The Bulletin is the student newsletter of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Printed eight times during the academic year, and updated continually online, the Bulletin profiles PhD and master's students and reports on GSAS news and events.

GSAS adopts electronic submission of the dissertation


Until now, a key part of receiving a PhD from Harvard was taking a cab ride to a factory in Charlestown (it was not T accessible) to have your dissertation bound.

Now that scenic journey is a thing of the past.

After a pilot program launched by GSAS to great success among March degree candidates, all future Harvard PhD dissertations will be submitted electronically for degree completion, binding, and archiving.

Working with ProQuest/UMI, the national repository for dissertation archiving, GSAS has developed a simple online interface where students can upload a PDF version of their dissertation. The submission portal incorporates and streamlines various paper documents students once had to submit to the Registrar’s office, adding order to the process.

The submitted PDF is reviewed by the Registrar's office to check its formatting, and then it goes on to ProQuest. Students pay $25 for binding — a value, considering that the cost of the acid-free, archival paper alone would typically surpass that amount in an off-line process. And students save the $65 they once had to pay when when they submitted an unbound hard copy to ProQuest. They also avoid the unpleasant need to reprint and rebind if their first submission doesn't meet formatting specs. From the portal, students can also order additional copies and set embargoes.

“When we conducted workshops for March degree candidates to demonstrate the new system, the students immediately saw the benefits of electronic submission,” says Garth McCavana, the dean of student affairs for GSAS. Those benefits include not only cost reduction but time savings. “You can push ‘send’ at 11:59 p.m. on your submission day, and you’re done,” says McCavana. He estimates that students will save at least a week, perhaps more. And for those rushing to finish, the days of paying a $200 surcharge for overnight binding are over. Moreover, the new system allows students to submit their dissertations from anywhere in the world, adding incomparable convenience.

“In a sense, electronic submission dilutes that momentous feeling of actually holding your bound dissertation in your hands,” McCavana says, “but students have overwhelmingly felt that the time gained and the convenience far outweighs those sentiments.”

So the takeaway for students submitting dissertations this spring: plan a party around your computer when you press “submit.”


You’re Invited:

The GSAS Office of Student Affairs will host two demonstrations of the new electronic submission portal in the coming months. May degree candidates and other interested students are invited.

March 9, 2–4 p.m., Dudley House Common Room
April 23, 2–4 p.m., Dudley House Common Room

Tradition, Unbound