The Doctoral Dissertation

After passing the Fundamentals Examination students are expected to prepare a doctoral dissertation proposal in close consultation with potential faculty members of the dissertation committee. A proposal is ordinarily 2500 to 5000 words (this is a firm limit--anything exceeding 5000 words will not be read by the faculty) plus a bibliography, and should present the problem to be addressed, its disciplinary and transdisciplinary importance, approaches taken by previous scholarship, the character and advantages of the approach to be taken, and the expected structure of the dissertation. It is ordinarily written in the future tense and need not presume the author has already solved the problem to be addressed. It is important to have an approved proposal and a dissertation chapter by the start of the second quarter of the fourth year.

The doctoral dissertation committee must include one member of the Committee faculty to serve as first reader and at least two other faculty members both of whom may come from elsewhere in the University and one of who may come from outside the University. It is customary to consult with the first reader about the composition of the committee. The proposal must be approved first by the members of the dissertation committee after they meet together with the student and then by the Committee on Social Thought faculty as a whole at a faculty meeting. For students entering in 2019 or later this must be done before or at the eighth week faculty meeting in the spring quarter of their fourth year to be able to register and receive a stipend in their fifth year. Students who entered earlier are advised also to have their proposals approved by the end of their fourth year.

Students should write their dissertations in consultation with their dissertation committees. Members of the dissertation committee also bear primary responsibility for advising and assisting the student in making the transition to professional life and seeking academic employment. A proposal is not a contract and a finished dissertation often diverges substantially from the proposal, but students should keep their dissertation committee informed of the dissertation's development. The candidate should obtain the guidelines about the form of the dissertation from the University Dissertation Office early in the course of writing the dissertation and follow them closely.

Once students have submitted a final draft of the dissertation to the members of their dissertation committee and discussed it at a full meeting of their committee and they have approved it, the Coordinator for Student Affairs will circulate it to the faculty of the Committee and schedule a public doctoral lecture by the candidate. The doctoral lecture is a formal public presentation based on the dissertation designed to address questions of general interest to students and faculty in the Committee.

Students may apply for Divisional Dissertation Completion Fellowships or the Committee’s Nef Dissertation Fellowships for their sixth year. Students who enter in 2019 or later must have submitted to their dissertation committee chair two chapters that their chair certifies are in near finished form to be able to apply for sixth-year funding. Students who have completed at least half the dissertation by the spring quarter of their sixth year may apply for Divisional Dissertation Completion Fellowships or the Committee’s Nef Dissertation Fellowships for their seventh year, after which they will not be eligible for further funding. 

A Committee on Social Thought dissertation is expected to combine exact scholarship with broad cultural understanding and literary merit.

Share this page