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Following completion of three years of coursework and all examinations, a student will be advanced to dissertation stage. The dissertation constitutes a significant and original contribution to a field or fields of scholarship in ancient world studies. It is undertaken under the supervision of (usually) one primary faculty advisor, along with a dissertation committee of at least two other faculty members. Generally, it is expected that it will be completed by the end of the student’s fifth year in the program. Characteristically, students will remain in Philadelphia while engaged with their dissertations, so that they can consult regularly with their advisor and committee, participate in dissertation workshops with their peers, and continue to attend colloquia and talks on a regular basis. In these ways, students can obtain regular feedback on their progress and, equally important, remain part of the intellectual community around them.

Supervisor and Committee

Students will usually have one primary faculty advisor for the dissertation, who is a standing member of the Ancient History Graduate Group. This advisor will serve as chair of the student’s dissertation committee, which will include two or more secondary advisors, who are generally also members of the Group. In some circumstances, the dissertation chair and Graduate Group chair, in conjunction with the student, may decide to appoint a member of the dissertation committee from outside the Group. Students meet regularly with their primary advisors, especially in the early stages of their project. 


A full dissertation proposal outlining the topic, structure, goals, and methodology of the dissertation, along with a research bibliography, must be submitted to the Graduate Group Chair for distribution to the examiners at least two weeks before the Preliminary Examination. This will be discussed at the oral examination (see above). If the proposal is deemed satisfactory, the student will be admitted to candidacy for the PhD degree. If the submitted proposal is unsatisfactory, the examiners will decide whether the student should revise the proposal within a specified time frame and re-submit it for further discussion, or leave the program.

Satisfactory Progress

The dissertation must be completed within five years of completing the Preliminary Exam. Together, the dissertation chair and the chair of the Graduate Group will regularly assess the state of the student’s progress towards completion. Students who have not completed the dissertation within five years of first registering for dissertation tuition are required to submit a revised dissertation Prospectus and to repeat that portion of the Preliminary Examination that involves defending the proposal before a committee of at least three examiners. The revised Prospectus must include an account of the current state of scholarship on the topic and an up-to-date bibliography.


Candidates for the PhD degree are required to defend the dissertation formally. The student will give a public, oral presentation of the dissertation for approximately 40 minutes, followed by an open-floor question period. The presentation may focus on a selected portion of the dissertation, but must include an account of the whole. The presentation is chaired by someone not on the dissertation committee, such as the Chair of the Graduate Group in or any other standing faculty member. Students who finish their dissertations in the summer months may have to defer their defense until early fall. Immediately following the defense, the committee will decide whether the dissertation has been satisfactorily defended. The committee will then meet with the student and outline any remaining requirements for the completion and filing of the dissertation. The discussion will also include consideration of the direction of the student’s next steps on the project and in the profession.

The dissertation defense will be scheduled only when the dissertation chair, in consultation with the committee members, has confirmed that the dissertation is close to completion. A draft of the whole dissertation incorporating all suggested revisions must be submitted to the committee at least two weeks before the scheduled defense. If the student wishes to graduate within a particular semester, the defense must take place at least one month before the SAS deadline for official submission of the dissertation.

"Close to completion" means the following:

  1. All individual chapters, including introduction and conclusion, have been read and commented upon by all committee members; all suggested revisions to each chapter have been acted upon to the satisfaction of all committee members. 
  2. The final order of chapters has been determined and all chapters, including introduction and conclusion, have been revised accordingly. 
  3. A complete bibliography of works cited has been compiled.