The dissertation should not exceed 75,000 words or 300 pages in length. It must be a substantial and original piece of work that demonstrates mastery of the field and the student’s chosen topic.
The dissertation committee normally consists of three members, including the dissertation advisor. Two members of the committee must be members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Frequently, the committee will include at least one member from outside the department, and occasionally one from outside the University. Students are expected to complete two chapters of their dissertation by the spring term of their fifth year. After this they are expected to produce at least one acceptable chapter of the dissertation each semester.
The dissertation must be an original work demonstrating the candidate’s ability to do independent research in the special field. The format of the dissertation must conform to the requirements outlined within The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences' Guide to Preparing and Submitting Your Dissertation webpage, along with conforming to any further requirements of style and form specified by the department. After it is completed, the dissertation must be submitted to the dissertation committee at least three weeks before the defense. If this deadline for submission is not met, the student will be unable to graduate during the current degree period. Students are required to ascertain whether committee members want or need a hard copy or a digital copy of the dissertation prior to the defense. The dissertation will be publicly defended in a round-table discussion that includes members of the dissertation committee and other interested parties.
An overall GSAS policy has been established that students ordinarily will not be permitted to register beyond their tenth year in the Graduate School. However, exceptions to this rule may be made for students who have taken maternity or parental leave or for students with other special circumstances. If an exception is requested, GSAS will require a letter from the advisor explaining the progress the student has made and the reason for the request, and a letter from the student explaining the plan of completion. Students no longer enrolled because of this policy will have the status of “withdrawn.” Students are free to apply for readmission to the Graduate School, so as to re-register for the purpose of receiving the degree, when their dissertation is completed.