Coursework

All students admitted to the doctoral program will be expected to complete a minimum of 98 credits. This includes a minimum of 27 dissertation credits, 46 credits in the core requirements, 12 credits in the area of emphasis, and the remaining credits in elective courses. 

Research and Dissertation

Doctoral students begin research within their respective area of emphasis in their first year by working as a research assistant with a faculty member. During their third year they typically begin working on their dissertation research, leading to a three-paper or a book-length dissertation.

Preliminary Written Examination

The preliminary written examination is given at the end of the second academic year. It tests the student’s ability to apply the principles and methods presented in the core requirements. Students who pass will be eligible to move on to the next phase, which includes establishing a doctoral committee and taking general examinations to advance to doctoral candidacy. 

General Examination

The general examination consists of written and oral components. It covers the student’s area of emphasis and dissertation topic. The exam measures the student’s ability to analyze and synthesize information, determines whether the student has significant breadth and depth of knowledge in the area of emphasis and dissertation topic, and evaluates whether the student has adequate knowledge of recent advances in methodological issues relevant to the area of interest. The written exam concentrates on the student’s proposed research area and the methods applicable to study their topic of interest.

The oral portion of the general examination includes a defense of the dissertation proposal and may include questions in areas of academic weakness identified during the written examination. Students will present their proposed research, and the doctoral committee will ask questions on any aspect of the presentation or dissertation proposal.

Final Examination

The final examination for the PhD degree consists of a public defense of the student’s dissertation orally before their doctoral committee. Students must successfully defend their research for the degree to be granted. Students may repeat their defense if performance is unsatisfactory.

It is expected that most students will complete their PhD degree within four years, for students who are not involved in primary data collection, and five years for students who are involved with primary data collection. Students may be able to complete the degree sooner, if they enter the program with master-level graduate studies in a relevant area.