The doctoral dissertation is the culmination of the student's research program and must be an original piece of scholarship of more than ephemeral interest. Students should begin considering possible thesis topics at an early stage in their graduate work. They are expected to discuss these regularly with faculty members as their ideas develop.
Students can begin formal work on their dissertation only after having passed their General Examination. As a first step, students choose a topic and a faculty member who agrees to function as the principal advisor on the dissertation. Two or more other persons are also chosen who together with the principal advisor constitute the thesis committee. The principal advisor and at least two other members must be members of the Linguistics faculty of the Department. If the student wants to include a non-MIT professor, or an MIT professor in another department, this must be approved by the faculty. By departmental regulation, this process must be completed before the beginning of a student's final year in the department.
By Institute regulation, the dissertation is normally prepared in residence, during which time the student must register for an appropriate number of thesis units and pay tuition. The purpose of this regulation is to ensure that the student maintains regular and frequent contacts with the dissertation advisor. However, on some occasions, it may be essential for students to be absent from the campus during part of their dissertation research. In this case, permission to become a nonresident doctoral candidate can be obtained.
**In special circumstances, the department will award a Master of Science degree. In order to be eligible for this degree, a student must pass all of the first year subjects.
When the steps described in the previous section are completed, the candidate is scheduled for a dissertation defense. The defense is a private meeting of the candidate with a committee of three to five (three of whom are MIT linguistics faculty). Although a public defense is not required, students will typically have presented their work publicly within the department. After passing the final exam, the student revises the dissertation in light of the suggestions made by the committee. The revised version is prepared in accordance with Institute regulations and submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Upon written certification to the Registrar that the candidate has presented and successfully defended a satisfactory dissertation and has passed the final oral exam, the faculty of the Department recommends to the Dean of the Graduate School that the candidate be approved for the doctoral degree. Final discretion in this matter remains with the faculty of the Institute as a whole, which acts upon recommendations to it by the Committee on Graduate School Policy.