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CoE Graduate Handbook

Doctor of Philosophy Degree

The Doctor of Philosophy Degree program is planned by the student with the advisor to develop the student's ability to conduct research in a specialized field of education.  The College of Education offers the Doctor of Philosophy degree on-campus only.

Program Plan

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.

Time Limits

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, including an Academic Progress Plan. 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. Students

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:

    Coursework

    Completion of at least 64 hours beyond the master's degree including:

    1. A minimum of 32 hours of coursework in the major subjects.
    2. At least 4 hours, but no more than 20 hours of dissertation research (599) credit.
    3. No more than 12 hours of independent study (595) credit.
    4. 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 Area Requirement.
    Residence Credit and Transfer Credit

    The College of Education follows the Graduate College's rules on residence credit. 

    For students entering a doctoral program already holding a master's degree (Stage II), transfer of credit from outside institutions into this degree is not allowed.  This is in accordance with the Graduate College's policy on transfer credit.  

    Ph.D. Research Area Requirement

    The purpose of the Ph.D. Research Area Requirement is to ensure that all Ph.D. students in the College of Education have sufficient coursework to attain proficiency in at least one research methodology and are able to conduct independent dissertation research.

    The four areas of research—Interpretive, Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods—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 focus area will be consistent with a student’s dissertation research. All areas require a combination of introductory and advanced methods coursework. All students choose coursework in consultation with their academic advisor. Students must maintain a B average for all methodology courses. 

    Credit Hours

    All students will take a minimum of 16 and a maximum of 20 credit hours in research methods courses towards the research area requirement.

    Interpretive Methodology Focus Area

    Interpretive methods of research and analysis play a role in educational research in two different senses.  In one sense, they are used in many disciplines and fields as primary means to creating a narrative, making meaning, or making cultural or policy critiques.  For example, in humanistic studies of education, such as philosophy of education and history of education, the interpretation of texts, events, human actions, narratives, and concepts forms the basis of research. In these or other cases, the analysis of language can play a central role.  In legal analysis in education, for example, the use of interpretive methods involves the analysis of case law, legislation, and administrative policy.  In cultural studies or discourse analysis in education, the interpretation of culture, practices and artifacts, or language itself plays a central role in studying social patterns of inclusion, exclusion, and the dynamics of power.  In some varieties of curriculum theory, the interpretation of textbooks and other materials plays a key role in explaining how society reflects judgments about knowledge and value in their curricular choices.  In the history of education, the interpretive research approach yields valuable insights regarding mastery of historical research methods (e.g., oral history, review of original source documents), but also in terms of knowledge about the major interpretive debates in the field that have shaped the scholarship and focus of historical research in education. 

    The Interpretive Research focus area: 

    1. Provides a foundation for students to be able to understand general methodological issues and problems in educational research;
    2. Includes basic course work in conceptual analysis, documentary and other kinds of discursive analysis, and epistemological analysis;
    3. Emphasizes coursework that connects method to disciplinary study;
    4. Helps students develop critical and interpretive tools to be used to analyze both the limitations of educational research itself and substantive problems in the field of educational policy and practice;
    5. Prepares students to interpret and analyze a variety of texts and other cultural artifacts, including but not limited to documents, curricula, discursive products, film, theory, policy, and law; and,
    6. Provides students with opportunities to develop skills they will use as independent researchers-either using interpretive methods alone or in conjunction with other research skills. 

    This focus area is most useful for students in humanistic disciplines (e.g., philosophy of education, history of education, curriculum theory, cultural or literary studies, or policy and legal analysis). 

    Coursework

    Foundational Methods Course (4 hours)

    All students will take the foundational methods course, Methods of Educational Inquiry (CI/EPOL/EPSY/SPED 550).  It is recommended that students take this introductory foundations course in their first year of the doctoral program.

    The following are recommended courses offered in the College of Education.  Other courses may be chosen but are subject to approval by the student's advisor.

    Basic Courses (4-8 hours)

    It is recommended that a student take a course from the following list and a basic quantitative course.

    • CI 509 Curriculum Research: QRM Qualitative Research Methodology
    • CI 509 Curriculum Research: AR Action Research
    • CI 519 Methods of Child Study
    • ERAM 551 Philosophy and Educational Research
    • ERAM 555 Ethnographic Methods in Education
    • ERAM 557 Meaning Patterns: Semiotics and the Interpretation of Meanings in Education and the Social Sciences
    • EPSY 577 Foundations of Qualitative Methods
    • EPSY 578 Qualitative Inquiry Methods

    Advanced Courses (8 hours)

    • CI 580 Qualitative Research in Language and Literacy Education
    • ERAM 570 Seminar in the History of Ed
    • ERAM 571 Traditions in Philosophy of Education
    • ERAM 572 Case Studies Professional Ethics and Education
    • ERAM 573 Cultural Studies and Critical Interpretation
    • ERAM 574 Educational Law
    • SPED 575 Mixed Methods Inquiry
    Qualitative Methodology Focus Area

    The field of qualitative research in education (also spoken of as ethnography, qualitative field study, case study, naturalistic research, and interpretive research) is extremely rich and diverse and encompasses several different versions of its aim and methods as influenced by the Chicago School of Sociology, the Verstehen tradition in sociology (including symbolic interactionism, ethnomethodology, ethnomusicology, the ethnography of communication, and other types of micro-ethnography), the ethnographic tradition in cultural anthropology and fieldwork sociology, and notions of educational connoisseurship and criticism. In addition, ideas drawn from philosophical hermeneutics, social constructionism, postmodern theory, feminist theory, and critical theory of society shape conceptions of qualitative research as a way of studying the social world.

    Some forms of qualitative research involve empirical investigation of the social world by means of field study or fieldwork employing the approach of participant observation.  Qualitative research as field study emphasizes observation in situ-that is, learning by means of a (relatively) sustained presence in a situation or setting and observing the goings-on there.  Moreover, participant observation is not merely a methodology but an epistemology: the inquirer-as-fieldworker assumes that immersion in, intimate familiarity with, and/or empathetic participation in the human action studied is necessary for grasping, understanding, and eventually portraying the meaning of social action.  

    Not all qualitative studies, however, are fieldwork in this traditional sense. In fact, some contemporary forms of qualitative research are actually quite critical of the traditional approach to fieldwork as participant observation. Some qualitative studies employ life history methodologies, examine the constitution and meaning of cultural artifacts, or focus on the constitution and operation of various discourse practices.

    Qualitative research offers an array of meaningful methodological frameworks for exploring a range of educational matters: e.g., examining the intersection of language, culture, and schooling; the relationship between schools and their communities; the formation and enactment of school and curricular reform and other policy initiatives, and so on.  Therefore, students aiming to develop a special focus in qualitative research must seek out opportunities to explore the use of qualitative research in investigating substantive issues in their particular field of interest (e.g., curriculum design, educational policy, language education, higher education, adolescent development).

     The Qualitative Research focus area is intended to help students develop: 

    1. Competence in understanding and addressing methodological, epistemological, ethical, and political issues that cut across the field of qualitative research (and across all of social science research, more generally).
    2. Competence in multiple means of generating, interpreting, and reporting qualitative data.
    3. Competence in locating/situating/linking the understandings and skills comprising (1) and (2) within an interpretive frame of reference (cultural anthropology; traditional naturalistic, Verstehen sociology; feminist epistemology; post-structural theory; critical theory of society, etc.

    Coursework

    Foundational Methods Course (4 hours)

    All students will take the foundational methods course, Methods of Educational Inquiry (CI/EPOL/EPSY/SPED 550).  It is recommended that students take this introductory foundations course in their first year of the doctoral program.

    The following are recommended courses offered in the College of Education.  Other courses may be chosen but are subject to approval by the student's advisor.

    Basic Courses (4-8 hours)

    It is recommended that a student take a course from the following list and a basic quantitative course.

    • CI 509 Curriculum Research: QRM Qualitative Research Methodology
    • CI 509 Curriculum Research: AR Action Research
    • CI 519 Methods of Child Study
    • ERAM 551 Philosophy and Educational Research
    • ERAM 555 Ethnographic Methods in Education
    • ERAM 556 Program Evaluation
    • EPSY 577 Foundations of Qualitative Methods
    • EPSY 578 Qualitative Inquiry Methods

    Advanced Courses (8 hours)

    • CI 537 Discourse in STEM Classrooms
    • CI 538 Qualitative Analysis of Video Data
    • CI 552 Qualitative Writing
    • CI 562 Linguistics in the School Curriculum
    • CI 580 Qualitative Research in Language and Literacy Education
    • SPED 575 Mixed Methods Inquiry
    • ERAM 575 Action Research and Educational Leadership
    • ERAM 576 Discourse Analysis
    Quantitative Methodology Focus Area

    Expertise in the design, analysis and interpretation of research employing quantitative techniques underlies a substantial portion of educational research.  The purpose of this research methodology is to provide a programmatic approach to developing scholarly expertise in quantitative methodologies.

    The area of quantitative methodology has the following purposes: 

    1. To provide a foundation for students to be able to interpret and judge the appropriateness of quantitative aspects of educational research;
    2. To prepare students to conduct quantitative analyses, to articulate the methodology employed, and to interpret and discuss the meaning of the results in lucid discourse; 
    3. To help students understand the strengths and limitations of quantitative methodology;
    4. To help students develop a quantitative research base by becoming familiar with journals and seminal sources of research methodology; and, 
    5. To build a base upon which students can independently extend their knowledge and expertise in quantitative methods as demanded by their own research.

    The Quantitative Research focus area enables the student to further specialize in one of three sub areas of quantitative methodology: 

    1. Statistical and/or quantitative analysis and appropriate interpretation of data collected through experimental or quasi-experimental research. 
    2. The development and psychometric analysis of measurement instruments.
    3. The design of experiments.

    Coursework

    Foundational Methods Course (4 hours)

     All students will take the foundational methods course, Methods of Educational Inquiry (CI/EPOL/EPSY/SPED 550).  It is recommended that students take this introductory foundations course in their first year of the doctoral program.

    Basic Courses (8 hours)

    If a course is not offered when the student needs it, courses across departments can be taken (e.g. PSYC 506 followed by EPSY 581) and are subject to approval by the student's advisor.

    The student must take 8 basic research hours. The student must demonstrate a basic level of statistical knowledge by satisfactorily completing either: 

    EPSY 580 Statistical Inference in Education AND
    EPSY 581 Applied Regression Analysis

    OR

    PSYC 506 Statistical Methods I AND PSYC 507 Statistical Methods II

    OR

    STAT 400 Statistics and Probability AND STAT 425 Applied Regression and Design

    Advanced Courses (8 hours)

    The student must demonstrate expertise in a sub area by satisfactorily completing a minimum of 8 hours from one of the following specializations: 

    Statistical/Quantitative Analysis Methodology

    • CI 539 Educational Data Mining
    • EPSY 574 Quasi-Experimental Design
    • EPSY 582 Advanced Statistical Methods
    • EPSY 584/PSYC 594/SOC 584 Multivar Analysis in Psych and Ed
    • EPSY 587 Hierarchical Linear Models
    • EPSY 588 Covar Structure and Factor Models
    • EPSY 589 Categorical Data in Ed Psych 
    • SPED 575 Mixed Methods Inquiry
    • STAT 426 Sampling and Categorical Data or EPSY 589 Categorical Data in Ed Psych (Credit is not given for both STAT 426 and EPSY 589.)

    Measurement Methodology

    • EPSY 585/PSYC 595 Theories of Measurement, 1
    • EPSY 586/PSYC 596 Theories of Measurement, 2
    • PSYC 490 Measurement and Test Development Lab
    • PSYC 509 Psych Scaling: Multidimensional Methods 

    Experimental Methodology

    • EPSY 574 Quasi-experimental design
    • EPSY 582 Advanced Statistical Methods
    • SPED 583 Case Experimental Design 
    Mixed Methods Focus Area

    Mixed methods research in education provides an in-depth, flexible approach to examining a world where interdisciplinary research is exceedingly more commonplace. It enables researchers to combine qualitative and quantitative approaches to design rigorous research for a nuanced understanding of complex phenomena (Creswell & Clark, 2011). Mixed methods research engages multiple paradigms, methodological traditions, modes of data collection, and analysis techniques (Greene, 2007) and is particularly appropriate in areas of social science research that translates to real-world application and/or policy, such as education, politics, technology, race, and more. 

    Mixed methods researchers can ask and answer research questions that a single method research study may not be able address. Researchers in this area collect and analyze both qualitative and quantitative data rigorously and in a contextually appropriate manner. Additionally, researchers can adopt mixed methods to combine research across fields, theories and worldviews.  Mixed methods can be applied in a single research study or in multiple phases of a research.

    Students in this specialization will:

    1. Understand the methodological, epistemological, ethical, and political issues underpinning mixed methods research, and more generally, social science research;
    2. Design rigorous mixed methods studies that are guided by the research questions, and that are contextually appropriate and socio-culturally responsive;
    3. Articulate the methodology employed, conduct and assess mixed analyses, and interpret and report the meaning of the results;
    4. Identify the strengths and limitations of mixed methods;
    5. Interpret and judge the appropriateness of basic quantitative and qualitative aspects for mixed method study.
    6. Build knowledge and skills from which they can independently extend their use of mixed methods as demanded by their own research as well as by the current evolution of social needs.
    7. Familiarize themselves with journals and seminal sources of research methodology.

    Coursework

    The Mixed Methods focus area requires 20 hours of course work (4 hours in Foundations and 16 hours of additional coursework, as distributed below).

    Foundational Methods Course (4 hours)

    All students will take the foundational methods course, Methods of Educational Inquiry (CI/EPOL/EPSY/SPED 550). It is strongly recommended that students take this course in their first year of the doctoral program.

    Focus Area Courses (16 hours)

    The following are recommended courses offered in the College of Education.  Other courses may be chosen but are subject to approval by the student's advisor. 

    Students will also take the following three courses. It is strongly recommended that students take EPSY 578 and EPSY 580 before EPSY 575.

    • EPSY 577 Foundations of Qualitative Methods or EPSY 578 Qualitative Inquiry Methods
    • EPSY 580 Statistical Inference in Education
    • EPSY/SPED 575 Mixed Methods Inquiry

    Additionally, students will take one course from the following list:

    • CI 509 Curriculum Research: QRM Research Methodology
    • CI 509 Curriculum Research: Action Research
    • ERAM 556 Program Evaluation
    • EPSY 471 Introduction to Evaluation Method
    Process

    In collaboration with their advisor, the student must develop and annually maintain a Research Area Plan.  Discussions should center around why the student has chosen the focus area and the ways in which it is expected to contribute to the student’s doctoral research and future career plans.

    Since courses may change from the original plan due to course offerings, the student will provide an updated Research Area plan during each annual Evaluation of Academic Progress. The advisor will approve the plan as part of their evaluation process.

    Research area coursework must be satisfactorily completed before the student can submit a request for the preliminary examination. The Graduate Student Services Office will confirm the milestone has been completed upon receipt of the committee request form.

    If there is a problem related to the research requirement process, the student can choose to appeal to the Director of Graduate Studies at the department level. More information on the grievance process can be found in the Grievance Policy and Procedures section of the handbook.

    Early Research Project

    All Ph.D. students shall conduct and present an educational research study by the end of their third full year in their graduate programs. This research should be undertaken with the expectation that it will contribute to knowledge in the area of the student’s Ph.D. program. In addition, an important objective of the Early Research Project 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.

    Early Research Project Requirements

    By the end of the first full year of doctoral study, or soon thereafter, all Ph.D. students should consult with their advisors about the formation of an Early Research Project (ERP) committee consisting of the advisor and two other faculty members. ERP committee members should be members of faculty who have been admitted to the Graduate College. With the approval of the head or chair of a department, up to one member of the committee may be approved from outside the university. 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 their committee a written and oral report on the early research project. For the work to satisfy the ERP requirement for the Ph.D., all three members of the committee must approve and sign the ERP form. The completed Early Research Project form must be filed with the Graduate Student Services Office.

    A student who has completed a master’s thesis as part of earlier graduate work may, upon the advice of their advisor, present that research as the ERP. After hearing the presentation, the ERP Committee may accept the written and oral report as satisfying the early research requirement, or may recommend that the work 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 their advisor the possibility of forming the ERP 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 ERP. Students should begin the approval process eight weeks prior to the ERP. 

    Qualifying Examinations

    The Qualifying Examinations are written comprehensive examinations administered to doctoral students near the completion of their course work and Early Research Project.  The Early Research Project must be filed in the Graduate Student Services Office prior to scheduling Qualifying Examinations.

    Purposes of the qualifying examinations in the College of Education include:

    1. assessment of the student's breadth in the discipline and depth in areas of interest
    2. provision of an opportunity to explore, make connections, and integrate content in the discipline
    Types

    General Field Qualifying Exam

    Each Ph.D. student will take a General Field Examination covering the field of study embraced by the home department or division. General Field Exam questions will be developed as per each department's internal procedures. General Field Exams will be evaluated by a faculty committee that is determined as per each department's internal procedures. 

    Special Field Qualifying Exam 

    All Ph.D. students 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 student, will also determine the format of the examination and select at least two additional faculty readers with expertise in the field being examined.

    Formats

    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 as well as the expectations of the advisor and Department. The three formats are:

    1. 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).
    2. 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 student, with the approval of the advisor, writes the exam at a place of their 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 or program area).
    3. 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.
    Process
    1. Student will confer with advisor to determine exam format, dates, and readers.  Readers should be contacted prior to submission of the Qualifying Examination Information Form to determine availability.
    2. Student will submit the Qualifying Examination Information Form prior to beginning exam
    3. Staff in the Graduate Student Services Office will confirm dates and reader agreements.
    4. For a take home format:
      • Advisor will email the question(s) no less than three days prior to the first date of the exam to the Graduate Student Services Office, unless prior arrangements are made.
      • The Graduate Student Services Office will email question(s) to the student, unless prior arrangements are made.
      • Students will submit their qualifying exam via email to the Graduate Student Services Office by 5 pm on the deadline date.
      • The Graduate Student Services Office will send the exam and evaluation form to the faculty readers.
      • Faculty readers will have 2 weeks to submit their evaluations unless prior arrangements are made.
      • The Graduate Student Services Office will notify the student and advisor of passing exam results, including comments.  If revisions are required, the Graduate Student Services Office will contact the advisor and the advisor will work with the student and readers to determine revision requirements and deadlines. 
      • A copy of the exam and reader comments will be placed in the student’s file.
    5. For an on-site or portfolio format:
      • The Graduate Student Services Office will schedule a room once the Qualifying Examination Information Form has been received.
      • Following the exam, the readers of the exam will be notified to complete the evaluation form.
      • The Graduate Student Services Office will notify the student and advisor of the exam results.
      • A copy of the exam and exam results will be placed in the student’s file.
    Evaluation

    To pass the examination, the student must receive excellent or satisfactory ratings from all faculty readers on each of the General Field and Special Field exams. There are three possible ratings for all sections of the qualifying exams.

    1. Excellent doctoral work. This rating is given for excellent doctoral work. If more than fifty percent of a student's ratings are excellent, the student is given a letter of special commendation by the department head/chair.
    2. Satisfactory doctoral work. This rating is given for work that demonstrates competence expected of advanced students in the field.
    3. Unsatisfactory doctoral work. This rating is given for exam papers that may range from work with significant gaps in knowledge to work that is completely unsatisfactory. Depending on the nature of the unsatisfactory evaluation, a faculty reader will have three recommendation options for an unsatisfactory paper:
      • Unsatisfactory doctoral work - revision of original exam required: The recommendation that the student be given an opportunity for revision of the unsatisfactory portion(s) of the exam paper. This rating is given for work that demonstrates competence but requires significant revisions in content and/or the development of ideas to be considered satisfactory as a doctoral examination.
      • Unsatisfactory doctoral work - rewrite with new question required:  The recommendation that the student be given an entirely new exam question for a complete rewrite of the exam paper. This rating is given for work that the committee member does not consider well-developed to the degree that revisions alone could lead to a satisfactory outcome.
      • Unsatisfactory doctoral work - student fails exam

    If the examination is rated "unsatisfactory" by any member(s) of the committee, the member(s) making that evaluation shall communicate the major deficiencies to the student and make a collective decision as to the format and scope of the revised or new examination, if applicable. All faculty readers who rated the first exam "unsatisfactory" will evaluate the revised exam.  A satisfactory or excellent rating must be awarded by all readers for the student to pass the revised examination, and should one or more readers judge the second exam unsatisfactory, the readers shall meet to review the student's performance. If extenuating circumstances exist that warrant a third attempt, the advisor may request approval from the department head/chair or designee. Students shall normally be permitted two attempts to pass each of the qualifying examinations.

    Promptness of Evaluations

    Students should 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.

    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's academic file.
    Questions and Problems The first person a student should consult concerning the qualifying exams is their 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 Graduate Programs. Normal grievance procedures can be used (see Grievance Policy and Procedures 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.

    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.

    Preliminary 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 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 prelim. 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 committee chair must be on the tenure-track at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign or have active tenure status awarded by the Graduate College after retirement or resignation that includes graduate faculty membership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 
    • At least one member must be from outside the student’s field of specialization and the budgetary department of the student and advisor.  If the student is a member of the Education Policy, Organization and Leadership department, at least one member must be from outside the graduate concentration of the student and advisor in place of the budgetary department.

    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 Graduate Student Services Office who will then submit it to the College of Education Associate Dean for Graduate 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.

    Preliminary Exam Expectations and Results

    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 (PER) form from the Graduate Student Services Office before the examination and returns the form immediately after the examination. All voting members must sign the PER.

    Decisions of the prelim committee must be unanimous. The committee may make one of the following decisions:

    1. Pass the student.
    2. Fail the student. 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.
    3. Defer the decision. If this option is chosen:
      1. the same committee must re-examine the student,
      2. the second exam must occur within 180 calendar days of the date of first exam, and
      3. 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.

    Preliminary Exam Registration The Graduate College requires that all doctoral students be registered for the entire academic term during which they take the prelim. Additional Information on registration requirements can be found on the Graduate College web site under Requirements and Policies for Doctoral Degree.

    Dissertation

    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 coursework is completed and before the time limits are reached.

    Dissertation Editorial Style and Format

    The dissertation must be prepared using one of the following commonly accepted editorial styles:

    • American Psychological Association. (2019). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
    • Harvard Law Review Association. (2020). The bluebook: A uniform system of citation (21st ed.). Cambridge, MA: Author.
    • Modern Language Association. (2021). MLA handbook for writers of research papers (9th ed.). New York, NY: Author.
    • Turabian, K. L. (2016). A manual for writers of term papers, theses, and dissertations (9th ed.). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
    • University of Chicago. (2017). The Chicago manual of style (17th 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 Graduate 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.

    Dissertation Abstract

    Abstracts for dissertations in the College of Education must include a synopsis of the following information to fully describe the completed study:

    1. The problem and its theoretical and educational significance.
    2. The research design and/or approach employed (include where appropriate descriptions of subjects and methods).
    3. An overview of the results.
    4. Conclusions, recommendations, and/or implications.

    Final Examination

    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 Graduate Student Services Office.

    Final Examination Committee

    Students (also known as "candidates" at this stage) should begin appointing the committee and scheduling the final examination (final) 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 committee chair must be on the tenure-track at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign or have active tenure status awarded by the Graduate College after retirement or resignation that includes graduate faculty membership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
    • At least one member must be from outside the candidate's field of specialization and the budgetary department of the student and chair.  If the student is a member of the Education Policy, Organization and Leadership department, at least one member must be from outside the graduate concentration of the candidate and advisor in place of the budgetary department.

    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 Graduate Student Services Office who will then submit it to the College of Education Associate Dean for Graduate 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.

    Final Examination Expectations and Results

    The final is a public event to be conducted in a room that will accommodate the candidate, the committee, and any attendees. The public may not ask questions or give input during the examination.

    The candidate 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, candidate, 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 (FER) form and the Thesis/Dissertation Approval (TDA) form from 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. 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 not required. Decisions of the committee for the final are recorded on the FER 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 FER form if revisions are required. The committee will sign the TDA form after the completion of the examination and the completion of any required revisions.
    • Fail the candidate. The candidate fails the final if the Director(s) 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 candidate will only be allowed to take the final examination one additional time while working toward the completion of any one program of study. 

    Final Examination Registration The Graduate College requires that all doctoral candidates be registered for the entire academic term during which they take the final. Additional Information on registration requirements can be found on the Graduate College web site under Requirements and Policies for Doctoral Degree.
    Dissertation Deposit

    After the passing the final, 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:

    1. Chair and dissertation committee,
    2. Head/Chair of department/program or authorized signatory, and
    3. 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 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.

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