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Ph.D. Calendar

  • Prior to your acceptance as a candidate for the Ph.D. degree, you should plan to remove any deficiencies noted as a condition of admission. You should plan your total program, which includes designated areas in communication and proposed work outside the department. The subject area for the dissertation ordinarily is discussed at the time of the candidacy examination.
  • Prior to completion of 12 credit hours of graduate work beyond the M.A., and not later than your second semester of full-time study in the Ph.D. program, you will take a candidacy examination. This is an oral examination conducted by three or four members of the department's graduate faculty and a graduate faculty representative of your outside field(s). The purpose of this examination is three-fold: (a) to determine whether you have achieved a level of learning and understanding sufficient to justify formal acceptance as a doctoral candidate; (b) to discover what further study is required to bring you to the competency required for the degree you seek; and (c) to secure approval of a program of course work and independent study required to achieve the competencies you need to have to qualify you to conduct the dissertation research you are considering, as well as later in your academic and profession life. The particulars of each doctoral candidate's program of study and research are defined on the basis of the candidacy examination. You must complete all requirements for the Ph.D. degree within eight years of your acceptance as a candidate.
  • Prior to the candidacy examination, you will prepare in writing, and in consultation with your adviser, a statement concerning (a) why you seek the Ph.D. degree, (b) your background of studies including a list of relevant courses already taken and pertinent experience, (c) your proposed program of further study that includes courses you intend to take, and (d) the general area of research you propose for your dissertation. Provided that the candidacy examination leads to your acceptance as a candidate, you will prepare, in consultation with your adviser and your committee, a document outlining the form and content areas of your comprehensive exams. After your admission to candidacy and consultation with you, your adviser will recommend to the department Head or Graduate Officer the membership of your committee (See Graduate Student Committee Procedures: Assuming endorsement, the department Head or Graduate Officer will then recommend that the Dean of the Graduate School appoint your committee. Changes in the composition of the committee require the concurrence of the department Head or Graduate Officer and should be requested only in such instances as departure of existing members from the faculty, significant alteration in a previously approved program of study, the need for particular expertise not possessed by extant members, and irreconcilable personal differences unrelated to the quality of the candidate’s academic performance. Since the Graduate School appoints Ph.D. committees, only it has the authority to approve changes in their membership.

NOTE: No student seeking the Ph.D. degree will be admitted to candidacy before the completion of his or her master's degree, nor is progression to the Ph.D. program automatic. M.A. candidates should not be taking course work toward the Ph.D. degree prior to completion of the M.A. degree requirements or prior to advancement to the Ph.D. program.

  • Beginning in academic year 2009-2010, within the first year of study, allincoming graduate students at The Pennsylvania State are required to complete aninstructional sequence relating to scholarship and research integrity. Entering M.A. and Ph.D. students are required to complete in their first semester two non-credit on-linecourses that the Graduate School offers in the Fall semester. One course is under theheading of “Human Subjects Research,” and the other “Responsible Conduct of Research.”  Each student will receive more information concerning enrollment and the content of thetwo courses, and the required date of completion, before the beginning of the Fallsemester. Ph.D. students will also take part in five additional hours of instructionconcerning the responsible conduct of research and research integrity that the Departmentordinarily provides in four seventy-five minute sessions over a two-week period. Thesesessions, if at all possible, will also take place during the Fall semester, but may insome circumstances continue into the Spring semester. M.A. students who advance to thePh.D. Program be required to take this instruction in their first year as doctoralstudents, but will not have to retake the online courses in Human Subjects Research and the Responsible Conduct of Research.
  • Following your acceptance as a doctoral candidate, the department expects that you will take such course work as you and your committee have agreed on, pass the courses necessary to complete the requirements appropriate to your degree program, pursue independent reading in the areas of your specialization, and familiarize yourself with the principal professional journals in communication and related fields. The department urges you to become a member of state, regional, national, and international professional organizations and will assist, as far as it can, in making it possible for you to attend the conventions of such professional associations. The department expects the period of doctoral study to be devoted not simply to formal study, but also to apprentice participation in the professional enterprises of your chosen academic field.
  • When your required course work is complete, you will, with the approval of your adviser and committee members, schedule a comprehensive examination.
  • The comprehensive examination may consist of fourteen to sixteen hours of responding to questions from your committee “in house,” or it may involve writing research papers over a specified period of time in response to questions from your committee. The character and content areas of the written portion of your comprehensive exam will be determined by your committee immediately following your admission to candidacy. Shortly after the written examinations are completed, you will be given an oral examination by the members of your committee.

In general, the comprehensive examination covers in depth the areas of your specialization and your outside field of study. The examination always includes questions designed to determine your competency to interpret theoretical postulates and research findings in your area of specialization and your preparation to do research of the sort you have proposed. Questions will also cover three or four areas related to your principal subject of study. The areas covered in the examination should reflect your overall program of study and will be specified in a document prepared by you and your committee at the time of your admission to candidacy. For example, if you specialize in public address, four hours of the comprehensive examination might be devoted to the history of public address, two or three hours to contemporary public address, two or three hours to rhetorical theory and criticism, and two hours to communication theory. From two to four hours would be devoted to questions on the outside field. It is the responsibility of the committee chair to review questions submitted by committee members in advance of the exam to insure that they conform to the plan agreed upon at the time of your admission to candidacy.

Comprehensive examinations traditionally have been written “in house,” although exceptions to this rule are now common. In-house comprehensive examinations are ordinarily scheduled during the second full week of classes in the fall semester and the first full week of April for spring semester.

You must be registered for the semester in which you take comprehensives.  This also includes summer session if you receive an exception to schedule comprehensives during that time.

Following the oral portion of your comprehensive examination, your committee will decide by majority vote whether you have passed, failed, or are to be given an opportunity to take all or part of the examination again, under specified conditions, at a specified date. Failure by two or more members of the committee constitutes a non-pass, regardless of committee size.

NOTE:In preparation for the comprehensive examination, candidates may freely examine the file of questions prepared for such examinations, which may be secured from the departmental secretary. Of course, these questions are merely examples. New questions are prepared for every examination.

  • After successful completion of the comprehensive examination, you should present to your committee a "research proposal" for the dissertation. This proposal will be evaluated, possibly edited, and then accepted, modified, or rejected following a two-hour oral examination of the proposal conducted by the committee. Upon receiving approval of one’s proposal, work on the dissertation should, of course, proceed with all deliberate speed.
  • The defense draft of your dissertation must be circulated to all members of the advisory committee and prior to its being typed in final form a minimum of two weeks in advance of the oral defense. The defense will be devoted chiefly to the dissertation but may cover any subject on which you are presumed to be competent. When the dissertation is approved by the committee, it should be put into final form. Follow the instructions in the Graduate School Thesis Guide, which is available online at:

When your dissertation has received official approval, you must deliver the original copy to the Graduate School , a bound copy to the departmental office for the departmental library, and—as a professional courtesy—a bound copy to your adviser. 

Policy for Completion of Thesis/Dissertation Revisions following Defense Meeting

  • Students are expected to complete revisions to a successfully defended thesis or dissertation and have them submitted to the advisor within 60 calendar days following the defense meeting. Failure to complete revisions in this timeframe may adversely affect the student's teaching opportunities, which may include, but are not limited to, continuing education, world campus, and resident instruction.
  • The defense normally commences with queries by committee members concerning the dissertation. However, it may take any form the committee feels is most appropriate to enable it to reach a sound judgment concerning a candidate's qualifications for conferral of the Ph.D. degree.
  • Signatory Page

    A signed signatory page with the original signatures needs to be submitted to the Office of Theses and Dissertations at 115 Kern, University Park, PA 16802 and is retained by the Graduate School (see examples in Appendix A). The signatures on the signatory page indicate that the thesis/dissertation is approved as a complete and final work requiring no further alteration. This page is required for approval of the thesis/dissertation by the Office of Theses and Dissertations.