2013-2014 Graduate Catalog 
    Jan 18, 2022  
2013-2014 Graduate Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Doctor of Philosophy Degree Requirements

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Admission Requirements


The application file must be complete with the application form, application fee, all post-secondary transcripts, degree certificates, letters of reference, and other materials as required by specific programs before processing of the application will begin. A completed application must be filed with the Graduate School by April 15 for consideration for fall admission and by August 15 (international) or October 15 (domestic) for consideration for spring admission.  Students should check with their specific program of interest as some programs have earlier deadlines. Applicants for the Doctor of Philosophy degree, 60-credit plan, will usually have a Master’s degree. This degree must be awarded from an approved, accredited institution. In those cases where applicants do not have a Master’s degree, departmental requirements will apply, either requiring completion of a Master’s degree or permitting an individual to move directly into a doctoral program, 90-credit plan. Applications for domestic, international or non-degree seeking students are found at http://app.applyyourself.com/?id=sdstate-g.

Advisory Committee


After consultation with the student, the head of the major department will designate a major advisor. As soon as possible, but no later than the completion of fifty (50) percent of the credits toward graduation, the major advisor will recommend to the Dean of the Graduate School (by submission of the Committee Approval Request Form) members of an Advisory Committee as follows:

  • Major Advisor – acts as the chairperson of the committee and must have Graduate Faculty status at SDSU.
  • Two (2) additional members from the major or related department.
  • Graduate Faculty Representative - selected by the Graduate School, from a discipline not closely related to the major/minor/supporting areas. This member ensures that rules and regulations are followed and acts as the student’s advocate, if necessary. For committee decisions, the Graduate Faculty Representative must vote in the affirmative for the vote to carry.

A minimum of four (4) members shall constitute the committee and each must have Graduate Faculty status. The Advisory Committee is responsible for assisting the student in developing a suitable graduate program, providing continuing guidance and counsel, evaluating student progress, and certifying the completion of the degree requirements to the Dean of the Graduate School. The Advisory Committee, in a timely fashion, approves the plan of study and any revision(s) of it, approves the dissertation proposal, reviews the dissertation, evaluates the student’s progress, conducts the comprehensive examinations and the final examination, supervises the validation of courses, and ensures that professional standards have been met in completing the degree requirements.

Plan of Study Information


After the Advisory Committee is formed, the major advisor will schedule a meeting with the student to develop a plan of study and to consider a research area for the dissertation. The plan of study must be prepared using the form provided by the Graduate School and approved by the Advisory Committee and the Dean of the Graduate School prior to completion of 50 percent of the credits toward graduation. Delay in submitting a plan of study may result in disapproval of courses taken prior to approval. The student cannot take the comprehensive written examination prior to approval of the plan of study. Changes in the approved plan of study must be requested using the appropriate form and must be approved by the Advisory Committee and the Dean of the Graduate School. While devising the plan of study, refer to the “Academic Policies ” section in this catalog in addition to the following information.

Plan of Study Credit Requirements


Total Credits Required- A minimum of three academic years of full-time work beyond the Bachelor’s degree (minimum of 90 semester credits, 90-Credit Plan) or a minimum of two (2) academic years of full time work beyond the Master’s degree (minimum of 60 semester credits, 60-Credit Plan) are generally required for the Doctor of Philosophy degree. Where consideration is given to a Master’s degree it must be in the area of the program or a related area, be an academic program from an accredited institution, and be declared at the time the Plan of Study is submitted. The Advisory Committee may require more credits than the minimum listed previously if it believes the extra requirements are in the best interest of the student.

Program Courses - At least sixty (60) credits of the 90-Credit Plan or forty (40) credits of the 60-Credit Plan required for the degree must be earned in the program. Dissertation and transfer credits may apply. Not all courses need to be in a single department or area, but all courses should be closely related to the program area.

Minor or Supporting Courses, if required - Few programs require a minor.  Please see departmental requirements for specific minors.

Graduate Credit Requirement - At least fifty (50) percent of the credits on a Plan of Study must be in courses open only to graduate students (600-series or above).

Additional Requirements - The Advisory Committee may require more credits than the minimum indicated if it feels it is in the best interest of the student.

Registration and Status


To maintain active status, students must be registered each semester of the academic year (excluding summer). All graduate assistants must register for a minimum of one (1) credit (including summer) in order to receive an assistantship. Students who are not registered will be moved to inactive status.  Inactive students must apply for readmission and be accepted before continuing their graduate studies.



Interim Evaluation - Upon completion of approximately fifty (50) percent of the coursework on the plan of study, the Advisory Committee will meet to evaluate the progress of the student, provide advice and counsel, and recommend continuance or termination of the program. Because the Doctor of Philosophy is a terminal academic degree, student performance includes an evaluation of progress in the program and academic performance. The Advisory Committee may recommend, in writing to the student and Dean of the Graduate School, termination of the student in the program.

Comprehensive Written and Oral Examinations- Comprehensive examinations are generally administered after coursework on the plan of study has been substantially completed. The comprehensive written examination is followed, on satisfactory completion, by an oral examination. These examinations are to test the student’s breadth of knowledge and his/her ability to integrate this knowledge.

The student arranges with his/her committee the time and location for the comprehensive written and oral examinations. The student will submit the “Comprehensive Written Exam” form to the Graduate School at least ten (10) working days prior to the examination date. The submission of this form initiates the necessary paperwork to be provided by the Graduate School to the student and committee members. Copies of the written examinations must be kept on file in the major department. Upon successful completion of the comprehensive written examination, the student will arrange with his/her advisor and committee members to take the comprehensive oral examination and will submit the “Comprehensive Oral Exam” form to the Graduate School at least ten (10) working days prior to the exam.  The submission of this form initiates the necessary paperwork to be provided by the Graduate School to the student and committee members. The comprehensive examinations must be completed at least two (2) months before the Final Oral Examination. Upon satisfactory completion of the comprehensive examinations, the student is formally admitted to candidacy for the PhD degree. If the student does not receive the PhD degree within three (3) years after becoming a candidate, Comprehensive Examinations must be repeated.

Final Examination - This final examination is conducted by the Advisory Committee after notifying the Graduate School using the “Doctor of Philosophy - Final Oral Exam” form ten (10) working days prior to the examination. While the Advisory Committee determines the character and length of the examination, sufficient time should be devoted to the dissertation, including literature review, to evaluate the ability of the student to defend the research. In addition, questions to test the student’s general knowledge, judgment and critical thinking powers are usually asked. The final oral examination cannot be taken earlier than two (2) months following successful completion of the comprehensive examinations and must be completed by the date set by the Graduate School in order to graduate in that semester.



Proposal - The student in consultation with the major advisor or dissertation advisor shall prepare a written dissertation proposal for approval by the Advisory Committee.

Requirements - The dissertation should represent at least one (1) academic year of full-time research (18-30 credits). Most programs require thirty (30) dissertation credits or more. Of no specific length, the dissertation should advance or modify knowledge in the discipline and demonstrate the candidate’s mastery of the subject. The dissertation should meet discipline standards as required by the program. All dissertations must be submitted to the Graduate School for appropriate format checking and deposition with the library. Instructions are found on the Graduate School website. 

Use of Human Subjects or Vertebrate Animals in Research - After receiving approval of the research proposal students must also seek approval for the use of human subjects or vertebrate animals in research, when applicable, from the appropriate committee. These approvals must be secured before beginning the study. For more information, visit the Research Compliance website or contact the SDSU Research Compliance Coordinator in the Office of Research & Sponsored Programs, SAD 124, telephone: 605-688-6975.

Time Limitation


Obsolete Program- If the Doctor of Philosophy degree is not completed within eight (8) years from the time of admission to work toward the degree, a reconsideration of the student’s program will be required. In such cases, the rules of the Graduate School in effect at the beginning of the ninth (9th) year will become effective for the student.

Obsolete Coursework- Courses completed more than eight (8) years before completion of the doctorate are regarded as obsolete coursework. Such courses may be used in the doctoral degree program if validated. Validation is allowed at the discretion of the Advisory Committee and department involved and can be accomplished by passing validation requirements in the subject matter area. Validated obsolete coursework cannot exceed fifty (50) percent of the coursework (excluding dissertation credits) listed on the plan of study and must be certified by the Advisory Committee on a form provided by the Graduate School.

Doctor of Philosophy Checklist*





When Due


Designation of Major Advisor

Upon acceptance into Graduate School and degree program


Designation of Advisory Committee*

During first semester of graduate work or prior to twelve (12) semester hours of graduate work


Approval of plan of study by Advisory Committee submitted to Graduate School

During the first semester of graduate work or prior to completion of 50% of credits toward graduation


Approval of written Dissertation Proposal by Advisory Committee

Before beginning research


Interim Evaluation by the Advisory Committee

Not later than halfway through the coursework on the plan of study


Comprehensive examination forms submitted to Graduate School

Near completion of coursework and at least two (2) months prior to final oral examination


Filing of Graduation Application

By date set by Graduate School, student anticipates completing all work and taking oral examination


Dissertation Format Check

By date set by Graduate School


Final Oral Examination form submitted  to Graduate School

At least ten (10) working days prior to final oral examinations


Dissertation due to Graduate School and Advisory Committee

By date set by Graduate School


Final Oral Examination

By date set by Graduate School


Corrected Copies of Dissertation due to Graduate School

By date set by Graduate School

*Graduate School forms