The dissertation defense is typically a two hour meeting held after the student has completed a final draft of the dissertation. The purpose of the defense is to evaluate the quality and originality of the dissertation as a contribution to scholarship in the relevant field of study. When the student and advisor are satisfied that a draft of the dissertation is in finished form, the defense can be set. The defense itself, including its scheduling, is a formal process and must follow rules set by the graduate school. An "Intention to Receive Degree" form must be filed prior to scheduling the defense. The graduate school's rules for dissertation submission and defense, including instructions on layout, footnotes, and citation techniques, can be found in the Guide for the Preparation of Theses and Dissertations (available online at: https://gradschool.duke.edu/academics/theses-and-dissertations). All students should familiarize themselves with these rules.
The defense itself will involve questions and comments from the committee based on a thorough scrutiny of the dissertation. Candidates should be prepared to make a case for the importance of their research, for its place in current scholarship, and for the possible future of the project, with an eye both to job placement and eventual publication.