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George Mason University
2002-03 University Catalog

Graduate Academic Policies

Requirements Applicable To All Doctoral Degrees

Candidates must satisfy all university degree requirements and all requirements established by the doctoral program faculty. Departmental degree requirements are listed under the respective doctoral programs in this catalog.

  1. A candidate must earn a minimum of 72 graduate credits (without master's degree) or 42 credits (with master's degree).

  2. Only graduate courses may apply toward the degree.

  3. The majority of the credits applied to the degree must be earned at the university (or, in the case of programs offered through joint, cooperative, or consortial arrangements, at the participating institutions).

  4. A minimum of 36 credits have to be taken in degree status (after admission to the degree program).

  5. A candidate must pass a written and/or oral doctoral candidacy (qualifying) exam.

  6. A candidate must complete a minimum of 12 credits of doctoral proposal (998) and doctoral dissertation research (999). A maximum of 24 credits of 998 and 999 may be applied to the degree.

  7. A candidate must pass a final, public defense of the doctoral dissertation.

  8. A candidate must have a minimum GPA of 3.000 in course work presented on the degree application, which may include no more than 6 credits of C or C+. (Grades of C- or D do not apply to graduate courses. The GPA calculation excludes all transfer courses and George Mason Extended Studies credits not formally approved for the degree.)

Time Limit

Doctoral students have six years from the time of first enrollment as a degree-seeking student to become advanced to candidacy. Students have five years from the time of advancement to candidacy to graduation. Individual doctoral programs may have stricter time limits, which are published in the catalog. Students who are given permission to re-enroll following an absence from the university may not count the time limits as beginning on the date of re-enrollment. Students who will not meet published time limits due to circumstances beyond their control, may petition their school, college, or institute for an extension. Failure to meet the time limits, or to secure approval of an extension request, may result in termination from the program.

Doctoral Research Skill Requirements

Some doctoral degree programs require demonstration of proficiency in a research skill: a reading knowledge of the research literature in a foreign language, knowledge of a computer language, knowledge of statistical methods, or knowledge of a research tool specific to the discipline. Research skill requirements are included with the degree requirements for the specific doctoral degree.

Where demonstration of research skills is required, certification that this requirement has been met must be completed for advancement to candidacy.

Program of Study

Normally before the end of the second year of graduate study, but no later than consideration for advancement to candidacy, a doctoral student must submit a program of study for approval by the dean or director of his/her college, school, or institute. The program of study must include major courses and supporting courses to be completed, research skills required, subject areas to be covered by the candidacy examination, and a proposed date for the candidacy examination. Program of Study forms are available from each program's doctoral coordinator. Any changes in the programs of study must be documented with an amended Program of Study form.

Advancement to Candidacy

Advancement to candidacy implies that a doctoral student has demonstrated both a breadth and depth of knowledge in the field of study and is capable of exploring problems on the boundaries of knowledge.

The candidacy examination includes a written part and may include an oral part, depending on the particular doctoral program. Doctoral students should consult the degree requirements for each doctoral program to determine whether an oral portion is required, whether it is judged separately or with the written portion, the number of times a failed candidacy examination may be repeated and any time limits for repeating, and any time limits for attempting the candidacy examination.

Before doctoral students may be advanced to candidacy by the unit dean or director, they should have completed all course work required by the program faculty, have been certified in all doctoral research skills required, have passed the candidacy examination, and have been recommended by the doctoral supervisory committee or the program coordinator.

Dissertation Committee

By the time that a doctoral student is advanced to candidacy, the dean or director of the school/college/institute appoints a dissertation committee upon recommendation of the program director. The committee consists of a graduate faculty member (see Graduate Faculty section in this chapter) from the department of the student's field of study and at least two other members of the graduate faculty, one of whom must be from outside the student's department or degree program (for programs not in departments). Additional members may be appointed who are not members of the graduate faculty or who are from outside the university.

Student initiated changes in the composition of the dissertation committee may occur only with the approval of the dean or director of the school/college/institute in consultation with the committee. Such changes may be made for extenuating circumstances only. Faculty may resign from a dissertation committee with appropriate notice by submitting a resignation in writing to the dean or director of the school/college/institute.

Dissertation Registration (998, 999)

Students working on dissertation proposal (998) or research (999) must register for a minimum of 3 credits of 998 or 999 per semester (excluding summers), until only three credits of dissertation remain (as given on the program of study). Once students have 3 or fewer credits remaining, they may register for 1 credit of 998 or 999. Students enrolled in 1 credit may be considered full-time as long as their advisors and department chairs certify each semester that they are working full time on the proposal or dissertation.

All registration for doctoral dissertation research (999) must be planned with the dissertation director and approved by the dean or director of the school/college/institute. Once enrolled in 999, students must maintain continuous registration each semester until graduation, excluding summers. Students who defend in the summer must be registered for at least one credit of 999 in the summer. Individual doctoral programs may require continuous registration beginning with 998.

Registration for dissertation proposal (998) or research (999) must be completed by the end of the schedule adjustment period as published in the Schedule of Classes. If this date is missed, students must register for these courses the following semester. Failing to register on time in a particular semester does not alter the requirement for continuous registration for 999.

Doctoral Dissertation

A dissertation is required for the doctor of philosophy degree and most professional doctoral degrees. The dissertation is a written piece of original thinking that demonstrates doctoral candidates' mastery of the subject matter, methodologies, and conceptual foundations in their chosen fields of study. This is generally achieved through consideration of a problem on the boundaries of knowledge in the discipline.

The director of the dissertation committee is primarily responsible for directing the doctoral candidate's research and guiding the preparation of the written dissertation. After the dissertation committee is appointed, the student should begin discussions with the director to define a suitable problem for the dissertation. Before the student may enroll in doctoral dissertation research (999), the dissertation proposal must be approved by the dissertation committee and evidence of its approval sent to the unit dean or director for approval. Before that time, the student may enroll in proposal research (998).

Guidelines for the content and general format of the doctoral dissertation may be found in GMU's Guide for Preparing Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Projects, which is available on the University Dissertation and Thesis Services web site, The guide includes information on the number of copies required and procedures for submission of the dissertation for approval by the dissertation committee and the unit dean or director. Consult your doctoral coordinator to determine which additional reference manuals are appropriate to your discipline.

Doctoral Defense

As soon as all degree requirements have been satisfied, including the completion of the doctoral dissertation, the doctoral candidate may request a doctoral defense. Approval for the defense is given by the doctoral dissertation committee, the department or program chair, and the relevant dean or director of the school/college/institute. Notice of a defense must be circulated to the university community two weeks before the defense date.

The public defense should demonstrate the candidate's maturity of judgment and intellectual command of the chosen branches of the candidate's field of study.

At the close of the final defense, the dissertation committee makes final judgments for approving the dissertation. The doctoral candidate is responsible for making all required changes promptly, for submitting the original and required copies, and obtaining signatures. Final approval for the dissertation is given by the doctoral dissertation committee, the department or program chair, and the relevant dean or director of the school/college/institute, all of whom must sign the final copy.

For a dissertation to be approved, all members of the committee must sign. If a committee member refuses to sign the dissertation, the student or any member of the committee may petition the unit dean or director for a review and ruling to resolve the stalemate. The dean or director of the school/college/institute may seek the advice of outside reviewers to provide assessment of the work. The final decision is that of the dean or director and is not subject to appeal.

Dissertation Submission and Fee

Two original copies on 100 percent cotton bond and one photocopied copy of the dissertation must be deposited with the college/ school/institute dean or director for dean/director's signature prior to being transferred to the University Libraries.

For degree conferral, two copies with cover sheets signed by committee and dean/director of college/school/institute must be submitted to the library by 5 p.m. on the last Friday of classes (select timelines link at for specific deadline date). This is also the deadline for participation in the May commencement. To be included in the published program for university commencement program, students must submit copies as described above to the library by April 15.

In addition, submission of the dissertation to University Microfilms International is required; a fee of $55 is paid by the student for this process. All copies of the dissertation must be submitted and all fees paid before the doctoral degree is awarded.

University Dissertation and Thesis Services

University Dissertation and Thesis Services (UDTS) facilitates completion and submission of dissertations, theses, and graduate-level projects for students by helping students meet university requirements and deadlines for submission of their works. The program assists George Mason students in all stages of dissertation, thesis, or project production. UDTS' web site, specialcollections/dtwebguide.htm , provides students with useful tools, such as GMU's Dissertation, Thesis, or Project Guide, downloadable templates of necessary dissertation/thesis/project elements, forms required for the submission process, and links to related Web sites. UDTS is located in Fenwick Library, Wing 2C (Special Collections & Archives). For more information please contact the University Dissertation/Thesis Coordinator, Robert Vay at (703) 993-2222 or