Doctor of Philosophy - Higher Education

Qualifying Exam & Dissertation

Qualifying Exam  

After completing all coursework, or during the last semester of coursework, Ph.D. students must pass a qualifying examination. Students and their major advisor can select one of three options for planning and evaluating the qualifying examination.


After completing all coursework and passing the qualifying exam, the student is "admitted to candidacy." At this point, the student will prepare a dissertation proposal that identifies the research problem, surveys and evaluates the relevant literature, and describes the plan for conducting the research. While working on the dissertation, the student enrolls for a minimum of 24 Dissertation credit hours. Beginning with the semester immediately following admission to candidacy, the doctoral student must be continuously enrolled in dissertation hours (including summer term) until the dissertation is successfully defended. Exceptions to the continuous enrollment policy are possible, but a formal request must be made in writing to the student's Major Professor.

The student will defend the dissertation before a committee, comprised of a minimum of four members. The Dissertation Committee members do not necessarily have to be the same as those on the student's Program of Study Committee. In some instances,  students' interest in a topic changes as they progress through the program. If so, students may wish to ask different faculty members to be a part of their Dissertation Committee, especially if these faculty members conduct research and/or have expertise in the dissertation topic.