Dissertation and Completion

Forming a Dissertation Committee

Dissertation Defense

Dissertation Requirements

Graduation Checklist

Continued Research after Graduation

Access after Graduation


Forming a Dissertation Committee

The Physics Department requires a 4-member Yale faculty committee plus an outside reader to approve a dissertation and defense for graduation. The core committee and DGS must approve the additional members prior to the student inviting the final faculty and outside reader to join their dissertation committee.

Typically, the Committee would include the members of the core thesis committee and one more faculty member. Two of the faculty members on the committee must have a primary or secondary appointment in physics, two must be from Yale, and two must be tenured. These requirements need not be satisfied by the same two people. A full list of faculty members can be found here

Usually, the make-up of the committee is as follows:

For students in an experimental field:

(1) Adviser and (2) another in the same experimental field; (3) another in the same field but theoretical; (4) another experimentalist (any field) and (5) approved outside reader

For students in a theoretical field:

(1) Adviser and (2) another in the same theoretical field; (3) another in the same field but experimental; (4) another theorist (any field) and (5) approved outside reader

Outside Reader

The outside reader must be someone outside of Yale who has had no direct involvement with the student’s dissertation analysis, but who may be familiar with the student work and be someone who can be objective in their evaluation of the dissertation. The outside reader is usually selected by the student and their dissertation adviser and must be approved by the DGS. 

Dissertations should be sent electronically to outside readers and other committee members, prior to the defense, to provide ample time for readers to provide comments in a timely manner. Outside readers should be invited to the dissertation defense but their presence is not required.

Dissertation Defense

Once the Dissertation Committee is chosen and approved by the DGS, it is the student’s responsibility to set the date, time, and place (online or in person) for the defense, at a time convenient to all members of the Committee. This information should be relayed to the graduate registrar and senior administrator via the Notification of Leave/Graduation form or directly through email. Copies of the dissertation should be given to the committee members at least two weeks in advance of the scheduled defense. 

The dissertation defense shall consist of two consecutive parts. The first part, which shall be open to anyone interested, will consist of an oral presentation of approximately one-hour in length, in the style of a research seminar. An announcement will appear in the weekly Seminar Notices. The second part will consist of detailed questioning of the candidate by the dissertation committee, at which attendance will be restricted to members of the committee.

Ideally, Dissertation Defenses should be scheduled before the University’s dissertation submission deadline to give committee readers time to review the dissertation, attend your defense and provide feedback before your official dissertation is submitted to the University.  Students must defend no later than November 1st or April 15th, one month after they defense dissertation has been submitted.  Please see the Graduation Checklist for deadlines and more detailed information below. 

Dissertation Requirements

The Graduate School has specific rules about formatting, etc. When you are preparing your final draft, you should consult their Dissertations page and Formatting Guide. Review the Dissertation section of Programs and Policies for the fine print about the dissertation process, reader committees, language requirements, and more.

Dissertation First Chapter

The Physics Department recommends that the first chapter of the thesis be a succinct summary of the entire thesis, including in particular:

  • a brief review of the field prior to the thesis research to provide context

  • a presentation of the goals and motivations of the thesis research

  • a clear description of what the student has achieved in the thesis research (primarily written in the first person singular, but with due credit to others as appropriate). This description should refer back to (1) and clearly indicate the relation to prior work.

It may also make sense to add:

  • suggestions for how to best build upon the thesis research in future work.

Otherwise, these suggestions should appear in the conclusion of the thesis.

Submitting Your Dissertation

After the defense, the committee may ask the student to make some changes in the dissertation. These changes must be made before submission to the Graduate School. Alternatively, if you have already submitted your dissertation to the Dissertation office, you may replace single pages or chapters with minor edits. 

If major edits are required, the student will have two weeks to make the necessary revisions and have edits reviewed by their advisor before resubmission to the Graduate School. Your advisor will then have to send the dissertation office their approval of your revised dissertation. 

Submission guidelines are posted on-line at the Graduate School’s website: Dissertation Guidelines, Dissertation formatting, and Notification of Readers form. Remember to list your advisor as one of the 5 readers. Dissertations must be submitted to the Dissertation office by October 1st for December graduation or March 15th for May graduation.

Note: Students must be registered through the term of dissertation submission (unless they have already completed their sixth year).

Reader Duties

Once a student is ready to submit their dissertation, they will enter their reader information into the NOR system. All five committee members’ information must be entered for DGS/ Registrar approval. The readers listed will receive a link from the Dissertation office giving them access to your submitted dissertation and asking them to complete the questions listed below within one month’s time but no later than the reader report deadline. The reader report deadline per graduation cycle is one month after the dissertation submission deadline.

These are the questions on the official Reader’s Report for the Graduate School of Yale University - 

1) Do you consider the substance of the dissertation acceptable for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy? If you found the dissertation acceptable, what is your estimate of the work as a whole?

2) Are there editorial errors (for example, problems with spelling, grammar, or references of such consequence or in insufficient number that they affect the substance of the dissertation and must be corrected before the faculty votes on this dissertation? If you answered yes, please list below the required changes (there is no limit to the length of your comments, text created in another document can also be copy/pasted below)

3) Please evaluate each of the following as Distinguished, Very Good, Good or Fair:

   a. Command of the literature of the subject

   b. Originality

   c. Insight and judgment

   d. Clearness

   e. Style

   f. Mastery of the method used in research

4) Without summarizing the dissertation, please state in detail the reason for your evaluation, indicating the strengths and weaknesses of the work and the way in which it makes an original contribution to its field (there is no limit to the length of your comments, text created in another document can also be copy/pasted below)

5) Dissertation Reader’s advice to the candidate (optional)

   a. Do you recommend eventual publication in print of part or all of this dissertation?

   b. If so, in what form?


         a. Which parts?

         b. What revision is needed?


         What general suggestions for revision would you make?

If a reader requests edits to be made to your dissertation, the student must make the appropriate edits and receive their advisor’s approval of the edits before submitting an updated dissertation to the university.

Back to Top

Graduation Checklist

Once a student is ready to graduate, there are departmental steps and university requirements to be followed by the dates listed below.

Due by February 15th for May Graduation or September 1st for December Graduation 

  • Complete the Notification of Leave/Graduation online form to notify the office of your defense date, your last day in the lab and your future contact information. Do not enter your current campus contact information unless you do not plan on moving for several months after graduation.

  • Students are responsible for scheduling a date, time and physical or virtual room location for their thesis defense. Please give your committee members adequate notice when trying to schedule your defense. Defense information can now be included in your Notification of Leave/Graduation form and will be announced in the weekly newsletter. 

  • With the assistance of your advisor, find an appropriate outside reader and submit their name and position to the DGS for approval.

Due by March 15th or October 1st

  • Provide the Thesis Progress Report Form to your dissertation committee members for signature during your defense. Forward your signed form(s) and a PDF copy of your Dissertation to the graduate registrar. See below for further Defense details.

  • Review and complete the Yale GSAS Dissertation Submission Checklist.

  • Enter your reader information into the Notification of Readers (NOR) portal, and notify the graduate registrar when done.

  • Submit your final dissertation to the Registrar’s Office. See above for further submission guidance. 

Due by April 15th or November 1st

  • Students must complete their defense by April 15th for May graduation or November 1st for December graduation
  • Reader reports are due one month after your dissertation is uploaded to NOR or by April 15th or November 1st

Prior to leaving

  • Schedule a 30-minute Exit Interview with the Chair or DGS to talk about your experience in the program. Sample Exit Interview Questions can be found here.

  • Update Notification of Leave/Graduation form with any new future employment or address changes.

  • Confirm last day of pay with the graduate registrar.

  • Notify the graduate registrar when you have returned your keys, coats, or other university provided equipment.

These deadlines have been established to allow sufficient time for readers to make careful evaluations and for the department to review those evaluations before making our recommendation to the Graduate School on degrees earned. No extensions of the deadlines will be granted. Dissertations submitted after the deadlines will be considered during the following term. 

Continued Research after Graduation

Students are permitted to continue working as research assistants after they have graduated up to the start of a new academic semester. If the advisor is willing to continue their support, December graduates can be paid up to January 15th, and May graduates may continue to be paid until August 31st. It is important to note that student health insurance will end for December graduates on January 31st and July 31st for May graduates. The university does offer a one-month insurance rider for May Graduates requesting coverage for August.

IT Access after Graduation

After you graduate, your access to Yale accounts and information will change. Your Yale email account will stay active for a year, while other things, like VPN access will be removed six months after graduation. For a complete timeline of access changes, please see IT’s Graduating Students webpage.

Back to Top