To qualify for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, candidates are required to pass the general examination in their subject, present an acceptable dissertation, and pass the final public oral examination (FPO). The Graduate School requires that all doctoral dissertations be written and submitted in English. The department holds the FPO examination after the Graduate School reviews and accepts the two readers' reports and is satisfied that all other requirements have been met.
The general examination is designed to ascertain a student's general knowledge of the subject. Students in the ancient and East Asian programs normally take the general examination at the end of the third year, and all others at the end of the second or the beginning of the third year. Before scheduling of the examination may take place, students must have finalized all incompletes and language requirements.
Examinations are normally held during a stated 21-day period in October or January, or during a five-week period in April and May. A student's examination committee consists of three or more members, at least two of whom shall normally hold the rank of assistant professor or higher on the faculty of Princeton University. Any external examiners must be of comparable standing in the scholarly community. Examination committees in ancient, East Asian, and African and African diaspora normally include faculty from other departments. For all others, examination committees are normally composed of departmental faculty members. For a description of the general examination in the ancient and East Asian programs, see Course of Study. For all others, the general examination consists of one six-hour written and a two- to three-hour oral session.
If a student fails the general examination, she or he may stand for reexamination within one year, if recommended by the student's adviser and the department. If the student is unsuccessful the second time, degree candidacy automatically terminates.
The following areas apply to the written part of the general examination for all students except those in the ancient and East Asian programs. For the purpose of the general examination, the student is to select from one of the following:
- Byzantine and medieval
- Renaissance and Baroque (1400–1750)
- Modern and contemporary (1750–present)
- African and African diaspora
If preparing for the general examination in the spring semester, students are still responsible for completing their coursework with deadlines agreed to by the professor. The committee for the general examination, determined by the department’s graduate committee in consultation with the student and adviser, works with the student to set the examination date; the adviser and student consult with the Graduate Administrator on room availability. Students arrange with the Graduate Administrator for the use of office space for the written part of the examination. Examinations must be taken between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. (with limited breaks). The department will provide a University laptop for the students to take their exams. Students cannot bring cell phones, iPods, or any other internet-capable instrument to the exam.
Students must sign this pledge at the end of the exam: "I have not consulted any notes, computer files, or other materials in writing this exam, except as specifically allowed."
A week before the scheduled date of the general examination, all students except those in the East Asian program provide a brief sketch (no longer than one page, with no more than two pages of selected bibliography) of their plans for a dissertation research proposal, which the committee uses as a starting point for discussion of the oral examination. Students send a copy of the sketch via email to the Graduate Administrator.
A degree application form, indicating the specified deadline dates for receiving the M.A. degree, is sent to the student electronically via the Graduate Administrator. The vote to advance the student to Ph.D. candidacy is made by the faculty present at the general examination.
In accordance with Graduate School policy, to be eligible to participate in Commencement exercises, master's degree students must have taken their general exams and file the degree application form by January of the Commencement year.
Students must submit a dissertation proposal and present it to members of the department.
The following pertains to students in all areas except East Asian
Students who pass their general examination in April–May must present the proposal within the first month of the following fall term. Students who pass their general examination in October must present the proposal by the end of the fall semester. Students who pass their general examinations in January must present the proposal by the end of the spring semester. They may not be in absentia before having their proposal approved. The dissertation proposal consists of a written statement (approximately five pages) and selected bibliography on a specified topic. The proposal must be approved by the adviser before distribution to the general examination committee. The student obtains a presentation date/time commitment from the adviser/committee and informs the Graduate Administrator, who will reserve a room. Three days prior to the scheduled date, the student submits the written proposal to the Graduate Administrator for announcement to the University public via an email attachment. Once the proposal is approved by the committee, the Graduate Administrator will add it to the list of the most recent department dissertation topics that is submitted to the College Art Association by the end of the year.
The following pertains to students in the East Asian program
Students in the East Asian program must submit a written dissertation proposal to their adviser two weeks before taking the general examination. The proposal should be no more than ten pages long (double-spaced) and should state the research problem, describe the state of the field, indicate the approach to be taken, and describe the expected contribution of the dissertation. No later than three weeks after the general examination, the student must give a public presentation and defense of the proposal. In preparation for the presentation, and in consultation with the student, the adviser forms a committee comprised of the adviser and at least two more members of the general examination committee. The student will set a date for the public presentation in consultation with her or his adviser and committee, and then inform the Graduate Administrator, who will reserve a room. Three days prior to the scheduled date, the student will submit the written proposal to the Graduate Administrator via an email attachment for distribution to the University public. A student may not be In Absentia until their proposal has been approved. Each year, the Graduate Administrator provides a list of approved dissertation topics to the College Art Association.
For all students
One year after the acceptance of their dissertation proposal, students must send a first draft of a potential chapter of their dissertation to their adviser and to the DGS. Students will meet with their adviser and members of their graduate committee to discuss this draft. Following this meeting, the adviser should send a short written report to the DGS.
If, after a dissertation topic is presented and approved, a student wishes to change the topic, scope, or title of the dissertation in a significant way, the student's adviser should inform the director of graduate studies. The graduate committee will then consider whether the changes are substantial enough to require the student to present the new topic to the faculty for its approval.
- At least three months before the tentative date for the FPO examination, if not earlier, the candidate consults with her or his dissertation adviser to discuss the exam committee. The committee is normally composed of four members, two of whom are readers. (See below for additional description of the committee and its members.) The adviser is the first reader. The adviser will inform the Graduate Administrator at this time of the tentative date of the exam and the proposed members of the committee.
- When the candidate has completed a full draft of the dissertation, the candidate submits it to the adviser. The adviser and the candidate set a date by which the adviser will complete a reading of the manuscript and return it with comments to the candidate. The adviser will inform the Graduate Administrator of this date in writing.
- After revising the manuscript and with the adviser's approval, the candidate submits the complete manuscript to the second reader. This must be done no later than eight weeks prior to the tentative FPO examination date.
- If both readers feel that the dissertation, with minor adjustments, satisfies the department's expectations for the Ph.D., they furnish the Graduate Administrator with reader's reports. This must be done no later than three weeks prior to the tentative FPO examination date. The two readers should not exchange their reports.
- If the second reader concludes that the dissertation has serious flaws that prevent it from satisfying the department's expectations for the Ph.D., the reader will not submit a reader's report. Instead, a statement of why the dissertation in its present form is unacceptable will be sent to the candidate, with a copy to the adviser and the Director of Graduate Studies. This must be done no later than three weeks prior to the tentative FPO examination date. The candidate will consult with the adviser and the Director of Graduate Studies to determine how to proceed.
- When the two reader's reports have been filed with the Graduate Administrator, the candidate submits a copy of the revised dissertation (PDF file on USB stick) to the Graduate Administrator. This must be done no later than two weeks prior to the tentative FPO examination date. Do not email the dissertation (in whole or in part) to advisers or committee members, or to the department office staff for printing. The candidate is responsible for sending hard copies of the dissertation to committee members.
- At this time, the candidate submits a complete copy of the revised dissertation to each of the two examiners.
- Also at this time, and in consultation with the candidate and the Graduate Administrator, the committee finalizes the date for the FPO examination and notifies the Graduate Administrator. Students should attend at least one FPO exam before their own.
- In light of privacy rights, only the student, the FPO examination committee, and the Department of Art and Archaeology faculty may view the reports. The readers' reports should be thought of in the same way as grades: they are written, official, and permanently maintained assessments of a student's work, and, according to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), such records may not be shared with other students without that student's explicit permission. The student may request, in a letter sent to the director of graduate studies, to have the reports made available to the public.
The committee ordinarily comprises four members who serve as readers and/or examiners. The adviser, not the student, makes the invitations to be a part of the committee. There are two Readers, who are normally (and at least one must be) members of the Princeton faculty at the rank of assistant professor or higher. Any external Reader must be of comparable standing in a relevant branch of the scholarly community. Both Readers must write reports, which are sent to the graduate deans when the request is made to schedule the FPO examination. The second Reader does not need to be present at the defense, but still must write a written report on the dissertation. The FPO examination requires at least three Examiners, normally members of the Princeton faculty at the rank of assistant professor or higher, at least two of whom have not been Readers of the dissertation. Examiners do not submit written reports. The adviser should choose the Examiners (who are not also Readers) from the department or other University faculty or from local institutions (New York or Philadelphia regions).
The eligibility of staff members of the Index of Medieval Art to serve on the Ph.D. committees is determined by the dean of the faculty. The curatorial staff of the Princeton University Art Museum may serve on Ph.D. committees but must be approved by the Graduate School on a case-by-case basis. Visiting professors holding the rank of assistant professor or higher at their home institutions may be proposed as readers or examiners on Ph.D. committees. Recommendations of emeritus faculty or others to serve as committee members must be approved by the dean of the Graduate School. (Note: If the faculty adviser has emeritus status, the second reader of the dissertation must be an active faculty member of the department.) External readers and examiners on the proposed Ph.D. committee must provide their curriculum vitae for approval first by the department's Graduate Committee and then by the dean of the Graduate School.
For a step-by-step guide to preparing consult the Graduate School’s Advanced Degree Application Process.
For dissertation binding, see Smith-Shattuck Bookbinding. The vast majority of Ph.D. students will not be required to submit a printed bound copy of the dissertation to the Mudd Manuscript Library. Students who have removed content from the PDF version of the dissertation to avoid copyright infringement are still required to submit a bound copy to the library with all content included. For more information, please review the Graduate School's Advanced Degree Application Process.
Oral Examination Process
The department holds the FPO examination after the Graduate School reviews and accepts the readers' reports and is satisfied that all other requirements have been met. The department is required to post prominently the date, time, and place of the examination for a minimum of three business days (including Saturday) between the dean's authorization and the date of examination. The faculty present at the defense determine whether or not the candidate has passed the examination.
After the Defense
Students are responsible for carrying bound copies of their dissertation to Mudd Manuscript Library after the defense. The Mudd Manuscript Library, in consultation with the Graduate School, determines the submission guidelines and formatting instructions for dissertations.
In addition, final paperwork must be turned in. Once all actions are complete, graduate students must log in to TigerHub to complete the submission of the final paperwork process. All final paperwork is normally submitted immediately following the successful completion of the FPO examination, but in no case later than two weeks after the defense or by the degree deadline, whichever comes first.
The Five-Year Rule
Ph.D. theses which are submitted to the department more than five years after the student has passed the general examination require a positive vote by the faculty in order to be received and read. More generally, the period of "five years past generals" is a timeframe within which certain benefits (e.g., library privileges) are extended even if the student is not formally enrolled.
If an ETDCC student has not been in touch with the adviser after ten years, the department, with the adviser's permission, will inform the Graduate School to remove them from our list.