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I am nearing the end of my part-time doctoral journey (EE).

I have successfully worked on a number of topics and have already published more than the average full-time doctoral graduate in my advisor's research group.

My preliminary exam took place almost a year ago and since then I believe I have addressed all questions and suggestions from my committee. Even though the timeline I provided to my committee was to wrap up my research in Fall 2022, I am a bit faster.

I am now slightly expanding my research area to fill the time.

What do you think is the best way to ask one's advisor about scheduling the final defense?

Of course, I am eager to finish but at the same time do not want to jump the gun. My advisor and I have a very nice and cordial relationship. Based on my discussions with PhDs from the research center, it is customary to have this discussion about 6 months in advance since it takes time to corral the committee and write the dissertation.

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    Just ask him! Where is the problem?
    – user151413
    Commented Feb 4, 2022 at 19:27
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    Why September rather than, say, June? Have you fulfilled all of the stated requirements?
    – Buffy
    Commented Feb 4, 2022 at 20:34

2 Answers 2

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This depends on your advisor's personality and your relationship. From what it sounds like (which is great), this should be a relatively easy discussion. I think there are a few keys issues to either address or to which you should have answers in case they ask:

  1. Do you have a plan for after graduation? In other words, is there a job (or something) waiting for you? If so, that's awesome and that can be a focus of your discussion. For example, "[Place] and I have been talking and they've [offered/are considering/whatever] me [position/whatever] after I graduate."
  2. Where are you in the writing process? Some universities/departments allow students to effectively take what they've published, put a "wrapper" on it, and call that their dissertation. In this case, you're solid. If that's not the case, I would strongly urge you to at least put an outline together. That will show your advisor that you have a plan. The rest of the schedule will then be dominated by your writing quality and speed. If you're starting with a blank sheet of paper, you might make a plan and then multiply your time estimate by three.
  3. I assume that you've already established your committee. If that's the case, all other things being equal, you should be able to schedule your defense six months out. If you haven't set your committee, that's something else to do before you have your meeting.

You sound like you've been very productive - which is great! That may mean that your advisor is happy letting you shepherd some of the newer members of the group (all of this is, of course, advisor-, department-, field- and university-specific). Even if you're just sitting in the group of grad students and not necessarily "helping" them, your presence can be beneficial to the other students. Your advisor is likely appreciative of that (and may not be so excited to shoo you away).

If it were me, I'd schedule an appointment with your advisor and then say something like, "[Boss/Dr. X/whatever], I just received an offer from [see point #1]. I have an [outline/plan/whatever; see point #2], and I think it should take me [estimate] to pull everything together for my defense. What do you think? Should we start scheduling things with the rest of the committee for [some point 6ish months out]?"

After all, your advisor wants you to succeed; that's why they are your advisor!

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Assuming that you have a proper dissertation, which, in your field might be a set of published papers, then you should probably proceed. Other requirements need to be fulfilled, of course. But the only other consideration is whether your work is of sufficient quality and the advisor should be able to attest to that if it is there.

I'd approach it, myself, by just asking whether the advisor thinks you are "ready" and that you have sufficient quantity and quality to finish. If not, figure out what tasks need completion, but if so, just schedule it.

Since you have steady employment, the academic schedule matters little to you, so any convenient time, but sooner is better than later.

I don't see why you need to make a presentation or slide deck or whatever. A list of papers should be all that is required. It doesn't seem at all like jumping the gun.

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