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Graduate Degrees: Doctoral

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Degree-Specific Requirements (Doctoral Degrees)

Doctor of Jurisprudence

The degree of Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.D.) is conferred on candidates who satisfactorily complete courses in law totaling the number of units required under the current Faculty Regulations of the Stanford Law School over no less than three academic years and who otherwise have satisfied the requirements of the University and the Stanford Law School. The Stanford Law School J.D. Program web site provides detailed information on degree requirements.

Doctor of the Science of Law

The degree of the Doctor of the Science of Law (J.S.D.) is conferred upon candidates who hold a J.D. or its equivalent, who complete one academic year in residence, and who, as a result of independent legal research, present a dissertation that is, in the opinion of the faculty of the Stanford Law School a contribution to knowledge. Such work and dissertation must conform to the rules of the Stanford Law School and the University for the dissertation and the University Oral Examination, as described below in the "Doctor of Philosophy" section of this bulletin.

Candidacy is limited to students of exceptional distinction and promise. The Stanford Law School Advanced Degree Programs web site provides detailed information on degree requirements.

Doctor of Musical Arts

The degree of Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.) is conferred on candidates who have satisfied the general requirements for advanced degrees, the program requirements specified in the "Music" section of this bulletin, and the candidacy requirement as described below in the "Doctor of Philosophy" section.

Doctor of Medicine

Candidates for the degree of Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) must satisfactorily complete the required curriculum in medicine. The requirements for the M.D. degree are detailed on the School of Medicine's web site.

Doctor of Philosophy

The degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is conferred on candidates who have demonstrated to the satisfaction of their department or school substantial scholarship, high attainment in a particular field of knowledge, and the ability to do independent investigation and present the results of such research. They must satisfy the general requirements for advanced degrees, the program requirements specified by their departments, and the doctoral requirements described below. The option for a Ph.D. minor is also described below, though it is not a Ph.D. requirement.

Candidacy

Admission to a doctoral degree program is preliminary to, and distinct from, admission to candidacy.  Admission to candidacy for the doctoral degree is a judgment by the faculty in the degree program of the student’s potential to successfully complete the requirements of the degree program. Students are expected to complete degree program qualifying procedures and apply for candidacy by the end of their second year in the doctoral program. Honors Cooperative students are required to apply by the end of their fourth year. Candidacy is valid for five calendar years (through the end of the quarter in which candidacy expires), unless terminated by the degree program (for example, for unsatisfactory academic progress). A Pregnancy or Parental Leave of Absence automatically extends the pre-candidacy or candidacy period (see GAP 5.9, Pregnancy, Childbirth and Adoption, for details). 

Admission to candidacy for the doctoral degree is granted by the degree program following a student's successful completion of qualifying procedures as determined by the degree program. Programmatic policy determines procedures for subsequent attempts to advance to candidacy in the event that the student does not successfully complete the procedures. Failure to advance to candidacy results in the dismissal of the student from the doctoral program (see GAP 5.6, Dismissal for Academic and Professional Reasons).

Candidacy is confirmed on the Application for Candidacy for Doctoral Degree (or a departmental version of this form). This form also specifies a departmentally approved program of study to fulfill degree requirements, including required course work, language requirements, teaching requirements, dissertation (final project and public lecture-demonstration for D.M.A.), and university oral examination (for other doctoral degrees). The department should confirm at this point that the student’s program will meet all university and degree program requirements.

Prior to candidacy, at least 3 units of course work must be taken with each of four Stanford faculty members. To reiterate, however, a student will only be admitted to candidacy if, in addition to the student fulfilling programmatic prerequisites, the faculty makes the judgment that the student has the potential to successfully complete the requirements of the degree program.

If the doctoral student is pursuing a minor, approval by the degree program awarding the minor is also required on the Application for Candidacy.

Extension of the Pre-Candidacy Period

The degree program may determine that extension of the pre-candidacy period is necessary to provide a student with additional time to complete qualifying procedures or to provide faculty with necessary evidence on which to base a candidacy decision. Decisions to extend the pre-candidacy period and thus delay the candidacy decision should be made on an individual student basis and should not be applied to entire cohorts or students absent exceptional circumstances. Degree programs are not obligated to extend the pre-candidacy period.

 When providing an extension of the pre-candidacy period, the degree program should communicate in writing the reason for the extension, expectations for the academic work to be completed by the student, the duration of the extension, and the timeline for the candidacy review. Extensions of the pre-candidacy period should generally not extend beyond two academic quarters.

Time Limit for Completion of a Degree with Candidacy

Students are required to maintain active candidacy through conferral of the doctoral degree. All requirements for the degree must be completed before candidacy expires. Candidacy is valid for five calendar years (through the end of the quarter in which candidacy expires), unless terminated by the degree program (for example, for academic unsatisfactory progress). The candidacy time limit is not automatically extended by a student’s leave of absence.

Failure to make minimum academic progress or complete university, department, and program requirements in a timely or satisfactory manner may lead to dismissal of the student (see GAP 5.6, Dismissal for Academic Reasons).

Extension of Candidacy

All requests for candidacy extension, whether prompted by a leave or some other circumstance, must be filed by the student before the conclusion of the program’s time limit, using the Application for Extension of Candidacy or Master's Program form. Departments are not obligated to grant an extension. Students may receive a maximum of one additional year of candidacy per extension. Extensions require review by the department of a dissertation progress report, a timetable for completion of the dissertation, any other factors regarded as relevant by the department, and approval by the department; such approval is at the department’s discretion.

 A Pregnancy or Parental Leave of Absence will also result in an extension of candidacy (or of the pre-candidacy period). See GAP 5.9,  Pregnancy, Childbirth and Adoption, for details.

Teaching and Research Requirements

A number of departments/schools require their students to teach (serving as a Teaching Assistant) or assist a faculty member in research (serving as a Research Assistant) for one or more quarters as part of their doctoral programs. Detailed information is included in the department sections of the Stanford Bulletin and in departmental requirements.

Foreign Language Requirement

Some departments require a reading knowledge of one or more foreign languages as indicated in department sections of the University Bulletin and in departmental requirements. Fulfillment of language requirements must be endorsed by the chair of the major department.

University Oral Examination

Passing a university oral examination is a requirement of the Ph.D., J.S.D. and Ed.D. degrees. The purpose of the examination is to test the candidate’s command of the field of study and to confirm fitness for scholarly pursuits. Degree programs determine which of the following three types of oral examinations is to be required in their doctoral programs:

  • A test of knowledge of the student’s field; this type of examination is intended to assess the student’s overall mastery of a specific field of knowledge 

  • A review of the dissertation proposal covering content relevant to the area of study, rationale for the proposed investigation, and strategy to be used in the research; this type of examination is intended to assist the student in refining a dissertation topic and to ensure mastery of theoretical and methodological issues as well as the materials needed to conduct the research effectively

  • A defense of the dissertation presented either upon completion of a substantial portion of the dissertation or upon completion of a pre-final draft (in either case, a draft of the work completed should be available for the examining committee well in advance of the examination); this type of examination is intended to verify that the research represents the candidate’s own contribution to knowledge, and to test his or her understanding of the research. General questions pertaining to the field as a whole, but beyond the scope of the dissertation itself, may be included.

Applicability: 

All Ph.D., J.S.D., and Ed.D. degree candidates and programs.

Timing and Process

Students must be registered in the term in which the University oral examination is taken. The period between the last day of final exams of one term and the day prior to the first day of the following term is considered an extension of the earlier term. Candidacy must also be valid.

The University Oral Examination form must be submitted to the department graduate studies administrator at least two weeks prior to the proposed examination date. The examination is conducted according to the major department's adopted practice, but it should not exceed three hours in length, and it must include a period of private questioning by the examining committee.

Committee Membership

The University oral examination committee consists of at least five Stanford faculty members: four examiners and the committee chair from another department. All committee members are normally members of the Stanford University Academic Council, and the chair must be a member of the Stanford University Academic Council. Emeritus faculty are also eligible to serve as examiners or as chair of the committee. Emeritus Stanford faculty, though no longer current members of the Academic Council, count as Academic Council members on dissertation oral committees.

Out-of-Department Chair

The chair of a Stanford oral examination is appointed for this examination only, to represent the interests of the University for a fair and rigorous process. The chair of the examining committee may not have a full or joint appointment in the principal dissertation adviser's, co-advisers or student's department, but may have a courtesy appointment in the department. The chair can be from the same department as any other member(s) of the examination committee and can be from the student's minor department provided that the student's adviser does not have a full or joint appointment in the minor department.

The department of Electrical Engineering has been granted an exception to this policy, whereby “out-of-department” may include a faculty member from another division of the department. The Graduate School of Education has been granted an exception to this policy, whereby “out-of-department” may include a faculty member from another program area of the school.

For Interdisciplinary Degree Programs (IDPs), the chair of the examining committee may not have a full or joint appointment in the primary adviser's major department and must have independence from the student and adviser. The faculty director of the IDP is not allowed to chair an examining committee for students in that IDP.

Responsibility for monitoring appointment of the oral examination chair rests with the candidate's major department. The department cannot require the candidate to approach faculty members to serve as chair; many departments, however, invite students and their advisers to participate in the process of selecting and contacting potential chairs.

Exceptions

Petition for Non-Academic Council Doctoral Commitment Members to appoint an examining committee member who is neither a current or emeritus member of the Academic Council may be approved by the chair of the department or faculty director of graduate studies, according to local policy, if that person contributes an area of expertise that is not readily available from the faculty and holds a Ph.D. or equivalent foreign degree.

Exceptions for individuals whose terminal degree is not the Ph.D. or equivalent foreign degree may be granted by the Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education, upon the request of the student’s department chair or faculty director of graduate studies. The prospective committee member’s curriculum vitae and a brief description of their contributions to the student's research should be submitted via email to the Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education.

The majority of the examiners must be current or emeritus Academic Council members; more specifically, one of four or five examiners or two of six or seven examiners who are not current or emeritus members of the Academic Council may be appointed to the oral examination committee by means of this petition and approval by the Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education, as required for members who do not have a PhD degree.

Reporting

The candidate passes the examination if the examining committee casts four favorable votes out of five or six, five favorable votes out of seven, or six favorable votes out of eight. Five members present and voting constitute a quorum. If the committee votes to fail a student, the committee chair sends within five days a written evaluation of the candidate's performance to the major department and the student. Within 30 days and after review of the examining committee's evaluation and recommendation, the chair of the student's major department must send the student a written statement indicating the final action of the department.

Dissertation

An approved doctoral dissertation is required for the Ph.D. and J.S.D. degrees. The doctoral dissertation must be an original contribution to scholarship or scientific knowledge and must exemplify the highest standards of the discipline. If it is judged to meet this standard, the dissertation is approved for the school or department by the doctoral dissertation reading committee (see GAP 4.8 Doctoral Degrees: Dissertations and Dissertation Reading Committees for more explanation).

Approval

One reading committee member, who must be a current member of the Academic Council, reads the dissertation in its final form and certifies on the Certificate of Final Reading that degree program and university specifications, described below, have been met. Typically, the principal dissertation advisor serves as final reader though another member of the committee who is a current Academic Council member may provide the final signature.

  • All suggested changes have been taken into account and incorporated into the manuscript where appropriate. 

  • If the manuscript includes joint group research, the student's contribution is clearly explained in an introduction.

  • Format complies with university requirements.

  • If previously published materials are included in the dissertation, publication sources are indicated, written permission has been obtained for copyrighted materials, and all of the dissertation format requirements have been met.

  • The dissertation is ready-for-publication in appearance and ready for microfilming and binding.

Dissertations must be in English. Exceptions to permit dissertations in a language other than English are granted by the school dean upon a written request from the chair of the student’s major department.  The student is required to submit directly to the Student Services Center a paper copy of the approval letter (or email message chain) from the school dean.  Approval for writing a dissertation in another language is normally granted only in cases where the other language or literature in that language is also the subject of the discipline. Approval is routinely granted for dissertations in the Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages, within degree program specifications. Dissertations written in another language must include an extended summary in English (usually 15-20 pages in length). 

When submitting electronically a dissertation in a language other than English, the student should upload the English summary as a supplemental file.  When submitting such a dissertation on paper, the student is required to submit the abstract for ProQuest in English.

Submission

Students have the option of submitting the dissertation electronically or via the paper process. Directions for preparation of the dissertation for electronic or paper submission are available at the Office of the University Registrar dissertation web site. If submitting via the paper process, the signed dissertation copies and accompanying documents must be submitted to the Office of the University Registrar on or before the quarterly deadline indicated in the University's academic calendar. A fee is charged for the microfilming and binding of the paper dissertation copies. If submitting via the electronic process the signed dissertation signature page and title page must be submitted to the Student Services Center and one final copy of the dissertation must be uploaded, and approved by the Final Reader, on or before the quarterly deadline indicated in the University's academic calendar. There is no fee charged for the electronic submission process.

Enrollment

Students must either be registered or on graduation quarter in the term they submit the dissertation; see "Graduation Quarter" in the "Graduate Degrees" section of this Bulletin for additional information. At the time the dissertation is submitted, an Application to Graduate must be on file, all department requirements must be complete, and candidacy must be valid through the term of degree conferral.

Doctoral Dissertation Reading Committee

The doctoral dissertation reading committee consists of the principal dissertation adviser and, typically, two other readers. The doctoral dissertation reading committee must have at least three members and may not have more than five members. All members of the reading committee approve the dissertation. At least one member must be from the student's major department. Normally, all committee members are members of the Stanford University Academic Council or are emeritus Academic Council members.

The student's department chair or faculty director of graduate studies, according to local policy, may, in some cases, approve the appointment of a reader who is not a current or emeritus member of the Academic Council, if that person is particularly well qualified to consult on the dissertation topic and holds a Ph.D. or equivalent foreign degree, via the Petition for Non-Academic Council Doctoral Committee Members. Former Stanford Academic Council members and non-Academic Council members may thus, on occasion, serve on a reading committee. A non-Academic Council member (including former Academic Council members) may replace only one of three required members of dissertation reading committees. If the reading committee has four or five members, at least three members (comprising the majority) must be current or emeritus members of the Academic Council. Emeritus Stanford faculty, though no longer current members of the Academic Council, count as Academic Council members on dissertation reading committees.

Exceptions for individuals whose terminal degree is not the Ph.D. or equivalent foreign degree may be granted by the Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education, upon the request of the student’s department chair or faculty director of graduate studies. The prospective committee member’s curriculum vitae and a brief description of their contributions to the student's research should be submitted via email to the Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education.

Any member of the Academic Council may serve as the principal dissertation adviser. A former Academic Council member, emeritus Academic Council member or non-Academic Council member may serve as co-adviser with the appointment of a principal dissertation adviser who is currently on the Academic Council. This is to ensure representation for the student in the department by someone playing a major adviser role in completion of the dissertation. Professors who have recently become emeritus and have been recalled to active duty may serve as principal dissertation advisers, though they are no longer members of the Academic Council. Requests for further exceptions to the requirement that the principal dissertation adviser be a current member of the Academic Council, for example for recently retired emeritus professors who are still actively engaged on campus but not recalled to active duty, will be reviewed by the Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education.

The reading committee, as proposed by the student and agreed to by the prospective members, is endorsed by the chair of the major department on the Doctoral Dissertation Reading Committee form. This form must be submitted before approval of Terminal Graduate Registration (TGR) status or before scheduling a University oral examination that is a defense of the dissertation. The reading committee may be appointed earlier, according to the department timetable for doctoral programs. All subsequent changes to the reading committee must be approved by the chair or faculty director of graduate studies of the major department. The reading committee must conform to University regulations at the time of degree conferral.

Ph.D. Minor

Students pursuing a Ph.D. may pursue a minor in another department or program to complement their Ph.D. program. This option is not available to students pursuing other graduate degrees. Ph.D. candidates cannot pursue a minor in their own major department or program. In rare cases, a Ph.D. student may complete the requirements for more than one minor. In that case, 20 unduplicated units must be completed for each minor.

Only departments that offer a Ph.D. may offer a minor, and those departments are not required to do so. Interdisciplinary Ph.D. minors, administered by a designated academic department, may be approved by the Faculty Senate. The minor should represent a program of graduate quality and depth, including core requirements and electives or examinations. The department offering the minor establishes the core and examination requirements. Elective courses are planned by the students in conjunction with their minor and Ph.D. departments.

The minimum University requirement for a Ph.D. minor is 20 units of course work at the graduate level (typically courses numbered 200 and above). If a minor department chooses to require those pursuing the minor to pass the Ph.D. qualifying or field examinations, the 20-unit minimum can be reduced. All of the course work for a minor must be done at Stanford and must be completed prior to a student moving to TGR status.

Units taken for the minor can be counted as part of the overall requirement for the Ph.D. of 135 units of graduate course work done at Stanford. Courses used for a minor may not be used also to meet the requirements for a master's degree or for the completion of a different Ph.D. minor.

An Application for Ph.D. Minor outlining a program of study must be approved by the major and minor departments; to submit the application, go to Axess and select Student eForms from the student mega menu. This form is submitted at the time of admission to candidacy and specifies whether representation from the minor department on the University oral examination committee is required.