Film and Visual Studies Dissertation Defense Policy – November 2017 

The Film and Visual Studies PhD program requires a public dissertation defense. Students should consult the timeline below for the pertinent dates and deadlines. After reviewing an unbound copy of the completed thesis, the dissertation committee will notify the student as to whether any revisions are required prior to the defense. If the required revisions are substantial, the student will be asked to submit the dissertation in the next graduation degree cycle. 

Dissertation defenses will be scheduled for the last week of the month on which the committee approves the dissertation. (For May 2018 graduates, defenses will be scheduled for the last week of April.) The dissertation defense is an opportunity for the student to discuss and reflect on the project as whole as well as to receive feedback about how to transform the thesis into a book manuscript. To this end students should prepare a 20-minute presentation. It should address the following: what are the central questions that the dissertation addresses? What is at stake? What are the study’s key contributions and chief arguments? After the presentation the dissertation committee will have 30 minutes for questions and comments. The audience will then have an additional 30 minutes for responses. Students will be asked to provide an electronic copy of the approved dissertation at least one week before the defense so that it can be made available to audience members. 

Film and Visual Studies


GSAS requires that each PhD student submit a dissertation through the online submission tool, which can be found at 

Dissertations are catalogued in Harvard’s online library catalog, HOLLIS, which helps grant student work a higher level of accessibility. A hardbound archival paper copy of the submitted, approved work is deposited in the University Archives. Students do not need to take action to secure and submit this copy. Order and submission of the printed bound copy is managed automatically via the ETDs @ Harvard tool and the Office of Scholarly Communication. Upon the student’s submission of the application for degree, a one-time $40 charge will appear on term bills for the required copy. (An additional $40 will be charged to students from departments requiring a departmental bound copy as outlined in, “Additional Bound Copies,” pg. 10 of Students who apply for the degree without having met all degree requirements will not be charged when submitting future applications for the degree. A preservation copy, provided by Acme Bookbinding, is deposited in the Harvard University Archives as a fail-safe backup. The printed copy does not circulate and is not available for research use. If students would like to order personal copies through Acme Bookbinding, they may do so using their Thesis On Demand service. The Department requires a bound copy of the dissertation as well. 

A Dissertation Acceptance Certificate (DAC) documents the formal acceptance of the dissertation by the thesis committee. Signatures on the DAC are collected by the Programs Administrator for Graduate Studies (Emily Amendola), who should be notified by the student when the final unbound copy is submitted to the committee. 

Students who have received the doctorate have found it immensely helpful to meet with the members of the committee as a group during their completion year. The Programs Administrator is glad to be of assistance in scheduling a meeting with the committee at any time during the writing process.

The dissertation should be an original contribution to knowledge. It must follow the guidelines in the Supplement to the GSAS Handbook entitled The Form of the Doctoral Thesis 

Another helpful link from GSAS is found here: 

Before the degree is granted, a candidate is expected to defend the dissertation in a public forum. Dissertation Defenses are scheduled by the Programs Administrator for Graduate Studies.

For the dates specific to your year, look here to find a chart/calendar.