Fourth Year and Beyond

Annual dissertation progress report

The Dissertation Progress Report is due each May 1 for work done in the academic year just completed. Filling in the form is now an on-line process.

Dissertation Requirements

The Graduate School has specific rules about formatting, etc. When you are preparing your final draft, you should consult their Dissertation Submission Checklist.

Forming a dissertation committee

The Physics Department requires a 4-member faculty committee plus an outside reader and must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. Therefore, the student should consult with their research adviser, core thesis committee and then the DGS about the make-up of the committee and when approval is given, the student should then ask those wanted on the Committee if they will agree to serve. The Committee should be made up of at least two tenured faculty members. Typically, the Committee would include the members of the core thesis committee and one more faculty member.

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

For students in an experimental field:
Adviser and another in same experimental field; another in same field but theoretical; another experimentalist (any field).

For students in a theoretical field:
Adviser and another in same theoretical field; another in same field but experimental; another theorist (any field).

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:

  1. a brief review of the field prior to the thesis research to provide context
  2. a presentation of the goals and motivations of the thesis research
  3. 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:

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

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

Dissertation defense

Once the Defense Committee is chosen and approved by the DGS, it is the student’s responsibility to set the date, time and place for the defense at a time convenient to all members of the Committee. Copies of the dissertation should be given to them at least three weeks in advance. The Physics Registrar’s office will assist in locating a room if necessary. 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.

Outside reader (after oral defense)

The outside reader must be someone outside of Yale who has had no involvement with the student’s research and who can be completely objective in his/her evaluation of the dissertation. The outside reader is usually selected by the dissertation adviser and approved by the DGS. Usually the adviser contacts the reader and requests his/her services. The dissertation is forwarded to the outside reader after the final copy of the dissertation is submitted to the Graduate School.

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.

Submission guidelines are posted on-line at the Graduate School’s website: Dissertation Guidelines, Dissertation Check list (under Resources), and Notification of Readers form. Remember to list your advisor as one of the 5 readers.

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

Petitioning for Extension

A student wishing to extend his/her registration beyond their original six year terminal date must file a Petition for an Extension. A Dissertation Progress Report must also be completed along with a letter to the DGS stating the reasons for needing an extension. The extension can be requested for one or two terms. Extensions beyond the seventh year are not normally allowed. Note: It is not necessary to be a registered student beyond your sixth year to be able to complete your dissertation and defend. However, you would not be allowed to receive AR salary as a student, nor would you have health insurance if you were not registered.

Preparing for the job market

Office of Career Strategy (OCS)

The Office of Career Strategy (OCS) is a comprehensive career center for students and alumni/ae of Yale University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and for postdoctoral fellows. Through individual counseling, programs and a library of online resources, the office assists graduate students and alumni/ae with non-academic career planning and decision-making. OCS encourages students to begin using the services of the office early in their graduate careers in order to expand the choices they will have upon completion of their degrees. For more information visit