Choosing a PhD Committee, Advancing to Candidacy, Writing and Defending the Dissertation

12. Choosing a PhD Committee

Students should begin thinking about their field(s) of specialization and their dissertation topic as soon as possible. Based on these considerations, students with the MA from UCSB should be ready to choose a PhD committee by Fall quarter of their 1st year in the doctoral program. Those with the MA from another institution should be prepared to do so by the end of Spring quarter of their first year in the program. The committee will be comprised of a minimum of 3 UC ladder faculty members, 2 (including Chair) must be in the home department (affiliated with Comparative Literature). Additional members may be at departmental discretion.


When required coursework, the three field exams, the presentation of the dissertation prospectus, and the second language requirement are successfully completed, the student is advanced to doctoral candidacy, effective the following quarter. This entails payment of the advancement to candidacy fee ($50 in 2014-15). Once advanced to candidacy, doctoral candidates are no longer obligated to take formal classes, but must register for 12 units of Comparative Literature 599: Dissertation and Research Preparation, or, if a TA, 8 units of 599 and 4 units of Comparative Literature 591 (TA Practicum) or the equivalent, for a total of 12 units. Students with co-Chairs should split the units between their co-Chairs. International students, once advanced to candidacy, have 3 years (9 quarters) of reduced nonresident tuition (100% reduction).1 They must finish their dissertations before this period expires; the Department will not pay NRST beyond that point.

Reminder: In order to advance to candidacy, your committee will need to file Doctoral Degree Form 1 (Committee Nomination for Master’s Thesis and Doctoral Committees and Conflict of Interest disclosure form), and Doctoral Degree Form II (Report on Qualifying Examinations for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy or Musical Arts), which also requires a fee payment. See above 9.3.


14.1. Writing your Dissertation

It is imperative to meet regularly with the chair of the dissertation committee, for support and guidance, and to ensure that you are pursuing a productive line of inquiry. Researching and writing the doctoral thesis should not take more than 2-3 years. Anything beyond that is considered beyond "normative time."

The Center for Academic Skills Enrichment (CASE) has staff to assist graduate students with the writing of their theses. The Graduate Division gives guidelines on the final format of the thesis. (It is especially important to verify required margins). For details, consult the Guide to Filing Theses and Dissertations at UCSB, available on the Graduate Division website. You may file your dissertation during a quarter when you are not a registered student, but to do so you must pay a filing fee equal to one-half of the registration fee and must be on an approved official Filing Fee Leave of Absence. In order to be on an official Filing Fee Leave of Absence the student must be registered the quarter prior to filing.

Candidates may continue to work as Teaching Assistants while writing their dissertation as long as adequate progress is being made. There are, however, certain limits set by the university on the number of quarters a student may hold a TA-ship: 12 quarters; 15 quarters may be granted by the Faculty Graduate Advisor; the Dean of the Graduate Division may grant 3 additional quarters. However, there is no exception to the maximum 18-quarter rule.

14.2. Defending and Filing the Dissertation

Once all the members of the committee have agreed that the dissertation is complete and ready to be defended, an oral defense will be planned. The candidate will begin the meeting by making a presentation of approximately 20 minutes of the dissertation itself, situating it in its field(s) and commenting on its strengths and contributions to the field(s). The presentation is to be followed by a discussion of 45-60 minutes among the committee members and the candidate about the dissertation as a whole, its individual chapters, and the best ways in which to disseminate the candidate's research. After the discussion, the committee members will meet without the candidate to determine whether they deem the dissertation ready for APPROVAL AND FILING, or whether they agree that some revision is needed. The committee may approve the dissertation either unconditionally or on the condition that further revisions are made. Once the committee has reached its decision, the discussion will resume with the candidate. The entire dissertation defense should take between 1.5-2 hours. Form III will need to be filled out by all members of the committee as well as the signature sheet for the dissertation.

For all the steps required to file the dissertation, please consult: