Years 4 & 5: Completing the Dissertation

The fourth and fifth years of study are typically devoted to dissertation research and writing, teaching, and activities such as publication, conference/ colloquium or workshop attendance. Students should use this time to begin to think about and prepare themselves for their careers beyond Yale. 

Writing the Dissertation

Though the department does not impose individual chapter deadlines, students are strongly encouraged to aim to complete two chapters a year. Make plans to meet with your adviser(s) at least once a semester. A draft of one chapter of the dissertation should be submitted to the advisor at an early stage, in order to focus the further work in progress.

The Dissertation should not exceed a readable size. An optimal size would be between 200-300 double-spaced pages. If the work has produced much more, the student should consult with the advisor and either write a more concise version or curtail the scope of the study. The Graduate Writing Center offers a variety of programs to help with the process of researching and writing the dissertation. 

During their work on the dissertation, students are advised to keep an informal record of their research, books read, and writing activities. The formal report of progress, submitted every year to the Graduate School and signed both by the advisor and the DGS, should include a summary of this record.


Please see the detailed description in Year 3.

University Dissertation Fellowship (UDF)

In their fourth, fifth, or sixth year, all students may apply and receive (on a non-competitive basis) a Graduate School Dissertation Fellowship, guaranteeing a year’s stipend with no teaching duties. It is advisable to take this Fellowship only when the student is well advanced in his/her research and ready to devote all of their time to writing the dissertation. The UDF is typically taken in residence; in rare cases, students may apply to take it in absentia. Please contact the DGS early on if you are considering taking the UDF while away from Yale.

Professional Development

The department encourages students in Year 4 and above to begin to participate in a wider community of scholars in their respective fields. This includes regular participation in at least one or two workshops or colloquia on campus; presentation of papers at conferences, beginning with graduate student conferences in the area; sharing work with peers via the department’s Open Forum series; and considering the publication of an essay. To this end, the department organizes regular workshops on publication and academic life. Students are also urged to attend the programs offered by the Center for Teaching and Learning. Students presenting papers at conferences may apply to the Graduate School Assembly for support conference travel funds.