Ph.D. Advising Requirements

All doctoral students are expected to have a dissertation adviser of record by the time they reach the post-generals stage. It is not possible to complete all degree requirements without having an adviser of record and a defined research topic. No post-generals student can remain enrolled without an adviser.

Dissertation and Research Advising

Ph.D. students at the research stage of their programs are required to have faculty advisers who can appropriately advise their dissertation topics and who are willing and available to advise them. This is an essential requirement in order for a Ph.D. student to remain enrolled and successfully work towards completing the degree. 

The beginning of the research stage differs from program to program, depending on individual program requirements and funding models. In some departments, particularly those in the lab sciences and engineering, the expectation to have an adviser begins as early as the first year. In other fields, students are not required to have an adviser until after they have completed the general examination and moved to the dissertation phase of the Ph.D.

Guidelines for Dissertation Advising

Princeton's departments and programs have broad academic expertise, and Ph.D. students have the opportunity to work with faculty who are experts in many fields and subfields of academic research. While the range of topics that Ph.D. students may pursue for dissertation work is wide, it nonetheless may be limited by the interests and expertise of the faculty. Students may need to adjust their research topics in order to align them with faculty expertise if they wish to complete the degree. Adjustment of topic may be necessary, for example, if a student's adviser leaves the University, particularly if the student has not yet completed the general examination and no other faculty within the department can appropriately advise on the student's originally intended topic. 

It is a Ph.D. student's responsibility to identify a research topic and secure an appropriate research adviser. Faculty within departments, including and especially directors of graduate studies, will make every reasonable effort to help students find and secure appropriate advisers, provided students are otherwise making satisfactory degree progress. 

Advisers Outside of the Home Department

Some departments require that dissertation advisers reside within the home department. Others may allow a Ph.D. student to be advised or co-advised by a Princeton faculty member in an adjacent department or program if the research work will continue to be compatible with the requirements of the student's home discipline. Students should consult with their home departments to ensure that they fully understand these expectations.

Advising by individuals who are not Princeton faculty members may be possible only in exceptional circumstances approved by the department or program as well as the Graduate School, and only in cases where a Princeton faculty member also co-advises the work. (Students who have completed the general examination and are in the dissertation phase may be approved in certain circumstances to continue to work solely with advisers who have left the University; see Graduate Committee Requirements for details.)    

Meeting Frequency

Ph.D. students benefit from frequent meetings with their dissertation research advisers and constructive feedback on their work. To ensure that they are meeting expected research milestones, remaining on track for timely degree completion, and addressing any concerns raised during prior meetings, Ph.D. students with an assigned dissertation research adviser are required by the Graduate School to meet with their adviser a minimum of once per semester and with an additional faculty member in their department at least once per year. (See Frequency of Advising Meetings for Ph.D. Students.)

Graduate Advising Resources

With an eye on fostering effective, engaging advising relationships, the Graduate School offers a number of resources designed to help both students and faculty. Visit the Advising Resources for Students to learn more.