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Doctoral Sequence

Doctoral Sequence

The milestone-markers of a student’s progress toward the Ph.D. in Educational Studies are the Qualifying Examination, the Advisory Conference, the General Examination, the Prospectus Hearing, and the Dissertation Defense.

Qualifying Examination

As of August 2010, all new doctoral students must complete a Qualifying Examination after completing their ninth credit hour and before completing their fifteenth credit hour. No student may convene an Advisory Conference without satisfactory completion of the Qualifying Examination. The full-time graduate program faculty will be the Examining Committee.

Students will complete this as a sit-down examination in January, May, or August. The examination will require each student to read two short texts from the field (chosen by the committee) and then to write a clear, coherent scholarly essay that responds to the two texts or otherwise utilizes them, accurately and appropriately referencing knowledge from studies completed thus far, to make an interpretive, critical, or normative argument for a thesis of the student’s own construction.

Advisory Conference

The Advisory Conference is the first meeting of the doctoral student’s appointed Advisory Committee. Members of the Advisory Committee are student’s own chosen educators, who will help tailor the doctoral program to her or his own stated professional purposes. The primary purpose of the Advisory Conference is to establish the Advisory Committee’s approval for the doctoral student’s Program of Study and Residency Plan. Another purpose of the Advisory Conference is to clarify for the whole Advisory Committee the student’s academic background, research interests, and professional experience and aims as well as the relevant pedagogical/advisory purpose of each member in relation to the student’s developing doctoral research plan.

A Graduate College faculty member in Educational Studies (EDS) must chair an EDS doctoral student’s Advisory Committee. If an EDS doctoral student’s Program of Study includes a second major, the Advisory Committee must be co-chaired by a Graduate College faculty member from the field of the second major. Every Advisory Committee consists of five Graduate College faculty members (including the Chair) appointed by the doctoral student in consultation with the Advisory Committee Chair (and Co-Chair) whom the student has chosen. The EDS Program, Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies (ELPS), and the Graduate College have established policies concerning the composition of any Advisory Committee, as follows.

Every EDS Advisory Committee must include no fewer than two Graduate College faculty members (including Chair) in EDS and at least one more Graduate College faculty member from any program in the ELPS Department—Adult & Higher Education (EDAH), or Educational Administration, Curriculum & Supervision (EACS), or EDS itself. One member of an EDS Advisory Committee may be Graduate College faculty from outside the ELPS Department, perhaps even from outside the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education, as educationally relevant to the doctoral student’s identified minor or second major. This committee member will be appointed to the specific role of “Outside Member,” whose officially designated purpose is to ensure the Advisory Committee’s justice to the doctoral student. We encourage students that their Advisory Committee should include one Graduate College faculty member from outside the ELPS Department, perhaps even from outside the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education, to serve as Outside Member, consistently throughout the student’s doctoral studies. The Outside Member’s attendance in person is required at every meeting of the Advisory Committee, including the Advisory Conference, General Examination, Prospectus Hearing, and Dissertation Defense. Please visit the Graduate College website for more information regarding committees as well as other deadlines.

Within those guidelines, EDS doctoral students are strongly advised to consider carefully their selection of Advisory Committee members, by reading prospective members’ published scholarship and research, taking their courses, engaging them in extended conversations and/or directed readings about mutual scholarly interests, and discerning what the pedagogical purpose of each Advisory Committee member can and should be. Advisory Committee members (other than designated Outside Members) can only be expected to advise doctoral students based on the research specialties they know, practice, and teach.

Because of that pragmatic limitation upon the pedagogical purpose each Advisory Committee member may serve, later changes in Advisory Committee membership may necessitate changes also in the student’s Program of Study and Residency Plan, perhaps even revision of the student’s research specialty, lengthening the time needed to complete the Ph.D. If a student’s doctoral research interests and professional aims change, then the Advisory Committee may require a change of membership that reflects the needed change in pedagogical purpose, but in such a case the new Advisory Committee may need to meet for another Advisory Conference to revise the Program of Study and Residency Plan to suit the student’s new interests and aims. Graduate College regulations concerning maximum time allowed for degree completion remain applicable in such delay situations, however.

For all these pragmatic reasons, the appointment of the EDS Advisory Committee requires a student’s early thoughtful deliberation with the selected Chair (and Co-Chair), based upon the student’s own exploration of interests and possibilities, clarification of aims and questions, and investigation of available resources and faculty guidance. Such prudent preparation for the EDS Advisory Conference is crucial.

General Examination

The General Examination process will have five parts: (1) the Residency Portfolio, (2) a Preparatory Meeting, (3) at least two Essays, (4) a Preliminary Dissertation Prospectus, and (5) an Oral Examination.

The Advisory Committee will convene with the student to establish the student’s readiness to stand for the General Examination and to plan it. Two weeks before that Preparatory Meeting, the student will submit to the committee the completed Residency Portfolio, which the Advisory Committee will evaluate to determine the student’s readiness to stand for the General Examination.

At the Preparatory Meeting, the student will present for the Advisory Committee’s review (and possible revision) reading lists in the major and minor (or second major) emphases of the student’s program of study. The Advisory Committee will then construct essay questions based upon the approved major and minor reading lists, which will be administered as a sit-down examination to be defended orally afterwards. Upon the Advisory Committee’s specific direction, the sit-down examination may be administered as questions received cold or prepared in advance, as essays to be written with or without some book(s) and/or notes at hand.

In addition to the Exam Essays, the student will be required to present two weeks in advance of the Oral Examination preliminary Prospectus for the intended dissertation (approximately 10-15 double-spaced pages). This Preliminary Prospectus should identify the inquiry problem as well as the existing scholarship related to it and suggest possible approaches to the inquiry and possible primary sources for it. A defensible Preliminary Prospectus will set forth a clear and significant question or problem for original inquiry, possible means to pursue it, and adequate theoretical grounding.

The Oral Examination will address the student’s knowledge of the texts on the approved major and minor reading lists and on the Preliminary Prospectus bibliography as well as the student’s Sit-down Essays and Preliminary Prospectus. The Oral Examination will take place within six weeks after completion of defensible Sit-down Essays, per the Advisory Committee’s judgment of defensibility. The Oral Examination may conclude with the Advisory Committee’s requirement that the student revise the Preliminary Prospectus and/or one or more Sit-down Essays in order to establish the student’s satisfactory completion of the General Examination as a whole. In the case of an unacceptable Sit-down Essay or an unacceptable Preliminary Prospectus, the student will be required to answer a new question based on the same reading list and subject emphasis or to rewrite the Preliminary Prospectus. Should the second effort be unacceptable also, the student will not be admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D.

Prospectus Hearing

Following satisfactory completion of the General Examination, the candidate will make use of Advisory Committee responses to the Preliminary Prospectus to develop it further, into a detailed, defensible dissertation plan. For this purpose, the candidate will enroll either in the Prospectus Development course (EACS/EDAH 6970) or the Inquiry Design tutorial (EDS 6033), or both, per the Advisory Committee’s guidance. This is, typically, the most challenging phase of doctoral study—the most significantly educative phase as well—because it requires scholarly discipline, dialogue, ingenuity, and persistence. There is no neat recipe for construction of a dissertation in Educational Studies; every doctoral candidate in this field must design her or his own purposeful inquiry, to make a dissertation defensible in the judgment of the entire Advisory Committee.

In addition to standard academic conventions governing various genres of educational inquiry, however, specific proposal guidelines from foundations that may fund the research, IRB policies, and other such formal pragmatic constraints may figure in an Advisory Committee’s judgment of a plan’s defensibility—as appropriate to each doctoral candidate’s individual case. Generally a detailed dissertation plan—regardless of the inquiry genre—defines the question(s) or problem(s) upon which the inquiry will focus, theorizes the inquiry’s purposeful significance and perspective, situates the inquiry within both relevant theoretical scholarship and practical educational contexts, explains rationales for the primary/data sources selected and study techniques to be deployed, describes those techniques in sufficient detail to guide the forthcoming independent effort, outlines the final product, provides a thorough working bibliography, and proposes a reasonable timeline for completion of the work. One prospectus may vary in length and format from others even as it includes all those inquiry-design components. But every good Educational Studies prospectus presents a clear, coherent, credible, and feasible plan for completion of a dissertation whose interpretive, critical, and/or normative inquiry has some purposeful significance for education.

The candidate must work with all members of the Advisory Committee, as appropriate, over drafts and revisions of relevant parts of the prospectus to maximize the clarity, coherence, credibility, significance, and feasibility of the proposed dissertation plan. Typically, each member of the student’s Advisory Committee will advise the candidate over one or more specific aspects of the prospectus development, as appropriate to their own scholarly specialties, although the Advisory Committee Chair or Co-Chairs will advise with regard to clear, coherent, credible, significant, and feasible construction of the purposeful whole. The Prospectus Hearing will not take place until all members of the Advisory Committee have approved the prospectus draft as defensible. Reading copies of that draft must be submitted to the Advisory Committee four weeks in advance of the proposed Prospectus Hearing date, which will then be affirmed or denied by the Advisory Committee within two weeks.

At the Prospectus Hearing the doctoral candidate will make a brief oral presentation of the proposed dissertation plan and then respond to Advisory Committee queries and recommendations, concerning the proposed dissertation plan. The Prospectus Hearing will conclude with the Advisory Committee’s approvalconditional approval, or withheld approval of the dissertation plan, and with mutual agreement specifically concerning further guidance expected to be necessary or helpful during the candidate’s independent pursuit of the planned inquiry. In the case of approval, the Advisory Committee affirms that this draft is indeed the final prospectus expected to guide completion of the dissertation itself. In the case of conditional approval, the Advisory Committee will provide the doctoral candidate a signed statement that stipulates specific revisions of the prospectus draft upon which their approval of its finality for that purpose depends. In the case of an Advisory Committee’s withheld approval of the proposed dissertation plan, the candidate will be required to rework the proposal draft for presentation at another Prospectus Hearing. A Satisfactory Prospectus Hearing must take place at least four months and no more than five years before the Dissertation Defense, but typically will take place 6-12 months before the Dissertation Defense.

Dissertation Defense

Following approval of the dissertation prospectus, the doctoral candidate proceeds to work independently on the proposed inquiry, following the approved dissertation plan, and consulting Advisory Committee members as specifically agreed at the Prospectus Hearing or seeking their guidance over unforeseen difficulties posed by the plan itself. The candidate should expect and allow reasonable time for reworking the dissertation draft in parts or whole before the Advisory Committee Chair judges the dissertation draft defensible fulfillment of the plan that the Advisory Committee approved at the Prospectus Hearing. When the Chair(in consultation with Advisory Committee members as specified at the Prospectus Hearing) judges the draft defensible against that criterion, the candidate will submit reading copies of that final dissertation draft to all members of the Advisory Committee one full month in advance of the Dissertation Defense. Two weeks before the Dissertation Defense, the Advisory Committee Chair will publish the candidate’s dissertation abstract, along with the defense date and the candidate’s CV, to all faculty and students in the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education. The Dissertation Defense will be open to all. At the Dissertation Defense the candidate will make a brief oral presentation of the completed inquiry and then respond to Advisory Committee queries, as well as questions and comments from others in attendance, concerning the inquiry: a good Dissertation Defense becomes a lengthy, lively seminar discussion.

The Dissertation Defense will conclude with the Advisory Committee’s approvalconditional approval, or withheld approval of the dissertation. In the case of approval, the Advisory Committee affirms that this draft is indeed the final dissertation, ready for copying, binding, and formal submission to the University without further revision beyond minor copy-editing. In the case of conditional approval, the Advisory Committee will provide the candidate a signed statement that stipulates specific revisions of the dissertation draft to be made within 90days, upon which their approval of its finality depends. In the case of an Advisory Committee’s withheld approval of the dissertation, the candidate will be required to rework the dissertation draft for presentation at another Dissertation Defense.