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The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center Graduate College Bulletin

4 - Doctoral Degree Programs

4.1 - Doctor of Philosophy Degree (PhD)

The Graduate College awards the doctoral degree for excellence in research and scholarship, not merely because the student completes a program of courses or spends a given time in its pursuit. The doctorate signifies the attainment of independently acquired and comprehensive knowledge and attests to the general professional competence of the recipient. The Graduate College of the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center normally grants a doctoral degree only to individuals who do not already hold a PhD or similar graduate degree.

A student should expect to spend a minimum of four full academic years beyond the bachelor's degree. During this period the student shall take adequate course work, successfully complete the general examination, and successfully defend the results of original research presented in a dissertation.

The minimum required number of semester hours for the doctoral degree, combining both formal courses and hours of research is 90 post-baccalaureate hours. Up to 6 hours of 5980, Research for the Master's Thesis, may be included in the 90 hours.

After admission to the Graduate College, students become prospective candidates at the discretion of their Advisory Conference Committee. Full candidacy is granted only upon successful completion of the General Examination.

Students who finish a master's degree cannot continue graduate study unless they are admitted into a doctoral program by the recommendation of a program and approval of the Graduate Dean.

4.2 - Accelerated Dual Degree Program

The accelerated dual degree program establishes a framework of rules by which academic units may offer students the option of earning a combined bachelor's and graduate degree in an accelerated program. The program allows students with 30 hours of advanced standing credit to earn both the bachelor's and the master's degrees within three to four years of matriculation and the bachelor's and PhD degrees in as short a period as five years from matriculation. Interested applicants should contact the academic programs of interest to design a degree plan.

4.3 - Specialization in Neuroscience

Neuroscience by its very nature is an interdisciplinary, collaborative area encompassing many different disciplines including cell biology, physiology, biochemistry and pathology, as well as clinical neuroscience. Students may elect to receive a doctoral degree in neuroscience or a specialization in neuroscience. To receive a specialization in neuroscience, a student must be admitted to a degree-granting program at the Health Sciences Center or Norman campus. Students who complete the neuroscience specialization requirements will receive a designation of "Specialization of Neuroscience" upon completion of the PhD degree.

4.4 - MD/PhD Degree Program

Applicants wishing to combine studies for the MD and PhD degrees must be accepted into the MD degree program and into a doctoral degree program. This is a combined degree program between the College of Medicine and Graduate College. Students accepted into the program complete the first two years of medical school, enter a graduate program completing a Doctor of Philosophy degree, then complete the last two years of medical school.

4.5 - Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program

A nontraditional program may be selected by students who do not choose to specialize in one of the prescribed program areas. The authority for designing and awarding an interdisciplinary doctoral degree is vested with the Graduate Council. This does not imply the relaxation of standards and levels of performance. It frees the candidate from the need to satisfy specific degree requirements of a department or unit which may not be particularly relevant to the program of study desired by the candidate. This determination is made by an Advisory Committee and the Graduate Council.

Because regular departmental programs usually require some course work in related areas, these programs must be defined so that they differ from conventional departmental programs. To this end, an interdisciplinary program is defined as one in which the candidate takes less than the normal number of courses required for a doctoral student in the disciplinary program but may require more didactic coursework than for the traditional doctoral degree. The procedures for candidacy and for earning a doctoral degree in an Interdisciplinary program are:

  1. The candidate must apply and be admitted to a graduate program authorized by the State Regents to grant the doctoral degree. Admission to the graduate program does not necessarily imply subsequent acceptance into an Interdisciplinary program.
  2. To be admitted into the Interdisciplinary program, the candidate must submit a petition to the Graduate Dean consisting of: a statement justifying the need for investigation in the proposed area; a list of courses to be included in the program of study; how this program significantly differs from existing programs; a research proposal; and a statement about the program from the proposed members of the Advisory Committee.
  3. The Graduate Dean, or a person designated by the Dean, is an ex-officio member of the Interdisciplinary Advisory Committee. The Graduate Council must approve the rationale, courses, and members of the Advisory Committee. The Graduate Council may require the student and the student’s mentor attend a Graduate Council meeting and defend the program of study. Any changes in an approved program must be authorized by the Graduate Dean.
  4. The majority of the graduate courses leading to the Interdisciplinary degree must be taken in departments or units authorized to offer the doctoral degree. Credit received for research for the doctoral dissertation may not be used to meet the preceding requirements.
  5. For the Interdisciplinary program, the degree granted will bear the name of the program in which most of the candidate's courses are taken, for example, Physiology/ Interdisciplinary.
  6. Subsequent procedures follow the rules of the Graduate College, except that the Advisory Committee is not constrained to follow the specific degree requirements of a particular department or unit.

4.6 - General Doctoral Degree Requirements

4.6.1 - Transfer Credit for Doctoral Programs

The acceptance of transfer credit from another institution for a doctoral degree at OUHSC is determined in accordance with the following criteria:

  1. A maximum of 44 semester hours from individual courses and/or a completed degree may be applied toward a doctoral degree. Exceptions can be made for additional non-OU coursework taken by electronic media, following enrollment in an OUHSC doctoral program.
  2. The coursework transferred must represent valid graduate credit earned in graduate level courses from an accredited college or university.
  3. The credit must carry a grade of A, B, or S.
  4. The credit must be applicable to the degree program.
  5. Individual courses applied must not be more than six years old at the time of admission to the degree program. In special cases, credit more than six years old may be transferred if recommended and validated by the department and approved by the Graduate Dean. The departmental procedures to validate the student's current knowledge and competency must have the approval of the Graduate Dean.
  6. A completed master's degree, all of which is to be used, may be applied toward a doctoral degree regardless of age, if approved by the department/program and the Graduate Dean. The total number of credit hours transferred toward the PhD degree cannot exceed 44 semester hours.
  7. Credit from a professional degree program such as the MD, DDS, or DVM degree may be applied toward a graduate degree as transfer credit, provided that such courses carry a grade of A, B, or S and have been approved for graduate credit by the academic institution of origin.
  8. Graduate coursework completed while a student is in a doctoral degree program at the University of Oklahoma Norman or OU Tulsa Campuses will be considered as residence credit, and upon approval of the department and the Graduate Dean, may be used without limitation as credit toward a doctoral degree.
  9. Credit hours previously counted for one doctoral degree may not be applied toward a second doctoral degree. No more than six hours of transfer thesis research credit from a completed master's degree may be applied toward a doctoral degree.
  10. Credit by correspondence or by advanced standing examination will not apply toward a graduate degree.
  11. Graduate coursework taken in Tulsa from the University of Oklahoma is not considered transfer credit. OSU Tulsa consists of five cooperating universities that provide undergraduate and graduate level courses as well as some degree programs. Credit taken from the other cooperating universities through OSU Tulsa is considered transfer work and must comply with the transfer policies.
  12. All transfer coursework must be approved by the program and by the Graduate Dean. Programs with transfer rules more stringent than those listed in this section have specified them in Section 5 of the bulletin. These more stringent rules take precedence over the general rules described in this section.
  13. Procedures for application of transfer credit may be found in the Policies and Procedures page of the website.

4.6.2 - Grade Point Average Computation

Transfer credit is considered neutral in computing the University of Oklahoma grade point average for the purpose of determining academic status, probation, and graduation.

4.6.3 - Time Limits for Completing Doctoral Degree

A doctoral student who enters the OUHSC Graduate College with a bachelor's degree is expected to pass the General Examination within five calendar years of the student's first graduate enrollment in the department and a student who enters with a master's degree is expected to pass the General Examination within four calendar years of the student's first graduate enrollment in the program.

A doctoral candidate is normally expected to complete all the degree requirements within five years after admission to candidacy. Programs with shorter time limits have so indicated in Section 5 of this Bulletin. Extensions greater than one year need the approval of the Graduate Dean and will require that the department or program unit involved certify that the student's knowledge will be current and appropriate to the degree at the time the degree is awarded. The procedure to be used for this determination must be approved by the Graduate Dean.

Individual graduate courses, not applied toward a previous graduate degree, taken at the University of Oklahoma or at another accredited university that is to be applied toward a doctoral degree must not be more than six years old at the time of admission or readmission to the Graduate College. No more than 23 credit hours (transfer credit and resident credit) applied toward a doctoral degree can be more than nine years old at the time of graduation for students entering with a master's degree or ten years old for students entering with a bachelor's degree.

4.6.4 - Responsibilities of the Graduate Program or Academic Unit

Each department or academic unit offering the doctoral degree is responsible for its graduate program. The Program determines how it shall function and how it shall exercise the powers delegated to it. These determinations shall include how many hours of course work constitute a minimum for the degree, what proportion of the work toward the degree is to be devoted to research, and the role of the dissertation. Further, each department or unit shall make its own rules regarding the time its students may spend, or work they may do, other than toward the degree itself, in classroom, laboratory, research assistance, or instruction.

Research proficiency is based in part on the development of attitudes and skills, which vary considerably from one field to another. The faculty for each program is responsible for requiring that their doctoral candidates demonstrate proficiency in those skills deemed necessary for successful research performance. For example, a faculty may require its students to demonstrate particular technical competencies.

Each program offering the doctoral degree will decide the time and means of certifying prospective candidacy and will formally notify the Graduate College when a student has completed all the requirements to be nominated as a prospective candidate. The Graduate Dean will admit the student to candidacy.

4.7 - The Advisory Committee

Each Graduate Program unit will establish a Graduate Education Advisory Committee in such a way that the related areas within the program are represented. A minimum of three Graduate Faculty members should comprise the Advisory Committee with the majority authorized to chair a doctoral committee. The membership of the committee must be approved by the Graduate Dean.

The responsibilities of this committee will be to:

  1. Advise, encourage, and act as an advocate for students from the first day a student is in the program. This should include regularly scheduled meetings with the student through the completion of the general examination and until the dissertation advisor is selected;
  2. Design an appropriate curriculum for each student;
  3. Work with the student to complete and file with the Graduate College a plan of study (Report of the Doctoral Advisory Conference). This report should be filed no later than the end of the student's first year in the program. The Committee should be sure that the student understands that the program may need to be modified or additional work may be necessary, depending on the choice of the dissertation advisor and dissertation topic;
  4. Coordinate the administration of the General Examination at the appropriate time;
  5. Perform an annual evaluation of each student's progress toward the degree and communicate the results of the evaluation to the student and the Graduate Dean; and
  6. Help the students select an appropriate dissertation advisor.

4.8 - The General Examination

Students should apply for the General Examination when the course work and any tools of research as described in the Report of the Doctoral Advisory Conference are almost complete. The examination is intended to test the student's mastery of a number of related fields as well as the student's ability to synthesize, integrate, generalize, and expand upon all knowledge gained prior to the examination. Students should expect that material included in this examination will go beyond the subject matter covered in any individual course.

Each graduate program will develop clearly defined guidelines for the General Examination including:

  1. When the examination will be administered within the student's outlined program;
  2. The structure and format for the examination (must include a written portion);
  3. The procedure for evaluating the examination; and
  4. The procedure available for students to receive consultation and evaluation of their performance on the examination.

These guidelines must be approved by the Graduate College and any changes to the guidelines for the General Examination must be submitted to and approved by the Graduate Dean.

The student submits to the Graduate College the Application for the General Examination at least 10 working days prior to the start of the examination. 

The application must contain the names and signatures of the student’s General Examination Committee.  The General Examination Committee must be composed of five Graduate Faculty members with the majority authorized to chair a doctoral committee. The application must be approved by the student’s graduate program as documented by the signature of the graduate liaison or program director.

Upon submission to the Graduate College the application must be approved by the Graduate Dean.  The student may not begin the General Examination until their graduate program receives notification that the Graduate Dean has approved their Application for the General Examination.  Any General Examination taken without approval of the Graduate College must be repeated.

Advances in electronic media have made it possible for the oral component of the General Exam to be held without the presence of every member at the same location. The Graduate College must be notified of remote participation before the oral component. The student, the committee chair, and the majority of General Examination Committee must be physically present at the same location for the oral component of the General Examination.  Other committee members may participate remotely via audio or video conference. Nevertheless, the integrity and significance of the oral examination process must not be compromised by the absence of a sound committee.

Within 72 hours following completion of the General Examination, the chair of the General Examination Committee must submit to the Graduate College a written report signed by all members of the examination committee indicating  whether the student passed or failed the examination.  Copies of electronic signatures for committee members who have been approved to participate remotely will be accepted.

A unanimous report from the General Examination Committee is expected; however, on occasion committee members may dissent. If one committee member dissents the dissent is recorded.  If two committee members dissent the dissent is recorded, a minority report must be filed, and the Graduate Dean will investigate and make the final decision on the General Examination. If more than two committee members dissent, the General Examination is judged to be a failure.

Upon notification that the student has successfully passed their General Examination and a request has been made to the Graduate Dean for admission to candidacy, the student is eligible to enroll in dissertation research hours (6980).  The student must be eligible for candidacy by the final date to enroll in order to enroll in dissertation research hours (6980) for that semester.

If a student fails either the written or oral portion of the General Examination the examination is considered a failure. Students have the option of taking a second General Examination if they fail the first attempt.  The Chair of the General Examination Committee must provide the student with a critique of the failed exam; describe any further coursework, reading, etc. that the student is required to do prior to taking the second examination; and the proposed time for completion of the second General Examination.  This must be provided as a written document to the student and a copy provided to the Graduate College Dean within 7 working days of the failed General Examination.

To take a second General Examination the student must submit a new Application for the General Examination to the Graduate College following the above procedures.  The second General Examination must be scheduled no later than one academic year after failure of the first exam.  Failure of the General Examination for a second time will result in dismissal from the doctoral program.

4.8.1 - Terminal Master's Degree

Effective for students entering doctoral programs from fall 2009, a doctoral student may request to change their major to a terminal master’s degree. Matriculated doctoral students changing to a terminal master’s degree must complete the requirements for a thesis or non-thesis master’s degree to be awarded a master’s degree as described in the Masters Programs portion of the Graduate College Bulletin. Students changing to a terminal master’s degree may not enter the same doctoral program at a later date.

Policy after Successful Completion of the General Exam:

When permitted by departmental policy, effective for students entering doctoral programs from fall 2009, students who do not hold the master's degree in the doctoral discipline may apply for the master's degree if they have passed the General Examination for the doctoral degree, have met the departmental requirements for the non-thesis master’s degree, and have the recommendation of the major department. Upon approval by the Graduate Dean, the student will be awarded the terminal master's degree.

Policy After Failure of the General Exam:

Effective for students entering doctoral programs from fall 2009, students who have failed the general examination and do not hold the master's degree in the doctoral discipline may request to change their major to the master’s degree program. Students in graduate programs that offer a thesis master’s degree must complete the requirements for a thesis master’s degree to be awarded a master’s degree. For students in graduate programs that offer a non-thesis master’s degree the program may allow the student to apply to take the master's comprehensive examination if they have otherwise met all of the departmental requirements for the master's degree, and have the recommendation of the major department. Courses taken prior to failing the general examination may count for no more than 50% of the credit hours required for a master's degree in a different discipline at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. Furthermore, the courses must have been taken within six years of the student's admission to the master's degree being sought. The student must be admitted to the master's degree program and have permission from that department and the Graduate Dean to include the courses.

4.9 - Non-terminal Master's DegreeUpdated: 7/25/2017

Students in graduate programs that offer a thesis master’s degree must complete the requirements for a thesis master’s degree to be awarded a master’s degree while progressing to a doctoral degree; materials presented in the master’s thesis may not be included in the student’s doctoral dissertation. The request to obtain a master’s degree must be made no later than the next semester after passing the General Examination. The student must file an Admission to Candidacy form for the master's degree and pay the appropriate graduation fees. Transfer credit can only be applied once to a succeeding degree.

4.10 - The Doctoral Committee

The student's Doctoral Committee will be established by the Advisory Committee in coordination with the student and the dissertation advisor and with approval by the Graduate Dean. This committee will consist of at least five members with the majority from the department and with at least one member from outside the department. The committee must be constituted so that no more than two members do not have authority to chair doctoral committees.   If the Graduate Faculty appointment level of a doctoral committee member changes, the Graduate College will honor the appointment level at the time the committee was approved.

This committee must be appointed no later than the time that the General Examination is successfully completed. Any changes in the membership of the Doctoral Committee must be done in consultation with the student and approved by the remaining members of the Committee and the Graduate Dean. The Graduate Dean may exercise the prerogative of appointing an additional voting representative of the Graduate College. If the representative is appointed later than one semester prior to the time of the General Examination, he or she will serve as a non-voting member of the Committee.

The functions of this committee will be to:

  1. Guide the student in the selection of an appropriate dissertation topic and in the research design and methodology for the dissertation;
  2. Approve the student's research plan or prospectus;
  3. Advise and assist the student with specialty information necessary to design and complete the dissertation research project;
  4. Perform an annual evaluation of the student's progress toward the degree and communicate the results of the evaluation to the student and the Graduate Dean;
  5. Read and correct the drafts of the dissertation to ensure that appropriate standards are met; and,
  6. Administer the dissertation defense.

This Request for Approval of Doctoral Committee form is available on the Graduate College website.

4.11 - The Doctoral Dissertation

The doctoral dissertation is the final and most important component of the series of academic experiences, which culminates in the awarding of the doctoral degree. Three major functions are fulfilled by the dissertation experience: (1) it is a work of original research/scholarship that makes a contribution to existing knowledge; (2) it demonstrates the candidate's mastery of research methods and tools of the special field; and (3) it demonstrates the student's ability to address a significant intellectual problem and to arrive at a successful conclusion.

Aided by the dissertation advisor, the student should promptly select a dissertation topic. It is the responsibility of the student to ensure that approval, if appropriate, has been granted from all regulatory offices (IBC, IRB, IACUC, etc). After the General Examination, most of the student's time will be devoted to research and writing the dissertation. The student must enroll in enough hours of Research for Doctor's Dissertation (course 6980) to satisfy the requirement of the program and to meet the minimum 90-hour requirement of the Graduate College.

Thesis/Dissertation guidelines are found on the Graduate College website.

4.11.1 - Requirements for Enrolling in Dissertation Research

The initial enrollment in 6980 (Research for Doctoral Dissertation) must be for at least two hours and only students who have completed the General Examination and have been admitted to candidacy by the final date to enroll for the upcoming semester may enroll in 6980. Subsequently, each doctoral student must maintain continuous enrollment in at least two hours of 6980 during each term until the requirements for the degree are completed.

4.11.2 - Dissertation Reading Copy

The doctoral candidate should prepare and distribute reading copies of the dissertation to each doctoral committee member. The reading copy should be in an acceptable dissertation format and must include all figures and tables, numbered pages, and a complete bibliography.

It is the responsibility of the student to assure that the dissertation format complies with the Graduate College standards as defined in the "Guidelines for the Preparation of the Master's Thesis and Doctoral Dissertation." When the copy has received preliminary approval of the major professor, it should be submitted to the Graduate College along with a memorandum from the major professor indicating approval of the reading copy and listing the members of the reading committee. Reading copy deadlines are printed in the Academic Calendar for each semester. Students must submit their reading copy as a PDF.

The Graduate Dean will direct the committee to read and determine whether the dissertation demonstrates the student's discipline. They may accept or reject it. If they reject it, the student will be given another opportunity to submit an acceptable dissertation to the committee and the Graduate College. If they accept it, they may require changes and corrections. When the dissertation is in an acceptable format to the Graduate College and a degree check indicates the student has completed all course work with acceptable grades, the student may schedule the final oral examination.

4.11.3 - Final Oral Examination-Dissertation Defense

The final oral examination is a defense of the dissertation and is open to the public. The student must be enrolled for at least two hours in the semester he/she is to take the final oral examination.  Any changes in the doctoral committee must be approved by the Graduate Dean.  The Graduate Dean may exercise a prerogative and appoint an observer for the Graduate College who would not be a voting member.

At least 10 days before the defense, the candidate must submit to the Graduate College an Announcement for the Final Exam and an abstract of no more than 350 words. The Dissertation Defense Announcement form and Committee Approval of Defense Date are located on the Graduate College website under Current Students\Graduate Student Forms.  Authority for the Defense of the Doctoral Dissertation and other forms are mailed to the student's major professor before the final oral exam.  All members of the committee must sign the form and signify whether the examination was satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

 Advances in electronic media have made it possible for the oral defense to be held without the presence of every member at the same location. The Graduate College must be notified of remote participation in advance of the defense. The student, the committee chair, and the majority of the dissertation committee must be physically present at the same location. Other committee members may participate remotely via audio or video conference. Nevertheless, the integrity and significance of the oral examination process must not be compromised by the absence of a sound committee.

Copies of electronic signatures for committee members who have been approved to participate remotely will be accepted on the Authority Report Form for the Dissertation Defense. Original signatures from all members are required on the final dissertation signature page.

The results of the dissertation defense must be reported to the Graduate College within 72 hours. A unanimous report from the doctoral committee is expected; however, on occasion some dissenting reports are received.  If one member dissents, the dissent is recognized as a minority report.  If two members of the doctoral committee dissent, a minority report must be filed and the Graduate Dean will investigate and make the final decision.  If more than two members vote unsatisfactory, the defense is judged to be a failure. Only one attempt is granted in defending the dissertation. If the defense is determined to be unsatisfactory (failure), the decision is final and the defense cannot be repeated. Furthermore, the student will be dropped from the rolls of the Graduate College and candidacy for the doctoral degree will terminate.

Nothing herein shall prohibit such a student from reapplying for admission to the Graduate College and pursuing a doctoral degree in another major field so long as the student satisfies all necessary degree requirements under the rules and regulations of the admitting department, Graduate College and University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

4.11.4 - Depositing a Dissertation in the Library

Students must submit their dissertation in electronic format to the Graduate College through the OUHSC ProQuest Administrator.  A paper copy of the thesis signature page containing original signatures of the thesis committee or digital signatures of the thesis committee must be submitted to the Graduate College.   All Dissertation Committee members must sign the signature page or submit a written dissent to the Graduate College.  The written dissent must be submitted at the time of the final signed signature page to the Graduate College.

After approval by the Graduate College and the student’s mentor, the final copy is uploaded to the OUHSC University Library through the ProQuest database. 

The final copy of the dissertation must be delivered to the Graduate College within 60 calendar days of the oral defense. Students planning to graduate in a particular semester must meet specific academic deadlines and may not have 60 calendar days available. University graduate deadlines are listed in the OUHSC Academic calendar. See Graduation Deadlines Section 4.12.

Failure to submit the final copy within 60 days will cause the results of the defense to be set aside, whereupon the student must offer the Graduate College a new reading copy of the dissertation that carries preliminary approval of the major professor. When the committee has accepted this new reading copy, the student may schedule the defense of the dissertation, according to the policies and procedures defined above.

It is essential that all dissertation candidates make themselves responsible for the complete and accurate collation of their materials before turning them in to the Graduate College. If utilizing copyrighted material in the dissertation, students must obtain permission from the holder of the copyright for such reproduction; without permission, the author of the dissertation is liable to prosecution once the dissertation has been made a published document. The student and mentor must sign and submit the form “Permission to use Published Materials in Dissertation/Thesis”.

4.12 - Graduation Deadlines

The date of graduation for each term shall be the last day of final examination in the fall, the date of commencement in the spring, and the last day of classes in the summer.  To entitle a student to graduate as of that date, all work required for the degree (this includes the depositing the thesis/dissertation in the library and payment of tuition and fees) must be completed prior to the first day of classes of the next semester or summer session.   If the student has not completed all the requirements, the student will become a graduate the following semester.   It is the student's responsibility to make sure all degree requirements have been met.

The following deadlines apply:

  1. Current Semester Graduate:  All documents (including dissertation final copy) must be submitted to the Graduate College office by 5 PM on the last working day prior to the beginning of the upcoming semester.
  2. Upcoming Semester Graduate Without Enrollment:  All documents (including dissertation final copy) must be submitted to the Graduate College office by 5 PM on the last working day to enroll for the upcoming semester.
  3. Upcoming Semester With Required Enrollment:  Monday after the final day to add a class, the student must become a graduate of the upcoming semester and must enroll in 2 hours of 6980.

4.13 - Diploma and Fees

During the candidate's last semester, the candidate must file an official Application for Graduation, pay a graduation fee, and pay all tuition and fee charges before the degree will be conferred and a diploma issued.  The student who plans to participate in the commencement ceremony must pay a cap and gown rental fee or they can purchase or borrrow one.

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