Doctoral Degrees Policies

Credit Requirements

The Graduate School requires that every student seeking the Ph.D. or D.M.A. satisfactorily complete a minimum of 12 semester hours of dissertation credits (899); a student seeking an Ed.D. must satisfactorily complete a minimum of six semester hours of dissertation credits (899). The number of research and other credit hours required in the program varies with the degree and program in question.

Advancement to Candidacy

Preliminary examinations, or such other substantial tests as the graduate programs may elect, are prerequisites for advancement to candidacy. A student must be admitted to candidacy for the doctorate within five years after admission to the doctoral program and at least six months before the date on which the degree will be conferred. It is the responsibility of the student to submit an application for admission to candidacy when all the requirements for candidacy have been fulfilled. Applications for admission to candidacy are made in duplicate by the student and submitted to the graduate program for further action and transmission to the Graduate School . Application forms may be obtained at the Graduate School, Room 2123, Lee Building, or on the web. Paperwork must be received by the Graduate School prior to the 25th of the month in order for the advancement to become effective the first day of the following month.

Doctoral candidates are automatically registered for six (6) credits of Doctoral Dissertation Research (899), for which they pay the flat candidacy tuition.

Research Assurances

Human Subject Research

Everyone at the University of Maryland who is conducting research that involves human subjects must obtain approval in advance from the Institutional Review Board (IRB). The IRB is charged with approving the initiation of research involving human subjects and conducts periodic reviews of that research to ensure that all projects comply with Federal regulations. These regulations are strict, and the Graduate School urges all graduate students to consult with the IRB before beginning any research involving living subjects. For application forms and guidelines on such issues as research involving minors or prisoners, surveys, and the use of audio taping, videotaping, digital recordings, and photographs, please see the Institutional Review Board's website.

Other Research

If the dissertation research involves the use of vertebrate animals, animal use protocols must be approved in advance by the Animal Care and Use Committee. If the dissertation research involves hazardous materials, either biological or chemical, or recombinant RNA/DNA, the research must be approved by the appropriate University committee. These research assurances must be approved prior to the initiation of any dissertation-related research, and the approvals must be provided to the Graduate School at the time the student submits the Nomination of Examining Committee form.

The Doctoral Dissertation and Examination

A dissertation is required of all candidates for a doctoral degree. The Graduate School has established the following procedures for the conduct of the doctoral dissertation examination.

  • The Dissertation. The ability to do independent research must be demonstrated by an original dissertation on a topic approved by the graduate program in which the student is earning the degree.
  • Eligibility. A student is eligible to defend a dissertation if the student (a) has advanced to candidacy, (b) has met all program requirements for a dissertation examination, (c) is in good standing as a graduate student at the University, (d) is registered for at least one credit, (e) has a valid Graduate School-approved Dissertation Examining Committee, and (f) if this is the second examination, the examination has been approved by the Graduate School.
  • Dissertation Examining Committee Membership. The Committee must include a minimum of five members of the Graduate Faculty, at least three of whom must be Full Members. The Chair of the Committee normally will be the student's advisor, who will be a Full Member of the Graduate Faculty, or who has been granted an exception to the policy by the Dean of the Graduate School. Each Committee will have appointed to it a representative of the Dean of the Graduate School. The Dean's Representative may be one of the five voting members. Alternatively, the Dean's Representative may not be a voting member of the Committee. Whether the Dean's Representative votes or not is a decision made by the student, primary advisor and the Dean's Representative before the Dean's Representative is nominated for approval by the Dean of The Graduate School. In addition, the Dean will ensure that there are five voting members on the Committee. Therefore, Committees that have a non-voting Dean's Representative must have at least six members (five voting members and the non-voting Dean's Representative.)
  • Nomination of the Dissertation Examining Committee. Membership on a Dissertation Examining Committee requires nomination by the student's advisor and the Graduate Director of the student's graduate program, and approval by the Dean of the Graduate School. The nomination of a Dissertation Examining Committee should be provided to the Graduate School at least six weeks before the date of the expected dissertation examination. The dissertation examination cannot be held until the Graduate School approves the composition of the Dissertation Examining Committee. Furthermore, if the Graduate Faculty status of any member of an approved Dissertation Examining Committee changes, the approval of the Dissertation Examining Committee may be void, and a new Dissertation Examining Committee nomination form may be required to be approved by the Graduate School.
  • Chair. Each Dissertation Examining Committee will have a chair, who must be a Full Member of the Graduate Faculty or, by special permission, has been otherwise appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School . Dissertation Examining Committees may be co-chaired upon written recommendation of the program's Graduate Director and with the approval of the Dean of the Graduate School; at least one of the co-chairs must be a Full Member of the University of Maryland Graduate Faculty.
  • Representative of the Dean of the Graduate School. Each Dissertation Examining Committee will have appointed to it a representative of the Dean of the Graduate School. The Dean's Representative should have some background or interest related to the student's research. The Dean's Representative must be a tenured member of the Graduate Faculty at the University of Maryland, College Park. The Dean's Representative must be from another tenure home than the student's primary advisor, or co-advisor(s). In the case of multi-disciplinary programs, the Dean's Representative can be a member of the program, as long as they have a different tenure home from the primary advisor, co-advisor(s), or Doctoral Committee Chair (if the Doctoral Committee Chair is not a primary advisor).

    The person nominated to become the Dean's Representative may serve as a regular member of the student's Doctoral Graduate Committee from the time it is first convened. Alternatively, the person nominated to be the Dean's representative may be added to the Doctoral Graduate Committee at a later date and either take part in some Committee meetings including the qualifying examination, or only join as a Doctoral Dissertation Committee member for the final dissertation defense. In all cases, the Dean's Representative must be present for the full dissertation defense and serve to adjudicate the defense.
  • Special Members. Individuals from outside the University of Maryland who have been approved for Special Membership in the Graduate Faculty may serve on Dissertation Examining Committees. These Special Members must be in addition to the required three Full Members of the University of Maryland Graduate Faculty. For procedures to nominate an individual for Special Membership, please refer to the section below on Graduate Faculty.
  • Service of former University of Maryland faculty members. Graduate Faculty who terminate employment at University of Maryland (and who do not have emeritus status) retain their status as members of the Graduate Faculty for a twelve-month period following their termination. Thus, they may serve as members and chairs (but not as Dean's Representatives) of Dissertation Examining Committees during this twelve-month period if they are otherwise eligible. After that time, they may no longer serve as chairs of Dissertation Examining Committees, although, if granted the status of Special Members of the Graduate Faculty, they may serve as co-chairs.
  • Professors Emeriti and Associate Professors Emeriti may serve on Dissertation Examining Committees provided they are members of the Graduate Faculty.

Open Dissertation Examination

The dissertation examination will consist of two parts:

  • Part 1 will be a public presentation by the candidate on the main aspects of the research reported in the dissertation. During Part 1, questions from the audience to the candidate will be permitted. For questions from persons who are not members of the Dissertation Examining Committee, the Chair of the Dissertation Examining Committee will have discretion to decide whether such questions are germane to the topic of the dissertation and how much time will be allotted for the answers.
  • Part 2 will be a formal examination of the candidate by the Dissertation Examination Committee. This part will be open only to the Dissertation Examination Committee, other members of the Graduate Faculty, and graduate students from the candidate's graduate program. During Part 2, only members of the Dissertation Examination Committee will be permitted to ask questions. Programs may vote to establish a policy to have Part 2 be open only to members of the Dissertation Examining Committee and members of the Graduate Faculty.
  • Attendance at the final discussion and vote will be limited to the members of the Dissertation Examining Committee.
  • Announcements of the date, time, and location of the examination, as well as the candidate's name and the dissertation title, will be disseminated five working days in advance to all members of the Graduate Faculty and graduate students within the graduate program in which the candidate's degree is to be awarded. Mass-distribution methods, such as e-mail, a faculty/student newsletter, or individual announcements are acceptable. Merely posting a paper notice on a corridor bulletin board will not constitute a sufficient announcement.
  • Departments and graduate programs may petition the Dean of the Graduate School for exceptions to these policies.

Procedures for the Oral Dissertation Examination

  • Oral Examination Requirement. Each doctoral candidate is required to defend orally his or her doctoral dissertation as a requirement in partial fulfillment of the doctoral degree.
  • Committee Preparation. The members of the Dissertation Examining Committee must receive the dissertation at least ten working days before the scheduled examination. Should the Dissertation Examining Committee deem it reasonable and appropriate, it may require submission of the dissertation more than ten working days in advance of the examination.
  • Attendance at the Examination. Oral examinations must be attended by all members of the student's officially established Dissertation Examining Committee as approved by the Dean of the Graduate School. All examinations must be open to all members of the University of Maryland Graduate Faculty. Programs may wish routinely to open dissertation examinations to a broader audience. In such cases, program policies must be established, recorded, and made available to all doctoral students. Should a last-minute change in the constitution of the Dissertation Examining Committee be required, the change must be approved by the Dean of the Graduate School in consultation with the Graduate Director of the student's graduate program and the chair of the student's Dissertation Examining Committee.
  • Location of the Examination. Oral examinations must be held in University facilities that are readily accessible to all members of the Dissertation Examining Committee and others attending the examination. The chair of the dissertation examining committee selects the time and place for the examination.
  • The Dean's Representative. The Dean's Representative must be identified at the beginning of the examination. The responsibilities of the Dean's Representative include the following: ensuring that the procedures of the oral examination comply with those of the Graduate School (as described herein) and reporting to the Dean of the Graduate School any unusual problems experienced in the conduct of the examination.
  • Invalidation of the Examination. The Dean of the Graduate School may void any examination not carried out in accordance with the procedures and policies of the Graduate School . In addition, upon recommendation of the Dean's Representative, the Dean may rule an oral examination to be null and void.
  • Emergency Substitution Procedure. The Graduate School is aware that last-minute emergencies can prevent a committee member from attending a scheduled dissertation examination and will work with the chair of the examining committee and/or Graduate Director to make last-minute substitutions in committee membership to allow the examination to take place as scheduled.                                                                                                                                                                                  
    • The request must be sent in writing to the Dean of the Graduate School . Fax or e-mail requests are acceptable. A telephone call to the Graduate School explaining that an emergency request is coming will facilitate the process.
    • The proposed substitute must be a member of the Graduate Faculty consistent with the rules for committee membership. Thus, if the Dean's Representative (who must be a tenured faculty member) could not attend, the substitution of an untenured member of the Graduate Faculty would not be acceptable.
    • Once the written request has been received, the substitution will be made, usually within the hour, provided that the revised committee meets the requirements for committee membership.
    • When the substitution has been made, a written confirmation, in the same format as the request was received (fax or e-mail) will be sent out, along with a telephone confirmation. The substitution is not official, however, until the written confirmation has been received in the graduate program.
    • An examination that is held with one or more substitute members on the committee, but without prior written confirmation from the Graduate School that the substitution(s) have been approved, will be voided and the examination will have to be repeated.
    • A copy of the written request and the written confirmation must be placed in the student's file for future reference.
  • Remote Participation in a Dissertation Defense.  Under normal circumstances, all members of a Dissertation Examining Committee must be physically present in the examination room during the entire dissertation defense and during the committee's private deliberations following the examination. Participation by telephone is not permitted under any circumstances. Remote participation by video teleconferencing is permitted under the following circumstances:                                                                                                                               
    • Permission to conduct a remote-participation defense must be obtained by the dissertation chair from the Graduate School in advance. In making this request, the chair must indicate in writing that he or she has read the rules for a remote defense listed below.

    • Approved web-conferencing software must be used that allows all participants to see and hear each other during the entire defense.

    • The candidate, the committee chair (or at least one of the co-chairs), and the Dean’s Representative must all be present in the examination room; none may be at a remote site.

    • If necessary, other members of the committee may participate from one or more remote sites as long as the conferencing software supports the rules of the conduct of the defense. Permission for remote participation must be approved in advance by the Dean of the Graduate School. The request for remote participation must provide a compelling reason and/or explanation as to why each remote committee member cannot be physically present.

    • The program must pay for any costs associated with the remote participation. The remote participants must connect to the defense using hardware that will ensure that all participants are visible and audible and that the connection is stable and available throughout the scheduled time of the defense.

    • The Dean’s Representative is responsible for ensuring that all requirements for remote participation are met, that the remote participation was uninterrupted, and if interrupted, that the defense was paused until all remote participations were fully restored.

  • Student Presentation. The student is permitted to present briefly a summary of the dissertation, emphasizing the important results and giving an explanation of the reasoning that led to the conclusions reached.
  • Opportunity for Questioning by Members of the Dissertation Examining Committee. The chair invites questions in turn from each member of the Dissertation Examining Committee. The questioning may continue as long as the Dissertation Examining Committee feels that it is necessary and reasonable for the proper examination of the student.
  • Conclusion of the Examination. After questioning has been completed, the student and any others who are not members of the Dissertation Examining Committee are asked to leave the room while the Dissertation Examining Committee discusses whether or not the dissertation and its defense are satisfactory. The Committee has the following options:                                                                                                                                                      
    • To accept the dissertation without any recommended changes and sign the Report of Examining Committee.
    • To accept the dissertation with recommendations for changes and, except for the chair, sign the Report of the Examining Committee. The chair will check that the changes to the dissertation have been made, and, upon his or her approval, sign the Report of Examining Committee.
    • To recommend revisions to the dissertation and not sign the Report of Examining Committee until the student has made the changes and submitted the revised dissertation for the Dissertation Examining Committee's approval. The Dissertation Examining Committee members sign the Report of Examining Committee if they approve the revised dissertation.
    • To recommend revisions and convene a second meeting of the Dissertation Examining Committee to review the dissertation and complete the student's examination.
    • To rule the dissertation (including its examination) unsatisfactory. In that circumstance, the student fails. Following the examination, the chair, in the presence of the Dean's Representative, must inform the student of the outcome of the examination. The chair and the Dean's Representative both sign a Report of the Examining Committee indicating which of the above alternatives has been adopted. A copy of this statement is to be included in the student's file at the graduate program office, and a copy is given to the student.
  • Passage or failure. The student passes if one member refuses to sign the Report, but the other members of the Dissertation Examining Committee agree to sign, before or after the approval of recommended changes. Two or more negative votes constitute a failure of the candidate to meet the dissertation requirement. In cases of failure, the Dissertation Examining Committee must specify in detail and in writing the nature of the deficiencies in the dissertation and/or the oral performance that led to failure. This statement is to be submitted to the program's Graduate Director, the Dean of the Graduate School, and the student. A second examination may be permitted if the student will be in good standing at the time of the proposed second examination. A second examination requires the approval of the program's Graduate Director and the Dean of the Graduate School . If the student fails this second examination, or if a second examination is not permitted, the student's admission to the graduate program is terminated.

Submission and Publication of the Dissertation

Dissertations are to be submitted to the Graduate School in electronic format after final approval of the dissertation by the Dissertation Examining Committee. See the University of Maryland Electronic Thesis and Dissertation (ETD) website or the University of Maryland Thesis and Dissertation Style Guide for the details of this process.

Dissertations submitted to the University through the ETD process will also be deposited in the UM Library's online electronic archive, DRUM (Digital Repository at the University of Maryland). This is a free public archive of academic work by University faculty and graduate students. The submission of the thesis to the University in fulfillment of degree requirements grants the University the one-time, non-exclusive right to publish the document on DRUM. The students' and University's rights regarding dissertation and thesis submission and publication are outlined below.

The University's Rights

The University of Maryland retains non-exclusive distribution, reproduction, and archival rights to doctoral dissertations submitted to the Graduate Faculty in fulfillment of requirements for a graduate degree. Such rights entitle the University of Maryland to reproduce, archive, and distribute dissertations, in whole or in part, in and from an electronic format, as it sees fit. Distribution is subject to a release date stipulated by the student and approved by the University.

The Student's Rights and Responsibilities

As the owner of copyright in the thesis or dissertation, students have the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, make derivative works based on, publicly perform and display their work, and to authorize others to exercise some or all of those rights. As a condition of graduation, each student's thesis or dissertation must be published. When the student submits his or her work to the Graduate School, they will be given several options regarding access to their document via ProQuest's Digital Dissertations and DRUMthe Digital Repository at the University of Maryland. The student's options include:

  • Making the thesis or dissertation available via ProQuest and DRUM as soon as it is received The abstract and full text of your work will be present in ProQuest's Digital Dissertations for purchase, and will be both freely available and searchable online via DRUM.
  • Restrict online publication of the thesis or dissertation for either 1 or 6 years Students may place an embargo (a restriction) on electronic access to your document through ProQuest's Digital Dissertations and DRUM if there is legitimate reason to do so. Patents or future publication, for example, might be jeopardized by providing unrestricted access (see below). Should a student elect to restrict online publication of his or her work, a description of the research, including the student's name, the document's title, the advisor's name, and the abstract will be available via ProQuest and DRUM, but the actual electronic file will be unavailable for viewing or download until the selected embargo period has passed.
  • Restrict online publication of the dissertation indefinitely Students may, in rare circumstances, place an indefinite embargo on access to their work. In this case, a description of the thesis or dissertation, including the student's name, the work's title, the advisor's name, and the abstract will be available via ProQuest's Digital Dissertations and DRUM, but the actual electronic file will be embargoed indefinitely. This option requires the written approval of the Dean of the Graduate School . This restriction can be lifted at the request of the author at a later date.

Inclusion of One's Own Previously Published Materials in a Dissertation

A graduate student may, upon the recommendation of the dissertation director, and with the endorsement of the home graduate program's Graduate Director, include his or her own published works as part of the final dissertation. Appropriate citations within the dissertation, including where the work was previously published, are required. All such materials must be produced in standard dissertation format .

It is recognized that a graduate student may co-author work with faculty members and colleagues that should be included in a dissertation. In such an event, a letter should be sent to the Dean of the Graduate School certifying that the student's examining committee has determined that the student made a substantial contribution to that work. This letter should also note that inclusion of the work has the approval of the dissertation advisor and the program chair or Graduate Director. The letter should be included with the dissertation at the time of submission.  The format of such inclusions must conform to the standard dissertation format. A foreword to the dissertation, as approved by the Dissertation Committee, must state that the student made substantial contributions to the relevant aspects of the jointly authored work included in the dissertation.

Inclusion of Copyrighted Materials in a Dissertation

Students are responsible for ensuring that their thesis or dissertation complies with copyright law. Copyright law gives the owner of a work exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, display or perform the work publicly and to modify or adapt the work and the exclusive right to grant others permission to exercise any of those rights in the work, subject to certain exceptions . Students are responsible for determining if their use of another's work requires his or her permission or falls within one of the exceptions. 

Students should consider the following questions and consult the following documents for guidance on complying with copyright law:

Did the work ever qualify for copyright protection?

Has copyright in the work expired?

Is the proposed use a "fair use"?

Additional Requirements

In addition to those requirements specified above, each graduate program may impose additional requirements. For these requirements, consult the descriptions that appear under the graduate program listings or the special publications that can be obtained from the graduate programs or colleges.

Graduate School Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

The Doctor of Philosophy Degree is granted only upon sufficient evidence of high attainment in scholarship and the ability to engage in independent research. It is not awarded for the completion of course and seminar requirements no matter how successfully completed.

Foreign Language Requirement

Some graduate programs have a foreign language requirement for the Doctor of Philosophy degree. The student should inquire in the graduate program about this requirement. Students must satisfy the graduate program requirement before they can be admitted to candidacy for the doctorate.

Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Education

The Ed.D. programs in the College of Education are cohort-based, admitting experienced educational practitioners to emphasize applied research and evaluation, and advanced practice. A minimum of 6-credits of 899 are required for the culminating project. Consult the Graduate Studies Office in the College of Education and the individual graduate program for additional details.

Requirements for Other Doctoral Degrees

The particular requirements for the degrees of Doctor of Musical Arts and Doctor of Audiology are given under the corresponding program description. Contact the individual graduate programs with specific questions.