The Doctor of Philosophy

The Doctor of Philosophy is a research degree designed to prepare students to discover, integrate, and apply knowledge as well as to communicate and disseminate it. The degree emphasizes development of the capacity to make significant original contributions to knowledge within the context of free inquiry and expression. The student pursuing this degree is expected to develop the ability to understand and to evaluate the literature of his or her field and to apply appropriate principles and procedures to the recognition, evaluation, interpretation, and understanding of issues at the frontiers of knowledge. In contrast to the PhD, other doctorates such as the Doctor of Education, the Doctor of Audiology, the Doctor of Nursing Practice, and the Doctor of Musical Arts are designed for professional training.

Course Requirements

The Program of Work for the Doctor of Philosophy degree must have a minimum of thirty semester hours of advanced coursework, including dissertation hours. All the completed coursework that is included in a degree program at the time of admission to candidacy for a doctoral degree must have been taken within the preceding six years (exclusive of a maximum of three years of United States military service). All doctoral work is subject to review by the graduate dean.

In addition to courses and research in a field of specialization, additional work is taken to broaden or supplement the field. This supporting work may consist of coursework in one area or several; it may be in conference, laboratory, or problems courses; or it may be a supervised activity off campus relevant to the major interest. Normally, some or all of the supporting work is outside the major area, unless that area covers more than one department; at least three courses or the equivalent from outside the major area are generally proposed.

Foreign Language Requirement

The Graduate School has no foreign language requirement. However, many graduate programs require the study of one or more languages. These requirements are given in Fields of Study or are available from the graduate adviser.

Graduate Studies Committee Requirements

The Graduate Studies Committee specifies the coursework the student must complete, the qualifying examinations (written or oral or both) he or she must pass, the conditions under which he or she may retake all or part of an examination, and the procedures he or she must follow in developing a dissertation proposal.

In consultation with the graduate adviser, the student proposes a Dissertation Committee to advise or direct the student on the research and writing of the dissertation. The student selects the chair of the Dissertation Committee, with the consent of that person.

Admission to Candidacy

Each student seeking the PhD must be admitted to candidacy on the recommendation of the Graduate Studies Committee in the major area. Students may not register for the dissertation course until they are admitted to candidacy, and completion of coursework does not in itself constitute admission. Formal admission to doctoral candidacy consists of the submission and approval of the following:

  1. Program of Work. The Program of Work comprises a list of courses taken and proposed, the prospective dissertation title, and similar information. The Graduate Studies Committee must approve the Program of Work. The Dissertation Committee may, in a review of the Program of Work, recommend additional course requirements to the Graduate Studies Committee.
  2. Dissertation Committee. The membership of the Dissertation Committee, proposed by the student with the consultation and approval of the graduate adviser, is submitted to the Graduate School for approval by the graduate dean. The committee consists of at least four members. At least three of the committee members, including the student's supervisor or co-supervisor, must be Graduate Studies Committee members in the student’s major program, and at least one committee member must be from outside the student's Graduate Studies Committee. The purpose of the outside committee member is to provide an independent assessment of the student's mastery of their subject. The dissertation supervisor or co-supervisor serves as the committee chair.
  3. Dissertation Proposal. A brief statement of the proposed dissertation must be submitted.

The Dissertation Committee

The Dissertation Committee advises the student on the research and writing of the dissertation, conducts the final oral examination, and approves the dissertation.

The chair of the Dissertation Committee ordinarily serves as the supervisor of research. Other members of the committee should be consulted as appropriate. Occasionally, a research scientist, research engineer, or faculty member who is not a member of the Graduate Studies Committee may be recommended by the Graduate Studies Committee to serve as the research supervisor for a specific dissertation. When the research supervisor is not a member of the Graduate Studies Committee, a member of the Graduate Studies Committee will be appointed as co-chair of the Dissertation Committee.

The Dissertation

The student must register for at least six hours of dissertation courses in order to graduate. A dissertation is required of every candidate.

The format of the dissertation today ranges from the traditional "book" authored by a single student to a series of unrelated papers and/or journal articles with multiple authorship. Graduate School policy recognizes that approaches to the dissertation vary across disciplines, and specifies only that the format chosen for students of a doctoral program be consistent with practices of similar programs in AAU institutions. Dissertations containing one or more papers or articles must include brief introductions and conclusions that put the work in context and an acknowledgement of any previous publication of each paper in another dissertation or other venue.  In the case of multi-authored papers, a statement must be included explaining the contribution of the dissertator to each paper. The contribution statement might include, for example, information about the dissertator's contribution to designing research, performing research, contributing new reagents or analytic tools, analyzing data, writing the dissertation or other area-specific classification of research activities. When papers or articles that have been previously published are included, the dissertation must include permission(s) of the copyright holder(s) for reproduction in the dissertation. The supervisor and dissertation committee should review the stated contributions and be satisfied that the dissertator's collective contribution to the multiple-authored papers or articles is sufficient to represent a dissertation. The dissertation must be approved by the Dissertation Committee.

The dissertation is normally written in English. Requests for permission to write in another language pertinent to the research are granted when there are circumstances warranting an exception. An insufficient command of English is not justification for an exception. The formal petition from the graduate adviser should include assurance that faculty members competent both in the language and in the field are available and willing to serve on the Dissertation Committee. The request must be approved by the graduate dean when the student is admitted to candidacy. The abstract and a substantial summary and conclusions section in English must be submitted with the dissertation.

Review of Progress

During their first semester all students intending to pursue doctoral study are required to review and sign the Milestones Agreement Form with their program. The purpose of the form is to ensure that the student has been advised of the degree requirements, has been shown a list of major academic milestones for obtaining the PhD degree, and has been provided with an estimate of the timelines for reaching milestones.

The program Graduate Studies Committee reviews the progress of students who have not completed the doctoral degree by the end of two years from admission to candidacy; the committee reviews each student’s progress annually thereafter. The committee may recommend that the student's candidacy be extended for up to one year, that the student take additional courses or examinations, or that the candidacy be terminated for lack of satisfactory academic progress. Recommendations are forwarded to the graduate dean for approval.

Final Oral Examination (Defense of Dissertation)

A satisfactory final oral examination is required for the approval of a dissertation. The exam is open to all members of the University community and the public, unless attendance is restricted by the Graduate Studies Committee.

Four weeks before the date on which the student intends to defend the dissertation, unless otherwise agreed to by the committee members, a copy of the final draft of the dissertation, reviewed by the supervisor, should be submitted to each member of the dissertation committee. At least two weeks before the defense, a written request to hold the final oral examination must be submitted to the Graduate School. This request signifies the receipt of the doctoral dissertation for the purpose of giving the examination.

The examination covers the dissertation and the general field of the dissertation and such other parts of the student’s program as the committee determines. If the members of the committee are satisfied that the dissertation is a scholarly investigation in the major field which constitutes a contribution to knowledge and that the student has passed the final oral examination, they indicate approval on the Report of Dissertation Defense.

In the event that a committee cannot reach a decision concerning the dissertation, the matter is referred to the graduate dean for review. The results of the review are communicated to the student, the graduate adviser, the chair of the Graduate Studies Committee, the committee members, and the department chair, if applicable.

Submission of the Dissertation

After defending the dissertation, the student must submit it in an approved electronic format to the Office of Graduate Studies. The dissertation is retained by the University Libraries. Information about format requirements is available from the Office of Graduate Studies.

Dissertations must be made available to the public. A list of ways of doing this is available from the Office of Graduate Studies. The student may request permission from the graduate dean to temporarily delay making the dissertation available to the public in order to protect patent or other rights. This request must be supported by a written recommendation from the dissertation supervisor. The graduate dean makes the final decision regarding delayed publication.

The student may arrange for registration of copyright, at his or her own expense, by making arrangements directly with the copyright office at:

Approval of the Degree

Upon approval by the Dissertation Committee of the dissertation and its defense, the Graduate Studies Committee certifies that the student has completed all degree requirements, has passed all required examinations, and is entitled to the award of the doctoral degree.