Graduate School

Dissertation Guidelines

Ph.D. candidates at Brown must file their dissertations electronically.

Brown's electronic theses and dissertation (ETD) system collects and archives final dissertations as text-based PDF files. Electronic dissertations submitted through the ETD will appear in the Library's discovery service and in the Brown digital repository.

In the spirit of the dissemination of new knowledge that is a hallmark of higher education, dissertations will be subject to web searches and unrestricted downloads unless the student requests to opt out of that system and have their dissertation unavailable for download outside of the Brown community. A request to restrict download access to a dissertation has an initial two-year window from the time the degree is conferred. Guidelines associated with restricted dissertation access are:

  • The full text version of the dissertation will be available for download only to members of the Brown community.
  • Web searches including the citation and abstract of restricted dissertations will continue to be available to the general public.
  • After two years the restriction will elapse.
  • Restrictions on full text download may be renewed for two-year periods up to a total of ten years from the date of degree conferral. Requests for additional two-year restrictions should be made to the Graduate School.
  • Any requests to extend the restriction beyond ten years must go to the Graduate Council for approval.
  • In cases where the dissertation is a co-worked piece and there is disagreement between the student and the advisor over whether the dissertation will or will not be available for download outside of the Brown community, the dispute will be brought before the Graduate Council for resolution.

To complete the electronic submission process, doctoral candidates must have successfully defended their dissertation and had it approved by their committee. To use the ETD system, doctoral candidates must possess a valid username and password for accessing Brown’s computer network. If you are unable to create an account in the system, please contact for assistance.


Graduate students are eligible to have degrees conferred, and to receive their diploma, at three different times over the course of the academic year. 

For students who complete their degree requirements the preceding summer term. The Application to Graduate opens on July 1, 2024 and closes on September 6, 2024. Degrees are conferred on October 20, 2024.

For students who complete their requirements the preceding fall term. The Application to Graduate opens on October 1, 2024 and closes on January 10, 2025. Degrees are conferred on February 9, 2025.

For students who complete their requirements over the preceding spring term. The dissertation deadline is May 1, 2024. Please note, the Application to Graduate deadline is April 19, 2024.

The doctoral dissertation and all of the associated forms and documents related to the completion of a Ph.D. must be submitted to the Graduate School by the deadlines listed above; no extensions will be granted. See Submission of the Final Copy for important clarifications regarding the final submission process.


Brown has one graduation per year; Commencement exercises and the conferral of degrees take place on the Sunday before Memorial Day. Students may file their dissertations at any time of the year in advance of the filing deadline. Students may choose to request a Certificate of Completion to show that they have completed all degree requirements before beginning a position, as faculty or postdoctoral fellow, for example.  See details below under Certificate of Completion. 

Tuition and Fees

If a doctoral student completes all of the requirements for the PhD during semester I, the tuition and fees for semester II will not be charged. Students must file before the first day of classes in semester II in order to avoid being charged the tuition and fees for semester II.

The Final Examination or Defense

The final examination or defense must be scheduled by the candidate at the convenience of the readers. At least two weeks prior to the final examination or defense, candidates must provide the department manager with the appropriate dissertation defense information so the Dissertation Defense Information Form can be completed and returned to the Graduate School.

NOTE: Requests for waiving the final examination must be endorsed by the dissertation director as well as the director of graduate study or department chair.

After the Defense

The formal, final approval of all dissertations is handled by the Graduate School's Academic Affairs Manager (Barbara Bennett). Candidates must submit final copies of their dissertations electronically.

The Manuscript

The Signature Page 

In addition to the electronic submission, all Ph.D. candidates are required to submit their signature page to the Graduate School, which may be sent electronically to Samples are available online. The signature page should bear the signatures of the dissertation director and all readers. The typed names of the director and readers must appear under their signature lines. Electronic signatures are acceptable. An unsigned copy of the signature page should be uploaded to ETD system.

Type and spacing 

Standard typefaces set to print at 10-, 11-, or 12-point font are acceptable. All text should be double-spaced, except for block quotations, captions, long headings, and footnotes. All these should be single-spaced with a blank line between items.

Page Numbers 

Each page, including blank ones, must have a number. The number should not appear on the title page or the copyright page but, these pages are assigned numbers and are included in the pagination. Preliminary pages are numbered with lower case roman numerals, centered at the foot of the page, three-fourths of an inch from the bottom edge. The title page counts as page i but the number does not appear on the page. The remainder of the dissertation is numbered with Arabic numerals beginning with 1.


Most dissertations consist of preliminary pages which are numbered using Roman numerals, and the dissertation proper which is numbered using Arabic numerals. The preliminary pages must appear in the following order:

  1. Title Page (do not number)
  2. Copyright Page (do not number)
  3. Signature Page (iii)
  4. Curriculum Vitae* (iv)
  5. Preface and Acknowledgments (v)
  6. Table of Contents (vi)
  7. List of Tables vii List of Illustrations (viii)

Should any element of the preliminary pages be longer than one page, number the pages consecutively. The preliminary pages should appear in this order but not necessarily with the page numbers shown above.

The dissertation proper (including introduction, main body of the text, illustrations, appendices, and bibliography) is numbered using arabic numerals. The numbering begins with "1" and runs consecutively to the end.

Do not place headers on each page. Use them only as appropriate to indicate major sections of the thesis (e.g., INTRODUCTION, CHAPTER 1, BIBLIOGRAPHY). They should be centered and placed two inches from the top of the paper in uppercase type.

* The curriculum vitae is a statement giving a short biography of the candidate, including institutions attended, degrees and honors, titles of publications, teaching or professional experience, and other pertinent information. Please do not include date or place of birth or phone numbers.


Graphs may be put on cross-section pages.

Dating the Dissertation 

Because degrees are conferred three times during the calendar year, the title page and abstract of a dissertation completed at any point during the academic year must be dated on the date the degree is conferred.

The Abstract

The dissertation must be accompanied by an abstract. The abstract should, in a concise manner, present the problem of the dissertation, discuss the materials and procedure or methods used, and state the results or conclusions. Mathematical formulas, diagrams, and other illustrative materials should be avoided. The abstract should not be part of the dissertation itself nor should it be included in the table of contents. It should be headed as follows:


The abstract should be prepared carefully since it will be published without editing or revision. The abstract should be double-spaced and may not exceed 350 words (maximum 2,450 typewritten characters — including spaces and punctuation — about 70 characters per line with a maximum of 35 lines). 

Submission of the Final Copy

When the dissertation is presented to the Graduate School electronically, it must be in final form. Dissertations may require revision after their original presentation if it is determined by the Graduate School that the dissertation does not conform to the standards articulated above. The need for such revisions is not grounds for a deadline extension. If a dissertation is determined to be defective after the deadline, the Graduate School may refuse to confer a student's degree. Doctoral candidates are encouraged to submit their dissertations early, and to send questions not answered by the descriptions above, to

ALL completing doctoral candidates are required to submit the documents listed below. (the title page and signature page can be sent electronically to Barbara Bennett, the Academic Affairs Manager.) The dissertation will not be accepted and the candidate's degree will not be conferred if an item from this list is missing or incomplete. The online submission system will send notifications when each document has been received and approved by the Graduate School.

  1. Ph.D. Exit Survey, Brown University Graduate School; you may forward the email receipt.
  2. Survey of Earned Doctorates, National Research Council (The NRC sends the certificate directly to the Graduate School.)
  3. The title page; this may be sent by email.
  4. The signed signature page, which may be sent by email to

Digital Supplementary Materials

Students interested in depositing digital supplementary materials along with their dissertation are welcome to contact the Library for assistance. Please contact: Andrew Creamer in the Library at

Publishing the Dissertation

It is University policy that all research done at the University under its sponsorship must be freely published without restriction. Since 1954, the Graduate School has required that dissertations be published. In 1985, the Graduate Council reaffirmed that decision and approved the following policy:

"All Ph.D. dissertations and Master's theses will be open documents. The Graduate Council will not recommend the awarding of the Ph.D. or Master's degree until the dissertation or thesis is submitted to the Graduate School and accorded unlimited distribution status."

Exceptions to this requirement will be made only if there is a letter from a publisher stating that the dissertation will be published within one year after the degree is awarded and that requests that circulation of the dissertation be withheld for twelve months after the degree is conferred. Six months will be allowed for the clearing of a patent.

If you have a question about temporarily removing your dissertation from the Library's digital repository, please contact

The Diploma

The Office of the Registrar's Application to Graduate provides the candidate with an opportunity to indicate how the diploma name should appear. Otherwise, the name that will appear on the diploma and in the Commencement program, and under which the Library will catalog the dissertation, is the name under which the candidate is officially registered. Any request for a change of registered name should be addressed to the Office of the Registrar and accompanied by supporting legal documentation, such as a court order, marriage license, passport, driver’s license, or social security card. 

Certificate of Completion

If all academic requirements for the degree and all financial obligations have been met before May 1, the Office of the Registrar will issue a certificate of completion within three weeks of the candidate's request.

If you have any questions regarding the submission of your dissertation or thesis, please contact the Graduate School's Academic Manager, Barbara Bennett, 863-2843,

Additional Information