The Final Public Oral Examination (FPO) is a final defense of the dissertation and of the student’s competence in her/his field of study.
After the main advisor has agreed that the completed dissertation can be moved forward to the FPO, the Director of Graduate Studies, in consultation with the advisor and the student, assigns two principal readers to write a report to the Graduate School on the quality of the dissertation. Candidates are urged to consult with their advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies well in advance to set a tentative date for their FPO as well as to identify the two principal readers. The advisor cannot act as reader, but for the benefit of the Department and the student, she/he will submit a similar report, too. External readers outside the Princeton community must be of comparable rank in a relevant branch of the scholarly community. Students are strongly encouraged to work closely and in regular communication with the two readers ideally one year prior to the FPO.
The composition of the dissertation defense committee can vary, but it must consist of at least one advisor, two readers, and one examiner. The two readers must submit their reports to the Department no later than two weeks before the FPO. If both readers agree that the dissertation is acceptable, the student may proceed to the Final Public Oral Examination. If one of the readers deems the dissertation unacceptable, the Director of Graduate Studies will appoint a third reader and a final determination will be made in discussions among the advisor, the readers, and the Director of Graduate Studies.
Candidates must submit two unbound copies of the complete dissertation to the Department eight weeks before the FPO. The dissertation must include the entire text of the dissertation, with footnotes and bibliography, and it must be thoroughly edited. After submitting the dissertation to the Department, only minor changes (correction of occasional typos, etc.) are allowed. Thereafter, in accordance with Graduate School rules, the dissertation must be submitted to the Department in its bound and final form no later than two weeks before the FPO.
At the FPO, a minimum of two members of the defense committee must be physically present, while the remaining members can participate through telecommunication. A quorum of three participating members is required. The department does not offer to hold Final Public Oral Examinations in the months of June, July, and August.