The Dissertation

Dissertation Proposal and Admission to Candidacy

In order to be admitted to Ph.D. candidacy, a student must write and orally defend a detailed dissertation proposal prepared under the supervision of the dissertation chairperson. Students must have completed all requirements: at least 18 courses, including the three required departmental seminars, the language requirements, and the qualifying papers. All incompletes and blanks on the student’s transcript for required courses must have been removed and the new grade recorded in the Registrar’s Office prior to the date of the proposal defense. Admission to candidacy must take place no later than the fifth year of the student's program.

Note that, in accordance with Divisional and Departmental requirements, students must pass the examination in the language of scholarship before being admitted to candidacy. Furthermore, most of the grants which are available to support dissertation research require that a student be admitted to candidacy before taking up the grant.

The proposal should demonstrate a student’s awareness of broad theoretical issues and a detailed knowledge of the chosen area of specialization. The dissertation proposal should be 20-25 pages in length. It should provide a clear statement of the scholarly problem to be addressed by the dissertation; the student's theoretical orientation to this problem; a review of previous scholarly work; a provisional outline of the dissertation as a whole; a plan of research, including archives to be consulted, research sites chosen, a timetable, and a bibliography of no more than two pages.

Prior to the proposal defense, the student and the dissertation chairperson (who must be a member of the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations) select the two additional members of the student’s dissertation committee. One of the two may be, with the approval of the departmental Chair, from outside the University. The third member must be a University faculty member but need not be a member of SALC. The proposal must be deposited in the form of a printed paper copy in the departmental office at least two weeks prior to the date of the defense, and an abstract of it must be circulated to all SALC faculty. It is the responsibility of the student to ensure that the proposal and the abstract are deposited by this deadline. The proposal is defended orally before the committee and the Department, with the Chair of the Department presiding; these proceedings are open to students and faculty of the University. One purpose of the proposal defense is to familiarize all the members of the Department with a student's research agenda, and provide an opportunity for them to offer guidance. With successful completion of the dissertation proposal defense, the student is admitted to Ph.D. candidacy.

The Dissertation

It is expected that the dissertation will represent a substantial and original contribution to the study of South Asian languages and civilizations. Upon completion of the dissertation, the student defends it orally before the members of the dissertation committee, a Divisional Representative, and the Department, with the Chair of the Department presiding. Students will follow the guidelines of the University’s Dissertation Office in planning the date of their defense, and in formatting the dissertation. See

Two weeks before the scheduled defense, the student must submit a hard copy of the dissertation to each member of his/her committee and the departmental administrator. This task is solely the responsibility and expense of the student. This copy will be a complete, formatted dissertation, with the preliminary pages, main body of work, conclusion, and end matter included in their entirety, and properly formatted. This copy of the dissertation should be printed on standard white paper and should conform in every way to the requirements outlined by the University’s Dissertation Office. The defense will be cancelled if these standards are not met.

The defense proceedings are open only to the University community. Grades are awarded by vote of the dissertation committee. Grades awarded for the dissertation are “No Pass,” “Conditional Pass,” and “Pass.” The “Conditional Pass” requires the student to make revisions and obtain the committee’s final approval before the Departmental Approval Form will be signed.