2015-2016 Graduate Catalog 
    Jun 18, 2021  
2015-2016 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, 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 applicants) or October 15 (domestic applicants) 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. The Advisory Committee must be composed of four (4) to six (6) members. The committee must include:

  • Committee Chair – must hold full Graduate Faculty status at SDSU. This member assists the student in developing a suitable graduate program, provides continuing guidance and counsel, evaluates student progress, informs the student as to who will provide primary research supervision, serves as a contact for the committee and ensures the completion of the degree requirements to the Dean of the Graduate School.
  • Two (2) additional members with expertise within the discipline– must hold either full Graduate Faculty or Associate Graduate Faculty status at SDSU. Additional members assist the student in developing a suitable graduate program, provide continuing guidance and counsel, evaluate student progress, and assist with the completion of the degree requirements. Additional members may serve as co-chairs.
  • Graduate Faculty Representative – selected by the Dean of the Graduate School from within a distant, broadly-defined discipline. This member represents the Graduate Council to ensure the supervision of the student is carried out with sufficient integrity. This member ensures that minimal academic standards are maintained and acts as an advocate and counselor for the student. For votes regarding the final oral defense, the Graduate Faculty Representative must vote in the affirmative for the vote to carry.

Committee chairs, with department head approval, may request up to two (2) additional committee members. The Dean of the Graduate School approves requests for additional committee members.

Professional doctorate degree holders with full Graduate Faculty status may only serve as chair for a committee for the degree which they hold.

Adjunct faculty members or University employees holding a master’s degree who fail to qualify as Associate Graduate Faculty member may serve on graduate student committees. Such committees must contain the minimum number of Full/Associate Graduate Faculty in addition to the master’s degree holder. A committee may only include one master’s degree holder. Addition of the master’s degree holder does not alter the maximum number of committee members allowed. The master’s degree holder is not considered as having Associate Graduate Faculty status and cannot serve as co-chair.

The Advisory Committee is responsible for approving the content and scope of comprehensive and final examinations, both written and oral. The committee must evaluate the student’s performance for the comprehensive exams and final defense and all other degree requirements taken under the auspices of -898 coursework (including those internal to the program).

All committee members must be available for regular meetings with the student and/or committee. Each committee member has voting privileges. Only committee members may vote on business before the committee. For activities requiring committee votes, the chair must ensure due diligence for accommodating all members of the committee. The Graduate Faculty Representative and all but one (1) of the graduate committee must vote in the affirmative to pass the student.

The Department Head is responsible for informing the Graduate School if and when a committee member can no longer discharge her/his duties consistent with the policies of the University.

Plan of Study/Credit Requirements

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 submitted using the plan of study form (www.sdstate.edu/graduate/upload/PhD-Plan-of-Study.pdf) 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 and/or registration restrictions. 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 change in plan of study form (www.sdstate.edu/graduate/forms/upload/Change-of-Plan-of-Study-2015.pdf). While devising the plan of study, please refer to specific academic program requirements in the Academic Programs  section of the catalog in addition to the following information.

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 - Credit applied toward graduate credentials should be at the 500-level and above. At least fifty (50) percent of the credits on a plan of study must be in courses 600-series or above. Please refer to the Graduate Credit Requirements Policy for more information http://www.sdstate.edu/policies/upload/Credit-Requirements-for-Graduate-Degree-Programs.pdf

Language Requirement - There is no general language requirement for the Doctoral degree. However, individual departments may require a speaking or reading knowledge of a modern language other than English.


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, upon 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. 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. The comprehensive oral exam form must be submitted to the Graduate School at least two (2) weeks prior to the exam date.  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 three (3) 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 Oral Exam - The student arranges with his/her advisory committee the time and location for the final oral examination.   The student will submit the final oral exam form to the Graduate School no less than two (2) weeks prior to the examination date. 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 Graduate Faculty Representative and all but one (1) of the graduate committee must vote to pass the student. The final oral examination cannot be taken earlier than three (3) months following successful completion of the comprehensive examinations, and must be completed three (3) weeks prior to the end of the semester in order to graduate.


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). 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.

Dissertation Formatting and Deposition - 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 (http://www.sdstate.edu/graduate/current/guidelines.cfm). 

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 (http://www.sdstate.edu/research/compliance/index.cfm) 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 program start date, a form to request an extension of the graduate program must be submitted to the Graduate School.  The request will be reviewed and a decision as to whether the student may continue in the program will be made by the Graduate School Dean.

Obsolete Coursework - Courses taken more than eight (8) years before completion of the doctorate are regarded as obsolete coursework. Obsolete 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 total 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.  Course validation may be subject to a processing fee.  Only courses taken at SDSU may be validated.

Doctor of Philosophy Checklist



Designation of Major Advisor

Upon acceptance into Graduate School.

Designation of Advisory Committee

During first semester of graduate work graduate faculty representative will be assigned by the Graduate School.

Plan of Study

During the first semester of graduate work or before 50% of coursework is complete. Must be approved by all Advisory Committee members and submitted to Graduate School.

Comprehensive Written Exam

Per Dept procedures, near the completion of coursework. Comprehensive written exam form due to Graduate School two (2) weeks prior to exam date.

Comprehensive Oral Exam

Scheduled upon successful completion of comprehensive written exam. Comprehensive oral exam form due to Graduate School two (2) weeks prior to exam date. Must be three (3) months prior to final oral exam.

Graduation Application

During final semester, by deadline.*

Final Oral Exam (Dissertation Defense) During final semester, by deadline. 
Final oral exam form must be submitted two (2) weeks prior to exam date.
Final Submission of Dissertation Must complete format check first. Final submission due by deadline.*
Signed acceptance page and library fee must also be submitted.

* The Graduate School sets deadlines for graduation each semester (http://www.sdstate.edu/graduate/current/important-dates.cfm).  Please also consult with your Department for other program specific requirements and deadlines.  All forms are available on the Graduate School Forms page (http://www.sdstate.edu/graduate/forms/index.cfm).