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Doctoral Dissertation Committee Responsibilities - Research Doctorate

Research Doctoral Degree (Ph.D.) Requirements Policy GCAC-603

Purpose: to define the duties and responsibilities of the Doctoral Dissertation Committee in guiding the student in scholarly work toward their degree.

Academic Goal: to ensure that research doctoral students receive timely and comprehensive guidance from members of the Graduate Faculty that facilitates progress toward their degree, including meeting the Graduate Council’s Scholarly and Professional Goals for All Graduate Degree Students.

Scope: all students enrolled in programs of study leading to the Ph.D.

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 Definitions

Professional Doctoral Degree Program: an integrated program of study combined with understanding of research literature to support application of knowledge to practice at the highest level, culminating in a project, portfolio, or performance that demonstrates expertise in professional practice. Students successfully completing a professional doctoral degree program are awarded the appropriate doctoral degree; professional doctoral degrees at Penn State include D.Ed., D.M.A., D.N.P., and Dr.P.H.

Research Doctoral Degree Program: an integrated program of study combined with investigation of a significant problem, question, or issue in the discipline, culminating in the completion of an original scholarly contribution (in the form of a dissertation) that expands the frontiers of knowledge. Students successfully completing a research doctoral degree program are awarded Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree.

Policy Statement

  1. The doctoral dissertation committee is responsible for approving the broad outline of the student’s program and should review the program as soon as possible after the student’s admission to candidacy. Moreover, continuing communication among the student, the committee chair, the dissertation/performance adviser, and the members of the committee is strongly recommended, to preclude misunderstandings and to develop a collegial relationship between the candidate and the committee.
  2. Doctoral Examinations
    1. The (entire) committee will prepare and administer the examination and evaluate the candidate's performance on the examination. // The doctoral examinations (the comprehensive examination and the final oral examination/final performance) are administered/overseen and evaluated by the entire doctoral dissertation committee.
    2. If a committee member is unable to participate in any of the doctoral examinations and this results in not enough members serving on the committee (i.e., four or more active members of the Graduate Faculty), another Penn State graduate faculty member will need to be appointed officially to the doctoral dissertation committee to replace the absent member in order to constitute a legitimate doctoral dissertation committee. A revised committee appointment form must be submitted to Graduate Enrollment Services, removing the individual as a regular committee member and requesting the replacement committee member. These changes and approvals must occur before the actual examination takes place (ad hoc substitutes are not permitted).
    3. At least three members of the doctoral dissertation committee (including the thesis adviser or chair) must be physically present at the comprehensive and at the final oral examination. The graduate student must also be physically present at these examinations. (Thus for a five-person committee, two could participate via distance.) No more than one member may participate via telephone; a second member could participate via interactive videoconferencing. The examination request and a request for exceptions must be submitted to the dean of the Graduate School for approval at least two weeks prior to the date of the examination. Special arrangements, i.e., requirements for meeting participation via distance, should be communicated to the student and to the doctoral dissertation committee members well in advance of the examination. // The dissertation adviser, as well as the chair of the doctoral dissertation committee (if not the same individual as the dissertation adviser), along with additional members of the committee to total a minimum of three, also must be physically present at the comprehensive/final examinations. (Thus, for a five-person committee, two members could participate via distance.) Requests for exceptions to allow participation of any committee member via distance must accompany the Examination Request Form, and must be submitted to the director of Graduate Enrollment Services for approval at least two weeks prior to the date of the examination. Of those approved to participate via distance, no more than one member may participate via telephone; any or all of those approved to participate via distance may participate via interactive videoconferencing. Special arrangements, i.e., requirements for meeting participation via distance, must be communicated to the student and all doctoral dissertation committee members well in advance of the examination.
    4. A favorable vote of at least two-thirds of the members of the committee is required for passing a comprehensive or a final oral examination. If a candidate fails an examination, it is the responsibility of the doctoral dissertation committee to determine whether another examination may be taken. // A favorable vote of at least two-thirds of the members of the committee is required for passing a comprehensive or final oral examination. If a candidate fails an examination, it is the responsibility of the doctoral dissertation committee to determine whether the student will be granted a second opportunity to take the examination. Regardless of the outcome and of the committee’s decision about whether to grant a second opportunity, the program head must report the results of each scheduled examination immediately to Graduate Enrollment Services.
    5. Both the dissertation adviser/committee chair and the student are responsible for ensuring the completion of a draft of the dissertation and for adequate consultation with members of the doctoral dissertation committee well in advance of the final oral examination. Major revisions of the dissertation should be completed before this examination.
    6. It is the responsibility of the doctoral candidate and committee chair/dissertation adviser to provide a copy of the dissertation to each member of the doctoral dissertation committee at least two weeks before the date of the scheduled examination. The dissertation should be complete and in its final draft, with correct and polished content and style, appropriate notes, bibliography, tables, etc., at the time it is distributed to the committee members. If a committee member finds that the final draft is not correct and polished with respect to content and style, it is his/her responsibility to notify the committee chair/dissertation adviser at least one week in advance of the final oral examination date. The committee member should indicate his/her concerns regarding the draft and may recommend consideration of postponement of the examination to the committee chair/dissertation adviser. The chair/adviser, in consultation with committee members, is responsible for notifying the student and assessing whether the student can make the necessary revisions to the final draft before the examination date. If it is determined that revisions cannot be made in time, the final oral examination must be postponed.
    7. If a committee member is unable to participate in the final oral examination, the member may sign as a special signatory. A revised committee appointment form will need to be submitted to Graduate Enrollment Services, removing the individual as a regular committee member and if it is desired to designate that individual as a special signatory, a memo from the program head must accompany the revised committee form, requesting that the committee member be moved to a special signatory. As noted above, if there are then not enough members serving on the committee (i.e., four or more active members of the Graduate Faculty), another Penn State graduate faculty member will need to be appointed officially to the doctoral dissertation committee to replace the absent member in order to constitute a legitimate doctoral dissertation committee. These changes and approvals must occur before the actual examination takes place (ad hoc substitutes are not permitted). // If a committee member is unable to attend the final oral examination, he or she will sign as a special signatory after notifying Graduate Enrollment Services (114 Kern) that a committee change must be approved and be made a part of the student's record. (Substitutes are not permitted, but changes in the committee can be made, if needed, through the usual procedures.) These changes and approvals shall occur before the actual examination takes place. The department or program head will notify Graduate Enrollment Services when the candidate is ready to have the comprehensive and the final oral examinations scheduled and will report the results of these examinations to that office.
    8. The committee examines the dissertation, administers the final oral examination, and signs the signatory page of the dissertation. At least two-thirds of the committee must approve the dissertation. // The committee examines the dissertation and administers the final oral examination, and once any final revisions have been made and the dissertation is deemed acceptable, committee members sign the doctoral signatory page.

Revision History

Adapted from Graduate Bulletin: June 2018

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