a) Aim and General Intent
"The dissertation shows that the candidate has technical mastery in the chosen field and is capable of independent research. It is expected to be a positive contribution to knowledge, which may consist of a new scientific generalization, a new body of integrated facts that carries scientific implications that extended beyond itself, or a substantial improvement in technique or procedure.”
As this quote from the Graduate School Announcement indicates, the primary purpose of the dissertation is to enable the student to demonstrate capability to conduct independent, original research and to recognize a problem and handle it intelligently. Research provides first-hand contact with important phenomena in the broad field of Geosciences, and serves as an essential element of graduate education.
The most updated information about the dissertation can be found at the Graduate School website: (http://gradschool.princeton.edu/academics/degree-requirements/phd-requirements/dissertation-and-fpo),
or under the general information on Dissertation section.
b) Format of Dissertation
Although a dissertation may be a single previously unpublished monograph, many dissertations consist primarily of material that has been or will be submitted to professional journals as one or (usually) more research papers. Such theses should be preceded by a preface or introductory chapter that defines the overall problem, and serves to draw the various papers into a coherent whole. In addition, the coherence may be reinforced, where appropriate, by text linking the chapters or papers. If any part of a thesis has been or will be submitted to a journal as a multiple-author paper, this should be clearly indicated, and the student's role in the collaboration should be described. Multiple authored papers that have been written substantially by another author should not be included in the thesis, although they may be appended to it.