After students complete the General Examinations, the stage is set for them to begin work on a dissertation or thesis, the most unstructured and difficult part of doctoral studies. Students must choose a topic, define it to the satisfaction of a faculty committee, investigate it thoroughly (including gathering data at field sites), and write the dissertation.
Dissertations typically take two forms: book-style chapters or three separate essays. They are usually completed within two to three years of passing the General Examinations. The final step before achieving the doctorate is a public defense seminar, which is open to the entire MIT Sloan community.