Distribution, Defense, and Deposit of the Dissertation

All of the steps below can take place at any time during the year. However, if you are aiming to receive your degree at a specific degree conferral (October, February, or May), you must follow a set of deadlines for that conferral. Please note also that these steps are intended to be a general guideline for the distribution, defense, and deposit, but it is your responsibility to review the more detailed policies, such as those on copyrighted material and "fair use", found in the Dissertation Office page.

Note for Teachers College PhD students: Only steps 6 through 10 below apply to TC PhD students. Please contact the TC Office of Doctoral Studies for more information about the procedures leading up to the dissertation defense.

  1. Get in touch with your department or program's office. Your program's graduate coordinator or DAAF should be your first stop when preparing to distribute and defend. They are knowledgeable about GSAS policies, and can advise you on any program requirements that go beyond GSAS rules.
  2. Discuss with your sponsor (advisor) to determine your five-person examining committee. Guidelines for the nomination and appointment of the defense committee are available here. Any questions about committee composition should be directed either to your chair, DGS, DAAF, or to the Dissertation Office. Please note that GSAS policy states that students should not be put in the position of approaching faculty members about serving on their committee. This is the responsibility of the sponsor and/or department. 
  3. Only departmental or program administrators may submit the five names of your proposed committee to GSAS for approval. The Application for Dissertation Defense form is signed by your department or program's chair or director of graduate studies, and is submitted by your program's office to the GSAS Dissertation Office. The form is available online here.
  4. Your department or program schedules the defense.  
  5. Distribute final copies of your dissertation to your five examiners after your committee is approved. You must be registered for the semester in which your distribution takes place. This is your final semester of registration, even if your defense and deposit take place in a subsequent semester. Click here for more detailed information about final registration requirements. International students with questions about their registration and remaining in visa compliance should contact the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO). Note: The term in which distribution occurs is the last semester in which a student is permitted to register, even if the defense takes place in a subsequent term. Full-time doctoral students who are supported on faculty grants through twelve-month research appointments in the sciences and related fields should pay particular attention to the special conditions that are noted on the Registration and Application for PhD Defense page.
  6. Defend your dissertation. GSAS expects that the defense will take place within two months after distribution. Please remember that during the actual examination, there should be no one present other than the five examiners and the doctoral candidate.
  7. Complete any required revisions. Students who receive a vote of "approved pending revisions" are given a maximum of six months to complete these revisions and deposit their dissertation. For more detailed information, please consult this page.
  8. Obtain approval to deposit your dissertation, and determine if any part of your dissertation includes coauthored material. Approval to deposit is done using the Blue Card, given to you upon passing your defense. After your revisions are approved, the card must be signed by your sponsor, as well as your department chair or program director. These signatures allow you to deposit your dissertation. 
    Please note that under copyright law, you automatically hold a copyright on your work. This is why we have you include a copyright page in your dissertation. Copyright registration provides important practical and legal benefits beyond those you already enjoy as the creator of an original work. Columbia’s Copyright Advisory Office provides extensive information about copyright issues; of particular interest is this page, which explains your rights as the author of a dissertation or of any other original work.
    If you are the sole author of your dissertation, you may proceed with single-author copyright registration through ProQuest/UMI. This service costs $55, and can be paid via credit card directly to ProQuest through the upload system. 
    If your dissertation includes coauthored text or materials, you must register directly with the US Copyright Office via a Standard Application. 
  9. Deposit your dissertation with GSAS. This is the final step to earning the PhD or DMA degree. Complete information regarding the deposit is available through the Deposit Gateway. You should also review the FAQs about the electronic deposit system.
  10. Register to Participate in Graduation Ceremonies. The PhD Convocation and University Commencement ceremonies, held in May, recognize graduates from the October, February, and May degree conferrals. We look forward to celebrating your accomplishment with you, but please note that you are not required to attend the graduation ceremonies to receive your degree. You may register to participate using our online form.

For questions about the deposit process, please contact Esmeralda McCormick at emccormick [at] columbia.edu.