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Research Degree Policies

GCAC-607 Dissertation - Research Doctorate

Purpose: to define the final product of a student’s doctoral research effort.

Academic Goal: to ensure that research doctoral students demonstrate competence in scholarly exposition by the preparation of a dissertation on some topic related to the major subject and as reflection of the student’s ability to conduct independent research of high quality.

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



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. Completion of the requirements of a Ph.D. degree program entails acceptance of the dissertation, as indicated by the signatures of at least two-thirds of the Ph.D. committee, as well as the head of the graduate program, on the doctoral signatory page, and by its acceptance as meeting the editorial standards of the Graduate School, so that it constitutes a suitable archival document for inclusion in the University Libraries.
  2. Thus, it is to be noted that passage of the final oral examination is necessary but not sufficient for award of the degree; the dissertation must be accepted as the ultimate step for the Ph.D. and is to be made available to the public through inclusion in the University Libraries.


Dissertation - Research Doctorate - Procedure

Revision History

Adapted from Graduate Bulletin: June 2018

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