Dissertations and Other Capstone Projects
Dissertation Committee Membership
- All dissertation committees should have at least three faculty members.
- The student's principal advisor, who will guide the research and the preparation of the dissertation, will be a dissertation committee chair. Individual departments may opt to allow co-chairs.
- Two of the committee members must come from the student’s own department or program (one of the two should be a committee chair).
- At least one of the committee members must be tenured. This member does not need to be a chair.
- At least one of the committee members must come from another department or from outside the university.
- An emeritus faculty member at Brandeis may serve as one of the committee members from the student’s own department or, if this faculty member is emeritus in another department, the faculty member may serve as the outside reader. After retirement, an emeritus faculty member may serve on committees but not take on new chairships. They will not receive payment for this.
- Should an inside reader, already committed to a dissertation reading committee, leave Brandeis for an appointment at another institution, this faculty member may be given a courtesy appointment in the department at Brandeis so that he or she may continue to serve on the committee as an advisor. However, this faculty member with a courtesy appointment cannot serve as the dissertation chair as a chair must be a current member of the faculty in the student’s department.
- Normally, all members of the committee must hold a PhD degree, although the program chair, with the approval of the Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, may waive the requirement when a potential committee member has demonstrated a capacity to do research or be helpful in supervising a dissertation. To request an exception to these requirements, the program should contact the Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs for the Graduate School, who will then bring the request to the Dean of the Graduate School.
Dissertation defenses are required to be public and open to any member of the faculty engaged in graduate instruction and invited faculty members from other institutions. Students must submit the date and time of their defense to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences’ Dissertation Defense Calendar Submission Form at least two weeks prior to the scheduled defense. A student must be registered and enrolled in the term(s) in which the dissertation is defended and deposited. The student and the dissertation committee can determine the modality of the defense (in-person, hybrid, remote). GSAS does not have specific rules about how far in advance of the defense the final copy of the dissertation must be submitted to the committee, department faculty, or GSAS faculty and staff.
A dissertation committee can conclude the oral examination by:
- Passing the dissertation with no revisions
- Passing the dissertation with minor revisions
- Requiring substantial revisions
If the dissertation examining committee requires "substantial revisions" (involving significant matters of substance), the revisions must be reviewed and accepted by the entire committee, not just the dissertation supervisor. If these revisions are not made within six months of the dissertation defense, there must be a re-defense of the dissertation. If the dissertation examining committee requires "minor revisions" (e.g., stylistic changes, correction of typographical errors and re-formatting), the committee will indicate on the Defense Form whether the revisions may be reviewed and approved by the dissertation committee chair alone or require the full committee's approval. If these revisions are not made within three months of the dissertation defense, the dissertation is automatically reclassified as one requiring "substantial revisions" and subject to its six-month deadline (i.e., if after an additional three months the dissertation has not been approved by the committee and successfully deposited, there must be a re-defense).
Dissertation Submission and Publication
For information about the dissertation submission process, visit the Thesis and Dissertation Guide. No later than the dates specified for dissertation deposit in the current academic calendar for February, May, and August degrees, the candidate must electronically deposit one copy of the finished dissertation. The dissertation must have the signed approval of the dissertation supervisor and readers, and it must comply with the publishing and formatting guidelines outlined by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, which may be different from department guidelines. Submission of the dissertation to and acceptance by the Graduate School constitutes the completion of degree requirements.
Submitted dissertations are published electronically in the ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Database. In addition to publication in ProQuest, students’ dissertations are published in the Brandeis ScholarWorks once degrees are conferred. Dissertations published in ScholarWorks will be made available to the academic community through Open Access. For needed forms, visit the Registrar's website.
Outside Readers for Dissertations
The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences will permit outside readers to participate in PhD dissertation defenses either in person or remotely, as determined by the student and their dissertation committee.
The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences does not pay honoraria, stipends or travel costs for any outside readers. Departments may opt to do so from Department funds provided the same options are provided to outside readers for every student.
Capstone Publication Policy
In general, GSAS should always do everything we can to ensure that all "capstone" scholarship (defined as original research in MA/MS theses and PhD dissertations) is published in ProQuest and the Institutional repository (ScholarWorks), because of our Carnegie classification as an R1 institution and the thresholds for research output.
GSAS does not allow post-deposit corrections of theses/dissertation texts. This policy preserves the integrity of the scholarship.
GSAS does not allow changing the dissertation or thesis because the author changed their mind and research trajectory. It is part of the nature of the research endeavor that one risks being wrong at one point, and then the task is to correct and recalibrate one's conclusions through additional scholarship, not changing what was already published.
Authors and research collaborators may have very legitimate reasons for delaying publication--hence the embargo process, which we now allow authors to choose on their own through the ProQuest options. GSAS approval is not required for embargos, but we encourage students to consult with their advisors before choosing to embargo.
A student can petition not to publish their capstone by sending the GSAS Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs a letter that explains the situation and asks permission from the School to waive the deposit requirement. The School leadership will review and grant the exception only in rare and extraordinary circumstances. This documentation is then appended to the student's official academic record in Workday. Given the fact that the deposit process is the official repository of the content of the dissertation, the School should ensure that the dissertation is retained in a permanent location that can be accessed by the program if there is ever a need to verify aspects of the student's credentials.