Conventional PhD

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Four-Year PhD

The following guidelines apply to conventional four-year PhD and MS-to-PhD students.

Courses and Registration

In their first year, new four-year PhD students must take GEOG 500 in fall, 502 in spring, and GEOG 590 in both semesters. Students continuing from the MS have met these requirements. Four-year PhD candidates also are required to register and complete work in at least two graduate-level seminars (500-level) among those offered by the Department of Geography. At least one of the two seminars must be outside the field in which the student is working, e.g., if a student is specializing in human geography, then at least one of the courses must be in physical geography, geographic information science, or humanenvironment geography. (Note: the spirit of this requirement is not met by a human geographer taking a nature-society course on feminist political ecology or by a physical geographer taking a geographic information course on remote sensing of ice and snow.) Both seminars should carry at least three credits and result in a substantive paper. GEOG 500 and 502 do not meet this requirement.

This two-seminar requirement should be satisfied during the first four semesters of residence.

Beyond these courses, there are no formal course or seminar requirements for the doctorate, although PhD students are encouraged to take advanced courses in their area of study. Most students take both courses and seminars as part of their doctoral program, especially in preparation for comprehensive exams.

Students should register for research (600-level) credits when: preparing for candidacy and comprehensive exams; or writing or researching their MS projects (thesis or paper) or PhD dissertations.

  • GEOG 600 is for students in residence.
  • GEOG 610  is for MS students and pre-comprehensive exam PhD students working on research while off campus.
  • GEOG 601 is for  PhD students in residence who have passed their comprehensive exams.
  • GEOG 611 is for PhD students who have passed their comprehensive exams and are working on research while off campus.

GEOG 601 and GEOG 611  have a special PhD dissertation preparation rate that is a fraction of the normal tuition (currently it is 23 percent of the normal tuition).

Post-comprehensive PhD students are discouraged from taking courses that are not required for their degrees because they currently cost the Department approximately $700 per three credits.

Students must  seek permission from the Graduate Program Officer to take any course except 601/611 after passing the comprehensive exam.

PhD students must take at least 12 credits of GEOG 600/601/610/611, but no more than 12 credits of 600-level work can be assigned a letter grade. The remainder must be graded on an “R” research basis. Almost all full-time PhD students accumulate R-grade 600/601 credits. For grading purposes, please register in increments of 3 credits for GEOG 600/610. For example, a single semester’s transcript may look like this:

Course                                        Credits                                               Grade
GEOG 600                                        3                                                        A
GEOG 600                                        3                                                        A
GEOG 600                                        3                                                        R

 

For information on the doctoral candidacy committee and exam and next steps in the process, refer to the Doctoral Program Overview and Common Requirements section on candidacy.

Example Program for a Four-year PhD Student with Continous Half-time TA or RA Funding

YEAR 1

Fall Semester
[_] Attend Geography orientation the entire week before classes start; TAs attend TA workshop given by Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence
[_] Attend entry interview with entry committee on last day of orientation week
[_] Forms Due: student’s Summary and Adviser’s Report to Grad Staff Assistant
[_] Register for GEOG 500, 590, and additional credits before classes begin
[_] Select Adviser by Friday before Thanksgiving
[_] Form Due: 1. SELECTION OF ADVISER FORM
[_] Select two other candidacy committee members by last day of classes
[_] Form Due: 8. PROVISIONAL DOCTORAL CANDIDACY COMMITTEE FORM

Spring Semester
[_] Register for GEOG 502, 590 and additional credits before classes begin
[_] Complete annual progress report by January 31
[_] Form Due: 9. APPOINTMENT OF DOCTORAL CANDIDACY COMMITTEE FORM
[_] Form Due: 10. SCHEDULE DOCTORAL CANDIDACY EXAMINATION FORM
[_] Take candidacy exam; candidacy committee evaluates performance and also confirms progress on communications skills requirement
[_] Form Due: 11. ADVISER’S REPORT ON DOCTORAL CANDIDACY FORM
[_] Select doctoral committee

Summer Sessions
[_] Conduct pilot dissertation research

YEAR 2

Fall Semester
[_] Register for 9 to 12 credits before classes begin; most or all of these credits can be GEOG 600/610
[_] Meet with doctoral committee to confirm program plans
[_] Discuss comprehensive exam topics with each committee member

Late Fall Semester or Early Spring Semseter
[_] Present dissertation proposal to doctoral committee in formal meeting
[_] Form Due: 13. ADVISER’S REPORT ON DISSERTATION PROPOSAL MEETING FORM

Spring Semester
[_] Register for 9 to 12 credits; most or all of these credits can be GEOG 600/610
[_] Complete annual progress report by Jan. 31
[_] Schedule comprehensive exam
[_] Form Due: 14. SCHEDULE DOCTORAL COMPREHENSIVE EXAMINATIONS FORM
[_] Take comprehensive exam (4 days writing with oral exam one week to 10 days later);
[_] Form Due: Grad School evaluation form to Grad Staff Assistant

Summer Sessions
[_] Conduct dissertation research

YEAR 3

Fall Semester
[_] Register for 9 to 12 credits before classes begin
[_] Meet with doctoral committee to discuss dissertation progress and plans
[_] Form Due: 15. ADVISER’S REPORT ON FIRST POST-COMPS DOCTORAL COMMITTEE MEETING FORM
[_] Continue research as necessary

Spring Semester
[_] Register for 9 to 12 credits before classes begin
[_] Continue research as necessary

Summer Sessions
[_] Conduct dissertation research

YEAR 4

Fall Semester
[_] Register for 9 to 12 credits before classes begin
[_] Meet with doctoral committee before October 15 to discuss dissertation progress and plans
[_] Form Due: 16. ADVISER’S REPORT ON SECOND POST-COMPS DOCTORAL COMMITTEE MEETING FORM
[_] Continue research as necessary
[_] Start writing dissertation

Confirm Graduate School deadlines at:
http://www.gradsch.psu.edu/calendar/gradcal.html

Spring Semester
[_] Register for 9 to 12 credits before classes begin
[_] Activate intent to graduate by middle of January
[_] Complete annual progress report by Jan. 31
[_] Finish writing dissertation
[_] Submit partial draft of dissertation to graduate school for format review
[_] Get agreement from Adviser and committee that dissertation defense may be scheduled (Adviser and usually all committee members have read drafts); and schedule defense
[_] Form Due: 17. SCHEDULE DOCTORAL DEFENSE EXAMINATION FORM
[_] Present completely finished dissertation to committee two weeks before defense (all figures, appendices, etc.)
[_] Announce defense one week before scheduled date (email to all grads and faculty)
[_] Defend dissertation; Grad School evaluation form to Grad Staff Assistant
[_] Make revisions and submit final dissertation with all signatures to Department Head to read and sign in first week of April
[_] Submit final dissertation to Grad School in middle of April
[_] Submit bound copy of dissertation to Department
[_] Attend Graduate School commencement at end of finals week in May