Before a defense is ready to be scheduled, the three inside members of the committee must approve the final draft of the dissertation. You should provide sufficient time for your comiittee members to read thoroughly and you must distribute the final version to your dissertation one month prior to the defense. The dissertation office will schedule a defense if the application is filed by their deadlines (about November 14th in the fall and the 14th of March in the spring), otherwise this must be handled between you and your sponsor. For further information, see GSAS requirements, Appendix.
The three possible outcomes of the defense are: Pass (minor revisions), Incomplete (major revisions), and Fail. In the event of Incomplete, a time frame is set by the examining committee, such that acceptable major revisions must be submitted not before a certain time and not later than a certain time. If these major revisions are not completed within the time stipulated, conditional acceptance will be changed to Fail.
The following is excerpted from the official rules for dissertation sponsorship, research and writing in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. For all rules and regulations see "The Ph.D. Dissertation: Research Proposal, Sponsorship and Defense," Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
A. Selection and Approval of Ph.D. Thesis Proposal
1. Early in their graduate career, students should consult with an advisor or Director of Graduate Studies regarding departmental procedures for the appointment of sponsors of dissertations. These procedures differ from department to department. In some departments, the responsibility for finding a willing sponsor rests with the student.
2. The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences requires that all departmental procedures for selection and approval of doctoral dissertation proposals be on file in the Office of the Dean. While there is no uniform procedure appropriate to all departments, these procedures must include a written statement by the student formulated in sufficient detail and analytic specificity to define the research problem, pertinent data sources and methodology.
3. The Executive Committee of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences has the responsibility for approving changes in departmental procedures governing acceptance of a Ph.D. thesis proposal and making them available to graduate students through their departmental faculty or departmental administrator.
4. Ph.D. thesis proposals shall be approved in writing by a Committee of three Faculty in which responsibilities for second and third readers are clearly designated. All of the Faculty must be members of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences; one of the three may be from outside the student's department.
5. It is strongly recommended that departments institute a policy whereby the student is given the opportunity to present and discuss the thesis proposal with the dissertation research committee and/or the members of an appropriate departmental dissertation seminar.
6. A copy of the form approving the doctoral dissertation proposal including the title of the proposal and committee shall be sent to the Office of the Dean together with one copy of the student's research proposal.
7. Before the Ph.D. dissertation proposal may be formally accepted by the Dean's office, the student's M.Phil. degree application must be signed by the Department Chair and returned to the Office of the Dean.
Note: Students apply directly for M.A., M.Phil. and Ph.D. degrees with the registrar's office. In addition, departments must submit to the Office of the Dean an M.Phil. form stating that all requirements have been satisfied.
8. Students are normally expected to submit their dissertation proposal within six months of completion of the M.Phil. degree.
B. Supervision of the Doctoral Dissertation
1. Students are entitled to continuous supervision. Ordinarily, dissertation sponsors and second readers are expected to read chapters or groups of chapters rather than insisting on reading only a complete draft of the full dissertation. (The approved proposal should provide readers with a sufficient sense of the whole to make the review of drafts of individual chapters valuable.)
a. Faculty are expected to provide written or oral responses to drafts within a reasonable time period. Generally three weeks to a month should be sufficient time to permit a detailed response to a single chapter. Six weeks should be sufficient time to review a group of chapters. A full draft of a dissertation should be responded to within two months of receipt of the material.
b. While absence from campus during the summer months may cause some delays, faculty are expected to continue to provide some supervision of doctoral students during the summer months.
c. When on leave, faculty are expected to make arrangements for continued, regular supervision of the doctoral students whose dissertations they are sponsoring (by mail or through occasional meetings). Where this is impossible, the faculty sponsor has the responsibility for ensuring that during his/her absence, the second reader will take on the primary responsibility for such supervision during the period in which the faculty sponsor cannot be reached.
3. As part of the annual departmental review of graduate students' progress (which is normally undertaken for purposes of determining students' ranking and priority of financial aid allocation), all dissertation sponsors are expected to provide a report to the Department Chair and/or Director of Graduate Studies on the progress of doctoral students whose research they are guiding. In addition, in April, Departments should have students submit the form, "Report on Progress in Candidacy in the Doctoral Program," to their Ph.D. advisor
D. Application for Defense
The student must complete an "Application for the Defense Examination" at least four weeks in advance of the anticipated date of defense. Filing early in the semester is recommended to ensure approval of the defense committee before the deadlines mentioned below. The student applies through the Dissertation Officer in the Office of the Dean in 108 Low Memorial Library. October 5, November 1, and February 15 are the deadlines for submitting applications for defenses, which the Dissertation Officer agrees to schedule for October, February and May degree dates, respectively. Applications made after these dates will be scheduled by individual departments. (It is important that you discuss your defense with Joyce Monges at the beginning of the semester in which you expect to defend).
E. Nomination and Appointment of the Defense Committee
1. The responsibility for selecting and recommending defense committee members rests with the Dissertation Sponsor, Department Chair, and the Director of Graduate Studies. Students may not select their own defense committees; students should not be placed in the position of having to ask particular faculty members to serve on their defense committees.
2. Normally the dissertation defense committee shall be composed of five members, including:
a. Three Insiders: (from the student's Department or Doctoral Program Subcommittee) Chair of Committee - generally the Chair is a tenured faculty member who holds a seat on the Faculty of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences; Sponsor - must be an approved Ph.D. sponsor; One other member of the students Department -normally the second reader,
b. Two Outsiders: from other GSAS departments and/or schools or universities;
c. GSAS Faculty: three of the five members of the defense committee must be faculty members who hold a seat on the GSAS Faculty, listed in the front of the biennial GSAS General Announcement Bulletin. For outside examiners from other university departments, the candidate's Department Chair, in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies and the sponsor, shall submit to the Dean of the Faculty of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences the appropriate names of two or three faculty members, two of whom will be asked to serve on the defense. The Dean reserves the right to intervene in appropriate instances and add or substitute other Faculty as outside examiners. In some cases, it may be appropriate to ask a scholar not connected with Columbia University to serve as a thesis examiner. In such cases, the Department Chair should present to the Office of the Dean evidence of the examiner's qualifications (i.e., a curriculum vitae) for approval by the Dean. The Dean may delegate to the Department Chair or dissertation sponsor the responsibility for contacting the proposed examiner about serving on the defense. Nominations for membership on the defense committee must be made no later than three weeks prior to the proposed defense date.
3. Final approval of the members of a dissertation defense committee rests with the Dean of the Faculty of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
F. Scheduling of the Defense
No defense shall be scheduled until the dissertation sponsor and second reader have signified that in their judgment the dissertation is acceptable and thus warrants a defense and final examination. The Dissertation Officer is responsible for scheduling dissertation defenses in all departments except in the natural sciences and all doctoral program subcommittees. The Dissertation Officer begins to do so after a proposed defense committee has been approved by the Dean and after copies of the dissertation have been distributed to members of the defense committee. October 5, November 1, and February 15 are the deadlines for submitting applications for defenses for October, February and May degree dates, respectively. In the natural sciences departments and all doctoral program subcommittees, responsibility for the scheduling of dissertation defenses rests with the Department or Program Chair after the defense committee has been approved by the Office of the Dean. No student may be put in the position of having to schedule his or her own defense.
G. Distribution of Defense Copies of the Dissertation
1. The deadline for distributing copies of the dissertation for the defense to members of a committee approved by the Office of the Dean is at least four weeks before the anticipated defense date.