Timetable for Obtaining the Ph.D.


Year One: AM Requirements, First-Year Exam

Upon enrollment, first-year graduate students are assigned an advisor suited to their stated research interests. 

Students ordinarily complete the eight courses needed for the Master’s Degree, as well as preliminary noncredit language course work as described in the GSAS Policies.  Students may apply for the Harvard Master’s Degree following their first-year exam, provided they have completed eight Harvard courses eligible for graduate credit, and are ready to undertake the study of literature in an additional language. (Note: Credits from other institutions cannot be counted among these eight courses.)

Graduate students in Romance Languages and Literatures may commit to writing a maximum of three article-length research papers per semester. Students assigned such papers in 100-level courses should petition for an alternate assignment, such as an exam, a series of smaller papers, etc. Students should consult the Graduate Coordinator regarding administrative procedures for this.


Year Two: Finishing Required Courses, Planning Ahead to Generals

Students in their second year complete their remaining Ph.D. course requirements. These include Spanish 201 for Spanish students, provided it is offered that year; and the language requirement as it pertains to the student’s section and area of literature. During this time, students and their advisors should begin thinking ahead to the general exam, which must be completed by May of the third year.


Year Three: Teaching and Generals

Provided students have met their AM requirements and are in good standing, they now begin teaching. The load for a beginning Teaching Fellow is one half-course. Students also take Linguistics 200, a noncredit course in language pedagogy, during their initial semester of teaching.

With residency requirements met after the first two years of full-time enrollment, students may also travel, should this be appropriate, in order to teach or conduct research abroad through various awards and exchange programs.

General exams must be scheduled, after discussion with the student's advisor, no later than the spring term of the third year. All required coursework must be completed, with grades posted, before a student can sit for generals.


Year Four: Prospectus, Planning Ahead (Teaching, Fellowships)

After the general exam, students have six months to write the dissertation prospectus. During the first post-generals month, students are expected to select a dissertation advisor and committee. Over the following five months, the student obtains formal approval of it by all members of the committee. The student is now eligible for dissertation research fellowships at Harvard and elsewhere.

Once the prospectus is approved, students must begin submitting at least one chapter yearly. If the prospectus is approved in May of 2016, the first chapter is due by April, 2017. 


Year Five: Submission of Chapter Drafts 

GSAS covers tuition and fees for fifth-year students.  However, it is still the student's responsibility to secure funding for living expenses. Such funding is available competitively through fellowships, or through teaching appointments if available, or loans. 


Years Six and Seven: Writing and Finishing the Dissertation, Considering the Job Market

Dissertation Completion Fellowships are guaranteed to all candidates who are ready to receive them. Students demonstrate readiness for the DCF by submitting of two solid chapter drafts to the dissertation committee before the Fellowship application deadline the previous February.

As they enter the completion year, students ordinarily prepare for the job market. The Department schedules mock interviews for those involved in an active search.  

Once the dissertation is completed and ready for committee approval, candidates must present an oral defense to which all members of the Department are invited. This is also open to members of other departments as well as the general public. Upon completion of a successful dissertation defense and delivery of the approved dissertation to the registrar, the candidate is eligible to receive his or her degree.


G7 and Beyond 

The Deans of the Graduate School carefully monitor the progress of students in the seventh year of studies and beyond. It is each student’s responsibility, especially those registered beyond six years, to communicate frequently with all of his or her committee members, establish a written schedule for completion, to be submitted to the advisor and the Graduate Coordinator.


The Grace Year

The terms of the Dissertation Completion Fellowship allow for one year of registration following the year during which the grant was held. Students needing to register for this additional year are not penalized, but are not eligible for any further grants. If they are not able to complete the dissertation by the end of the grace year, they will be withdrawn from the program. A candidate who has been withdrawn may apply for readmission for the purpose of defending the dissertation.