Ph.D. Program Requirements

The Doctor of Philosophy program at the College of Education prepares students for careers of research or scholarly inquiry and teaching at the college/university level. The program consists of: (1) continuous research and faculty discussion inquiry, (2) courses in education and related fields designed to develop a comprehensive academic basis for future work in research and teaching, and (3) teaching and other related experiences tailored to individual needs and career goals.

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1) Enrolling in First & Second Year Courses

Upon admission to the Ph.D. program, you are designated "Post-Master's," meaning that you have been assigned to an adviser, but do not yet have a doctoral Supervisory Committee. The goal of the post-master's phase is to arrange research/inquiry experiences and coursework that will qualify you for Prospective Candidacy. You are assigned a first-year adviser whose research and scholarly activities are in your field of intended specialization. During the first year of study, your adviser will be a central figure, helping you plan academic life.

Working with your adviser, you will: (1) identify a research topic and secure ways and means for participating in the selected project, (2) select first-year courses, and (3) prepare documentation for advancement to Prospective Candidacy. Although the role of faculty advisers is designed to assist you in completing the Ph.D. degree, it is your responsibility to follow all procedures of the Graduate School and College of Education.

In the College of Education's LSHD program, post-bachelor's students may be admitted to work toward a Ph.D. without formally completing a master’s degree program. Post-bachelor's applicants to the Ph.D. track are expected to have research experience and/or research potential, as well as research interests that align with faculty expertise. Post-bachelor's students in the LSHD Ph.D. program may choose to complete an M.Ed. along the way.  Those who would like to complete their M.Ed. along the way must meet the minimum 45 credit Graduate School requirements for the LSHD M.Ed. program. The 45 credits include a minimum of 21 credits in EDPSY coursework, 18 minimum numerically graded credits at the 400 or 500 level, and 18 minimum credits at the 500 level or above.  

If you are a post-bachelor's student working within the prospective Ph.D. track and plan to obtain your M.Ed. along the way in LSHD, you will complete a qualifying paper no later than the quarter in which you complete 45 credits. The qualifying paper is designed to be the equivalent of a master’s final exam or thesis in quality, and must be evaluated by two members of the graduate faculty. This paper must be separate from your R&I paper.

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2) Research & Teacher Preparation

A number of useful methods exist for inquiry into educational problems and issues. You will need to develop an appreciation for the diversity of options available. Initial preparation consists of studying the fundamental differences and similarities among various approaches to inquiry in education through the required Educational Inquiry Seminar Series (EDLPS 525 and 526; see the General Catalog for course details). Please note that these courses are sequential; EDLPS 525 is the prerequisite for EDLPS 526. You should complete this sequence as early in the program as possible, preferably in your first year.

Additionally, you will be required to complete a minimum of four additional 500-level courses (combined total of no less than 12 credits) relating to methods of educational inquiry; in these four courses, you must earn a grade of at least 3.0 (or written verification that you would have received a 3.0 in courses that are offered C/NC). You are strongly encouraged to select coursework representing at least two broad approaches to inquiry (quantitative, qualitative, philosophical, historical, etc.) offered both inside and outside the College of Education. The final selection of appropriate courses will be made with the advice and consent of your adviser. The required Inquiry series must be completed prior to your advancement to Prospective Candidacy; two of the four additional research courses must be completed prior to your Research and Inquiry Presentation.

Each Supervisory Committee will design experiences to promote excellence for students who will seek teaching positions. The nature of these experiences will vary according to your prior experience. Some students come to programs in education with substantial experience as teachers, and for them, fewer graduate school experiences may be required.

For some students, the annual Research and Inquiry Presentation will be enough to polish their instructional skills and to demonstrate mastery of instructional approaches. Other students may need to serve as teaching assistants, either formally or informally. Your Supervisory Committee will see that you have appropriate, supervised experience as needed to promote effective teaching skills.

The advancement to Prospective Candidacy process--including the materials and discussions involved in it--is an opportunity for students, advisers, and the broader faculty to evaluate the student’s progress up to that point and to plan for future course taking, committee member selection, and dissertation interests.

You may be considered for advancement to Prospective Candidacy after completing 24 credits of study, including the Inquiry Seminar Series if required (EDLPS 525 and 526) and a minimum of nine credits within your chosen field(s) of study.  Individual programs may require additional coursework, and your adviser will inform you of any additional requirements early in your first quarter of study.  

Once you meet the minimum requirements, your adviser will help you prepare documents for presentation to the faculty. Those documents include (1) a course of study form (including grades received in each course), and (2) a revised goal statement.  You will revisit and revise the goal statement you wrote when you applied for your program to reflect your current thinking and goals.  Your adviser may require other materials, such as a curriculum vita or a paper from a course.  Check with your adviser to see if additional materials are necessary.  Together, the student and the adviser are required to meet to discuss the materials and to make any appropriate changes before the adviser presents the student’s case to the larger faculty for consideration.  Advancement to Prospective Candidacy needs to be completed before you can do your R&I.

The faculty in your program will review your work, judge the adequacy of your progress, offer suggestions about future course taking, and make a recommendation on Advancement to Prospective Candidacy to the Graduate Program Coordinator (the Associate Dean for Graduate Programs).  While we encourage as much faculty input as possible, a minimum of one faculty member besides your advisor will take part in this review. Advisers are then required to meet with the student to provide a summary of the collective input gathered from the larger program faculty meeting. 

Once you have advanced, you should initiate the Prospective Candidacy Form to notify the Office of Student Services about completing this milestone.

A summary of the process is below:
1. Meet minimum requirements for advancing to prospective candidacy.
2. Prepare course of study, revised goal statement, and whatever materials your advisor or program requires.
3. Meet with advisor to go over documents and revise as needed.
4. Advisor meets with program faculty and presents the student’s case for consideration.
5. Faculty in program review work, judge adequacy of progress, offer feedback, and make recommendation on advancement.
6. Advisor meets with student to give feedback and decision of the faculty.
7. Student initiates the Prospective Candidacy Form online. Once signed by the faculty advior, the completed form is then automatically submitted to the Office of Student Services.

Probationary language:
If, after reviewing the student’s case, the program faculty decides that the student will not be Advanced to Prospective Candidacy, the student will be warned or placed on probationary status per the Graduate School's policy on Unsatisfactory Performance and Progress. At that time, the advisor must call a meeting with the student, one other faculty member, and the Associate Dean for Graduate Programs.  This group may require additional materials (i.e. course papers), and the student may offer additional materials as well.  The meeting should take place no later than the second week of the following academic quarter.  At this meeting, the faculty members and student will discuss what is necessary to lift probationary status. Examples might include: improving grades, revising the goal statement further, and requiring certain courses. 

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4) Forming a Supervisory Committee

Once you have been advanced to Prospective Candidacy, you should direct your attention to forming a Supervisory Committee. In concert with your adviser, you should explore which members of the graduate faculty would be willing to serve on your Supervisory Committee. Each member of a Supervisory Committee will devote substantial time to working with you and should formally indicate willingness to serve. The chairperson of the Supervisory Committee, who must be a graduate faculty member from the College of Education, should express the willingness and availability to supervise a dissertation, since this is normally the most time-consuming responsibility.

Supervisory Committees will be formed in accordance with Graduate School policy

  • A minimum of four voting faculty (at least three with graduate faculty appointments) must represent, respectively, your (a) specialization within their broad areas of study, (b) first cognate, (c) second cognate, and (d) specialization outside of the College of Education (definitions of broad area, specializations, and cognates can be found (here).
  • No more than two voting faculty from your broad area may be on the committee.
  • An additional graduate faculty member, the Graduate School Representative (GSR), must also serve on the committee. GSRs must be members of the graduate faculty with an endorsement to chair doctoral committees, and must have no conflict of interest (such as budgetary relationships or adjunct appointments) with the College of Education. Members of Supervisory Committees representing students’ specializations outside of the College of Education may also serve as GSRs, provided they are qualified to serve in both roles.

Once you have identified appropriate graduate faculty who are willing to serve, their names should be submitted to the Office of Student Services using the Committee Formation Request Form.  Your faculty adviser must approve the form to indicate their approval.

NOTE: The Graduate School requires each doctoral student who is forming a committee for the first time to submit a Use of Animal and Human Subjects Form to the Office of Student Services.

You should form a Supervisory Committee no later than the quarter prior to your General Exam. It is not imperative that the Supervisory Committee be formed before your Research and Inquiry Presentation. It is necessary, however, for you to have arranged for a group of faculty to evaluate your Research and Inquiry work.

The next task is to meet with your Supervisory Committee to develop a research program for the Research and Inquiry Presentation and to plan a course of study in preparation for the General Exam. Between Supervisory Committee meetings, your chairperson is responsible for serving as your adviser.

The Supervisory Committee may recommend against continuation in the program if your progress toward the degree is unsatisfactory. This may include, but is not limited to, an excessive number of course withdrawals or incompletes, a grade point average of less than 3.0, unsatisfactory performance in field placements, or unsatisfactory performance on the General Exam.

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5) Completing the Research & Inquiry Presentation

Research preparation is the foundation of the Ph.D. program, as research will play a paramount role in students’ professional careers. Training to be an effective researcher requires (a) concentrated focus to learn the various methods of inquiry and practice, and (b) employment of these methods in various research projects while pursuing your degree. You will begin research activities during the first year of the program, and will continue to develop skills by conducting various research projects, culminating with a dissertation. The Research and Inquiry milestone consists of two major components: A major product of your research preparation effort is the R&I paper and presenting at the Research and Inquiry Conference annually during autumn quarter.

The purposes of R&I are to:

  • Immerse you in issues of content and method directly pertinent to your chosen specialization.
  • Provide you with practical experience in the use of methods and the application of content learned in coursework.
  • Convey aspects of substance and method that characterize the topic studied, but are not taught in general method or content courses.
  • Afford an opportunity for you to present research to a professional audience and for the audience to learn about the research.

The design, implementation, and presentation of the R&I research shall be under the supervision of your chair and at least two additional faculty members or your Supervisory Committee. At least three faculty members must approve a thoroughly developed research papers prior to taking the General Exam.

In general, your R&I paper should hold substantial promise of contributing to preparation for a dissertation, and at its inception should have a good chance of being publishable in a juried journal. At each meeting, members of the Supervisory Committee will reassess the extent to which your R&I activities are contributing to stated goals, and will provide advice in accordance with their assessment. Between committee meetings, the chairperson will assume primary responsibility for advising and assisting you with preparation of your R&I plan.

After successful completion of the written portion, Students will be required to present at the annual CoE R&I Conference held in autumn quarter. 

5.1) Research and Inquiry Conference

The R&I Conference is a half-day event where students will present their research in two types of session formats. All formats provide a means for grouping related papers into sessions, with different opportunities for moderators and audience participation. Students, with the approval of their advisor, determine which format is optimal for future preparation. Successful participation of in the Research ad Inquiry Conference is required prior to defending a dissertation.

The purposes for R&I conference:

  • To mentor student research experience.
  • To support professional practices toward becoming part of a community of scholars.
  • To build community in the College

Session format options: 

Panel presentations typically group together 2-5 student presenters with similar topics for a shared presentation and discussion opportunity. Each student will present an abbreviated version of her/his R&I paper, followed by summarizing comments from the moderator and then facilitated audience discussion and questions. A typical structure for a session allows approximately 5 minutes for the moderator’s introduction to the session, 10 minutes per presenter, another 5 minutes for moderator comments and summary, and finally 15 minutes for audience discussion. Individual presenters must be attentive to the time allocation for presenting their work in paper sessions.

Structured poster sessions combine the graphic display of materials with the opportunity for individualized, formal discussion of the research. Depending on how many individuals plan to participate and how many intellectual areas will be presented, there could be anywhere from 1- 4 individuals in a 60 minute session. These sessions begin with attendees viewing poster presentations, then move into brief oral presentations to the audience gathered as a group, followed by direct discussion with poster presenters. Posters are linked conceptually in terms of education research issues, problems, settings, methods, analytic questions, or themes. 

5.2) Eligibility

To be eligible to participate in the R&I Presentations, you must meet the following requirements:

1.  You must be registered as a graduate student at the University of Washington during the quarter of the R&I Presentation.

2.  You must have completed the following research course requirements: six credits of the Inquiry series (EDLPS 525 and 526), plus two additional research methodology courses at the 500-level.
3.  You must have been advanced to Prospective Candidate status through your academic area.

4.  You must have identified a group of faculty who have agreed to evaluate your R&I work. In some cases, this group will be your Supervisory Committee; it is not imperative, however, that you formally establish your Supervisory Committee before R&I. As an alternative, a group of three faculty members can agree to evaluate your R&I work. 

5.  Some papers might require might need Human Subjects Form approval. If you and your advisor have determined you need this, you must have a Human Subjects Form approved prior to starting the research if the investigation is conducted with human subjects. See Louise Clauss in 115J Miller hall if you have questions regarding Human Subjects applications.

6.  The final copy should be submitted to the faculty evaluators and the Office of Student Services with the approval of three faculty members (or instructors). Instructions on completing the R&I submission process can be found on the Graduate Student Forms page. Please keep in mind that the faculty members have other time constraints. It is to your benefit to submit your research paper for evaluation as early as possible.

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6) General Exams

When both you and your Supervisory Committee concur that you are prepared and have completed all course requirements (except the dissertation) — including the completion at least 60 credit hours of coursework, per Graduate School requirements (or 30 hours if you already completed a master’s degree that will be less than 10 years old at the time of graduation from the UW) — your Course of Study and research activities will be evaluated through Written and Oral Exams conducted by the Supervisory Committee.

The General Exam is given in two parts. The first part is written and examines content area in your broad area, specialty areas, and cognates. Upon satisfactory completion of the written portion of the General Exam, the oral portion may be scheduled. During the Oral Exam, members of the graduate faculty may ask any questions they choose. By majority vote, the Supervisory Committee will rule on whether you pass.

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7) Completing the Oral General Exam

You are responsible for scheduling the oral portion of the General Exam (locating an adequate room, determining a date and time that is acceptable to all members of the Supervisory Committee, etc.), as well as submitting a Request for General Exam to the Graduate School. You should submit the request after forming your Supervisory Committee (see above) and at least three weeks prior to the date of the General Exam by using the Graduate School’s online process. During the Oral Exam, members of the graduate faculty may ask any questions they choose. By majority vote, the Supervisory Committee will rule on whether you pass. Once you have passed, the Office of Student Services will convey the exam results to the Graduate School. This will result in Candidacy being awarded at the end of the quarter in which you pass your Oral Exam.

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8) Candidacy

After successfully completing the General Exams, you enter the Candidacy stage of your program. The main tasks of this phase include preparing a dissertation proposal, completing dissertation research, writing the dissertation, and conducting your final defense.

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9) Dissertation Credits

When you and your adviser determine that you are completing dissertation-related work, you may register for dissertation credits (EDUC 800).   The Graduate School requires a minimum of 27 dissertation credits for degree completion, and these credits must be taken over a minimum of three quarters. 

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10) Preparing the Dissertation Proposal

Upon successful completion of the oral portion of the General Exam, you and your Supervisory Committee will shift attention to the dissertation proposal. The purpose of the dissertation proposal is to provide you with constructive criticism from the entire Supervisory Committee prior to the execution of your dissertation research. The written dissertation proposal should be approved unanimously by the Supervisory Committee members; approval will be indicated by completing the Dissertation Proposal Form. Approval does not guarantee that the Supervisory Committee will approve the dissertation at the Final Oral Exam, but it does guarantee that the committee may not later disapprove the dissertation on the grounds that the research was poorly conceived. The approved proposal becomes the working paper for conducting your dissertation research.

Once the proposal receives Supervisory Committee approval, you will likely need to submit an application for review and approval by the Human Subjects Division. On its website, the College of Education has summarized some of the most important aspects of the Human Subjects Review Process. You should also consult the website of the UW’s Human Subjects Division.

For additional information about the process, the type of review suitable for a given project, application forms, and general assistance, contact Louise Clauss at or 206-616-8291.

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11) Forming the Reading Committee

The Reading Committee will be composed of a minimum of 3 members of your Supervisory Committee members, including the chairperson. It is also advisable to include a member who is knowledgeable in the chosen research methodology. The Reading Committee will read and review your dissertation in detail and make a recommendation to the larger Supervisory Committee about readiness to schedule the Final Exam. Once you identify appropriate graduate faculty who are willing to serve on the Reading Committee, their names should be submitted to the Office of Student Services using the Committee Formation Request Form on the Graduate Student Forms page.

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12) Conforming to Stylistic Standards

It is your responsibility to ensure that your dissertation meets current Graduate School formatting requirements. You may find information about these requirements on the Graduate School Dissertation page.

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13) Completing the Final Exam (Dissertation Defense)

You are expected to pass the Final Exam. The final defense of the dissertation is intended as an opportunity for all involved to celebrate the good results of their work during your career in the College of Education.

You should schedule the Final Exam after submitting your dissertation to the Supervisory Committee. You are responsible for scheduling the Final Exam (locating an adequate room, determining a date and time that is acceptable to all members of the Supervisory Committee, etc.), as well as submitting a Request for Final Exam to the Graduate School. You should submit the request after forming the Reading Committee and at least three weeks prior to the date of the Final Exam by using the Graduate School’s online process. You should also note that you must be enrolled for credit hours during the quarter of the Final Exam. If your Final Exam occurs during a period between academic quarters, then the Final Exam will be considered to have taken place the following quarter, and you must register for that quarter.

The Final Exam will cover your dissertation and related topics, and it may also cover other areas deemed appropriate by the Supervisory Committee. While the committee alone votes on acceptance of the dissertation, any member of the graduate faculty may participate in the Final Exam.

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14) Submitting Your Dissertation to the Graduate School

Once you pass the Final Exam and complete any revisions requested by the Supervisory Committee, the remaining step is to submit your dissertation to the Graduate School.

In preparation for submitting your dissertation, you should keep the following Graduate School policies in mind:

  • If you wish to submit your dissertation in the same quarter as your Final Exam, make note of the submission deadlines established by the Graduate School.
  • You may submit your dissertation up to two weeks after the end of a quarter without having to register for the following quarter by using the Registration Waiver Fee. The Registration Waiver Fee option is available to a student who has completed all other degree requirements except submission of the dissertation. You will then be permitted to graduate the following quarter by paying a $250 fee in lieu of registering for credit hours.
  • Submission of the dissertation is done electronically and involves several steps. You should carefully review the degree completion information available from the Graduate School. All Reading Committee members must approve the dissertation online and you must also complete the Survey of Earned Doctorates.

Specific questions about the electronic submission of dissertations should be directed to Graduate Enrollment Management Services (GEMS) at 206-685-2630.

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15) Maximum Allowable Time

In planning your program of study and timeline, keep in mind that all requirements for the Ph.D. must be completed within a 10-year time limit.

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