic, dissertation and thesis defenses should take place using information technology solutions (e.g. WebEx, Skype, etc.) to ensure the health and safety of our graduate students, staff and faculty. After the dissertation defense, the warrant electronic file should be circulated among committee members to collect signatures on a single PDF. Committee members can paste their signatures into the electronic file, or use the Fill and Sign function in Adobe Acrobat or Reader (if the warrant is in PDF). File sharing solutions may include Box or Google Drive, or simply emailing the form to members.
Once the final warrant has been signed, you will upload an electronic copy should in the administrative documents section of the ProQuest/UMI ETD Administrator website. A signed copy of the final warrant should be kept with the student or the graduate program coordinator.
Step 2: Pay the dissertation deposit fee
Go to Grad Portal to pay the required $90 dissertation deposit fee, which covers the cost of processing the dissertation and publishing the abstract by ProQuest. The fee must be paid before submitting your dissertation electronically. The fee payment site provides an email confirmation with your fee payment receipt. Save this payment receipt as a PDF for the electronic dissertation deposit process. You also have the option to log in to the fee payment site and download a PDF of the receipt once you have paid. The receipt will be uploaded in the administrative documents section of the ProQuest/UMI ETD Administrator website.
Step 3: Complete the doctoral exit surveys
You must complete the following doctoral exit surveys before submitting your dissertation electronically. Each individual survey will provide a certificate of completion once you have submitted the survey. Save the individual certificates of completion as PDF documents to upload in the administrative documents section of the ProQuest/UMI ETD Administrator website.
- Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED): To complete the online Survey of Earned Doctorates you will first provide basic information including your email address. You will then receive an e-mail with a unique PIN and password. Access the SED survey site using the URL, PIN, and password sent to you in this email, and complete the survey. You must advance past the certificate of completion screen in order to submit the survey.
- Graduate School’s Doctoral Exit Survey (DES): The DES obtains information on your academic experience (e.g., program quality, support, advising) in your doctoral program and information about your postdoctoral plans. To complete the Doctoral Exit Survey online, enter your name as it appears in university records and your student ID number (10 digits). At the end of the survey, there is a survey completion screen. If you have problems accessing the survey, contact email@example.com and include your name and student ID number.
Step 4: Electronic deposit of your dissertation
After you complete Steps 1 to 3, you can submit your dissertation electronically to the ProQuest/UMI ETD Administrator website.
ATTENTION: Your submission of the dissertation is final and you are not allowed to make changes once it has been approved by the Graduate School Degree Coordinator. Your submission is not completed until you receive the confirmation email from the Graduate School Degree Coordinator.
Submitting your dissertation electronically has four steps:
- Prepare for submission
- Submit dissertation on ProQuest/UMI ETD
- Submit administrative documents
- Complete the final submit step
Read this section for detailed instructions for each step.
Before you begin the submission steps, be sure you have the following:
- Full text of your dissertation in PDF format. This must be one file. Fonts must be embedded. Security settings must be set to “no security.” Encrypted files cannot be processed for publishing. The maximum file size that can be uploaded is 1000 MB. The PDF file name cannot contain periods (except for the .pdf extension). Instructions for PDF conversion are available at the ProQuest/UMI ETD Administrator site under the “Resources and Guidelines” tab.
- UMI abstract text. This abstract, preferably not more than 350 words, must be in English. You will be asked to copy and paste this text during the electronic submission steps.
- Optional supplementary files. These images, data, etc. are an integral part of the dissertation, but not part of the full text.
- Advisor’s and other committee members’ names. These should be listed exactly as they appear on your approved warrant.
- Subject category. Choose one to three subject categories from the Subject Category list that best describe your dissertation subject area.
- Receipt confirming payment of the dissertation deposit fee. After you have paid the required $90 dissertation deposit fee, you will receive an e-mail receipt confirming payment.
- An electronic copy of the signed final warrant.
Go to the ProQuest/UMI ETD Administrator site and choose “Submitting Your Dissertation/Thesis.” Select University of Wisconsin-Madison from the list provided. Create an account or login using an existing account.
The ProQuest/UMI ETD Administrator website will walk you through a simple process of accepting the publishing agreement and uploading the files and information about your submission. If you need to finish your submission later, you can save your information and come back to finish.
At the submission step called Dissertation/Thesis Details, you will need to enter the following important information about your dissertation. Accuracy is essential.
- Title: Enter the full title of your dissertation, as it appears on the title page. Only some special characters can be used in this field. The title field does not accept subscript, superscript, or Greek letters; instead, you will need to spell these out. Select the year in which you completed your manuscript.
- Degree/Department Information: Select the year in which your degree will be conferred. If you are depositing during the window period and are uncertain, contact the Graduate School. Select the degree you will receive and your program.
- Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair: Enter your primary advisor’s name exactly as it appears on your warrant. Do not repeat your advisor in the list of committee members.
- Committee Members: Enter your committee members’ names exactly as they appear on your warrant.
- Description of Dissertation/Thesis: Select categories and keywords that identify your work.
- Abstract: Enter the text of your UMI abstract exactly as it was approved by your faculty advisor, preferably no more than 350 words.
At the submission step called Administrative Documents, you will need to upload the following items:
- Dissertation deposit confirmation receipt: Upload a PDF of the email receipt you received from the UW–Madison Graduate School fee payment website.
- The Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) certificate of completion: Upload the survey receipt as a PDF.
- The Graduate School’s Doctoral Exit Survey (DES) certificate of completion: Upload the survey receipt as a PDF.
- Signed PhD warrant: Upload your final signed PhD warrant as a PDF.
At the submission step called Notes to Administrator, indicate if you plan to attend the optional Graduate School final review.
You may choose to order additional copies of your dissertation and register the copyright of your dissertation – both of these items are optional. To learn more, see Copyright Resources.
Be certain to complete the final submit step at the ProQuest/UMI ETD Administrator website. You MUST upload your dissertation to the ProQuest/UMI ETD Administrator website by 11:59 pm CST on the degree deadline date in order to receive your degree in a given term. Keep in mind that submissions are reviewed by the Graduate School Degree Coordinator in the order they were received. After you complete the final submit step, you will receive an email confirming the submission. When you submit your dissertation, it will be reviewed by a Graduate School Degree Coordinator to ensure that you have followed all formatting requirements.
The Graduate School Degree Coordinator will approve and submit your dissertation to ProQuest/UMI Dissertation Publishing for microfilming and binding. The UW–Madison Library will receive a bound copy and an electronic version of your dissertation shortly thereafter. You will receive an official email notification when the Graduate School has approved your dissertation for publication.
Step 4.0 Graduate School final reviews (optional)
Final review appointments are available for students who wish to confirm that the dissertation submission has been accepted and all degree requirements have been met. To have an optional final review, you must have successfully completed Step 1 to 4.
Note: Final reviews are currently being conducted via email only due to reduced campus services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students who wish to have a final review should email the doctoral degree coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org.
When you submit your dissertation and select to have a final review, it will be reviewed by a Graduate School Degree Coordinator to ensure you have followed all formatting requirements. The process that follows is the same as that of students who choose not to attend a final review.
Commencement – December and May
Note: UW–Madison is planning to hold graduates-only, in-person commencement ceremonies for spring 2021 graduates at Camp Randall on Saturday, May 8. For details and frequently asked questions, visit commencement.wisc.edu.
If you want your name to be printed in the commencement program, you must submit an Apply to Graduate application through your MyUW Student Center. This is in addition to contacting your program to request your degree warrant from the Graduate School. You may attend the ceremony even if your name is not included in the commencement program. August does not have a commencement ceremony. If you plan to graduate in August, you may attend either the May or December ceremony by submitting the Apply to Graduate application through MyUW Student Center. Cap and gown rentals are at University Bookstore. Guests can attend without tickets.
Degree completion letter
The Registrar’s Office handles degree completion letters. If you have completed all degree requirements and deposited your thesis or dissertation and are waiting until the next degree conferral date to receive your degree, you may request and receive a letter indicating that all requirements have been completed. All grades from the semester in which you are depositing your dissertation (and all other outstanding grades) must be reported to the Graduate School before you can receive a completion letter. If you need a degree completion letter before the end of the semester, you may bring the completed paper grade change form (signed by the advisor and the chair of the department) to the Graduate School. Allow five business days for the processing of your degree completion letter request.
All spring 2020 graduates, both domestic and international, must enter a Diploma Address in the MyUW Student Center to ensure the university sends your diploma to the correct address. Updating your home address is not sufficient.
The Registrar’s Office will send your diploma to your diploma address approximately eight to 14 weeks after degree conferral. Update your diploma address via the MyUW Student Center prior to the end of the semester in which you are graduating. Students with holds will not receive their diploma until those holds are cleared.
Guide to Preparing your Doctoral Dissertation
We encourage you to read through these requirements before you start writing. These guidelines will help you prepare your dissertation to ensure that it constitutes a permanent document of quality appropriate for a major graduate institution. Your dissertation is required to conform to these standards. It will be fully corrected, complete, and submitted electronically as a single PDF file.
Electronic and paper copies of approved dissertations are sent to the UW‑Madison Memorial Library. They can be found electronically on MadCat and the ProQuest database. ProQuest/UMI Dissertation Publishing archives all accepted dissertations.
In addition to support and feedback that your faculty advisor, mentor, and committee members will provide, be sure to take full advantage of the dissertation support opportunities at UW‑Madison.
For more information
Doctoral Degree Coordinator
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You may put unusual or supplementary materials (such as questionnaires or photos) into appendices. Number the appendices consecutively with the text of the dissertation. The formatting of the appendices must meet the standards for the rest of the dissertation.
The bibliography should meet your major program’s style requirements, which often conform to the leading journals or book series of the field. They may be single-spaced with an additional space between entries.
Equations, superscripts, and subscripts
Equations, superscripts, and subscripts are acceptable in your dissertation provided they are legible when microfilmed. Generally, superscripts and subscripts may be one size smaller than the text. To identify each equation clearly, please isolate it with double spacing.
Footnotes and endnotes
Footnotes and endnotes may be single-spaced with an extra space between notes. Please follow the preference of your major program when deciding where footnotes or endnotes should be placed in your text.
Figures and graphs must meet the same standards as the rest of the dissertation. Headings, keys, and all other identifying information must be of the same quality and format as the text. If graphics, tables, or figures are in landscape mode, orient the top of the printed page at the dissertation binding edge (left side of the paper) with the page number in the upper right-hand corner in the portrait page setup. Images may be submitted in black and white or color.
You may include quotations in languages other than English in your dissertation. However, the dissertation itself must be in English unless your program certifies that one or both of the following conditions have been met: the foreign language is that of the readers to whom the work is addressed; or translation into English would make the study obscure and imprecise. Dissertations submitted by students from a language program are acceptable in the language of that program.
- Use a minimum of 1″ margin on all four sides.
- Page numbers must be in the upper right-hand corner at least a half inch from the top and one inch from the side of the page.
- Page headers: Do NOT use page headers (except for page numbers) or decorative borders.
The title page and copyright page (if you are retaining and registering copyright) are not counted in the numbering of pages. The other pages are counted in the numbering of pages.
- Number the preliminary pages (for example, dedication page, acknowledgments page, table of contents, and abstract) that precede the main text with lower case Roman numerals beginning with i. Put page numbers in the right-hand corner one inch from both top and side of the page. Page numbers half an inch from the top of the page are also acceptable.
- Number the main text consecutively beginning with Arabic numeral 1 in the upper right-hand corner one inch from both top and side of the page. Check your dissertation to ensure that all pages are present and in numerical order.
- If you are using Microsoft Word, directions about how to exclude title page, etc. in pagination can be found on YouTube.
- Number appendices consecutively with the text, continuing the Arabic numeral sequence.
- Landscaped pages must have page numbers in portrait position and the top of the page must be on the left-hand, binding side of the page when it is rotated. If the page is *not* rotated, then the page numbers must be on the bottom, right-hand side of the page and sideways, so that when the pages are rotated, the page numbers are in portrait position. There are a number of ways to do this. For methods using Microsoft Word, such as text boxes, see instructions and examples of rotating page numbers. Note that if you do not rotate the landscaped pages, you want page numbers to appear in the same position as the highlighted number 3 in the second row of examples.
Production of document
- Use 10 to 12 point type.
- Double-space the main text of the dissertation.
- Lengthy quotations, footnotes, and bibliographies may be single-spaced with a double space between entries or paragraphs.
- Maps, charts, etc. are acceptable.
The title page is the very first page of your dissertation. Do not number the title page. At the bottom of the title page, you must indicate the date you passed your final defense (final oral examination) and list your committee members’ names, titles, and programs. Follow this sample title page format exactly.
If you are depositing your thesis in the window period then your title page should reflect the year in which your degree will be granted. For example, if you are depositing on December 21st, 2015, this falls within the spring 2016 degree window period. The title page should read 2016 as the degree year since your degree will be granted in spring 2016.
When you deposit your dissertation electronically, ProQuest/UMI will require you to provide the text of your UMI abstract. Please have this text ready when you begin the online submission process. The abstract must be in English, must not exceed 350 words, and must be approved by your advisor.
Abstract within dissertation
Your program may require an abstract to be part of the dissertation. Please follow your program’s style requirements, and number all of these pages as part of the preliminary material (use lower case Roman numerals). This abstract must be included in the table of contents.
Copyright page (optional)
You may include a copyright page; if you do, insert it directly after the title page. Do not number the copyright page. View a sample copyright page. Center the text in the bottom third of the page within the dissertation margins.
Registration of copyright (optional)
You are automatically protected by copyright law, and you do not have to pay in order to retain copyright.
There is an additional fee of $55.00 for registering your copyright, which is a public record, and is payable to ProQuest/UMI at the time of electronic submission. If you register your copyright, ProQuest/UMI will send a digital copy of your dissertation to the Library of Congress. You are not required to register your copyright through ProQuest/UMI; you may choose to do it on your own. More information is available online at www.copyright.gov and from UW Libraries.
After you submit the PDF of your dissertation electronically, you will not be permitted to make any additional corrections. Therefore, make sure the PDF is completely accurate before you submit.
Reprints and use of copyrighted material
You are responsible for appropriate use of copyrighted materials in your thesis. Some material may be available for use without restriction while other material may require written permission from the rights holder. Other material may be appropriately used without written permission under the “fair use” provisions of the copyright law. General guidance regarding use of copyrighted materials is available from ProQuest/ UMI or from the UW‑Madison Libraries.
- Fair Use: Read general information regarding how to determine if your use of copyrighted materials constitutes fair use. Additionally, your own professional or disciplinary societies may have fair use statements to help you negotiate disciplinary specialties.
- Written Permission: If written permission is required, you are responsible for obtaining such permission and maintaining records of the written permission to use the copyrighted material in your thesis. You can usually get permission by sending a letter of request to the copyright holder. Normally, your letter will be returned with an approval stamp or signature. Some copyright holders require a specific form of acknowledgment. A sample permission request letter is offered by ProQuest/UMI. Note that obtaining written permission can be a lengthy process. Plan ahead and budget ample time to obtain all required permissions.
Producing copies of your dissertation (optional)
There are many options available in terms of producing copies of your dissertation. You do NOT have to order copies through the UMI/ProQuest ETD Administrator site but that option is available. Some other ways to produce copies of your dissertation include:
- UMI/ProQuest ETD Administrator site: order copies
- Printing shop (FedEx Office, Bob’s Copy Shop, etc.)
- Local book bindery (Grimm Book Bindery, Mc Ginn Bindery, etc.)
All dissertations are normally open and made available to the public shortly after you receive approval from the Graduate School. However, if a publication or a patent is pending, an embargo may be requested during the electronic submission process. On the ProQuest/UMI ETD Administrator site, you will have the option to select “No” to the Publishing Options question: “I want my work to be available in ProQuest as soon as it is published.” Next you will be prompted to select a time period of 6 months, 1 year or 2 years for embargo. These options do not require special permission but you should have discussed this with your advisor in advance. Any request for more than a 2 year embargo or an extension of the original embargo request will be reviewed by the Graduate School Associate Dean(s). Such a request requires a letter to be signed by the student and the advisor in advance.
Please keep in mind that if you select an embargo, there will be no record of your dissertation in the public domain and no opportunity for citations. In addition, if you order a bound copy of your dissertation through ProQuest, you will not receive it until your dissertation is released at the end of the embargo period.
Note: UW–Madison is planning to hold graduates-only, in-person commencement ceremonies for spring 2021 graduates at Camp Randall on Saturday, May 8. For details and frequently asked questions, visit commencement.wisc.edu.Once you have met your degree requirements, you may choose to attend a fall or spring commencement ceremony. Commencement occurs in May and December each year and is coordinated by the Office of the Chancellor. There is no summer commencement ceremony. If you plan to graduate in August, you may attend either the May or the December ceremony. If you want your name to be printed in the commencement program, you must apply to graduate through your MyUW Student Center by the deadline each semester in addition to contacting your major program to request a degree warrant from the Graduate School. For Master’s students, the deadline to request your warrant can be found in the Degree Deadlines. You may attend the commencement ceremony even if your name is not included in the commencement program.
Doctoral degree deadlines
- May 9
- May 10
- June 11
- June 13
- July 30
- August 22