Academic Issues

Dissertation Committees

While programs set their own rules on the composition of dissertation committees (though, according to the Provost, at least 2 must come from the graduate group) and how and when they are selected, the Provost has set that every dissertating student must meet with his or her committee at least once each year to talk about the student’s progress. This includes a dissertation progress report that is then reviewed by the “Supervisor/Advisor and Graduate Group Chair and is documented by the school in the student’s academic record”

Feedback

According to the Provost, students must receive feedback of their candidacy exams within one month of taking them. Furthermore, SAS has stated that students should receive feedback on chapters and dissertations within six weeks of submitting work. It is SASgov’s position that these guidelines should be extended to other work as well, including qualification exams and seminar papers.

Provost’s Academic Rules
Guidelines by the Dean’s Task Force on Faculty Responsibility

Degree Requirements

A very basic version of PhD and Masters degree requirements can be found here. It is maintained by the Provost’s office but it might not be completely up to date if your program has changed recently. You can use this site as a guideline of what your program requires, but it is best ask your program director or department chair for a complete picture of your program’s requirements.

Suggestions for improving your program

The following are PhD Program Best Practices, identified by SASgov on the basis of a survey conducted in the Spring of 2010. We encourage students in programs that have not implemented these practices to consider whether they would be beneficial to their program, and if they might be, to discuss them with fellow students in the program and their Graduate Chair. For advice or assistance in discussing these Best Practices with your Grad Chair, contact sasgov-pres@sas.upenn.edu.

  • Dissertation Proposal Writing Workshop: English, Classical Studies, and several other programs offer a dissertation proposal writing workshop, which each cohort takes together as they begin work on their dissertation proposals. The workshop is conducted by one or two faculty members, who provide guidance throughout the process; the workshop also offers an opportunity for students to read each other’s proposals and offer feedback and suggestions. Students have found these workshops extremely useful, as they not only facilitate the preparation of the dissertation proposal but also teach proposal writing skills which are invaluable for later fellowship and grant applications.
  • Exam and Dissertation Proposal Timeline: Many programs have arranged the timing of exams and the dissertation proposal so that both are completed by the end of spring semester of the third year, allowing students to begin dissertation work in earnest in the summer of the third year. Such timelines enable students to complete the dissertation in the Spring of the fifth year, whereas it is rarely possible for students to do so if dissertation work begins in the Fall of the fourth year. SASgov therefore recommends that both exams and the proposal be completed by the end of the spring semester of the third year.