GT Thesis Submission

I recently submitted my PhD thesis. Please hold your applause.

The writing part was easily the most difficult part of the process: you have to get really honest with your research, with the contributions and limitations of the work, and with your committee about how the thesis speaks to bigger issues in your field. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to meta-write about the writing process, because I don’t know how much useful insight I could contribute. You just have to do it. This book seems like a gimmick but actually gives great insight into how writing helps you think through your dissertation.

I’m better at writing about concrete things. The administrative parts of the thesis were also difficult, especially because there is no centralized timeline to connect the different parts of the process. It’s kind of a pick-your-own-adventure, with a lot of emails. All the thesis submission forms are here and there’s a checklist here, but there is no context for what order everything happens, who needs what, and what form needs to be prioritized over others.

Here is a quick summary of how I handled the administrative process of submitting the thesis. One of my favorite pieces of advice is “start with the end in mind,” which I tried to do here. Some of the deadlines may seem tight, which reflects my own tight schedule and not necessarily the best use of time. If you can afford more buffer time between steps (e.g. more revision time) then err on the side of more time, because you only get to write one thesis. My advisors were extremely accommodating in terms of scheduling time to meet with me for feedback and time to read multiple drafts of the thesis. Also note that this timeline applies only to Georgia Tech: other schools definitely have different requirements and deadlines to meet.

  1. D = defense date
  2. T = document submission deadline OR enrollment waiver deadline (info here)
  • D - 10 weeks (longer if D happens during busy time, end of semester): schedule defense with committee
  • D - (4+(R*2) weeks): complete thesis document and send to advisor (R = revision cycles required, budget 1 week per cycle if your advisor is a fast reader)
  • D - 4 weeks: complete thesis document (minus acknowledgments), send to committee
  • D - 2 weeks: send defense announcement email
  • D - 2 days: (optional) send reminder
  • D: defend thesis (DO NOT START EDITS THE SAME NIGHT, you need time to process feedback)
  • D + 1 day: send thesis approval form to committee and admins; they might choose to not sign it until edits are finished/documented
  • D + X days: talk to advisor about edits, figure out how to address committee’s feedback most efficiently (e.g. where extra content should go in the thesis, which members’ feedback can be combined)
  • T - ((R*2) days): complete committee edits and send to advisor with edits highlighted for easy reading (R = revision cycles, assume shorter budget than before depending on how manageable the edits are)
  • T - 1 week: if not enrolled during graduation semester, submit enrollment waiver; needs a bunch of admin signatures that may take a while
  • T - 1 week: (optional) submit request to withhold thesis, in case of unpublished work
  • T-4 days: send document to thesis office for a format check: typically only takes a few hours but may take up to 2 days
    • typical issues: captions need to be above tables, acknowledgments and summary should be in table of contents and have Roman numerals for page numbers
  • T-1 days: convert summary to separate abstract page (format in Chapter 12 here, example here, my template here)
  • T-1 days: complete Survey of Earned Doctorates
  • T-1 days: complete online repository agreement
  • T-1 days: collect all completed forms and send to thesis office
  • T: submit thesis to online repository

There you go!

Written on August 21, 2020