Doctor of Philosophy

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree is awarded in recognition of the highest degree of creative scholarship and research in a field of study. The recipient of this degree must have demonstrated proficiency in a broad area of learning and the ability to critically evaluate work in the discipline. The degree is not awarded solely for completing a prescribed number of courses, but for having undertaken and completed independent work in the discipline leading to an original contribution to knowledge. 

Students should refer to the section of this catalog titled "Departmental Programs" for the admission, degree, examination, and course requirements unique to each department. 

Course Requirements

The Ph.D. degree requires the completion of a program of 90 semester credits of graduate work beyond the bachelor’s degree, including acceptable master’s degree work (30 maximum credits), and the submission of an acceptable dissertation. The program will include enrollment in courses and/or seminars which are designed to:

  1. advance the student’s knowledge in the discipline,
  2. provide competence in the scholarly tools (languages, mathematics, etc.) required for study and research in the discipline, and
  3. provide competence in the research methods of the discipline, e.g., courses in bibliography or historiography, a research minor in education, courses dealing with current research topics, etc.

With the approval of the student’s Faculty Advisory Committee, up to one-half (30 credits) of the work beyond the master’s degree may be transferred from another institution. The Program of Study will include work in one major department and should include work in one or more related departments, i.e., either a minor or cognate area, but at least one-half of the work must be in the major field. The credits for the dissertation (typically 6-18 credits), and the research on which it is based, should comprise a substantial portion of the 90 credits for the degree and should be included in the major part of the program.

Residence Requirements

Students should contact the program for current residency requirements.

Scholarly Tools

Candidates for the Ph.D. degree may have to demonstrate competence in scholarly tools required for study and research in the discipline. Each department offering the Ph.D. degree has specified the nature of these tools (languages, mathematics, statistics, computer programming, etc.). See the “Departmental Programs” section for more information. This requirement must be completed before the student is permitted to take the comprehensive examination for the degree or become a candidate for the degree.

Foreign Language Exam

Students required to demonstrate a reading knowledge of a foreign language may do so by one of two procedures: Standardized tests (Graduate Student Foreign Languages Tests - GSFLT) prepared by the Educational Testing Service are available in Chinese, Classical Greek, French, German, Latin, Norwegian, and Spanish and are administered by the Languages Department upon student request. This test is offered twice a year: on Reading and Review day at the end of the fall and spring semesters. Students must register for the exam following the Languages Department process. Students may take the examination a maximum of three times. Students needing to demonstrate a reading knowledge in a language other than those mentioned above should, together with their Advisory Committee, petition the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies for approval of the use of the language and the proposed examination mechanism.

Comprehensive Examination

All students seeking a Doctor of Philosophy degree must take a written comprehensive examination after a substantial portion of the coursework has been completed. At the option of the department, an oral examination may also be given. The content of the examination will be determined by the Graduate Faculty of the departments concerned, and the examination will be given at times announced by the departments. The examination must be extensive and searching and must cover in depth the field or fields of knowledge in which the degree is taken. This examination must be completed before advancement to candidacy but cannot be undertaken until the scholarly tool requirements have been completed. Comprehensive examinations which are failed may be repeated once with the prior approval of the Faculty Advisory Committee, the department, and the Dean, but in no event earlier than at the next regularly scheduled offering.

Students should work with their advisor to apply for permission to take the comprehensive examination following processes set by the department. The student may not take the examination until such certification has been provided.

Once the exams are complete, the advisor will submit the results to the School of Graduate Studies using the Doctoral Comprehensive Exam form. Exam results must be submitted before advancement to candidacy.


In lieu of the comprehensive examination, students in Chemistry will take cumulative examinations which begin in the second semester of School of Graduate Studies.

Candidacy for the Degree

Advancement to candidacy is granted only after the completion of specified academic requirements and upon the recommendation of the Faculty Advisory Committee. Candidates for a doctoral degree will not be allowed to graduate in the same semester or summer session in which they become a candidate for the degree.

Students in Approved status may be advanced to candidacy when the following requirements have been fulfilled:

  1. A Faculty Advisory Committee has been appointed. A minimum of four members are required, and some departments may require additional members. Three of the committee members represent the major and any minor areas of study. The fourth member is the Member-at-Large and should be selected by the student and their advisor. The chairperson of the Committee, who serves as the student’s major and dissertation advisor, must be a Full member of the Graduate Faculty. An associate member may chair a doctoral student’s faculty advisory committee and direct the dissertation research if approved by the Dean of Graduate Studies, a mentor will be appointed. Until the appointment of the committee, the department chairperson, or designate, acts as the student’s temporary advisor, who is appointed upon admission to the program. 
  2. A Program of Study, outlining the requirements for the degree as developed by the student and the Committee, has been approved by the student, the committee, and the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies. The Program of Study should be completed in the second semester of study.
  3. A substantial portion of the coursework for the degree has been completed with a GPA of no less than 3.00 for all work attempted.
  4. The comprehensive examination has been successfully completed.
  5. The “Topic Proposal” form for the dissertation research has been approved by the committee and the Dean of School of Graduate Studies. Before the proposal can be approved by the Dean, IRB approval, if needed, must be completed.

When all the above requirements have been met, the student will be advanced to candidacy. 


A dissertation is required in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Ph.D. degree. It must represent an original and independent investigation in the major field of study. Through the dissertation, and the research leading to it, each candidate clearly must have made a significant contribution to the advancement of knowledge in the field. Credit is given for the dissertation and for the research on which it is based, the amount being determined in advance by the student’s Faculty Advisory Committee in accord with the limits established by the major department.

Topic Proposal

The topic for the dissertation must be approved in advance by the student’s Faculty Advisory Committee and the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies. Approval is effected by the student completing the Topic Proposal form from the School of Graduate Studies and on the website, then submitting the proposal to the committee for approval. The approved proposal is then submitted to the School of Graduate Studies for the Dean’s approval, and then is filed in the School of Graduate Studies. The proposal should be approved no later than the semester before the degree is expected, but it must be approved before advancement to candidacy. Proposals requiring IRB submission and approval must be submitted before any substantial research is completed to ensure compliance in data collection. 


A dissertation is prepared with the guidance and advice of the student’s faculty advisor and the Committee. The student and his/her committee are jointly responsibly for seeing to it that the thesis or dissertation follows a correct form of scholarly style and usage. The student can follow the guides outlined in the Style Guide available on the School of Graduate Studies website or may follow the style specified by their committee or department as long as the style is consistent throughout the paper. 

Preliminary Approval 

The draft of the dissertation should be presented to the Faculty Advisory Committee sufficiently in advance of the Preliminary Approval deadline so that a thorough evaluation may be effected by each committee member. The Committee must be able to read the draft, suggest corrections and changes, and the student must be able to make the corrections, in time for the Committee to approve the dissertation and sign a form titled Preliminary Approval of Dissertation. Once a student has received signed preliminary approval and has made all of the corrections from their committee, the student must submit the Preliminary Approval and Notice of Defense form in the School of Graduate Studies by the deadline specified in the academic calendar (usually four weeks prior to commencement). Unless this deadline is met, the student will not be permitted to graduate at the upcoming graduation. The Preliminary Approval assures the student that no major changes will be required in the final copy of the dissertation.

Submission of Final Dissertation

Copies of the dissertation in its final form must be presented to the Faculty Advisory Committee in time that they may thoroughly read the dissertation prior to the final examination. When the final version of the dissertation has been approved by the committee, it must be submitted electronically to ProQuest for publication in time to receive the approval of the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies by the deadline specified in the Academic Calendar (usually two weeks prior to graduation). Students should ask their advisor if any additional copies of the completed dissertation need to be submitted to the department. The final copy of the dissertation will be printed and bound by ProQuest and cataloged in the University Library.

Final Examination

The final examination must be scheduled two weeks in advance by the Committee through the School of Graduate Studies and must be completed and the results reported by the deadline specified in the Academic Calendar.

The student’s academic advisor must complete the “Notice of Defense” form and secure the necessary signatures. The Preliminary Approval and Notice of Defense must be received at the School of Graduate Studies no later than two weeks in advance of the defense. The candidate and committee members must be present at the defense.

The final examination for the doctoral degree is conducted by the candidate’s full Faculty Advisory Committee in the presence of the dean of the School of Graduate Studies and such other members of the Graduate Faculty as elect to attend. The final examination must include an oral examination but also may include written portions. The examination must cover the dissertation but need not be limited thereto. Committee members must have had adequate opportunity to examine the final copy prior to the examination and will indicate their approval by signing the “Approval Page” of the dissertation and the “Final Report on Candidate.” Final examinations which are failed may be repeated once with the prior approval of the Advisory Committee and the Dean.

A student may pass the Doctoral Comprehensive and/or Final Examination with one dissenting vote. The dissenter must submit a written report on his/her decision to the School of Graduate Studies. Three signatures will be accepted on the final copy of the dissertation.

Ph.D. candidates are required to complete a National Research Council demographic survey form and submit their dissertation with Proquest before graduation.