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Goals for Dissertation Year Graduate Students

  1. Maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress
  2. Dissertation Guidelines
  3. Final Oral Examination
  4. Thesis Submission
  5. Placement

Maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress

By the end of the Fourth Year: Students will only be eligible for fifth year funding if their dissertation committee chair has certified by July 31 that the student has submitted a written paper sufficiently far in advance of the deadline for the faculty member to have comprehensively reviewed it, and can certify that it is of suitable quality to form at least one chapter of a dissertation. Coauthored papers are allowed, but can only be used by one student for purposes of paper certification.

At the end of the Fifth and each Subsequent Year: Students in years five and above can demonstrate making “good progress” by July 31 each year by (1) submitting an application for degree (2) their advisor checks options A (student will be going on the job market in the coming year) or option B (student is not going on the job market but is making good progress) or Option C (student already has a job and is making good progress) on the form Certification of Good Progress By Dissertation Committee Chair for Students currently in Year 5 and Above. A student whose advisor either checks option D (student is not making good progress) or does not submit the form will be regarded as not making good progress and will be placed on probation.

A student who is placed on probation will have until the last date of the following Winter Quarter to demonstrate to their committee chair that they have resumed satisfactory academic progress. The committee chair will inform the Director of Graduate Studies if and when satisfactory progress has resumed. A student who has not resumed satisfactory academic progress by the last day of the Winter Quarter will be excluded (dismissed) from the program and Northwestern University.

Dissertation Guidelines

TGS requires that “every candidate for the PhD degree must present a dissertation that gives evidence of original and significant research.”

 The Department of Economics has additional guidelines:

  1.  Each dissertation should contain at least three chapters.
  2. At least one chapter should be single authored. A student can be exempted from this requirement by their dissertation committee, subject to the written approval of the Director of Graduate Studies.
  3. Coauthored chapters with other students and faculty members are allowed, but at most one chapter can be coauthored with a faculty member. Each of the student authors of a coauthored paper can include it in her/his dissertation.

Final Oral Examination

When the student's dissertation is complete, he or she must pass a final oral examination on the dissertation and related topics. The student requests the appointment of a committee of examiners, at least four weeks in advance of the examination date. This "Final Exam Application" form is submitted via GSTS.

Ordinarily, the examiners will be the members of the student's thesis committee. Rules on the composition of the committee are:

  1. The committee must have three or more individuals.
  2. At least two members of this committee, including the chair, must be members of the Northwestern University Graduate Faculty.
  3. The chair of the committee must hold a tenure-line appointment in the Economics Department or have a voted courtesy appointment in the Economics Department.
  4. Effective for all students whose prospectus was approved on or after September 1, 2014: In the event that the committee chair holds a courtesy appointment, at least one other member of the committee must hold a tenure-line appointment in the Economics Department.

Exceptions to conditions 3 and 4 are only permissible with prior written approval of the Director of Graduate Studies.

The Graduate School requires that all requirements for the doctoral degree be met within nine years of initial registration in a doctoral program. After nine years, students will be placed on probation for unsatisfactory progress.  Students who have exceeded their time to degree deadline and cannot remediate within the two quarter probationary period may petition for an extension.  Read information on the conditions and requirements for an extension.

Full information on completion procedures are posted on TGS website.

Thesis Submission

Following successful completion of the final examination, an electronic version of the dissertation must be submitted to TGS.


The department assists students in preparing for the job market. Job market candidate information is posted on the website for viewing in October of each year. 

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