I. General Information
This Handbook is intended to provide practical information on the policies, procedures, and resources of the Department of Near Eastern Studies and the Program in Near Eastern Studies.
Other sources of information you may wish to consult are the relevant sections of the Graduate School Academics webpage, especially Graduate Degrees & Requirements, and the NES department website. The latter includes profiles of all core faculty members in the NES Department, as well as those of faculty in other departments who are affiliated with Near Eastern Studies.
A successful graduate student’s career at Princeton falls into two distinct segments: a period of course work, culminating in the General Examination (hereafter “Generals”); and a period of dissertation research, leading to the submission of a dissertation, a public oral examination, and the award of the Ph.D. The main elements in this career are spelled out in more detail in Section II.
All PhD students in NES must fulfill a two-year residence requirement before taking Generals. This means that they must be regularly enrolled and engaged in full-time study at Princeton for at least two academic years, during which they must reside in Princeton or the immediate vicinity.
In this introduction, you will find general guidance for Ph.D. candidates concerning the number of courses to be taken, language requirements, financial aid, extracurricular activities, the Graduate Student Committee, and funding.
Near Eastern studies at Princeton are pursued in one of two institutional contexts: either in the Department of Near Eastern Studies or in the Program in Near Eastern Studies. The latter is an interdepartmental program that shares office space in Jones Hall with the Department, and overlaps considerably with it in terms of interests, faculty, and students. The departments participating in the Program in Near Eastern Studies, in addition to the Department of Near Eastern Studies itself, are Anthropology, Economics, History, Politics, Sociology, and the School of Public and International Affairs. Arrangements can sometimes be made with other departments for students with special interests.
All candidates for the Ph.D. are admitted to departments and must fulfill academic requirements in that context. The Program in Near Eastern Studies has in the past offered a two-year curriculum leading to the M.A. as a final degree. (In 2019, the M.A. program stopped admitting students until further notice.)
The Department normally has between thirty and forty enrolled Ph.D. students. At any given time, a good many students may be pursuing research outside Princeton.
The Princeton University Library has the largest collection in North America of manuscripts in Arabic, Persian and Turkish, roughly 10,000 works in total, most of which are in Arabic. PUL also has an extensive collection of printed works on the Near East in both Middle Eastern and other languages.
For assistance with bibliographic questions concerning Arabic, Persian, and Turkish and general Near Eastern area studies or to request the acquisition of new materials in these areas, contact:
Deborah Schlein, Near East Studies Librarian
For assistance with bibliographic questions concerning Hebrew or Judaic Studies or to request the acquisition of new materials in these areas contact:
David Hollander, Librarian for Law and Legal Studies and Librarian for Judaic Studies and Hebrew
For assistance with bibliographic questions concerning Urdu or South Asian Studies or to request the acquisition of new materials in these areas contact:
Ellen Ambrosone, South Asian Studies Librarian
For questions concerning current serials or for assistance in locating material in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish, contact:
In addition to a number of social occasions, the Department and Program organize conferences, seminars, public lectures, a weekly seminar series on Mondays at noon, and occasional meetings on topics of general or particular interest to the scholarly community. Graduate students are encouraged, and indeed expected, to participate in these activities insofar as their schedules permit, and students often take the initiative in organizing such activities.
Each Department is required to constitute a Graduate Student Committee selected by the students themselves, normally with representatives of different years. Such a committee provides a forum in which graduate students can discuss common concerns, and it can make representations to the faculty concerning matters of instruction, procedure, or policy that students believe to warrant discussion or review. In addition, the Department and Program have set aside a small budget for the Committee’s operation, and students may agree to contribute an additional amount of their own. The Committee may plan occasional social gatherings and, subject to funding, public lectures or small conferences. A periodic gathering in which students present their research in progress, to which members of the faculty are invited to respond, has regularly been organized. There is also a Graduate Student Union that is active in the University at large.
At the beginning of each academic year the DGS, working with the Chair of the Graduate Student Committee, should convene a meeting to welcome new graduate students to the Department. At the same time they should make arrangements to assign each entering graduate student to an informal graduate student mentor.
Regular Graduate School Fellowships
Students admitted to the program are typically offered a five-year fellowship package from the Graduate School that includes a stipend and covers tuition and fees (including healthcare).
When students receive external fellowships, their financial support package is coordinated by the Graduate School to ensure that all costs remain fully covered and also do not exceed normal stipend levels.
The average time to degree completion in NES is six years. A sixth year of funding can be obtained in one of five ways:
- through external fellowships typically designed to fund field or archival research at the early stages of the dissertation;
- through external fellowships that support the final stages of dissertation completion;
- through fellowships administered by other academic units at Princeton, including the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in the Humanities (IHUM), the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS) and the Center for Culture, Society and Religion (CCSR);
- through highly competitive sixth-year fellowships administered by the Graduate School (application by nomination only);
- through sixth-year fellowships administered by the Department.
Some of the full-year fellowships awarded during the five-year fellowship period permit students to “bank” a year of university fellowship. Per Graduate School policy, students who bank university fellowship funding must use their banked funding during the first year of DCE enrollment.
If a student in DCE receives a fellowship that comes with a stipend but does not offer tuition or fees, the Department will typically cover them. If a student receives a major external fellowship that pays less than the Princeton stipend, the Department will typically top up that fellowship to equal the Princeton stipend amount. Conversely, at no time is a student permitted to hold a combination of fellowships from university and/or non-university sources whose sum exceeds the standard university stipend amount, and holding such a combination of fellowships normally results in the reduction of the stipend.
The sixth-year fellowships administered by the Department are not guaranteed. The Department may fund up to twelve months of study after the conclusion of a student’s Graduate School fellowship contingent upon four factors: sufficient departmental resources; the student’s adequate and consistent progress toward completion of the dissertation; the student’s concerted effort to secure non-departmental funding; and the advisor’s recommendation. In order to qualify for a departmental fellowship, students must make a good-faith effort to secure non-departmental funding by applying for university-wide and external fellowships. At the time of their applications to those non-departmental funding sources, students should send the graduate administrator a copy of the applications they have submitted as a single PDF file. The Graduate Committee will decide on departmental funding on the basis of the strength of those applications. Departmental fellowships during this DCE period normally include up to two semesters plus two summer months of support (including stipend, tuition and fees); these four periods of departmental funding may be taken consecutively or not, depending on other fellowship support.
Students should research and identify appropriate fellowships as early as feasible, keeping in mind that deadlines and criteria can change from year to year.
Summer language study and research travel
Contingent on departmental resources and in consultation with their advisors and the DGS, currently enrolled NES PhD students may apply for funding for summer language study and research travel up to a set amount (in 2023, the cap was $4,000 per year). During the summer before they matriculate, incoming PhD students are eligible to receive support for summer language study; per university rules, those funds must be transferred to the student as a reimbursement after they enroll in the fall.
Funding to attend conferences is also available for students starting in their second year in the PhD program.
II. Bylaws Relating to Program Students
M.A. students must discuss the courses they wish to take with the Program Director. The course load is four courses in each one of the first three semesters and one course in the fourth semester, during which the student prepares her or his thesis. In the first two semesters, three of the four courses must be seminars, and one a language course. In the third semester, at least two of the four courses must be seminars, and at least one a language course. In the fourth semester, the course has to be a language course. Of the six seminars taken in the first year, at least three must be taught by regular, affiliated, or visiting NES faculty members, including NES 500. Of the two or three seminars taken in the third semester, at least one needs to be taught by regular, affiliated, or visiting NES faculty members. The language(s) need(s) to be Middle Eastern or directly relevant to the student’s M.A. thesis.
III. Bylaws Relating to Ph.D. Students
1. Pre-generals Students
Students are expected to complete a minimum of six graduate seminars each year of their first two years in the program. Of the six, at least three must be taught by members of the Department, affiliated faculty, or visiting NES faculty. Normally, language courses do not count among the six required courses. Normally, reading courses (700-level courses) do count, but students must obtain prior approval from the Director of Graduate Studies. For the purposes of reckoning a student’s course load, serving as an assistant-in-instruction in a departmental undergraduate course counts as the equivalent of a graduate seminar taken in the Department. A one-course relief may also be claimed in the fall semester by students taking Generals in January and in the spring semester by students taking Generals in May. Students taking Generals in October are not eligible for this relief.
In general, audited courses do not fulfill course-load requirements. However, an exception may be made once in a student’s years of required courses, subject to the prior approval of the Director of Graduate Studies. This option cannot be exercised in the first semester of the first year, nor for undergraduate Near Eastern language courses, even if taken for a grade.
Students must give the Director of Graduate Studies advance notice of their proposed course choices and then register through TigerHub. Students in their second and third years should speak with their advisers (see subsection vi, below) prior to finalizing their choices with the Director of Graduate Studies. Any subsequent changes, including any decision to drop a course, must be discussed with the Director of Graduate Studies in a timely way.
The grading conventions of the Department are the following: “A” grades (A+, A, A-) indicate good performance, and a solid record of such grades constitutes a basis for readmission. “B” grades (B+, B, B-) mark an adequate but undistinguished performance; a preponderance of such grades calls in question the capacity of the student to go on to Ph.D. work. “C” grades (C+, C, C-) mark inadequate performance, and an accumulation of such grades (and of any lower grades) constitutes a basis for termination. Pass/D/Fail is not an option for students in the Department.
All courses must be completed in the semester in which they are taken. The Department does not recognize the grade of “Incomplete,” and a student whose transcript shows such a grade will not be eligible for readmission until it has been replaced by an acceptable grade. The Department does not normally accept the submission of co-authored papers.
All first-year students are expected to take a minimum of three courses in the fall semester. Normally, one of these will be NES 500, and the other two will be graduate seminars taught by members of the Department, associated faculty, or visiting faculty in NES. In the fall, first-year students have the obligation to submit a paper in each of two graduate seminars taken with members of the Department, in addition to NES 500.
In the second semester, first-year students must take at least one seminar with a Department member.
Normally, no first-year graduate student will be asked to precept unless necessity requires it.
Students should discuss their summer plans with the Director of Graduate Studies at the beginning and end of the spring semester. Instructions on applying for summer funding from entities in the university are available in the Student Activities Funding Engine (SAFE(link is external)). Applications to the NES program will only be considered if the student has also applied to other appropriate funding sources.
All first-year students are provisionally assigned the Director of Graduate Studies as their adviser. In the course of the first year, each student, in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies, should seek out a faculty member appropriate to his or her interests who is willing to assume the role of academic adviser. The student is encouraged to take a course with the faculty member, and/or arrange to meet with him or her as needed throughout the first year. The faculty member in question will normally assume the role of adviser from the beginning of the student’s second year. The adviser has primary responsibility with regard to the overall guidance of the student with respect to readying the student for Generals and guiding the student through the Ph.D. dissertation. Any change of adviser at a subsequent stage should be discussed with the Director of Graduate Studies.
The Department requires that students acquire the languages, European and Near Eastern, necessary for research in their field of choice before embarking on dissertation research.
No student may proceed to Generals or be admitted to a third year before demonstrating to the Department’s satisfaction a reading knowledge of a European language of scholarship, other than English, with a significant secondary literature on the student’s field of interest. Normally this language will be French or German.
Students who already possess sufficient knowledge of either French or German to satisfy the requirement should obtain certification in the fall semester by taking the relevant examination administered at that time by the French and German Departments, respectively. Students who need a period of study to attain the necessary proficiency in French or German are encouraged to take the appropriate summer course at Princeton. Passing the summer course constitutes certification. Native speakers are exempted.
The Department will not make ad hoc arrangements for students who fail to take advantage of these opportunities.
Students wishing to offer a European language other than French or German should consult with the Director of Graduate Studies at an early stage.
Students should plan to meet this requirement as early as possible. Since admission to a third year depends on prior compliance with the requirement, and the readmission process takes place in the spring, a student without adequate knowledge of a European language will almost certainly have to take a summer course at the end of the first year. This in turn means applying for funding in the spring of the first year.
No student may proceed to Generals or be admitted to a third year before demonstrating to the Department’s satisfaction a research-level competence in the primary Near Eastern language on which the student’s dissertation is expected to be based.
Any one of the following will normally be deemed to satisfy this requirement:
(1) Native competence in the language.
(2) Completion with grades in the “A” range of two of the Department’s third and fourth-year courses in the language.
(3) Completion with grades in the “A” range of two graduate seminars taught by Departmental faculty in which substantial amounts of material are read in the language.
Where a student has not met one of these criteria, the Department will administer a special examination.
All students are normally expected to study a second Near Eastern language up to second-year level prior to taking Generals. Ottoman and modern Turkish cannot be counted as separate languages. Near Eastern Studies graduate students are required to take all NES language course tests and quizzes; the final course grade will be based largely on these. Regular attendance is required; more than three unexcused absences will adversely affect the student’s grade. (Please consult with your instructor if your academic situation necessitates missing class.) In lieu of assigned homework, NES graduate students have the option to complete a substantial reading-translation project, to be arranged in consultation with their instructor. Students who wish to complete the regularly assigned homework given to undergraduates may do so without need for an additional project.
Students may need to acquire additional languages appropriate to their fields of study.
2. The General Examination
A successful performance in Generals marks the transition from mandatory course- work to dissertation research.
The five general examinations must be taken within a single examination period. (The three annual examination periods designated by the Graduate School fall roughly in October, January and May.) Students should aim to take Generals at the end of their fourth semester or the beginning of their fifth semester (i.e., May of the second year or October of the third year), and in any case no later than the beginning of the sixth semester (i.e., January of the third year). They should begin discussing their plans for the general examination with their advisors no later than the beginning of the third semester of enrollment (the beginning of the second year).
Generals consist of: (1) three written examinations on broad “fields,” each taken with a different faculty member (hereafter “the examiner”); (2) a written examination on research methods (“methodology”) involving the critical evaluation of sources for, and authorities on, some posed problem; and (3) a concluding oral examination. Normally the student’s adviser will both examine a field and at the same time set the examination on methodology.
Students are encouraged to consult the copies of past Generals questions. These may be obtained from Bill Blair ([email protected]).
The initiative in planning Generals rests primarily with the student, who should consult with the Director of Graduate Studies and his or her adviser at all stages of the process. The initiative in scheduling Generals rests with the student; the arrangements are made by the Graduate Administrator. All plans and arrangements are subject to the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies.
When applying for readmission, all first-year students are required by the Graduate School to state the date when they expect to take Generals. Students should discuss this date and their plans for Generals with the Director of Graduate Studies at the end of their first year, and with their adviser at the beginning of the second year. Any subsequent changes of plan should be discussed with both.
From at least the end of the first year, a student should be thinking seriously about a dissertation topic; this affects the choice of adviser and hence the setting of the examination on methodology. At the same time, the student should consider possible Generals fields; the package of fields should make sense as a compromise between ensuring a broad grasp of a significant part of the Department’s coverage and building the necessary foundation for the projected dissertation. The oral examination needs no long-term planning.
Students should bear in mind that they have to satisfy all language requirements before proceeding to Generals. They should also take into account, so far as possible, the plans of faculty to go on leave.
The three fields: The most elaborate preparatory work relates to the fields. The general definition of each field must be approved by the instructor and the student’s adviser. A list of the examiners together with the agreed-upon titles of the fields must be submitted in writing for the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies not less than four months before the examination period in which the student proposes to take Generals (for Generals taken in October, this means May; for those taken in January, September; and for those taken in May, January).
The detailed definition of each field must be approved by the examiner. It is the responsibility of the student to put together for discussion with the examiner a syllabus identifying the main topics to be covered (including an indication of any topics to which special attention will be devoted), together with a list of the main readings that the student will complete.
The student must also consult with the examiner on the manner in which the field is to be studied. The alternatives are to take a regular course offered by the examiner, with or without modification of coverage, or to set up an individual reading course with the examiner, with or without written assignments. The initiative in setting up such a course rests with the student.
The following are examples of fields which have been offered: early Islamic history; medieval Islamic history; modern Middle Eastern history; Ottoman history; modern North African History; comparative politics of the Middle East; classical Arabic poetry, prose or philology; classical or modern Persian literature; modern Arabic literature; modern Hebrew literature; classical Islamic thought; modern Islamic thought; Jewish history in the medieval Islamic world.
While fields must normally be broadly conceived, in some cases a student may be permitted to choose one narrowly defined field involving close work on primary sources relevant to the anticipated dissertation project. One of the fields may be taken with an examiner from another Department or, in some cases (subject to the approval of the Graduate School), another university.
The format and duration of the field exams will be determined by the examiner. Some common exam durations include three hours, six hours and twenty-four hours. The examiner specifies whether the exam is to be closed-book or open-book and also sets the number of questions and the number that must be attempted. A common format is 4 questions of which 2 must be chosen. These details must be entered on the Generals Form as specified at the end of this subsection.
The methodology examination: The student should discuss with his or her adviser the general nature of the exercise to be set, whether or not it will be open-book, and the duration of the examination. Six hours is a common duration, though some faculty set longer exams, such as a research exercise to be conducted over the course of three days.
The oral examination: Most of this examination will be devoted to questions arising from the student’s responses in the written examinations, though, in the course of the conversation, examiners may extend the scope of their questioning.
It is the responsibility of the student to initiate the scheduling of Generals in cooperation with the Graduate Administrator and by personally communicating with the examiners. This must be done not less than four weeks before the beginning of the examination period. The student should first fix a date and time for the oral examination convenient for all concerned, and then proceed to schedule the written examinations.
The fields may be scheduled at any time during office hours. Scheduling the methodology examination will depend on the format. Normally the last written examination must end not less than three complete days before the oral examination.
It is the responsibility of the Graduate Administrator to obtain the examination questions from each examiner well in advance. In no circumstance should the student have prior knowledge of the actual questions to be asked.
For each written examination, the student must obtain the examination from the Graduate Administrator at the pre-arranged time and must turn in the answers to the Graduate Administrator when time is up. E-mail may be used for both purposes.
The Graduate Administrator does not negotiate and cannot authorize extra time for general exams. Students may opt to take their exams at home, in the Library or elsewhere on campus. If taking their exams on campus, they may opt to pick up a printed copy of the exam questions from the Graduate Administrator, in which case they may receive permission from the DGS to take five extra minutes for travel time, or they can opt to be sent an electronic copy by the Graduate Administrator; if the examiner requests a hard copy of the completed exam, students are responsible for printing the exam out and turning it in, in which case they may receive permission from the DGS to take an additional five minutes for travel time. If there is a problem during an exam, approval for any extra time can be given only by the examiner or the Director of Graduate Studies.
The student will take the examination without being monitored. Students taking closed-book examinations are on their honor not to refer to books, notes, or computerized materials of any kind, and not to speak to anyone in the course of the examination.
The oral examination normally lasts about an hour and will be held in closed session.
Each written examination will be evaluated by the relevant examiner. After the oral examination, the examiners will agree upon an evaluation of the student’s oral performance and an overall evaluation for the examination as a whole. This evaluation will be reported to the Department with an appropriate recommendation.
Where the examiners agree that the candidate has passed his or her Generals in the “high pass” range, they will recommend to the Department that the student proceed to dissertation research.
In accordance with Graduate School policy, a student who fails the entire examination has the chance to retake it within one year. Otherwise, a student who does not achieve a high pass may be recommended for a terminal M.A. degree, provided all other requirements have been satisfactorily fulfilled. Where a student fails one part of the written examination the Department will determine whether the student may retake only that portion, or must retake the entire examination.
The examiners are expected to make every effort to agree upon an overall evaluation. If, nevertheless, they are unable to do so, they will report their views to the Department individually, and the outcome will be decided by the Department.
In reviewing any adverse or split recommendation, the Department must take into account the student’s overall record and any representation he or she chooses to make to the Department.
A student proceeding to dissertation research who wishes to receive an M.A. on passing Generals must submit an Advanced Degree Application to the Graduate School.
3. Post-generals Students
The student’s dissertation adviser is the faculty member who sets the examination on methodology and will normally have advised the student since the second year.
In exceptional circumstances, a student may have two dissertation advisers; where this is so, one of them may be in another department. In such cases, the adviser who belongs to the Department will be the adviser responsible for all Departmental administrative purposes.
In rare cases a scholar from another institution may play a role in a student’s dissertation by giving advice that is central to the dissertation in a field not covered at Princeton. Such a person may be invited to attend and participate in the Final Public Oral (hereafter F.P.O.), if he or she can attend, subject to the approval of the Graduate School.
An adviser who goes on leave must make arrangements for the continued supervision of advisees in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies.
Every student must prepare a written outline of his or her research plans within four months of taking Generals. The prospectus should be about twelve double-spaced pages, and should cover the following (not necessarily in this order or format): (a) a brief definition of the project, (b) a longer summary of the project, (c) reasons why the project is worth doing, (d) reasons why the project is feasible, (e) the main sources to be used and their accessibility, (f) the present state of relevant scholarship and the value the project will add to it, and (g) a select bibliography. This prospectus should be submitted to an ad hoc committee consisting of the student’s adviser, the Director of Graduate Studies, and a third faculty member nominated by the Director of Graduate Studies after consultation with the adviser and the student. The student will then meet with the committee to discuss the prospectus. The committee may ask for substantial changes to be made before the student may advance to the research stage. Students should be aware that the prospectus serves two purposes: it constitutes a preliminary plan for the dissertation research, and it provides a foundation for drafting applications for funding.
Students are encouraged to spend a year abroad collecting material for their dissertations. Where possible students should secure outside funding for conducting research abroad and not use their Princeton fellowship. When a student obtains such outside funding, the Graduate School will normally stop the clock on his or her Princeton fellowship for the year, thereby enabling the student to bank their Princeton funding for an additional year of study. Note that some yearlong funding opportunities such as the SSRC and Fulbright fellowships are only for research; you should consider applying for them at the beginning of your third year with a view to spending your fourth year abroad; once you are writing up you may no longer be eligible to apply for them. All such plans are subject to the approval of the student’s adviser and the Director of Graduate Studies. Such students are assigned the status “in absentia” by the Graduate School and may continue to receive their fellowship while abroad.
Students in absentia should keep in regular contact with their advisers and the Director of Graduate Studies. They should report to their advisers in detail on the progress of their research. It is essential that a substantial report reach the adviser by the beginning of March, in time for the Department’s readmission process. Students in a position to send draft chapters to their advisers at this stage should do so.
Students engaged in research in Princeton are expected to produce written work for their advisers, who must read and return it with adequate comment in a timely fashion. No student in residence who fails to produce substantial written work over the course of the year will be readmitted. Students should discuss their writing plans with their advisers as often as necessary.
At the same time students should aim to submit copies of their draft chapters to two or three other faculty members for comment. Students should approach faculty members for this purpose after discussion with their advisers and should bear in mind that such faculty members are likely to serve in due course as official readers or examiners of the completed dissertation. From time to time the Department offers a graduate seminar in which post-Generals students read and criticize each other’s draft dissertation chapters. All students currently drafting such chapters are encouraged to participate.
Students should make every effort to devise and adhere to a schedule which enables them to submit their dissertations not later than the summer in which their funding comes to an end. The writing schedule and the timeline approaching potential dissertation committee members may vary from student to student and should be agreed upon with the student’s adviser.
4. The Submission of the Dissertation and the F.P.O.
A student whose dissertation is approaching completion should begin to plan for the Ph.D. examination. The whole process takes around three months, sometimes more. The process is likely to be prolonged if all or part of it takes place during the months of June, July, and August, if readers or examiners of the provisional text of the dissertation require extensive revision, or if one or more of the readers and examiners are not in residence in Princeton.
At the planning stage a student needs to become thoroughly familiar with the various sets of requirements that will have to be met. These are:
- The requirements of the Graduate School, which may be found on the Graduate School's Advanced Degree Application Process webpage. In practice, the most important procedural requirements are subsumed under those of the Department, but students are responsible for checking the Graduate School requirements themselves.
- The Requirements of the University Archives, which are set out on the Thesis Requirements page. These requirements cover the format and pagination of the dissertation and abstract, copyright, microfilming, illustrations, and the copies of the final text of the dissertation that must be submitted, with other materials, to the Mudd Library. The responsibility for meeting University Archives requirements falls exclusively on the student. The Department cannot clarify, interpret, or waive these requirements, and does not monitor a student’s compliance with them.
- The requirements of the Department, with which the rest of this Section is concerned.
No dissertation may exceed 100,000 words unless the student, through the adviser, has obtained the prior permission of the Director of Graduate Studies in writing.
A student who wishes to submit a dissertation more than five years after passing Generals must notify the Director of Graduate Studies of this intention. The Graduate Studies Committee will then make a recommendation to the Department as to whether the dissertation should be received for consideration.
In outline, the stages of a successful defense are: the student submits notice of intention to defend; the Examining Committee is appointed; the adviser approves the provisional text as ready for submission; the student submits the provisional text of the dissertation to the Department; the readers read and report on the dissertation; the student makes any necessary revisions; the student submits the final text of the dissertation; the F.P.O.is scheduled and held; the degree is awarded.
A successful defense with no complicating circumstances would require around thirteen weeks in all: four between the submission of the notice of intention to defend and the submission of the provisional text; three for the readers to read and report; two for the student to revise (less, if the revisions required are minimal); and four for the submission of the final text and for the F.P.O.to be scheduled and held. Further time would then be needed for the University to complete the formalities for the award of the degree.
Not less than one month before submitting the provisional text of the dissertation, the student must submit to the Director of Graduate Studies a notice of intention to defend. This notice should comprise a copy of the provisional title page, table of contents, and abstract of the dissertation, accompanied by a covering letter stating the expected length of the dissertation in words, and suggesting the names of up to four possible readers or examiners, other than the adviser, for consideration by the Director of Graduate Studies. The letter should also cover any special circumstances, problems, or considerations likely to affect the scheduling of the F.P.O. and suggest a range of dates for it.
Students should maintain regular contact with their dissertation advisors and intended second readers well in advance of submitting the notice of intent to defend and apprise them of their planned schedule. It is advisable for the student to work with the committee to identify and hold a date for the F.P.O. well in advance of submitting the notice of intent to defend.
The Director of Graduate Studies, taking into consideration the suggestions of the student and in consultation with the adviser, will put to the Graduate Studies Committee a proposal for the membership of the Examining Committee. The Graduate Studies Committee will normally meet to discuss the proposal only in the event that the adviser or a member of the Committee is in disagreement with the proposal.
The Dissertation Committee consists of two principal readers and three F.P.O. examiners; these roles are normally performed by four faculty members. Normally the adviser will be the first reader of the dissertation and the Chair of the Examining Committee; the first reader may thus serve as one of the three F.P.O. examiners. The second reader, like the first, will report on the dissertation, but unlike the first reader will have no official function at the F.P.O. Thus the second reader is not obliged to attend the F.P.O. If the second reader wishes to take part in the F.P.O. but cannot physically attend, he or she may do so online.
The two examiners are not obliged to report on the dissertation, but, like the adviser, must attend the final public oral.
Students should make sure they understand the distinction between the second reader and the examiners.
Normally the members of the Committee will be Departmental faculty members. Subject to the approval of the Graduate Studies Committee, however, one member of the Committee may be a member of another Department or, in some circumstances, of another academic institution.
The appointment of the Committee is subject to the approval of the Graduate School.
Once the Examining Committee has been appointed, the student will be informed accordingly. The student should then work with the Graduate Administrator to fix a provisional date and time for the F.P.O., which is both realistic and convenient for all concerned. In due course the Graduate Administrator applies to the Graduate School to schedule the FPO, but not until the readers’ reports have been submitted and read by the DGS.
The adviser must notify the Director of Graduate Studies in writing that he or she has approved the complete dissertation for submission. Approval will not be granted unless appropriate and consistent standards of transliteration, format, and typography have been met.
The provisional text of the dissertation is the text which will be given to the readers and examiners. It is provisional in the sense that the student may be asked to revise it, but is in no sense a rough draft; any dissertation submitted in such a condition will be returned to the student, who will have to begin the process again. Any dissertation exceeding 100,000 words will likewise be returned unless the student has obtained permission in advance.
The provisional text must be submitted in four softbound copies.
The two readers must give their reports on the dissertation to the Director of Graduate Studies not more than three weeks after the submission of the provisional text. However, this will be extended in the event that one of the readers is not resident in Princeton.
Each reader’s report will be in two parts. The first is that required by the Graduate School. In this part, the reader states whether or not the dissertation is recommended for acceptance (with or without revision) and gives brief reasons for the recommendation. A positive recommendation means that the reader deems the dissertation a scholarly achievement worthy of public defense; it in no way prejudices the decision of the examiners at the final public oral. The second part is required by the Department. Here the reader notes, preferably in some detail, any sections or aspects of the dissertation which require revision; estimates the time needed for such revision; and gives an opinion as to whether or not it is necessary for the student to submit a revised provisional text. The Graduate Administrator gives copies of both parts to the student, the members of the Examining Committee, and the Director of Graduate Studies.
While the examiners are not required by the Graduate School to report at this point, they are encouraged to do so informally. Any written reports submitted by examiners at this stage, and in particular any calls for revision, will be distributed in the same way as the readers’ reports. They do not, however, normally go to the Graduate School. Revisions cannot be required at the final public oral; the examiners can only pass or fail the dissertation.
On the basis of these reports, the Director of Graduate Studies, in consultation with the adviser, will determine how much time the student will need to spend revising the dissertation, and whether the student must submit a revised provisional text to the members of the Examining Committee and in what form. In the event of disagreement, the Director of Graduate Studies will refer the question to the Department.
Typically dissertations require at least two weeks for revisions. Where the required period exceeds six weeks, the student will be required to begin the dissertation submission process again. Some dissertations are ready to be defended even before the two weeks, especially if the student has had enough feedback to do the revisions before submitting the provisional text to the readers.
It is assumed that most students will need to make revisions, after which they must satisfy the readers and examiners concerned that the revisions have been completed. If the Director of Graduate Studies has so required, the student must submit a revised provisional text. The readers and examiners concerned must convey to the Director of Graduate Studies their satisfaction with the revision.
Once the revision of the dissertation is complete and approved, the student will be authorized by the Director of Graduate Studies to submit the final text of the dissertation. This text must meet the full requirements of the University Archives. The student must provide the Graduate Administrator with a bound copy of the dissertation, for display in the Departmental Office, and a copy of the title page and abstract four weeks prior to the defense.
At the same time the Director of Graduate Studies, having in hand positive reviews from the readers and confirmation that the necessary revisions have been completed, will instruct the Graduate Administrator to proceed with the arrangements for the F.P.O. and will complete the Ph.D. Dissertation Report and Request to Hold F.P.O. Examination form.
The Graduate Administrator will schedule the F.P.O. The Graduate Administrator will ask the dissertation adviser and the candidate for blackout dates and times and then contact all committee members to find a suitable date (for example, with the help of the internet service Doodle.com).
The "Preparing for the FPO" section of the Graduate School Advanced Degree Application Process provides a helpful guide for students preparing for the Ph.D. defense.
No less than four weeks before the F.P.O., the student submits a final bound and/or final copy of the dissertation, a copy of the title page, and a copy of the abstract to the Graduate Administrator and completes the Advanced Degree Application in TigerHub.
No less than two weeks before the F.P.O., Reader Reports and the Request to Hold Final Public Oral form are due to the Graduate School. The Graduate Administrator makes sure the readers turn in their reports. The Graduate Administrator, student's dissertation advisor, and D.G.S. submit the Request to Hold Final Public Oral form.
The Graduate Administrator will notify the Department when the Graduate School authorizes the F.P.O. With the exception of the F.P.O. Examination Report, which the Graduate Administrator prepares, the student is responsible for all items in the "Following the FPO" section.
As soon as authorization for the F.P.O. is received from the Graduate School, the Graduate Administrator will post an announcement indicating the date, place, and time of the oral, and send a copy to the student and all departmental faculty.
After the F.P.O. examination, the Chair of the Examining Committee and the examiners will decide immediately whether the student has passed. In the event of disagreement, the matter will be referred by the Director of Graduate Studies to the Graduate Studies Committee, which will normally refer it to the Department. A student who does not pass the examination may only retake it once, after an interval of at least a year.
In cases where an appearance for the F.P.O. would constitute a substantial financial hardship for the student, the Director of Graduate Studies, after consulting with the adviser and obtaining the approval of the Graduate Studies Committee, may recommend that the F.P.O. be conducted by Skype or a similar technology.
Family members and friends may witness the F.P.O. remotely if the incoming sound is switched off so that they can listen but their sound cannot travel into Jones Hall. The candidate is responsible for ensuring that the internet connection is switched off after the F.P.O. is completed and while the committee deliberates over the candidate’s performance.
This process is completed by the Graduate School and other University authorities, the Department playing no further role.
Copies of this section of the Bylaws should be sent by the Graduate Administrator to any readers or examiners who may from time to time be appointed from outside the Department.
The Graduate Administrator is the gate-keeper for the entire process and walks the student through it. The student must be in touch with him or her at every stage, keeping him or her informed and following his or her guidance as regards deadlines.
Any student who is absent from Princeton for a period of more than five weekdays during the semester must obtain the prior permission of the Director of Graduate Studies. Such permission will not be granted without the approval of the student’s adviser.
Any student with an academic problem, or a non-academic problem likely to affect adversely his or her academic progress, should discuss it with the Director of Graduate Studies, normally after first discussing it with his or her adviser.
A lounge is located in Jones Hall. This facility is open to both Department and Program students and faculty. Student mailboxes are located in the lounge, and important notices concerning job opportunities, conferences, seminars, and fellowships are posted there. Coffee, tea, and hot chocolate are available as well.
Appendix: Role of the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS):
The Director of Graduate Studies has primary responsibility for all Departmental administration concerning graduate students as such.
The Director of Graduate Studies is not obliged to take any administrative action in June, July or August, but will normally be willing to do what he or she can for students seeking to submit dissertations in this period.
The Director of Graduate Studies maintains direct contact with all students of the Department, monitors their progress and plans, and organizes the major events of their time in the Department from admission to the Ph.D. examination.
The Director of Graduate Studies is the adviser of all first-year students.
It is the duty of the Director of Graduate Studies to maintain contact with students in absentia, either directly or through the student’s adviser.
Any student seeking administrative action by the Department must put the request to the Director of Graduate Studies.
A student may appeal an adverse decision of the Director of Graduate Studies to the Graduate Studies Committee, with or without the support of his or her adviser.
The Director of Graduate Studies is ex-officio the Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee. While the Director of Graduate Studies has the discretion in the application of Departmental rules needed for smooth administration, all issues raising larger questions of policy or involving significant departure from normal Departmental practice must be referred to the Committee whenever time constraints permit.
Administrative assistance to the Director of Graduate Studies is provided by the Graduate Administrator.
All Departmental dealings with the Graduate School relating to individual students are normally conducted by the Director of Graduate Studies.
The Director of Graduate Studies does not handle questions relating to summer funding; on this students should consult the Director of the Program.
Department and program administrative staff
Director of Graduate Studies
Department & Program Manager
Karen N. Chirik
Angela R. Bryant
Graduate/Undergraduate Administrator for both Department and Program
James L. LaRegina
Office Coordinator/Administrative Assistant to the Chair
Ginger V. Leonard
William M. Blair
Technical Support Specialist
Tammy M. Fortson
Administrative and Lab Coordinator
Transregional Institute Manager