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Requirements for the Doctoral Degree

General Statement

The doctoral degree is granted in recognition of (1) scholarly proficiency and (2) distinctive achievement in a specific field of an academic discipline. The first component is demonstrated by successful completion of advanced coursework (of both a didactic and an unstructured nature) and by adequate performance on the comprehensive examination. Traditionally, the student demonstrates the second component by independently performing original research. In certain doctoral programs, a major project undertaking may be acceptable even though it may not be of a traditional research nature. However, in all programs, with the exception of DPT, a dissertation is required, presenting the results of the student’s independent study.

The Graduate School also recognizes professional doctorates awarded in preparation for the autonomous practice of a profession. Professional doctorates are accredited programs of study designed to prepare students for the delivery of clinical services. Students in professional doctorate programs must demonstrate competence in clinical practice and scholarship but are not required to conduct and defend original independent research. In lieu of a dissertation, students in programs designated as professional doctorates are required to demonstrate that they are capable of evaluating existing research, applying it to their professional practice, and expanding the body of knowledge on which their professional practice is based. This requirement is met by the design and conduct of a research or scholarly project submitted in writing and presented formally before the members of the program.

Faculty Advisor

Immediately after a degree-seeking student enters the UAB Graduate School, a member of the faculty of the graduate program to which the student has been admitted should be assigned to serve as the student’s advisor. This assignment may be a temporary arrangement. The student and the advisor should confer about the initial courses and any special work to be taken on the basis of the student’s previous experience and the requirements of the graduate program.

Graduate Study Committee

As soon as possible, a graduate study committee should be formed to guide the student in a program of courses, seminars, and independent study designed to meet the student’s needs and to satisfy program and Graduate School requirements. This committee should consist of at least five graduate faculty members, two of whom should be from outside the student’s graduate specialization and each of whom should be able to bring some relevant insight and expertise to guide the student.

Recommendations for graduate study committee members are submitted by the advisor and the student to the program director, who subsequently submits these recommendations to the Graduate School dean. Graduate study committee appointments are made by the Graduate School dean, who is an ex officio member of all graduate study committees.

Changes to this committee must also be submitted online on the appropriate form at http://www.uab.edu/graduate/online-forms.

Transfer of Credit

Previously earned graduate credit that has not been applied toward another degree (either at UAB or elsewhere) is eligible for transfer into the student’s current degree program. Ordinarily, no more than 12 semester hours of transfer credit can be applied to a degree program. Acceptance of more than 12 hours will require approval by the program director, department chair, and Graduate School dean. All transfers must be initiated by the student and require the approval of the graduate program director and the Graduate School dean. Transfer of Credit forms are available online at http://www.uab.edu/graduate/online-forms. An application for transfer of credit will not be considered until the student has completed at least 9 semester hours of graduate credit in the current UAB program and is in good academic standing. Once transfer credit has been accepted, it will be included in the calculation of the GPA in the student’s current UAB program.

Graduate credit earned with a grade of B or above by a graduate student in another accredited graduate school may be considered for transfer. In programs offered jointly by UAB and other universities, all graduate credits earned in the program at a cooperating university are eligible for transfer to UAB. If a student earns credit in one UAB graduate program and is later admitted to another program, unused credits from the previous program are eligible for consideration for transfer into the current program.

Minimum Course Credit Requirements

The Graduate School has minimum course credit requirements for students in doctoral programs. Program requirements for course work may exceed the Graduate School minimums. Graduate School minimum requirements are as follows:

1. If entering with a baccalaureate degree:
    a. Completion of 48 credit hours of course work prior to candidacy
    b. Up to 16 credits of the 48 can be as non-dissertation research credits
    c. Up to 10 credits can be as lab rotation, seminar, or directed study credits
    d. Doctoral students must satisfy one of the following: Must complete at least two semesters in candidacy and accumulate at least 24 semester credit hours in 799 dissertation research OR must complete at least two semesters as a student in candidacy and have accummulated at least 12 semester credit hours in other appropriate reesarch-based coursework, which has been approved by the graduate student's program. Courses which have been previously applied toward meeting the requirements of another degree are not eligible to satisfy the research credit requirement. The student's graduate department/program should provide a course planning curriculum worksheet detailing the courses taken which are intended to be used toward meeting degree requirements along with the application for degree.

2. If entering with a previous Masters degree appropriate to the doctoral degree field (Also applies to previously earned M.S., D.V.M., D.M.D., D.D.S., etc.):
    a. Completion of 27 credit hours of course work prior to candidacy
    b. Up to 6 credits of the 27 can be as non-dissertation research credits
    c. Up to 6 credits can be as lab rotation, seminar, or directed study credits
    d. Must complete at least two semesters in candidacy and accumulate at least 24 semester credit hours in 799 dissertation research. OR must complete at least two semesters as a student in candidacy and have accummulated at least 12 semester credit hours in other appropriate reesarch-based coursework, which has been approved by the graduate student's program. Courses which have been previously applied toward meeting the requirements of another degree are not eligible to satisfy the research credit requirement. The student's graduate department/program should provide a course planning curriculum worksheet detailing the courses taken which are intended to be used toward meeting degree requirements along with the application for degree.

Up to 12 credits of course work that have not been applied toward meeting the requirements for an earned degree taken at UAB or other institutions may be used to satisfy these course credit requirements upon approval of the graduate program director and the Graduate School Dean.

The Graduate School requires only 30 semester credit hours for a master's degree. Any credit hours earned at UAB beyond 30 semester credit hours may be applied toward a doctoral degree at UAB.

 

Residence Requirement

The usual minimal period in which the doctoral degree can be earned is three academic years of full-time study, or longer if the student has periods of part-time enrollment. The nature of doctoral study requires the closest contact between the student and the faculty of the graduate program, and the individual investigation or other special work leading to the dissertation must be done directly under the guidance and supervision of a full member of the UAB graduate faculty. Therefore, doctoral students should be in residence (enrolled) for three full semesters each year including summers during a three year period or collectively a minimum of nine semesters if the student has to take a leave of absence or stop out during the course of their doctoral education.

Foreign Language or Other Special Tools of Research

In consultation with the faculty, the director of each graduate program will specify any additional requirements, such as a reading knowledge of a foreign language or a working knowledge of statistics, that are considered essential to mastery of the academic discipline. Such requirements become conditions for the completion of the degree.

Comprehensive Examination

The scholarly proficiency of a doctoral student in the chosen field of study must be evaluated by comprehensive examination. The conduct of these examinations is the responsibility of the graduate program in which the student is enrolled and may consist of either individual examinations in several appropriate areas or a single combined examination. When both written and oral examinations are given, the written should precede the oral so that there is an opportunity for the student to clarify any misunderstanding of the written questions.

Students must be registered during the semester in which the comprehensive examination is taken.

Admission to Candidacy

When the student has passed the comprehensive examination, satisfied any program requirements for foreign language proficiency or special tools of research, and presented to the graduate study committee an acceptable proposal for dissertation research or special study, the committee will recommend to the Graduate School dean that the student be admitted to candidacy. A student must be in good academic standing to be admitted to candidacy. Admission to candidacy must take place at least two semesters before the expected completion of the doctoral program. Students must be admitted to candidacy before they can register for dissertation research hours (i.e., 799).

Admission to candidacy is an important step forward in the student’s pursuit of the doctorate. By approving admission to candidacy, the graduate committee indicates its confidence that the student is capable of completing the proposed research project and the doctoral program.

IRB and IACUC Approval

If the research involves human or animal subjects, approval from IRB or IACUC must be documented before admission to candidacy can be approved and must be kept current until the research is completed (please refer to Tip Sheet for Students Involved in Research Involving Human or Animal Subjects located at the end of the Handbook). The student’s name must appear on the IRB approval form. The IACUC form must display the appropriate protocol number.

Application for Degree

Each candidate for a doctoral degree must signify the intention to complete the requirements by a particular graduation date by submitting a completed Application for Degree Form. Because this form is used to check requirements, order the diploma, and enter the student on the commencement program, it must be received in the Graduate School Records Office by the posted deadline for the semester of expected graduation. See deadline dates (http://www.uab.edu/graduate/deadline-dates) located on the Graduate School website. However, because each graduate program may have an earlier deadline, the student should check with his or her program office for those deadlines as well. Students must be registered during the semester in which degree requirements are completed. If degree candidates are covered by the student health insurance policy, hold an assistantship, or have student loans, it may be necessary to maintain at least half time registration status of 5 credit hours to retain these benefits. Check with the appropriate office if these are concerns. Forms are available online at http://www.uab.edu/graduate/online-forms.

Dissertation

The results of the candidate’s individual inquiry must be presented in a written dissertation comprising a genuine contribution to knowledge in the particular academic field. The document should also demonstrate the candidate’s acquaintance with the literature of the field and the proper selection and execution of research methodology.

Signatures of committee members and program directors on approval forms indicate their assurance that they have examined the document and have found that it is of professional quality from all standpoints, including writing quality, technical correctness, and professional competency, and that the document conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation. The Graduate School is responsible for ensuring that the final version of the dissertation meets the physical standards required of a permanent, published document and for adherence to the requirements stated in the UAB Format Manual, available online at http://www.uab.edu/graduate/images/acrobat/forms/theses/FormatManual.pdf.

No later than 2 weeks (10 business days) following the public defense, the completed, committee-approved dissertation, as a single PDF, must be submitted to the for final review. There is a $65 charge, paid online at the time of submission. Also submitted online are the Survey of Earned Doctorates and Graduate School Exit Survey. One copy of the signed approval form is submitted to the Graduate School office. Additional information concerning completing graduation requirements and the dissertation submission and publication process is available online at http://www.uab.edu/graduate/theses-and-dissertations-at-uab.

Final Examination

The final examination should take the form of a presentation and defense of the dissertation, followed by an examination of the candidate’s comprehensive knowledge of the field. The time, date, and location of this examination is reported to the Graduate School via the online Request for Thesis or Dissertation Approval forms (submitted at least 10 days before the public defense) and allows for the attendance of the Graduate School dean. The meeting must be open to all interested parties, publicized on the UAB campus, and must take place at least 30 days before the expected date of graduation. Candidates must be registered during the semester in which the final examination is taken.

If in the opinion of one or two of the five members of the dissertation committee, the student has failed the dissertation defense, there is no consensus to pass. The chair of the committee shall advise the student that the dissertation fails to meet the requirements of the program. The chair shall notify the student in writing about the reason(s) for failure. If the student resubmits or submits a new dissertation for consideration by his/her graduate program at least two members of the new examining committee shall be drawn from the original committee. If the modified or new dissertation fails to meet the requirements of the program, the student shall be dismissed from the graduate program.

In the event that only one of the five committee members dissent, that individual must submit a letter in which he/she outlines the reasons for their dissent to the student’s advisor. The advisor and student may then prepare a rebuttal statement that is submitted, along with the letter of dissent, to the advisory or executive committee of the program for review. The advisory committee can then decide to accept or reject the rebuttal statement. If the rebuttal is accepted, the student is passed on his/her dissertation defense. If the rebuttal is rejected, the advisory committee can recommend to the student or advisor potential steps necessary to remediate the dissertation and potentially also the work therein, or the committee can recommend that the student be dismissed from the program.

Recommendation for Degree

The candidate will be recommended for the doctoral degree to the Graduate School dean by the graduate study committee and the graduate program director. This recommendation must be received no later than 20 days before the end of the semester in which the candidate is expected to complete all degree requirements. Candidates must be in good academic standing to graduate, with no temporary grades for courses required for the degree on their transcripts.

Award of Degree

Upon approval by the Graduate School dean and payment of any outstanding financial obligations to the university, the student will be awarded the degree. Doctoral students are generally expected to complete all degree requirements within 7 years of matriculation.

Summary of Steps Toward the Doctoral Degree

  • Admission to doctoral degree program
  • Selection of faculty advisor
  • Maintenance of good standing
  • Appointment of graduate study committee
  • Passing of comprehensive examination
  • IRB and/or IACUC approvals obtained
  • Admission to candidacy—no later than two semesters before expected graduation
  • Application for degree— see deadline dates (http://www.uab.edu/graduate/deadline-dates)
  • Production of preliminary version of dissertation
  • Final examination—no later than 30 days before expected graduation
  • A PDF of the defended committee-approved dissertation to UAB/ProQuest submission web site --no later than 2 weeks (10 business days) following the public defense
  • Completion of Survey of Earned Doctorates
  • Completion of Graduate School Exit Survey
  • Conferring of degree