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Requirements for Graduate Degrees

Page Contents and Index:

 The Doctoral Degree
Prerequisites for Admission
Minimum Requirements
Guidance Committee
Plan of Study
Change in Guidance Committee
Research Skills
-----Foreign Language
-----Computer Science
Candidacy Examination
Dissertation Committee
Change in Dissertation Committee
Admission to Candidacy
Dissertation Preparation
Oral Dissertation Defense
Time Limits
Dissertation Load Registration
Departmental/Program Requirements

The Doctoral Degree

The Doctor of Philosophy is the highest degree offered by the University. A Doctor of Psychology is offered through the Virginia Consortium for Professional Psychology. Programs leading to the Ph.D. are designed to help superior students develop the capability to become creative leaders in their chosen fields. The degree is awarded upon mastery of the subject area, the development of appropriate research skills, and a concentration of knowledge in the field of specialization.

It is important to recognize that the attainment of this degree is not a matter of accumulating course credits and satisfying residency and language or research skill requirements, even though minimum requirements for these categories are set forth by the University. The final basis for granting the degree shall be the candidate's knowledge of the field of study and his or her demonstrated ability to do independent, original, scholarly research.

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Prerequisites for Admission. Work for the doctoral degree is usually based on the completion of an appropriate master's degree from a recognized, accredited college or university. The applicant must complete the appropriate application for admission, submit official transcripts of all college or university-level work, and supply two letters of recommendation from former professors, one of whom must be from the institution granting the master's degree. Baccalaureate and post-baccalaureate work must reflect superior performance. An applicant who meets these prerequisites and receives a recommendation from a departmental, school or college committee is admitted as a preliminary doctoral candidate.

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Minimum Requirements. Minimum degree requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy, which must be considered in preparing the preliminary plan of study, are:

  • satisfactory completion of at least 48 semester hours of postmaster's or equivalent level of performance course work, including the dissertation;
  • the passing of a written and oral diagnostic examination during the first semester or before the completion of nine semester hours in the doctoral program;
  • demonstrated competency in research skills as required by the specific graduate program;
  • the passing of a written and oral candidacy examination at the end of the program of course work;
  • the completion of a dissertation representing independent, original research worthy of publication in a refereed scholarly journal; and
  • the successful oral defense of the dissertation before an appropriately selected committee of faculty knowledgeable in the field of the project.

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Guidance Committee. After receiving admission to a doctoral program and enrolling, the student consults with the appropriate graduate program director about initial course work. Before completion of nine semester hours, the graduate program director, in consultation with the student, will propose a faculty member for appointment as chair of the guidance committee. The chair must be a regular member of the faculty certified for graduate instruction. The chair, in consultation with the student, will select nominees for the remainder of the guidance committee.

The committee will consist of enough faculty members to provide guidance to the individual's particular plan of work; there must be at least two members from the major area and at least one representative of each minor area, and the minimum size of the committee must be three regular members of the faculty. All members must be approved graduate faculty. When a minor is not designated, the guidance committee will include at least one person from outside the discipline of the major. Each committee functions as a University committee, as contrasted with departmental committee, in order to bring University-wide standards to bear upon the various doctoral degrees.

In some cases, the professional experience of nonregular graduate faculty members may be sought for the guidance committee. Such specialists holding adjunct rank with approval for graduate instruction may be appointed to the committee. Where the doctoral research may require the guidance of a specialist, an adjunct faculty member may be approved as co-chair of the committee. In all cases, the committee must be chaired by a regular member of the faculty approved for graduate research supervision and contain at least three regular faculty.

The proposed composition of the guidance committee will be reported to the dean of the college offering the program (who is an ex officio member of all guidance committees) by means of the Ph.D. Guidance Committee form (Graduate Form 13) for approval. When approved, the chair of the guidance committee will notify the members of the committee of their appointment.

The guidance committee is responsible for administering the written and oral parts of the candidacy examination. The committee continues to serve until the latter has been passed and the dissertation committee formed. The committee is responsible for guiding and directing the academic program of the student during this period and for initiating all academic actions concerning the student. The guidance committee, as a group and as individual members, is responsible for consulting the student on academic matters and, in the case of academic deficiency, initiating recommendations to the appropriate program director and dean of the college responsible for the major area and to the associate vice president for research, economic development and graduate studies, if necessary. The committee shall evaluate continually the student's performance. The committee may insist on more than the minimum scholastic requirements and may take other factors into account in deciding on whether or not the student should continue the degree program. The guidance committee shall inform periodically the appropriate graduate program director and dean of the college responsible for the major area concerning the candidate's progress.

Through the candidacy examination, the student's guidance committee should be satisfied that the student has demonstrated the following qualifications:

  • mastery of the subject matter of all fields in the program; and
  • adequate knowledge of the literature in these fields and the powers of bibliographical criticism.

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Residence. Students who enter a doctoral program should be prepared to devote the equivalent of two years of full-time study beyond the master's level. Students who wish to pursue a part of their doctoral study on a part-time basis may do so, but they must spend two semesters (preferably consecutively, but not necessarily so unless stipulated by the department, school or college) engaged in full-time graduate study (in residence if so stipulated by the department or college), unencumbered by the demands of outside employment. An essential feature of doctoral study is the provision of total concentration on the field of study for significant periods of time. Special waivers of the residency requirements may be obtained for dissertation research being performed at approved off-campus facilities.

Upon the recommendation of the dissertation committee and approval of the graduate program director and the college dean, a student may be permitted to carry on work in connection with the dissertation in absentia.

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Plan of Study. Before completion of nine semester hours, the student shall prepare a plan of study with the aid and approval of the guidance committee. The plan of study should also be approved by the graduate program director to ensure that it meets established requirements. Failure to present the plan on time may prolong the period of study for the degree. Before drawing up and approving the plan the graduate program director should verify that there is on file a set of transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate work the student has taken. When appropriate, a diagnostic examination may also be used in developing a plan of study.

Courses elected shall be consistent with the student's objectives and related to the fields of specialization for the degree. Most plans of study consist mainly of courses at the 800 level. While there are no specific course requirements for the doctorate, plans shall contain at least 24 credits of graduate work beyond the master's degree (or equivalent requirement), exclusive of Ph.D. dissertation work. The plan shall designate any foreign languages in which the student is to be tested and any courses comprising research skills or a related or supporting area. The plan also may include the dissertation topic and a prospectus of the proposed research when possible. The successful completion of all work indicated on the approved plan of study is a fundamental prerequisite to the granting of the degree.

Course work beyond the master's level taken elsewhere will be accepted as a part of the 24-hour-credit requirement only rarely and may not exceed twelve credit hours; acceptance can be given only by the student's guidance committee.

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Change in Guidance Committee. Changes must be made in advance of the candidacy examination using Graduate Form 14 (Request for Change in Ph.D. Guidance Committee). Informal substitutions for either the written or oral part of the candidacy examination are not permitted. Changes in the committee are permitted between the written and oral portions of the examination only with the approval of the graduate program director and the dean of the college. The examination must be scheduled at times when it is possible for all members of the committee to participate. Changes made in the guidance committee without prior approval are not recognized.

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Research Skills. Specific skill requirements vary with programs. Traditionally, a reading knowledge of one or more foreign languages has been required; more recently a demonstrated proficiency in computer science or quantitative methodology has been introduced. Some programs have found it appropriate to regard formal training in ancillary areas as providing the doctoral student with appropriate research skills. Program skill requirements do, however, reflect the University's expectations of one or more significant skills distinct from the dissertation but fundamental to doctoral and postdoctoral research.

Under University policy, each academic program leading to the Doctor of Philosophy establishes its own requirements for research skills. Responsibility for the level of competency, the nature of validating the competencies, and the standards utilized in the evaluation rests with the department that offers the program. Descriptions of individual programs should be consulted for appropriate regulations and procedures. Information about schedules of examination, standards, and general procedures is available from all departments and graduate program directors.

Because foreign language and computer science competencies are the most commonly used research skills, the formal procedures that have been established for demonstration of these competencies are listed here for guidance.

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Foreign Language

1 . Depending upon the program, a foreign language requirement may be met in one or more of the following ways:

a. by local examination constructed, administered, and evaluated by the student's major department;
b. by completion of an appropriate Graduate School Foreign Language Test of the Educational Testing Service (ETS), available in French, German, Russian, and Spanish;
c. by local examination conducted by the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, in which case the requirement is for a B or better at Old Dominion University in appropriate French, German, or Russian courses

2. Unless otherwise specified by the department, there is no limit on the number of times a graduate student may take a language examination.

3. English may not be used to satisfy a foreign language requirement.

4. With the approval of the major department, a foreign student may present his or her native language in meeting a requirement for one foreign language.

5. In programs in which the ETS examination is an authorized option, the passing score varies by department and may not be lower than 500. Consult individual program descriptions for additional requirements.

6. In the programs in which the ETS examination is an authorized option, a score on an ETS test taken prior to admission to a program may be accepted as satisfying a foreign language requirement at the discretion of the department.

7. The limit of time between the satisfaction of a foreign language requirement and admission to candidacy for a graduate degree is at the discretion of the department.

8. A graduate student may not be required to take a language course; however, a student may be encouraged to audit or take a regular or specifically designed language course if this seems to be the best way to build a language competence to the desired level.

9. Official designees of a department may certify the language competence of candidates for advanced degrees who have completed graduate study in the language or who otherwise present superior qualifications in the language. This evaluation will be accepted in place of the required examination upon proper substantiation. This authorization may include acceptance of a foreign language requirement completed at another college or university within five years prior to acceptance in the program.

10. Successful completion of a foreign language requirement is recorded on a graduate student's transcript. Examinations failed are not recorded on the transcript.

11. The language requirement must be met no later than 60 days before the candidacy examination is attempted. For specific information, the student should consult the appropriate department, school or college.

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Computer Science

Establishment of competence in computer science as a research skill requirement.

1 . a demonstrated proficiency in a commonly used programming language in the discipline area; and

2. the design of at least one original program on a problem relevant to the field of study.

The first requirement above may be met either by passing a departmentally developed and administered examination or by satisfactorily completing an appropriate course in computer science.

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Candidacy Examination. The examination qualifying a student for candidacy for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy is comprehensive in nature, partly written and partly oral, and designed, at least in part, to test the student's fitness to undertake independent research. Before taking the qualifying examination, the student must meet the appropriate departmental, school and college requirements and have the recommendation of the guidance committee. The examination is taken near the end of the course program. Research skills requirements should be met well in advance. The candidacy examination is usually taken during the semester in which the last formal graduate courses listed in the study plan are taken.

In order to be eligible to take the candidacy examination, the student must have achieved a grade point average of at least 3.00 on all course work completed. In addition, this average must be attained on all graduate residence units and on all combined transferred and residence units.

When the student and the guidance committee have determined that the examination should be taken, the student should obtain a Request for Permission to Take the Ph.D. Candidacy Examination (Graduate Form 15) no later than two weeks before the date of the examination. The student should secure the signatures of the guidance committee and submit the form to the graduate program director, who will verify that the student meets the prerequisites for the candidacy examination. The examination must be taken during the semester in which permission is granted. The examination may be scheduled at any time during the semester, provided that all members of the guidance committee are available to administer it. The graduate program director should be consulted on the schedule of this examination. All portions of the examination must be completed within one month. Once permission has been granted, postponement of the examination must have the approval of the graduate program director.

The written examination is prepared first and read by the guidance committee. The candidate is to be examined in the several areas of the major and minor fields, not merely in the special field of concentration.

After successful completion of the written examination, an oral examination is given covering in-depth topics discussed in the written examination and possible additional materials. The fact that a student has done well on the written examination does not mean that the oral examination is to be a pro forma exercise. The oral examination is a serious and integral part of the qualifying procedure.

A student must pass both the written and oral sections. More than one negative vote from the guidance committee on either part constitutes a failure for that section of the candidacy examination. The student has two opportunities to pass the written portion, which must be passed before the oral part may be taken. A student who passes the written portion on the first try need not repeat that part in the event of failing the oral portion. A failed written part must be retaken successfully after six months, but within one year, while a failed oral portion, which may also be attempted a second time, must be taken within one month of the first attempt.

No part of a candidacy examination can be passed conditionally. A pass cannot be made contingent upon doing extra courses, additional projects, etc.

The chair of the student's guidance committee will report, in writing, to the graduate program director and the dean the results of the examination. In the report, the guidance committee, through the chair, must also make recommendations regarding admission to candidacy.

After the required oral and written candidacy examination for the doctoral degree has been passed, all remaining requirements for the degree must be completed within five calendar years; if not, the student will be required to repeat the candidacy examination.

Students must be registered in any semester in which they are scheduled to appear for the examination.

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Dissertation Committee. After the candidacy examination has been passed and the dissertation committee formed, the guidance committee's responsibilities are completed. The dissertation committee is a new committee and is formed to supervise the dissertation research. The committee must have approval of the graduate program director and the college dean using Graduate Form 16 (Ph.D. Dissertation Committee). The committee should have at least three members; one member must be from outside the major department. The chair of the guidance committee may become the director of the dissertation committee. The director must be certified for graduate instruction and be an authority in the field of specialization of the proposed dissertation. Membership may be extended to a nonuniversity person with special knowledge of the dissertation subject area. Voting privileges can be provided such specialists upon the recommendation of the chair and approval of the graduate program director and the college dean. Adjunct faculty members who are certified for graduate instruction may be appointed as voting members of the committee upon the recommendation of the director of the dissertation committee and approval of the graduate program director and the college dean. The associate vice president for research, economic development and graduate studies is an ex officio member of all dissertation committees. The dissertation and the final oral defense of the dissertation must have the majority approval of the dissertation committee.

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Change in Dissertation Committee. Changes must be made in advance of the oral dissertation defense. Changes made in the dissertation committee are made only with the approval of the graduate program director and the college dean.

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Admission to Candidacy. Admission to candidacy is a formal step that occurs after the student has:

  • passed the Ph.D. candidacy examination in both its parts,
  • filed a dissertation proposal approved by the dissertation committee, and
  • completed formal course work.

The student must be admitted to candidacy at least 12 months before the time the degree is expected to be received, but usually not before the completion of one and a half years of graduate work.

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Dissertation Preparation. General regulations and procedures governing the submission of a doctoral dissertation are given in the Guide for Preparation of Theses and Dissertations. Full information, including detailed procedures and qualifications for undertaking a doctoral dissertation, is available in the student's major department and should be obtained by the student and the dissertation advisor at the beginning of the planning for research and writing of a dissertation.  Further information on thesis guidelines and deadlines can be found at http://www.eng.odu.edu/eng/resourcesfor/students/grad_students/thesis.shtml.

After approval of the dissertation proposal, the chair of the dissertation committee shall recommend the student's admission to candidacy to the graduate program director and the dean.

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Oral Dissertation Defense. The format of a defense is determined by the dissertation committee with the approval of the graduate program director. The defense is chaired by the chair of the dissertation committee. The chair will act as moderator, ruling on questions of procedure and protocol that may arise during the defense. The chair of the defense represents the college dean, to whom he or she makes a complete and prompt report on the defense.

The aim of the defense is to explore with the candidate the methodological and substantive contributions of the already approved dissertation. In this way, the candidate and examiners reach a more extensive insight into the candidate's research area. Majority approval by the examiners constitutes successful completion of the defense of the dissertation, and is so reported by the defense chair to the associate vice president for research, economic development and graduate studies. In case of failure, the dissertation committee may recommend that the candidate be dropped or be allowed re-examination no earlier than three months after the first examination.

The final oral dissertation defense is scheduled for the time and place approved in the request for the dissertation defense. A two-week lead time is required for scheduling. This information is published in the appropriate University news media. The oral dissertation defense is open to the University community; all interested members are encouraged to attend the examination.

Satisfactory performance on this examination and adherence to the regulations outlined above complete the requirements for the degree. Graduate Form 6 (Thesis/Dissertation Acceptance and Processing) and Graduate Form 11 must be submitted to the Office of the Registrar with the completed dissertation upon completion of requirements for the degree.

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Time Limits. All requirements for a doctoral degree must be completed within eight calendar years from the date of beginning the initial course following admission to the doctoral program. Exceptions to these time limits must be approved by the graduate program director, the college dean, and the associate vice president for research, economic development and graduate studies. Students whose graduate study is interrupted for military service will be granted an extension of time for the period of their military service, not to exceed five years.

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Dissertation Load Registration. All doctoral students are required to be registered for an appropriate number of dissertation units (minimum of one unit it the Candidacy Examination has been completed successfully and the dissertation is the only remaining requirement) during each semester and summer session after completion of the full-time study requirement (admission to candidacy). In addition, doctoral students must:

  • be actively engaged in research or writing leading to the completion of the dissertation, or
  • be making use of academic resources (e.g., faculty advisement, library, Computer Center, etc.).

A candidate who finds it necessary to be excused from registration for a semester must report formally, before the beginning of the semester, to the dissertation committee and the graduate program director and request by petition a leave of absence. During a leave of absence, the candidate will not be entitled to assistance from the dissertation committee or to the use of University facilities. The granting of leave of absence does not change the candidate's responsibility for meeting the time schedule for the completion of degree requirements. Leave will be granted only under exceptional circumstances.

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Departmental/Program Requirements

The requirements and regulations set forth above are to be construed as the minimal requirements established by the University. Students are also obligated to meet all additional requirements established by the appropriate graduate program.

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