Princeton University Shield

Dissertation-Relevant Literature Review

The objective of the dissertation-relevant literature paper or papers is to facilitate thinking about dissertation ideas, either in formulating a specific dissertation plan or in narrowing possibilities from a range of tentative options. It is part of the background reading that must be done to identify a dissertation topic and to draft a dissertation prospectus.


  1. Work on the paper or papers should begin during the first or second year and be completed as part of the general exam that is normally taken in May of the second year and no later than October of the third year.
  2. The paper or papers are included in the written material covered in the oral part of the general exam.
  3. Papers will normally range in length between 5,000 and 10,000 words, plus bibliography.
  4. Papers should focus on literature that helps in identifying relevant theoretical and methodological approaches and gaps in the empirical literature.
  5. Papers should not attempt to survey an entire field (as a syllabus/course guide does).
  6. Papers may overlap with or be located within fields that have been covered in other parts of the general exam.
  7. Papers should be drafted in regular consultation with one or more faculty advisors, one of whom will be part of the general exam committee and present at the oral part of the exam.
  8. Papers may span more than one field, in which case it will likely be important to work with more than one faculty advisor.
  9. Papers may be written as part of a reading course, for which course credit is received.
  10. Papers may include preliminary data analysis and field research.