The dissertation is the capstone project for PhD students. It is perhaps the most important and far-reaching undertaking in the entire doctoral program, having an impact that extends well beyond graduate studies.

Requirements and Deadlines

Every PhD candidate is required to successfully complete and submit a dissertation to qualify for degree conferral. Since each department maintains specific requirements for the content and evaluation of the dissertation, you should review your department's guidelines prior to beginning the process. The GSAS policy page on Dissertations provides general information on formatting, submission, and publishing and distribution options. Students who do not follow the formatting specifications noted in this publication will not be eligible for conferral of their degree and will need to apply for the next available degree period after corrections are made.

Degrees are awarded in November, March, and May. Dissertation submission deadlines are noted in the Degree Calendar section of GSAS Policies.

Students submit their dissertations through ProQuest ETD, Harvard’s electronic thesis and dissertation submission system. 

Publishing Options and Embargoes

Students are given complete control over the accessibility of their work. Upon final approval, the dissertation becomes part of multiple Harvard and non-Harvard downstream systems based on the permissions and publishing options selected during the ProQuest ETD submission process. Consult Publishing Options for more information.

An electronic copy of the dissertation is added to Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard (DASH), the open-access repository of scholarship produced by members of the Harvard community. Dissertations are also deposited with ProQuest’s databases and become accessible to subscribers of ProQuest Dissertation & Theses Global.

If necessary, students may request to delay the release of (“embargo”) their work when submitting their dissertation to ProQuest ETD. If students would like to request a delayed release of their dissertation of longer than 2 years, they will be prompted to upload a signed document to the “Administrative Documents” section of ProQuest ETD, showing Director of Graduate Study approval of this request. If students do not have a document when submitting their dissertation they will be asked to have the DGS email the Registrar's Office, acknowledging approval of the delayed release request. Embargo requests apply to both DASH and ProQuest.

Dissertation Completion Fellowships

GSAS provides a dissertation completion fellowship (DCF) for one academic year to eligible PhD students in the humanities and social sciences who anticipate completing their dissertations within the year. Find out more in GSAS Policies

Help with the Dissertation

Students can find support with planning and preparing to write the dissertation from their academic advisors and programs. Additional resources and support for dissertation writing are available through the GSAS Fellowships & Writing Center (FWC).