This handbook provides a description and some guidelines about the Child Development area of study.

The Child Development area admits students with a bachelor's degree or a master's degree into the doctoral program. We are a doctoral program, and do not admit students seeking only a terminal master's degree. Students entering with a bachelor's degree only are expected to pursue both Master's and Ph.D. degrees.

Master's Degree (32 hours)

Students entering with only a bachelor's degree will need to complete the Master's degree course requirements (32 hours) and deposit a Master's thesis during their program. Information regarding the College of Education minimum requirements is available in the College of Education Graduate Programs Handbook.  A Master's Thesis is typically submitted to fulfill the Early Research Project requirement in the Doctoral Program.

Students admitted with a master's degree earned from another institution may be exempt from all or some of the requirements for the Early Research Requirement. A research-based thesis completed at another institution may be submitted for the Early Research Requirement Paper, and would need to be evaluated by a faculty committee of three members (with at least one member from the Child Development area).

Course Equivalency Credit

Through a Graduate Petition process, graduate coursework taken at other institutions may be reviewed by the Division, Department, and College for possible course equivalency or transfer credit considerations.

Doctoral Degree
(64 hours, plus coursework for research specialization)

Early Research Project

All doctoral students in the College of Education are required to complete an early research project prior to the time they take qualifying examinations. Early research projects are developed by the student in collaboration with her or his advisor. A committee of three faculty members (at least one of whom is the advisor in the Child Development area) evaluates the project. For students seeking a Master's Degree from University of Illinois , this Early Research Project will be submitted as a Master's Thesis.

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 Research Requirements are intended to provide students with both a broad view of research methodologies and the ability to specialize in one area. It is intended that the choice of a focus area will be consistent with a student’s dissertation research. All students will take a Foundational Methods Course, one or more basic courses in one or more methodological areas, and advanced courses in a particular area. All students will use a two-stage approval process in consultation with their academic advisers. Candidates must maintain a B average for all methodology courses. 

Required Child Development Coursework

The Child Development graduate program is organized to promote students' substantive knowledge of the area (content), and to help students develop the conceptual and methodological tools that researchers use to advance the field (theories, methods, and issues). The content-related courses are further divided into two levels that represent different levels of breadth: Core and Focus courses. We also hold a weekly noon-hour seminar series, attended by all Child Development faculty and required for all students in the division.

Core Content Courses (12 hours)

Three courses serve as the core curriculum for Child Development:

EPSY 530: Social Development
EPSY 531: Cognitive Development and Socialization
EPSY 532: Language Development and Socialization

Each of these core courses will be offered on a regular basis by Child Development faculty (approximately every other year). Courses with similar titles or content, taught by other faculty elsewhere in the University, may not be substituted without permission of the Child Development Chair.

All Child Development students must complete all three Core Courses, and demonstrate mastery of each core content area by earning an A grade in each class. Students who fail to achieve A grades in these classes will be expected to demonstrate mastery through additional work that is negotiated with the advisor and the course instructor. The qualifying examination in the Child Development area of study is based on the assumption that, by mastering the Core Course curriculum, students have achieved a broad-based understanding of their discipline. Consequently, the focus of the qualifying exam will be somewhat narrower, encompassing the student's areas of specialization and other closely-allied domains (see section on the Child Development qualifying exam).

Focus Courses (20 hours)

Courses at this level are intended to provide students with a more focused and in-depth examination of specific disciplines or research areas within the fields of human development and educational psychology. Examples of focus course content areas are listed below:

  • Motivation and Achievement
  • Emotional Development
  • Socio-cultural Influences on Learning
  • Reading/Language Development
  • Adolescent Development
  • Classroom Processes
  • Family Processes

Focus courses may be taken within Educational Psychology or elsewhere within the College or University, as long as the content of these courses is developmental in focus or is clearly related to the student's specialized knowledge base. A minimum of five focus courses is required of Child Development students. If a student enters the program with a Master's degree, the requirement is 3 focus courses. Students generally complete their Focus Courses before the Preliminary Oral Examination.

Qualifying Examination

Students are admitted to doctoral candidacy after they successfully complete a Qualifying Examination. The actual exam is constructed by a committee that is constituted by the advisor with input from his or her student.

The qualifying examination within the Child Development area consists of two parts: the General Field Exam, and the Special Field Exam. Students will be encouraged to complete both portions of the exam within the same academic year.

General Field Exam

This examination is intended to gauge the student's knowledge of the theories, methods, and research literatures within areas of human socialization and development that will most closely define the student's professional identity. Typically, exams will include: (l) a range of substantive domains (e.g., aggression, peer relations, language development),  and (2) the theories, models, methods,  issues, etc.  that have emerged within these domains. A collection of sample General Field Qualifying Examination questions from prior Child Development students may be obtained from the Child Development Chair.

To be eligible for the General Field Exam, students must declare their intent by the twelfth week of the semester prior to the semester they wish to take the exam.  Generally, students spend a semester reading and preparing for the General Field Exam. Students typically prepare reading lists in consultation with their advisor, and sometimes with other members of the Exam committee.

The format of the General Field exam will typically be Take-Home.  For example, one week may be given to respond to each question (for a total of 3 questions across 3 weeks).   Each exam is individualized and the committee may specify a different period for producing the responses and number of questions.

The advisor will work with the student to assemble a General Field Exam Committee. This Committee must contain three faculty members, one of whom must be the student’s advisor from the Child Development area of study. Committee members will write the questions for the General Field Exam and consider student input on the topics to be examined. The advisor will arrange for its administration. The committee has three weeks to evaluate the student’s responses. All paperwork is to be coordinated through the designated departmental staff member. The advisor will communicate the results to the student. If any qualifying examination response is judged unsatisfactory by the committee, the student will have a one opportunity to provide a satisfactory response in writing, orally, or both.  The terms of the remediation will be set by the committee.

Special Field Exam

The Special Field Exam is intended as a vehicle through which the student can demonstrate advanced expertise in a particular research domain or area (i.e. the student's chosen area of scholarship). This exam will be constructed and administered by the student's advisor and two other committee members who have been chosen by the advisor and the student.

The format of the Special Field exam can be one of two options. It can be a portfolio containing written work by the student (e.g., journal articles, chapters, papers submitted for publication, and near-publication quality papers that were submitted in courses at the University of Illinois ). The portfolio illustrates the student's expertise in an area of specialization, and must include an "overarching essay" in which the student describes their specialization and how the papers fit together. A portfolio can include collaborative work with other authors, such as the advisor. There must be an oral defense of the portfolio. The second alternative is a specialty paper/exam . Guidelines regarding the two Special Field Examination options can be found in the College of Education Graduate Programs Handbook

Preliminary Oral Examination (Dissertation Proposal)

Students are admitted to the Child Development area of study to pursue the Ph.D. degree. Following the completion of the qualifying exam, students are admitted to doctoral candidacy. At this stage, students assemble a doctoral committee consisting of 4 or 5 faculty (criteria for a doctoral committee can be found in the College of Education Graduate Programs Handbook and begin work on a dissertation proposal. Students are required to pass a preliminary oral defense of this proposal before conducting the dissertation study and must defend the completed dissertation in a final oral examination.

The Preliminary Oral Examination is the time when you present the research plan for your dissertation to a committee of faculty members chosen by you and your advisor. Most students review the relevant literature, refine their research questions, and describe their proposed data collection procedures and strategies for data analysis in writing. This serves to sharpen their ideas and to allow their committee to make constructive suggestions before the research is initiated. At the end of the successful preliminary oral examination, much of the first few chapters of the dissertation is in draft form, the student has discussed his or her work with interested faculty members, and is ready to begin the research.

Dissertation and Final Examination

See the College of Education Graduate Programs Handbook for the requirements for setting up a final dissertation committee, scheduling your oral defense, and depositing your dissertation. Typically, the final dissertation committee has the same membership as the preliminary committee.  It is important to keep in close touch with your advisor and your committee about necessary changes in the procedure or design of your research that arise after the preliminary oral.

Other Requirements for Masters and Doctoral Degrees

Child Development Division students are evaluated annually to determine their progress in coursework and research milestones. Near the end of each Spring semester, students will receive the CDD Annual Progress form. Students will submit the completed form to their advisor. Child Development Faculty will review and discuss all students’ forms and advisors will communicate to each student how they are doing in the program and provide suggestions for areas of focus for the next academic year. Students are encouraged to read the graduate student guidelines that are published by both the Department and College to check their progress on requirements.

Other Recommendations for Masters and Doctoral Students

Students are strongly encouraged to participate in the intellectual life of the campus by attending departmental colloquia, Miller-Comm lectures, and colloquia in other departments. Students are also strongly encouraged to join major professional organizations (e.g., Society for Research in Child Development, the American Educational Research Association, the American Psychological Association), to subscribe to their journals, and to participate in their national conferences. The Department and University provide funding to help defray travel expenses for students making presentations at national and regional conferences.