Dissertation and FPO


The dissertation must show that the candidate has technical mastery of the field and is capable of doing independent and original research. It must enlarge or modify current knowledge in a field or present a significant new interpretation of known materials.

The Graduate School requires that all doctoral dissertations be written and submitted in English.  Exceptions may be made only for language and literature departments, and only if the departments themselves wish to allow for such exceptions.  Where an exception is made, another language or literature and culture in that language must be the subject of the dissertation, and the department must first determine that there are compelling scholarly and/or professional reasons unique to the student or to that student's dissertation that should allow for submission in that language.  In such cases the department through the director of graduate studies may make a recommendation to the Graduate School that the dissertation be written and submitted in a language other than English.  The decision of the dean in such cases is final.  If a dissertation is approved to be submitted in a language other than English, all committee members reported to the Graduate School must have proficiency in that language sufficient to perform their committee roles in the same way that they would for a dissertation written in English.  The final public oral (FPO) may be conducted in English or in the language of the dissertation, at the discretion of the department.  Dissertations written and submitted in a language other than English must include an extended summary in English (usually 15 to 20 pages in length), and the abstract of the dissertation must be in English.

A candidate must submit the dissertation for official action only after having sustained the general examination. If a student presents a doctoral dissertation more than five years after having passed the general examination, the department is not automatically obliged to receive the dissertation for consideration. In such cases the department must vote formally as a faculty whether or not to receive it for review and examination. When the dissertation has been formally presented the department takes action on the positive recommendation of at least two principal readers to request that the dissertation advance to the final public oral (FPO) examination. At least one of the principal readers of the dissertation must be from the student’s home department. Qualified principal readers are those who are authorized to supervise doctoral dissertations in the University (such as regular faculty at the rank of assistant professor or higher and certain others in senior research ranks). External readers must be of comparable standing in another university or in the research community. External readers must be approved by the Graduate School prior to dissertation submission. Each principal reader submits a written and signed dissertation reader report to the department. A copy of the dissertation to be defended must be available for interested readers in the department prior to the final public oral examination. The dean of the Graduate School or the deputy dean authorizes the department to hold the final public oral examination.

Final Public Oral (FPO)

The final public oral examination is a final examination in the student’s field of study as well as a defense of the dissertation.

The department holds the final public oral examination after the Graduate School reviews and accepts the reader reports and is satisfied that all other requirements have been met. The department is required to post prominently the date, time, and place of the examination for a minimum of three days between the dean’s authorization and the date of the examination, in order to assure the open, public character of the oral examination. There are at least three principal examiners, all of them normally members of the Princeton faculty at the rank of assistant professor or higher, at least two of whom have not been principal readers of the dissertation. At least one of the examiners must be from the student’s home department. The student and the examiners should be present in person. In extraordinary circumstances, a department may request that the Graduate School approve virtual, video-conferenced participation of an examiner, but in no case may there be fewer than two examiners who participate in person. Acting on the advice of the examiners, the department determines whether or not the candidate has passed the examination.

In case the examination is not sustained, the candidate may stand for it a second time after at least one year has passed. If unsuccessful a second time, the candidate is not permitted another opportunity to retake the examination, and Ph.D. candidacy is terminated. In cases where an appearance for the final public oral examination would constitute a substantial hardship for the candidate due to financial, medical, or other extenuating reasons, the director of graduate studies, acting on behalf of the department and with the approval of the adviser(s) and all principal examiners, may recommend to the dean of the Graduate School virtual, video-conferenced examination of the candidate, with the department continuing to uphold in all other respects the open, public nature of the examination. The decision of the dean in such cases is final.