The Dissertation

Dissertation Proposal and Admission to Candidacy

In order to be admitted to PhD 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, as well as the language requirements, and the qualifying papers. All incompletes and blanks on the student’s transcript for required courses must have been removed (note incompletes and blank grades cannot be carried over from one year to another – any missing grade will switch to an unofficial withdrawal – “UW” – at the start of the next academic year), 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 start of the sixth 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 2025 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) will settle on the composition of the dissertation committee. This will ordinarily consist of two additional members. At least one of the two additional members of the committee must be a member of SALC; the third may be from any academic department of the University or may be, with the approval of the departmental Chair, from outside the University.

At the discretion of the dissertation chairperson, a fourth member may be added to the dissertation committee.  This option should be made available only when genuinely warranted by the intellectual, disciplinary, or practical circumstances of the student’s dissertation project.  In such a case, at least three of the committee members should be members of SALC; the fourth may be from any academic department of the University or may be, with the approval of the departmental Chair, from outside the University.

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 PhD candidacy.

Degree Completion Plan

For students who are in the sixth year and beyond, the Degree Completion Plan form provides a space for them and their departments to document the progress they plan on making in order to complete their program inclusive of their dissertation. Departments will review previously submitted completion plans, and advise students appropriately as needed.

The plan must clearly, realistically, and in detail outline work that has been completed and work that remains to be done before defending the dissertation. It is to take into consideration pedagogical teaching requirements, coursework and outstanding grades, departmental milestones or qualifying exams, research, time needed for write-up, securing copyright permissions, and any other circumstances that may affect progress.

The plan must be discussed and agreed upon by both the student and the chair of the dissertation committee in consultation with the department chair and/or director of graduate students if needed.

The progress of each student at every level in the SALC graduate program is reviewed annually in a special meeting of the department faculty, following individual sessions in which the Department Chair and Director of Graduate Studies meet with each student to discuss any matters relevant to the student’s progress and plans.

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, 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.

Three weeks before the scheduled defense, the student must submit a hard copy of the dissertation to each member of his or her committee and the departmental administrator. This task is solely the responsibility of and at the expense of the student. This copy will be a complete, formatted dissertation, with the preliminary pages (other than acknowledgements), 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 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. They normally last 90 minutes for a committee of three faculty members or 120 minutes for a larger committee, and begin with the candidate being allowed to speak for no more than 15 or 20 minutes.  Grades are awarded by vote of the dissertation committee. The available grades are “Pass without revisions,” “Pass with minor revisions,” “Pass with major revisions,” or “No pass.” The grade of “Pass with major revisions” requires the student to obtain the committee’s final approval of suggested revisions before final approval of the dissertation will be recorded.