Policies Governing Doctoral Degree Programs

General Requirements

The doctor of philosophy degree is granted primarily for creative attainments. There is no rigid credit requirement; however, the equivalent of at least three years of full-time graduate work beyond the bachelor’s degree (at least 108 graduate credits) is required. Effective fall 2005, all graduate student programs of study submitted to the Graduate School must consist of, at a minimum, 50 percent graduate stand-alone courses. The remaining credits may be the 500 component of 400/500 slash courses.

After admission into the doctoral program, a minimum of one full-time academic year (at least 36 graduate credits) should be devoted to the preparation of the thesis. A minimum of 27 regular non-blanket credits must be included on a doctoral program.

By completing the requirements necessary for the PhD, students shall: (a) produce and defend an original significant contribution to knowledge; (b) demonstrate mastery of subject material; and (c) be able to conduct scholarly activities in an ethical manner. Additional program specific learning outcomes, the assessment of all outcomes and the specification of learning objectives related to these outcomes are to be carried out at the program level.

Graduate Program of Study

The student’s doctoral program of study is formulated and approved subject to departmental policies at a formal meeting of his or her doctoral committee. The committee is comprised of a minimum of five members of the graduate faculty, including two from the major department and a representative of the Graduate Council. If a minor is declared, it must consist of at least 18 credits (15 credits for an integrated minor) and the committee must include a member from the minor department. All committee members must be on the graduate faculty with appropriate authorization to serve on the student’s committee.

Doctoral students must complete the program of study in consultation with their advisory committee. This signed plan must be submitted to the Graduate School by the end of the fifth term of study.

The student must be registered for a minimum of 3 credits for the term in which the program meeting is held. When the program is approved by the doctoral committee, the departmental chair, and the dean of the Graduate School, it becomes the obligation of the student to complete the requirements as formulated. Changes in the program may be made by submitting a Petition for Change of Program form available in the Graduate School.

Selected 700-level courses that have been deemed equivalent to graduate-level learning may be used on doctoral programs of study upon approval of the student’s graduate committee.

No more than 15 credits of blanket-numbered courses, other than thesis, may be included in the minimum 108-credit program.

Students who wish to transfer credit must submit a Transfer Credit Request form before the end of their first year of study.

Time Limit

Effective beginning with students matriculating fall term 2016, all work toward a doctoral degree, including course work, thesis (if required), and all examinations, must be completed within nine years of the indicated start term on the Departmental Action Form. Extensions of this time limit may be requested by submitting a petition to the Graduate School.


For the doctoral degree, the residence requirement consists of two parts:
  1. a minimum of 36 graduate Oregon State University credits must be completed; and
  2. the student must spend at least three terms of full-time graduate academic work (at least 9 credits per term) on campus or at an off-campus site approved by the Graduate School. The latter requirement of three terms of full-time enrollment does not have to take place in consecutive terms.

Adequate fulfillment of the residence requirement shall be determined by the Graduate School.

Language Requirements

The foreign language requirement is determined by the student’s doctoral committee, subject to the same approval required for the graduate study program, and is so designated in the official doctoral program. Foreign language requirements must be completed before the oral preliminary examination.

Preliminary Examinations

The student working toward a doctoral degree must pass a comprehensive preliminary examination. The purpose of this exam is to determine the student’s understanding of his or her major and minor fields and also to assess the student’s capability for research. Students must enroll for a minimum of 3 credits during terms in which they undertake departmental written or oral preliminary examinations.

Written Comprehensive Examination

Most programs require a written comprehensive examination to be taken before the oral preliminary examination. If a written examination is required, it must be completed prior to the oral preliminary examination. The content, length, timing, passing standard, and repeatability of this examination are at the discretion of the major department. The general rules and structure of this examination, however, must be provided in writing to all candidates for this examination and a current copy of these guidelines must be on file with the Graduate School. Copies of the written examination (questions and student’s answers) must be available to all members of the student’s doctoral committee at least one week prior to the oral preliminary examination.

Oral Preliminary Examination

The oral preliminary examination is taken near the completion of the student’s course work. The oral examination is conducted by the student’s doctoral committee, and should cover the student’s knowledge in his or her major and minor subjects. The exam may cover the student’s proposed research topic, although no more than one-half the time should be devoted to specific aspects of the proposal. The examination should be scheduled for at least two hours, and the exam date must be scheduled in the Graduate School at least two weeks in advance. If more than one negative vote is recorded by the examining committee, the candidate will have failed the oral examination. No more than two re-examinations are permitted by the Graduate School, although academic units may allow fewer re-examinations.

At least one complete academic term must elapse between the time of the preliminary oral examination and the final oral examination. If more than five years elapse between these two examinations, the candidate will be required to take another preliminary oral examination.


Each candidate for the PhD degree must submit a thesis embodying the results of research and giving evidence of originality and ability in independent investigation. The thesis must be a real contribution to knowledge, based on the candidate’s own investigation. It must show a mastery of the literature of the subject and be written in creditable literary form. The preparation of an acceptable thesis will require at least one full-time academic year. The booklet, Thesis Guide: Preparing a Thesis or Dissertation at OSU, is available electronically on the Web at http://gradschool.oregonstate.edu/progress/thesis-guide.

The results from studies conducted using human subjects without obtaining Institutional Review Board approval shall not be used to satisfy master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation requirements. For more information, please send an email to irb@oregonstate.edu or visit the IRB website at http://research.oregonstate.edu/irb/

A formal thesis proposal meeting is recommended but not required by the Graduate School; however, it is required for some majors. This meeting should be held with the student’s doctoral committee prior to the start of any substantial doctoral thesis research.

When scheduling their final oral examinations, doctoral students are required to submit the pretext pages of their dissertations to the Graduate School at least two weeks prior to the final oral examination. Pretext pages include the abstract, copyright (optional), title page, approval page, acknowledgment page, contribution of authors, table of contents, list of figures, tables, appendices, dedication (optional), and preface (optional). It is expected that students will distribute examination copies of their thesis to all committee members, including the Graduate Council representative, sufficiently early to permit thorough review of the thesis prior to the student’s final oral examination.

Within six weeks after the final oral examination or before the first day of the following term, whichever comes first, upload one PDF copy of your thesis, without signatures, electronically to ScholarsArchive and submit the signed ETD submission approval form with a copy of the title page to the Graduate School. If final submission requirements are after the initial six-week period, the student may be subject to re-examination. Please refer to the Graduate School's website for complete details (http://gradschool.oregonstate.edu/progress/thesis-guide).

Signatures on the ETD submission approval form can be electronic, signed, scanned and emailed or faxed. The thesis will not be accepted for graduate requirements until it has received approval by the graduate dean, which the thesis editor will obtain.

Final Examination

After completion of or while concurrently registered for all work required by the program, the student must pass a final doctoral examination that may be written in part but must include an oral examination. The final oral examination must be scheduled in the Graduate School office at least two weeks prior to the date of the examination. All incomplete course work appearing on the program of study must be completed prior to scheduling the final oral examination.

The final oral examination consists of a public thesis defense followed by a closed session of the examining committee with the candidate. Under normal circumstances, the final oral examination should be scheduled for two hours.

All members of the student’s graduate committee must approve the scheduling of the final examination.

It is expected that the thesis defense portion of the final oral exam be open to all interested persons and should be limited to one hour. After the open portion of the exam, the examining committee should exclude all other persons and continue with the examination of the candidate’s knowledge of his or her field and the evaluation of the candidate’s performance.

If the department favors a more elaborate presentation, it should be scheduled as a separate seminar. In any case, the time involved for the open presentation may not impinge upon time required for the examining committee to conduct appropriate, iterative oral inquiry with the candidate, to evaluate the candidate’s performance, and to deliberate fully within the time constraints of the scheduled oral examination.

The examining committee consists of the student’s doctoral committee and any additional members, including professors from other institutions, whom the major department may recommend. In the oral examination, the candidate is expected to defend the thesis and show a satisfactory knowledge of his or her field. If more than one negative vote is recorded by the examining committee, the candidate will have failed the examination. No more than two re-examinations are permitted by the Graduate School, although academic units may permit fewer re-examinations.

The final oral examination must be taken within five years after the oral preliminary examination. If more than five years elapse, the candidate will be required to take another oral preliminary examination.

Doctor of Education Requirements

The EdD program is a degree program with a major in education. It is intended for the educational professional whose career path is that of educational or teaching specialist, administrator, or other practitioner in the public schools, postsecondary institutions of higher education, or in business and industry. Its focus is on the application of knowledge to learning and teaching environments in public and private settings. The EdD program is designed to prepare educational leaders in community college education, middle-level education, or related educational settings.

A masters' degree in education or a related field, or equivalent to a master's degree in postbaccalaureate course work is required for admission. In addition, the College of Education requires the following:

  1. minimum professional experience as defined by each program,
  2. letter or statement of professional objectives for doctoral study and area of specialization within education,
  3. three letters of recommendation, and
  4. either the Graduate Record Examination or the Miller Analogies Test.

Applicants to the EdD program must have significant experience in an education or education-related setting such as teaching, school administration, curriculum specialist, instructional specialist, child/youth counselor, supervisor; or in a setting where the primary function is education.

In general, the following requirements are in effect for the EdD:

  1. A minimum of 108 credits beyond the baccalaureate degree.
  2. Effective fall 2005, all graduate student programs of study submitted to the Graduate School must consist of, at a minimum, 50 percent graduate stand-alone courses. The remaining credits may be the 500 component of 400/500 slash courses.
  3. Completion of the same residence requirements as listed for the PhD degree.
  4. A dissertation of no less than 24 credits.
  5. A mentored internship in an appropriate work setting for a minimum of 12 credits.
  6. A minimum of 48 graduate credits in an area of specialty in education.
  7. Completion of 24 credits of core seminars.
  8. Completion of the core courses in research.

Procedures and requirements for preliminary and final examinations and thesis are the same as those for the doctor of philosophy degree.