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Preliminary FPO Requirements

Effective September 2022

The preliminary FPO (pre-FPO) is a presentation and oral examination that must occur on a date no later than four months before your FPO date. It covers prior and future research, serves as a preliminary critique of the proposed dissertation, and forms an informal contract between you and your committee to clarify the outstanding work required for the final dissertation. The faculty believe that the more feedback given at this stage, the better the final dissertation will be.  Pre-FPOs typically consist of a 45-60 minute research presentation, followed by an hour-long discussion with your committee; you should agree more detailed timing with your advisor and committee.

No later than five months before your anticipated FPO date you must complete the following three steps:

  1. Prepare a thesis outline. This should show research and results to date and indicate planned work to complete the dissertation.
  2. Select your committee. Give them the thesis outline, and agree on a date for the preliminary FPO.
  3. Give the date, committee members, and abstract to the Graduate Coordinator, who will add it to the Grad calendar.

The talk will be open to the public. Following the talk, the committee members and the student will meet privately. At that time the student will be asked questions and given feedback regarding both the talk and the future planned research. No formal grade will be given.

To capture the connection between the pre-FPO and the FPO and mitigate risks during the FPO, the entire pre-FPO committee membership must attend the pre-FPO.  Readers are not required to attend the FPO.


Before you take the pre-FPO, it is your responsibility to consult with your advisor, agree on projected pre-FPO and FPO dates, and communicate these dates to the department.  As a guideline, the faculty believe a six-month interval between pre-FPO and FPO is an amount of time generally sufficient to incorporate committee feedback into your dissertation that leads to a higher-quality result, and so a six-month interval is strongly recommended.  An interval shorter than six months must be approved by your advisor in your communications to the department.

If your research is sufficiently mature, an interval longer than six months is permitted, as that allows your thesis committee ample time to become familiar with your research.  Therefore, proposed intervals between six and 12 months will be routinely approved by the DGS.

To the extent practically possible, it is your responsibility to plan your professional and personal affairs (including but not limited to employment, immigration, and housing) ahead of time to meet the department’s requirement that your pre-FPO must occur on a date no later than four months before your actual FPO date.  Exceptions to this rule will only be considered if such planning had been impossible due to unforeseen circumstances, and must be approved by both your advisor and the DGS.

Committee Composition

The FPO committee must consist of at least five members.  The student's advisor must serve as the student's examiner (non-reader), there must be two additional examiners (non-readers), and two additional readers.   At least one reader and at least two examiners must be from the CS department (i.e., they have a CS appointment as faculty in the CS department and serve as a voting member of the CS Department).  All Princeton members of the committee must also meet the Graduate School (GS) rank requirements to serve as a dissertation reader or committee member, as applicable to their designated role, with “case by case” GS eligibility pre-approved by both the DGS and the GS.

Outside (non-Princeton) committee members must be pre-approved by both the DGS and GS (note that normally, outside members are only approved as readers). Outside members must be of Assistant Professor rank or higher, or of equivalent rank in industry. Send their CV to the Graduate Coordinator with a two to three sentence explanation of why this person should be on your committee.  It will be submitted for approval and you will be notified once the outside member is approved.

The FPO Committee must be identical to the Pre-FPO committee: committee changes require approval from the DGS and verification that the new committee composition satisfies GS rules.

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