Jun 28, 2022  
2014-2015 University Catalog 
2014-2015 University Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Degree Requirements

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The following information provides a brief overview of some of the requirements for obtaining the doctor of philosophy degree. A complete, current description of these requirements is found in the policies and procedures manual available from the Office of Graduate Studies or at www.usciences.edu/graduate.

Research Advisor


Each student selects a research advisor from the members of the graduate faculty within the graduate program with the approval of the Committee of Program Directors. The research advisor will guide the student in selecting courses, direct the student’s research, and chair the student’s Advisory Committee.

Advisory Committee


Each doctoral student will select an Advisory Committee composed of their research advisor, one other member of the graduate faculty from the student’s graduate program, one member of the graduate faculty who is not from the student’s graduate program, and one other qualified individual from on or off campus; other qualified individuals may also serve on the Advisory Committee. Duties of the Advisory Committee are to:

  • Recommend didactic requirements for the student above and beyond those established by the program.
  • Mentor the student.
  • Establish specific research goals/objectives of the student for the next semester at the end of each semester.
  • Monitor the student’s research progress by evaluating the research accomplishments against the established expectations at the end of each semester.
  • Determine when the quality and quantity of research are sufficient to justify the student to prepare and defend a dissertation.
  • Advise the student in the preparation of both the research prospectus and dissertation.
  • Participate in the final oral examination of the student.

Credit Requirements


To qualify for the doctor of philosophy degree, USciences requires that each student must earn not less than 20 credit hours of graduate-level didactic work and not less than 20 credit hours of research. While at least 20 credit hours of doctoral research are required to earn the degree, the doctoral student may have to continue to register for research credits beyond this minimum requirement to complete the research to the satisfaction of the Research Advisory Committee. A program of study will be developed for each student in consultation with the student’s Advisory Committee and is subject to approval of the program director. This program must ensure that the student will attain a high degree of competence in a major area of study and provide a sound foundation in the underlying sciences. Graduate students must achieve a minimum grade of “B-” in each course for which graduate credit is granted and must maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00.

Each of the graduate programs has its own individual required courses and approved electives. Frequently, these programs may have course requirements that exceed the minimum requirements of the university; the student must complete all of the specified programmatic requirements before the student earns the PhD degree in that program of study.

Students may request transfer of credits earned outside of USciences upon matriculating into a graduate program; a maximum of 12 credits may be awarded due to transfer, advanced placement, and/or experience. These credits must not have been used to fulfill the minimum degree requirements for an undergraduate/first professional degree. Transcript of transfer credits should be presented to the program director with a request for evaluation. If the courses are of suitable nature and grades equivalent to “B-” or better have been earned in them, the program director may recommend their acceptance for transfer by the college dean.

Time Requirements


Students who are fully prepared for advanced study and who devote full-time to the academic program can usually earn the PhD degree in about four to six years. There is no residency requirement for the doctor of philosophy degree, though doctoral students should participate in all seminars and other programmatic activities whenever possible; this is especially important for the part-time doctoral candidate. Candidates for PhD degree must satisfy all degree requirements within eight years of entering a graduate program.

Proficiency Examinations


During the weeks preceding registration, students commencing graduate studies may be required to take one or more proficiency examinations designed to evaluate their degree of preparation for advanced study. The program director or designee will administer and grade these examinations. The results of these examinations will be used to establish an initial program of study and may allow the program director to award advanced placement credit.

The nature of these proficiency examinations is determined by the departmental graduate faculty. If these examinations are to be required, information will be sent to incoming students by the program director shortly after the receipt of the student’s acceptance of the offer of admission.

Comprehensive Examinations


Graduate coursework is designed to expose the student to the fundamental body of knowledge in a discipline. A doctoral student should also have the ability to analyze this body of knowledge, including the current literature, integrate it, and creatively apply it to problems in the discipline. A series of comprehensive examinations is used to test the student’s abilities in these areas. All doctoral students must successfully complete the comprehensive examination requirement.

The doctoral student will take written and oral examinations in specialty areas within the major field, as established by the department. The mechanism and the selection of authors of these examinations are determined by the graduate faculty in each program. Questions to be found on the written comprehensive examinations are of a nature such that students are expected to demonstrate a familiarity with the current literature in their major field and to answer questions with a breadth and depth of understanding beyond that considered satisfactory in normal course examinations. Information concerning the examinations may be obtained from the program director.

Admission to Candidacy


Upon the recommendation of the Advisory Committee and after the successful completion of all course requirements and comprehensive examinations and the submission of an approved research proposal, the program director will notify the student of his/her admittance to candidacy.

By granting such admission, the Advisory Committee indicates its approval of the candidate’s record to date and its confidence in the student’s ability to pursue to successful completion an appropriate research problem. Not less than two semesters must intervene between admission to the program and the awarding of the degree.

Doctoral Research


A major requirement for the doctoral degree is that the candidate demonstrates creativity and the ability to design and conduct research substantially on an independent basis, to critically analyze the results of his/her research, to translate the data obtained into sound and defensible conclusions, and to clearly articulate these results in the preparation of a research dissertation. The dissertation must represent a definitive contribution to scientific knowledge. A suitable research problem is selected by the candidate in consultation with the Advisory Committee. With the approval of the research advisor, the student may register for doctoral research in the appropriate department. The doctoral student must submit a research prospectus to the Advisory Committee for approval.

Each student engaged in doctoral research is required to present at least one oral progress report to the Advisory Committee per year. The progress report should indicate how well the objectives of the research prospectus have been met, any modifications that have been made in these objectives, and what studies remain to be performed in order to achieve them.

The doctoral candidate must prepare at least one manuscript based on his/her dissertation research, which, after receiving approval from his/her research advisor, will be submitted to an appropriate scholarly publication recommended by his/her research advisor. It is also required that the doctoral candidate present, on average, at least one paper or poster on the student’s doctoral research at a professional symposium or meeting for every two years that the student is matriculated in the doctoral program.

Dissertation and Abstract


Upon completion of the student’s research to the satisfaction of the Advisory Committee, each candidate must prepare a dissertation and an abstract based upon his/her investigations. Detailed instructions for the preparation of dissertation and abstracts have been developed by the graduate faculty and are included in the Office of Graduate Studies publication Information for Graduate Students.



Matriculated graduate students are required either to be registered for courses or in absentia (i.e., AB800) or to be on an approved leave of absence every semester until completion of their degree. (Note: students who plan to register in absentia should check with the University’s Financial Aid Office to understand how this might affect their enrollment status if they have extramural financial aid.) MS (thesis) and PhD students must be registered for at least one credit during the semester in which they will complete all of their degree requirements.

International students are required by the U.S. government to be registered as full-time students (i.e., at least nine credits) each fall and spring semester unless exempted by the director of international students. With the director of international students’ permission, international students may register for fewer than nine credits but for at least one credit in their terminal semester in which they will complete all of their degree requirements.

Final Examination


Following the review of the dissertation by the members of the Advisory Committee and a reviewer selected by the college dean, the candidate must pass a final oral examination designed to establish the competency of the student in his/her major and related fields. The final examination of the student will be conducted by the Advisory Committee reviewers and chaired by the student’s research advisor.

Publication and Microfilming


The graduate faculty considers publication of the essential components of the doctoral research, in a suitable scientific journal, to constitute an integral part of the dissertation requirements. In order to realize the full value of scholarly research, it must be made easily available to other scholars. Therefore, each doctoral dissertation is reproduced on microfilm, and a copy is kept on file in the University library and in the Library of Congress. An abstract is reproduced and published in Dissertation Abstracts