The dissertation should represent an original and significant contribution to knowledge in the field of specialization. It should be grounded in original source material and demonstrate the candidate’s capacity to pursue independent research in her/his field and to effectively conceptualize her/his findings. The scope and length of the dissertation should be such that a finished project can be completed within three years of work. The dissertation must be written and submitted in English.

While writing the dissertation, all students are expected to stay in regular contact with their primary dissertation adviser, regardless of whether they are in residence or elsewhere.

Research Support

The Department encourages students to use their summers to further their academic progress. The Department offers assistance in securing additional financial support for language study and research trips. Aid is available from a variety of sources within the East Asian Studies Department and Program, through the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS) and the Council for the Humanities, and outside the University. 

In addition, the Department, working in conjunction with the East Asian Studies Program and the Graduate School, assists students in securing support for both short-term and long-term professional activities, such as travel to meetings of learned societies to present papers, travel to research libraries within the United States, and long-term travel abroad to conduct dissertation research.

Fellowship support for dissertation research abroad is particularly important. Some programs (such as Fulbright fellowships) are administered through the Graduate School, while others (such as Japan Foundation fellowships) are administered directly by the funding organizations. Deadlines vary, but most fall in the period between August 15 and December 15. In all cases, it is extremely important for the student to develop grant proposals in consultation with the dissertation adviser and other relevant faculty members.

Students who have exhausted their five years of University funding and do not hold other outside fellowships may apply for write-up fellowships from the East Asian Studies Program. The awarding of such fellowships is contingent on the demonstrated progress—typically chapter drafts—toward the completion of the dissertation.

Final Public Oral Examination

The Final Public Oral Examination (FPOE) is a final defense of the dissertation and of the student’s competence in her/his field of study.

After the main adviser has agreed that the completed dissertation can be moved forward to the FPOE, the Director of Graduate Studies, in consultation with the adviser 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 adviser and the Director of Graduate Studies well in advance to set a tentative date for their FPOE as well as to identify the two principal readers. The adviser 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 FPOE.

The composition of the dissertation defense committee can vary, but it must consist of at least one adviser, two readers, and one examiner. The two readers must submit their reports to the Department no later than two weeks before the FPOE. 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 adviser, 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 FPOE. 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 FPOE.

At the FPOE, 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.