Iowa State University

Iowa State University

2007-2009 Courses and Programs

Iowa State University Catalog

Search for classes offered this term

Catalog Index

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

The Graduate College

Doctor of Philosophy

General Requirements

The degree doctor of philosophy is strongly research oriented. The primary requirements for the degree are: (1) high attainment and proficiency of the candidate in his or her chosen field, (2) development of a dissertation which is a significant contribution to knowledge and which shows independent and creative thought and work, and (3) successful passing of detailed examinations over the field of the candidate’s major work, with a satisfactory showing of preparation in related courses. General requirements for Ph.D. candidates follow.

The Graduate College Handbook outlines the general requirements for completion of a graduate degree at ISU. Faculty in a major field have the responsibility for establishing educational objectives for their graduate program, including specific course requirements and research requirements appropriate to the master’s or Ph.D. programs in the major. These requirements may place additional responsibilities on the student, the major professor, or the student’s program of study (POS) committee beyond those listed in the Graduate College Handbook as deemed appropriate to the goals fo the major program.

Faculty and graduate students are active participants in the academic programs of Iowa State University. As active participants, they have a collective impact on the success of those programs and of the university in fulfilling its mission. Each graduate program is encouraged to implement a mechanism for responding to feedback from graduate students as a valuable resource for continuing improvement.

Appointment of the Student’s Program of Study (POS) Committee. The POS committee for a doctoral program consists of at least five members of the graduate faculty. It must include at least three members, including the major professor, from within the student’s major or program. The committee must include member(s) from different fields of emphasis so as to ensure diversity of perspectives. A term member of the graduate faculty may participate in the direction of a student’s dissertation research as a co-major professor if a member of the graduate faculty serves as a co-major professor and jointly accepts responsibility for direction of the dissertation.

Changes to POS committee. Recommendations for changes in the POS committee must have the approval of the student, major professor, DOGE, and all committee members involved in the change (committee members who are on Faculty Professional Development Assignments, retired, or resigned do not have to sign) before seeking approval of the Graduate College. A form to seek approval is available in program offices or on the web at These changes must be approved by the Dean of the Graduate College before the preliminary or final oral examination is held. For more information on changes to the committee and to the Program of Study, see the Graduate College Handbook.

Program of Study. The student and the major professor develop the program of study with the consultation and approval of the POS committee. Early selection of a major professor, appointment of a POS committee, and development of a program of study are very important. It is recommended that the committee be formed as early as the second semester of graduate study. In no case can the committee be formed later than the term before the preliminary oral examination.

Credits. A minimum of 72 graduate credits must be earned for a Ph.D. degree. At least 36 graduate credits, including all dissertation research credits, must be earned at Iowa State University. At least 24 of these credits must be earned during two consecutive semesters or during a continuous period including two semesters and a summer session while in residence at the university. (This requirement does not apply to doctoral students who are employed more than half time at ISU). There is no specific university requirement regarding the number of credits to be taken inside or outside the major/program.

Transfer Credits. At the discretion of the POS committee, and with the approval of the program and the Graduate College, graduate credits earned as a graduate student at another institution or through a distance education program offered by another institution may be transferred if the grade was B or better. Such courses must have been acceptable toward an advanced degree at that institution and must have been taught by individuals having graduate faculty status at that institution. If a student wishes to transfer credits from graduate courses taken at or through another university as an undergraduate student, it is that student’s responsibility to provide verification by letter from that institution that those graduate courses were not taken to satisfy undergraduate requirements for a degree.

A transcript must accompany the POS in order to transfer credits. The POS committee may ask for other materials, such as a course outline or accreditation of the institution, to evaluate the course. Transfer courses not completed when the POS is submitted must be completed before the term in which the student graduates. A transcript must then be submitted for review and final approval.

Research credits earned at another institution are generally not transferred. In rare circumstances, the transfer of S or P marks may be accepted for research credits only. It is the responsibility of the POS committee to obtain a letter from the responsible faculty member at the other institution stating that research credits recommended for transfer with S or P marks are considered to be worthy of a B grade or better.

Residency. At least 24 semester credits must be earned during two consecutive semesters or during a continuous period including two semesters and a summer session. This requirement does not apply to doctoral students who are employed at least half-time by Iowa State University and government laboratories located in Ames. Of the 72 graduate credits required for a Ph.D. at least 36 credits, including all dissertation research credits, must be earned under the supervision of the student’s POS committee.

Major. A major is the area of study or academic concentration in which a student chooses to qualify for the award of a graduate degree. Majors are listed at the end of this section of the bulletin. Opportunities also exist for majoring in more than one area of study (co-major or joint major programs).

Minor. Students may request a minor in any program approved to grant a graduate degree and in programs approved to offer only a minor. Requirements for declared minors are determined by the minor program and the faculty member representing the minor field on the student’s POS committee. The minor subject area must be tested at the preliminary oral and final oral examinations. A minor cannot be added to a program of study after the preliminary oral examination has been taken, nor can a minor be placed on the transcript after graduation, unless it was approved on the program of study, listed on all examination reports, and recorded on the “Application for Graduation” form (diploma slip). A student may not minor and major in the same field. A minor cannot be added to a degree that has already been awarded.

Time Limits. A student beginning a Ph.D. degree program at Iowa State with a master’s degree from another institution is expected to complete the Ph.D. within five years, while a student beginning a Ph.D. degree program without the master’s degree is expected to complete the program within seven years. If warranted, the Program of Study (POS) Committee may request by letter that the Dean of the Graduate College extend these time limits. Cases in which the student leaves Iowa State during his or her graduate career and later returns are dealt with individually by the student’s program of study committee and the Graduate College. The inclusion in the program of study of coursework that is beyond the time limits (“over-age” courses) must be justified by the POS committee in a statement accompanying the submission of the program of study.

Preliminary Examination. The Graduate College requires a preliminary oral examination of Ph.D. degree students; most programs add a written portion to the preliminary oral examination. The Ph.D. degree preliminary oral examination rigorously tests a graduate student’s knowledge of major, minor, and supporting subject areas as well as the student’s ability to analyze, organize, and present subject matter relevant to the field. A “Request for Preliminary Examination” form must be submitted to the Graduate College by the major professor at least two weeks before the proposed date of the examination.

The following conditions should be met before the “Request for Preliminary Examination” form is submitted to the Graduate College: admitted to full admission status in a Ph.D. granting program, approved “Recommendation for Committee Appointment” form, approved POS form, English requirement met, not on probation, time limit not exceeded, qualifying examination (if required by program) passed, and registration for at least the equivalent of 2 credits, or for the R-credit course GR ST 600 (Examination Only) if no course work is needed, during the term in which the preliminary oral examination is taken. (Taking only an R-credit course where the fee is not equivalent to the 2-credit minimum charge is not acceptable for the term of the preliminary oral examination.)

A preliminary oral examination will not be scheduled for a student on provisional or restricted admission or on academic probation. Upon successful completion of the preliminary oral examination, the student is admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. If the graduate student fails all or part of the preliminary oral examination, the committee provides two options: gives a not pass and allows the student to retake the examination after six months or gives a not pass and does not allow the student to retake the examination. Six months must elapse between the first attempt and the next. The entire POS committee must be convened for the preliminary oral examination. The preliminary oral examination must be passed at least six months prior to the final oral examination. An exception to the rule is allowed if a request, signed by the entire POS committee, is approved by the Dean of the Graduate College.

Application for Graduation. Application for graduation should be made by the end of the first week of the semester (fall or spring) in which the student expects to receive the degree, or by the last day of the spring semester if graduation is planned during summer session. To apply for graduation, the student is required to submit to the Graduate College a signed “Application for Graduation” form, available in the program office or on the web at forms.html. Before submitting this form, a student must have submitted and had approved by the Graduate College a “Recommendation for Committee Appointment” form and a “Program of Study” form. Also the student must have been fully admitted to a program and have met the Graduate English requirement. Graduation may be delayed if the “Application for Graduation” form filing deadline is not met. If it becomes apparent that a student cannot graduate during the indicated term, he/she should call the Graduate College (515-294-4531) and cancel the previously submitted “Application for Graduation” form. The student must then file a new form for the next planned term of graduation.

Dissertation. A doctoral dissertation must demonstrate conclusively the ability of the author to conceive, design, conduct, and interpret independent, original, and creative research. It must attempt to describe significant original contributions to the advancement of knowledge and must demonstrate the ability to organize, analyze, and interpret data. In most instances, a dissertation includes a statement of purpose, a review of pertinent literature, a presentation of methodology and results obtained, and a critical interpretation of conclusions in relation to the findings of others. When appropriate, it involves a defense of objectives, design, and analytical procedures. Dissertation research should be worthy of publication and should appear in appropriate professional journals or in book form.

Responsibility for writing and editing of the dissertation rests with the student, under the supervision of the major professor, and not with the Graduate College. The Graduate College does not permit joint authorship of dissertations. It is the responsibility of the major professor to supervise the preparation of preliminary and final drafts of the dissertation, so as to assure the highest level of quality when the student presents the dissertation to the committee for final approval. Copies of the dissertation must be submitted to the POS committee at least two weeks before the final oral examination.

Starting Fall 2006, all theses and dissertations will be submitted electronically after the final oral examination is held. Please browse the Graduate College’s web site ( for new requirements, revised fees, and other pertinent information.

Shortly after the submission of the “Application for Graduation” form, a one-time, nonrefundable thesis fee is billed by the university accounting system. In addition, a graduate fee will be assessed by the Registrar’s Office. This fee is nonrefundable if a student does not cancel his/her graduation by the Graduate College’s cancellation deadline.

Final Oral Examination. The Ph.D. final oral examination, conducted after the dissertation is finished, is oral and often limited to a defense of the dissertation. To receive the degree at the end of a given semester, the student must hold the final oral examination before the final oral examination deadline for the semester.

The candidate is responsible for initiating the “Request for Final Oral Examination” form, which must be submitted to the Graduate College at least three weeks before the examination. This form can be obtained only from the student’s program/department. The entire POS committee must be convened for the final oral examination. For more information on the final oral examination, see the Graduate College Handbook.

Graduate Student Approval Slip for Graduation. Every candidate for an advanced degree is required to complete a “Graduate Student Approval Slip for Graduation” form. It is sent to the major professor or program to give to the student after the “Request for Final Examination” form is received and approved by the Graduate College. Signatures are required by the major program, the Graduate College Thesis specialist, and the Graduate College. Final clearance of academic requirements will be made when current term grades have been submitted and evaluated by the Graduate College.

All incompletes from previous terms must be completed by the deadline for completion of the Graduate

Student Approval Slip. An incomplete or non-report grade that a student receives for the term of graduation will result in removal from that term’s graduation list. The student will need to complete a new Application for Graduation and Graduate Student Approval Slip for the new term of graduation. If a conditional pass was recommended at the final oral examination, the major professor and the committee members, if so specified, must notify the Graduate College in writing no later than the due date for the Graduate Student Approval Slip for the term of graduation that the conditions have been met.

Graduate College Grading
Graduate Admission Degree Requirements-Masters
Graduate Study Master's Double Degree Programs
Registration-Audit Courses Graduate Majors
Information for Undergraduates Graduate Certificate Programs
Concurrent Programs Specific Master's Degrees