Upon admission to a Doctor of Philosophy program, each student is assigned an academic advisor in the student's area of specialization. The student and advisor plan a program of study to meet the student’s individual goals and general degree requirements. Departments may require that a copy of the program plan be kept on file.
Graduate students and advisors should be guided by the Graduate College policy on doctoral degree time limits. If a time extension is desired, it may be requested by completing a Graduate Student Petition. These petitions are considered and acted upon by the student’s advisor, the department, and the Graduate College. Each individual who has authority to act on the petition may either approve or deny the petition.
Course Requirements for Ph.D. Candidates
All students admitted to a Doctor of Philosophy degree program must fulfill Graduate College requirements for the doctoral degree, departmental requirements, and the following College of Education minimum requirements on the Urbana campus or through Urbana off-campus or online courses:
Completion of at least 64 hours beyond the master's degree including:
- A minimum of 32 hours of coursework in the major subjects.
- At least 4 hours, but no more than 20 hours of dissertation research (599) credit.
- No more than 12 hours of independent study (595) credit.
- A minimum of 16-20 hours, depending on area of methodology focus, in research coursework. The student should submit a plan of study, approved by the advisor, for completion of the Research Requirement.
A total of 64 hours of credit beyond the master's degree must be earned in courses on the Urbana campus or through Urbana off-campus or online courses. These 64 hours may include up to 20 hours of dissertation research credit.
In the College of Education, Ph.D. study must include a period of full-time engagement on campus, during which time students are expected to interact with faculty and other students, read widely within and beyond the major field, and contemplate scholarly issues as they relate to professional practice. What the department seeks to ensure by this requirement is a period of complete immersion, with the least possible distractions, in the intellectual, collegial, and cultural life of the discipline, not just that of the campus at large.
Ph.D. continuous residence requirements can be satisfied by two consecutive semesters of full-time (12 hours or more) enrollment. Thesis research credit may not be counted in meeting the continuous residence requirements.
During this continuous residency period, a student is expected to participate in non-course work activities available as part of the intellectual activity of the discipline: seminars, colloquies, and informal and often ad hoc discussion groups. Although the quality of the residency cannot be legislated, conditions believed to provide the greatest possible opportunity to achieve the desired quality can be specified. It is the responsibility of the student and advisor to ensure that the spirit, as well as the letter, of this requirement is honored. The student and advisor should plan this period as thoughtfully as any other portion of the doctoral program.
Students not engaged in full-time graduate study may meet the residence requirement by presenting evidence that the spirit of the requirement has been satisfied. This evidence should include full documentation of residence-type activities on campus, approved by the candidate’s advisor.
For those students who hope to satisfy the residence requirement for a period when they were employed full-time, it would be helpful for this documentation to show that at least 25% of their time on the job was devoted to activities in keeping with the spirit of the residence requirement, and to provide a letter from the employer stating that such time was available for the period in question.
Students wishing to fulfill the requirement without full-time enrollment will need to request approval, documenting by letter the activities the student and advisor wish to have considered as meeting the residence requirement. The request should be made to the Associate Dean for Academic Programs, College of Education. (Graduate Faculty Action, September 14, 1988)
Early Research Requirement
All Ph.D. students shall conduct and present an educational research study early in their graduate programs. This research should be undertaken with the expectation that it will make a contribution to knowledge in the area of the student’s Ph.D. program. In addition, an important objective of the early research requirement is to familiarize faculty members with new Ph.D. students and their research interests and to examine ways in which these interests might be pursued in the doctoral program.
In the first calendar year of doctoral study, or soon thereafter, every Ph.D. student, in consultation with his or her advisor, shall form an early research committee consisting of the advisor and two other faculty members. The student should consult with committee members early in the first year to obtain agreement on the nature of the project. Committee members are expected to provide counsel as the early research project develops. Whenever extended work with a faculty member is anticipated, the student should arrange for independent study credit.
The student shall formally present to his or her committee a written and oral report on the early research project. All three members of the committee must approve the work as satisfying the early research requirement for the Ph.D., and they should sign the Early Research Requirement form. The completed Early Research Requirement form must be filed with the departmental contact in the Graduate Student Services Office.
A student who has completed a master’s dissertation as part of earlier graduate work may, upon the advice of his or her advisor, present that research as the early research project. After hearing the presentation, the Early Research Committee may accept the dissertation as satisfying the early research requirement or, should they judge the dissertation wanting in either quality or relevance to the student’s doctoral program, may recommend that it be revised or that another line of inquiry be pursued for the early research requirement.
A student who enters a master’s degree program with the intent of subsequently pursuing the Ph.D. is encouraged to discuss with his or her advisor the possibility of forming the Early Research Committee prior to conducting the master’s thesis research (Graduate Faculty Action, December 9, 1988). For all early research involving the use of human subjects, approval for use of human subjects or confirmation that human subjects review is not required must be obtained from the Institutional Review Board. A letter showing approval from the Campus Institutional Review Board (IRB) must be provided to the department contact in the Graduate Student Services Office prior to the scheduling of the preliminary examination. Students should begin the approval process eight weeks prior to the examination.
Evaluation of Academic Progress
Annual evaluations are required for all degree-seeking graduate students and will occur every spring semester.
The student will complete an electronic self-evaluation detailing academic progress. The advisor (or department designee) will assess the progress report and provide online feedback to the student. An additional authorized faculty member may also be asked to review the progress report. The evaluation is kept in the student’s permanent file. Failure to complete the academic self-evaluation by the deadline will result in a hold being placed on the student's account.
When a decision is made that a student is not making satisfactory progress, the student, the advisor, and the Director of Graduate Studies will be informed in writing by the department.
The Qualifying Examinations are written comprehensive examinations administered to doctoral students near the completion of their course work and Early Research Experience. Written verification of the completion of the Early Research Experience requirement must be filed in the Graduate Student Services Office.
The examinations are scheduled by faculty advisors through the Graduate Student Services Office. Purposes of the qualifying examinations in the College of Education include: assessment of the candidate’s breadth in the discipline and depth in areas of interest; providing opportunity to explore, make connections, and integrate content in the discipline. The exam is comprised of the following parts:
General Field Qualifying Exam
All Ph.D. candidates will take a General Field Examination covering the field of study embraced by the home department or division.
Special Field Qualifying Exam
All Ph.D. candidates will take a Special Field Examination covering an area of specialization proposed by the student with the concurrence of the advisor. The Special Field should be a scholarly specialization more broadly conceived than the anticipated dissertation topic.
The advisor will be responsible for developing questions for the Special Field Exam, drawing upon the expertise of other faculty when needed. The advisor, in consultation with the candidate, will also determine the format of the examination and select at least two additional faculty readers with expertise in the field being examined.
Advisor Responsibilities for Qualifying Exams
- Review the student’s file to determine readiness to take the exams, and ascertain the requirements, procedures, and deadlines pertaining to the examinations from the department office.
- Confer with the student concerning the exam format, content, and evaluation criteria and arrange for student to take General Field examination in accordance with the department guidelines.
- Identify, with the student, at least two other faculty members as readers for the special exam, prepare the Special Field exam questions, and consult with other faculty readers as needed.
- Submit examination questions and readers’ names to the departmental contact in the Graduate Student Services Office and inform that person if the student will be allowed special materials or will need special equipment or provisions for the exam.
- Confer with the student after the exam concerning the student’s performance.
Student Responsibilities for Qualifying Exams
- Consult with the advisor when he/she is eligible and ready to take the exams and discuss the selection of questions, format, and readers with the advisor.
- Discuss the specific purposes and evaluation criteria for the exams with the advisor and readers and asks the advisor to share sample questions from previous qualifying exams.
- Ensure that the Qualifying Exam Information form is filed in the Graduate Student Services Office.
- Confer with the advisor for comments and suggestions concerning examination performance.
Graduate Student Services Office Responsibilities for Qualifying Exams
- Inform faculty and students about the requirements, procedures, and deadlines pertaining to qualifying examinations.
- Distribute questions to student, oversee administration, and distribute completed exams to readers for evaluation.
- Collect and compile evaluations.
- Communicate results of the exam to the student, advisor, and place a copy of the results in the student's academic file.
Formats should be decided well in advance of exam dates. In particular, students should discuss the format of the Special Field Exam with their advisors to arrive at a recommendation that best meets student needs and the expectation of the advisor. The three formats are:
- On-Site Format. A room and proctor are scheduled by the department. Normally, the General Field and the Special Field are each scheduled for a four-hour block of time. The time limit will be set by each department (or division).
- Take-home Format. A take-home format may be used for the General Field exam (at the option of the department) and for the Special Field exam (at the option of the advisor). In the take-home format the candidate, with the approval of the advisor, writes the exam at a place of his or her choosing with no restriction on books or other written materials to be used. Because the purpose of the qualifying examination is to assess individual competence, students should not discuss the exam with anyone other than their advisor after they have picked up the questions. The time limit for this take-home exam will be set by each department (or division).
- Portfolio Format (Special Field only). This format consists of assembling a focused collection of 3 or 4 high quality papers and/or projects which are then defended before three faculty readers. The number, subject, and length of the required papers or projects are decided by the advisor in consultation with the student. Portfolio submissions can include collaborative work, but independent work must also be reflected in the portfolio. The portfolio may include work completed to satisfy other requirements for the doctoral degree such as course papers, early research papers, master’s theses, and Research Specialization papers. The portfolio must be submitted with an original, independently written synthesis paper that defines the special field and articulates how each piece of the portfolio connects or contributes to the special field and its literature. If the portfolio option is selected, the student will discuss this work at an oral defense before the three faculty readers, after which the readers will determine whether the student has demonstrated competence in the special field.
Questions and Problems Arising Prior to Taking the Qualifying Exams
The first person a student should consult concerning the qualifying exams is his or her advisor. If irreconcilable differences arise between the student and advisor concerning scheduling, format, content, or rating procedures, the student should consult the department head/chair or designee. If the problem cannot be resolved, consult the Associate Dean for Academic Programs. Normal grievance procedures can be used (see Graduate Student Appeals section of this handbook). If a student wishes to postpone a scheduled examination, the request should be made through the advisor to the department office.
Evaluation of the Qualifying Exams
To pass the examination, the student must receive satisfactory or excellent ratings from all readers in both the General Field and the Special Field. There are four possible ratings for both sections of the qualifying exams.
- Excellent doctoral work. This rating is given for excellent doctoral work. If more than fifty percent of a candidate’s ratings are excellent, the student is given a letter of special commendation by the department head/chair.
- Satisfactory doctoral work. This rating is given for work that demonstrates competence expected of advanced students in the field. Candidates who receive ratings of "excellent" or "satisfactory" doctoral work will pass the examination.
- Satisfactory pending specified revisions. This rating is given for work that demonstrates competence, but requires revisions in content and/or more development of ideas. This does not require a completely different exam, just editing and further development.
- Unsatisfactory doctoral work. This rating is given for work that can range from completely unsatisfactory to work with significant gaps in knowledge.
If a second examination is required, the readers shall communicate the major deficiencies to the candidate and make a collective decision as to the format and scope of the second examination. All faculty readers who read the first exam will evaluate the second exam unless a change in readers has been approved by the department head/chair or designee. Once again, a satisfactory or excellent rating must be awarded by all readers for the candidate to pass the second examination, and should one or more readers judge the performance unsatisfactory, the readers shall meet to review the candidate’s performance. If extenuating circumstances exist that warrant a third attempt, the advisor may request approval from the department head/chair or designee. Candidates shall normally be permitted two attempts to pass the Qualifying Examinations.
Promptness of Evaluations
Students shall receive results within 3 weeks from the date of the exam. The department will ensure timeliness of review and communicate results to students and to the advisor.
Faculty have two weeks upon receipt of the qualifying exam to submit their results to the Graduate Student Services Office (GSSO). Shortly thereafter, GSSO will send the results to the student, copying the Director of Graduate Study and advisor.
If the scheduled deadline is not met by faculty:
At two weeks, a reminder email will be sent from GSSO to the readers who have not submitted results, copying the student’s advisor, GSSO, Director of Graduate Studies and Department Head/Chair.
At three weeks, GSSO will notify the Director of Graduate Studies that results have not been received. The Director of Graduate Studies will then send a reminder email to the non-compliant reader, copying the student’s advisor, GSSO and Department Head/Chair.
At four weeks, GSSO will notify the Department Head/Chair that results have not been received. The Department Head/Chair will send a reminder email to the non-compliant reader, copying the student’s advisor, GSSO and Director of Graduate Studies. The email, urging the faculty member to complete their obligation, will be placed in the faculty member’s file.
At five weeks, GSSO will notify the Department Head/Chair that results have not been received. The Department Head/Chair will send a second email to the non-compliant reader, copying the student’s advisor, GSSO and Director of Graduate Studies. The email, stating the faculty member has not completed their obligation and recommending the advisor assign another reader, will be placed in the faculty member’s file.
The same process will be followed if the reader is outside the College of Education.
Report of Examination Results
After all readers for the exams have returned their excellent or satisfactory evaluations, a letter is sent to the student from their department indicating the readers’ decisions. A copy of the letter and evaluations are placed in the student' academic file.
Ph.D. Research Requirement
The purpose of the Ph.D. Research Requirement is to ensure that all Ph.D. candidates in the College of Education have had sufficient coursework to attain proficiency in at least one research methodology and are able to conduct independent dissertation research.
The three areas of research—Interpretive, Qualitative and Quantitative—were chosen to represent the domain of methodologies prevalent in educational research and pursued by our graduate students and faculty. It is intended that the choice of a research area will be consistent with a student’s dissertation research. While requirements differ for each area, all require some combination of introductory and advanced methods coursework. All research areas require a two-stage approval process. Approvals should be obtained in a timely fashion.
Human Subjects Approval
For all dissertations, approval for use of human subjects or confirmation that human subjects review is not required must be obtained from the Institutional Review Board prior to doing research on the dissertation topic. A letter showing approval from the Campus Institutional Review Board (IRB) must be provided to the department contact in the Graduate Student Services Office prior to the scheduling of the preliminary examination. Students should begin the approval process eight weeks prior to the examination.
The preliminary oral examination (prelim) follows successful completion of all required coursework, the early research requirement, the qualifying examinations, the research methods requirement, and human subjects approval. In addition, all incomplete grades must be changed to letter grades prior to the oral examination.
The purpose of a prelim oral examination is for a student to present the rationale and format for the dissertation. During the examination, an agreement is reached between the student and the committee concerning the proposed dissertation. Thus, the examination is held prior to the collection of data or other major work on the dissertation. The student must be registered in order to take the preliminary oral examination. The student should consult the department for additional requirements.
Preliminary Examination Committee
Students should begin appointing the committee and scheduling the examination at least four weeks prior to the expected date.
The committee must meet the preliminary examination committee requirements of the Graduate College including:
- The chair must be a member of the Graduate Faculty.
- The committee must include at least four voting members, at least three of which must be members of the Graduate Faculty, and two of which must also be tenured.
- If there are more than four voting members on the committee, at least half of the voting members must be members of the Graduate Faculty.
In addition to these requirements, College of Education requirements must be met:
- The chair must be tenured or tenure track.
- At least one member must be from outside the student’s field of specialization and the budgetary department of the student and advisor.
For committee members outside of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a letter of justification and curriculum vitae must be submitted by the chair to the departmental contact in the Graduate Student Services Office who will then submit it to the Graduate College for approval. In appointing the committee, the student submits committee member information to the departmental contact in the Graduate Student Services Office by completing the Request for Appointment of Committee Form. This form must be submitted at least four weeks before the examination. The Graduate Student Services Office will retrieve the appropriate approvals.
The student must present the dissertation to the prelim examination committee for reading two weeks before the examination; in some cases it may be more reasonable to allow three weeks. Failure to do so may result in delaying or canceling the prelim.
The chair, student, and at least one additional voting member of the committee must be physically present for the entire duration of all oral components of the examination. If the committee has more than one chair, all chairs must be physically present; in these cases, no additional voting member is required to be physically present. All voting members of the committee must be present in person or participate via teleconference or other electronic communication media during the examination, deliberation and results determination.
The chair obtains the Preliminary Exam Result form from the departmental contact in the Graduate Student Services Office before the examination and returns the form immediately after the examination. All voting members must sign the Preliminary Exam Result form.
Decisions of the preliminary examination committee must be unanimous. The committee may make one of the following decisions:
- Pass the candidate.
- Fail the candidate. A program may, but is not required to, grant the student another opportunity to take the examination after completing additional course work, independent study, or research, as recommended by the committee. However, if a second attempt is given, a new committee must be appointed by the Graduate College. The new committee may, but does not have to, consist of the same members as the original committee.
- Defer the decision. If this option is chosen:
- the same committee must re-examine the student,
- the second exam must occur within 180 calendar days of the date of first exam, and
- the outcome of the second exam must be pass or fail.
The result of the examination is communicated to the student and the Graduate Student Services Office as soon as possible at the conclusion of the examination.
Number of Attempts: After a fail result, a student will only be allowed to take the preliminary examination one additional time while working toward the completion of any one program of study.
The preliminary examination must be retaken if the final examination is not passed within five years of the original examination.
Registration for Preliminary Exam for Doctoral Degree
The Graduate College requires that all doctoral candidates be registered for the entire academic term during which they take the preliminary examination. Additional Information on registration requirements can be found on the Graduate College web site under Requirements and Policies for Doctoral Degree.
The Ph.D. dissertation is intended to demonstrate the student’s capacity to conduct independent research. The student’s research should make an original contribution to knowledge (Graduate Faculty Action, February 15, 1973). The dissertation usually requires a year or more of study. Registration in dissertation research hours for on-campus or in-absentia students, after the completion of the required 64 hours beyond the master’s degree, is required. This registration typically comes after the course work is completed and before the time limits are reached.
Dissertation Editorial Style and Format Approval
The dissertation must be prepared using one of the following commonly accepted editorial styles:
- American Psychological Association. (2009). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
- Harvard Law Review Association. (2015). The bluebook: A uniform system of citation (20th ed.). Cambridge, MA: Author.
- Modern Language Association. (2009). MLA handbook for writers of research papers (7th ed.). New York, NY: Author.
- Turabian, K. L. (2013). A manual for writers of term papers, theses, and dissertations (8th ed.). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
- University of Chicago. (2010). The Chicago manual of style (16th ed.). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago.
NOTE: LaTex is not an acceptable editorial style. However, this typesetting system can be used in conjunction with one of the above editorial styles.
The student will consult with the chair and dissertation committee members to choose the style to be used. In exceptional circumstances, style manuals not listed above may be used with prior approval of the Associate Dean for Academic Programs. In addition, the Thesis & Dissertation policies and procedures issued by the Graduate College must be followed. In the case of explicit differences between the Graduate College instructions and the style manual selected, the Graduate College instructions take precedence. For example, students choosing the APA style manual should follow the Graduate College instructions rather than those included in the APA manual for insertion of tables and figures. Every dissertation in final manuscript form must be reviewed and approved by the dissertation director of research and/or chairperson of the dissertation committee to ensure that the dissertation meets the Graduate College and departmental requirements for deposit.
Abstracts for dissertations in the College of Education must include a synopsis of the following information to fully describe the completed study:
- The problem and its theoretical and educational significance.
- The research design and/or approach employed (include where appropriate descriptions of subjects and methods).
- An overview of the results.
- Conclusions, recommendations, and/or implications.
Final examinations are oral and open to the public. The final examination committee chair is responsible for convening the committee, conducting the examination, and submitting the Final Exam Result form to the departmental contact in the Graduate Student Services Office.
Final Examination Committee
Students should begin appointing the committee and scheduling the examination at least four weeks prior to the expected date.
The committee must meet the final examination committee requirements of the Graduate College including:
- The chair must be a member of the Graduate Faculty.
- The examination committee must include at least four voting members, of which at least three must be members of the Graduate Faculty and at least two must be tenured.
- If there are more than four voting members on the committee, at least half of the voting members should be members of the Graduate Faculty.
In addition to these requirements, College of Education requirements must be met:
- The chair must be tenured or tenure-track.
- At least one member must be from outside the student’s field of specialization and the budgetary department of the student and chair.
For committee members outside of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a letter of justification and curriculum vitae must be submitted by the chair to the departmental contact in the Graduate Student Services Office who will then submit it to the College of Education Associate Dean for Academic Programs and the Graduate College for approvals. In appointing the committee, the student submits committee member information to the Graduate Student Services Office by completing the Request for Appointment of Committee Form. This form must be submitted at least four weeks before the examination. The Graduate Student Services Office will retrieve the appropriate approvals.
The final oral examination will be conducted in a room that will accommodate at least six people, although a larger room will be reserved if the committee is aware that more people will attend the oral.
The student must present the dissertation to the final examination committee for reading two weeks before the examination; in some cases it may be more reasonable to allow three weeks.
The chair, student, and at least one additional voting member of the committee must be physically present for the entire duration of the examination. If the committee has more than one chair, all chairs must be physically present; in these cases, no additional voting member is required to be physically present. All voting members of the committee must be present in person or participate via teleconference or other electronic communication media during the examination, deliberation and results determination.
The chair obtains the Final Exam Result form and the Thesis/Dissertation Approval form from the departmental contact in the Graduate Student Services Office prior to the examination and returns the forms immediately after the examination. All appointed committee members' signatures are required on the forms; signatories must sign for themselves. Committee members have the right to review the final copy of the dissertation before signing. The committee should meet in private before beginning the examination. The public cannot ask questions or give input during the examination. At the conclusion of the examination, the committee will meet in private to discuss the results and then inform the candidate of the decision.
Results: Unanimous decisions are no longer required. Decisions of the Committee for the Final Examination are recorded on the Final Exam Result form. The voting members of the committee must make one of two decisions:
- Pass the candidate. The candidate passes the final exam if the Director(s) of Research vote pass and no more than one of the remaining Committee members votes fail. The Committee will indicate on the Final Exam Result form if revisions are required. The Committee will sign the Thesis/Dissertation Approval form after the completion of the examination and the completion of any required revisions.
- Fail the candidate. The candidate fails the Final Exam if a Director of Research votes Fail or if two or more Committee members vote Fail. A program may, but is not required to, grant the student another opportunity to take the examination after completing additional research or writing, as recommended by the committee. However, a new committee must be appointed by the Graduate College. The new committee may, but does not have to, consist of the same members as the original committee.
Number of Attempts: After a fail result a student will only be allowed to take the final examination one additional time while working toward the completion of any one program of study.
Registration for Final Exam for Doctoral Degree
The Graduate College requires that all doctoral candidates be registered for the entire academic term during which they take the final examination. Additional Information on registration requirements can be found on the Graduate College web site under Requirements and Policies for Doctoral Degree.
After the passing the final examination, provide the dissertation in final form to the committee chair and visit the Graduate College Thesis & Dissertation web pages for further deposit instructions.
All students who have successfully defended their dissertation must obtain departmental dissertation format approval prior to final deposit with the Graduate College Thesis Office. Departmental format approval consists of three parts:
- Chair and dissertation committee,
- Head/Chair of department/program or authorized signatory, and
- Departmental thesis/dissertation format reviewer.
Because revisions requested by the chair and dissertation committee may cause a change in pagination or format, students should submit a PDF of the dissertation to the departmental contact in the Graduate Student Services Office only after all revisions have been approved by the chair, dissertation committee, and the head/chair of department/program or authorized signatory. The departmental dissertation review process will not begin until prior approvals have been received. Dissertations must be received by the Graduate Student Services Office contact two weeks prior to the Graduate College doctoral dissertation deposit deadline to allow an opportunity for revisions. Late submissions may result in a delay of the student's graduation and degree conferral.
After the departmental format review, dissertations are deposited in the Graduate College using the ETD process.
Degree Certification Request
Prior to the date of degree conferral, a student may need verification that he or she has completed all requirements for the degree (e.g., for employment or visa renewal). At any time after degree requirements have been satisfied, the student may request a Degree Certification Letter or use the on-line Degree Verification system.