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Program Sequence Ph.D. Program


The following is a brief overview of milestones in the Ph.D. program sequence and the persons or groups who provide guidance along the way.

The Advisor

At the time of acceptance into the doctoral program, each student is assigned an advisor. In this assignment, an attempt is made to match student interest, as expressed in the application materials, with the interests of the faculty advisor.  The student and advisor work together until an advisory committee is appointed.  Usually in the spring of the first year, an advisory committee is formed from among those faculty whose expertise most closely matches their interests.


The Advisory Committee

The Advisory Committee is formed consisting of at least three members of the School of Social Work faculty.  The Advisory Committee will work with the student on the development of a satisfactory paper in his/her area of specialization.  The Advisory Committee is responsible for reading the final draft of this paper and certifying that it is of quality sufficient to merit a pass for this final part of the comprehensive examination.  The Advisory Committee members will assist in the identification of a dissertation research problem, and will offer help to the student in selecting members of the Dissertation Committee.


The Comprehensive Examination

Upon completion of the required course work, the student completes a comprehensive examination that consists of a publishable paper, an annotated bibliography, and an oral defense.


Dissertation Committee

After passing the comprehensive exams, the student then develops a dissertation committee, which consists of a minimum of four members, plus a Graduate Office Representative.  All members must have a Ph.D. or comparable degree.  The chairperson will assume primary responsibility for working with the student during the execution of the dissertation work, and will make full use of the contributions of other committee members.  After the dissertation committee is appointed, the student completes the final writing of the proposal. A written dissertation proposal shall be presented to the dissertation committee for discussion, evaluation, and suggested modifications.


Proposal Defense and Advancement to Candidacy

When the chair and the student decide that the proposal is ready for public presentation and discussion, an oral presentation of the dissertation proposal is scheduled.  This is a public forum, to which other faculty and Ph.D. students are invited.

When the dissertation proposal is approved by the committee, and the approval of the Human Subjects Research Review Committee is obtained, the student is advanced to candidacy.


The Dissertation

The dissertation is a scholarly document which sets forth the results of the candidate’s original and independent investigation.  It must constitute a contribution to knowledge, significantly enlarging, modifying, or reinterpreting what was previously known.  Students work closely with and obtain guidance from all members of the committee throughout the process of the dissertation. See list of dissertations.


Dissertation Defense

After tentative approval of the dissertation, the candidate’s dissertation committee shall conduct a final oral examination, or dissertation defense.

The final doctoral oral examination, which is open to the public, is the culminating experience in the doctoral studies.  The oral examination is a forum in which the student defends the completed dissertation and demonstrates knowledge of the field of specialization as it is related to the dissertation.  The candidate prepares and presents orally a formal statement on the research methodology and results. The questioning and discussion are for the purpose of: (1) further enlightenment of the candidate and the committee of the significance and limitations of the research, and (2) demonstration that the candidate meets the high expectations of the University for the awarding of the doctoral degree.   The candidate must defend the dissertation as a worthy contribution to knowledge in its field and must demonstrate a mastery of the field of specialization as it is related to the dissertation.



Upon satisfactory completion of the dissertation and a successful defense, the student graduates and is awarded the Ph.D.