Graduate Program Requirements

Aspects of the requirements for the Ph.D. in psychology are explained in greater detail in departmental memoranda available to enrolled graduate students. These requirements may be revised at any time by action of the Psychology Department faculty or the University; however, major changes in requirements usually do not apply to students who have already been admitted.

Course Requirements

Students complete at least six graduate seminars, three of which are taken from the following breadth areas: physiological, comparative, social, personality, sensation and perception, cognitive, developmental, and history of psychology. Students are required to complete, with no lower than a B grade, three courses in statistics covering psychometrics and the analysis of experimental and correlational data, analysis of variance and covariance, and multivariate analysis. Students complete at least one of these courses before taking the preliminary written examination.

Individual Research Project

Each student, under the supervision of a faculty member, designs, conducts, analyzes and writes a publishable report on a research project. This individual research project begins during the first year in the program and is completed prior to the oral qualifying examination. All students are expected to involve themselves in research throughout their graduate studies.

Ongoing Research

Preparation for the Preliminary Written Examination

The preliminary written examination is designed to establish the student's control of one of the major sub-areas of psychology within which the student's particular interests are focused. The breadth and depth of the student's mastery of the sub-area should be commensurate with that required to teach a course in that area at an advanced undergraduate level. Because an important component of the skills to be assessed in the preliminary written examination is the critical analysis of theories and their supportive evidence, the student must complete three graduate seminars before taking the preliminary written examination. The preliminary written examination must be taken no later than two weeks after the beginning of the seventh quarter in residence.

Preparation for the Oral Qualifying Examination

Once the written examination has been passed and all other requirements (including course work) are satisfied, students begin intensive preparation for the oral qualifying examination, which is designed to assess their knowledge of a specialized area of theory and research. This examination must be passed before  
students are admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. It may be taken at any time up to three full quarters after the passage of the written examination. Therefore, this period will comprise activities which will help prepare students for this examination and for their dissertation work: advanced reading, specialized seminars and independent research. Each student is required to take at least six graduate-level seminars prior to the oral examination. It is strongly recommended that these courses include offerings from both inside and outside the department.

  • The oral qualifying examination is conducted by the student's Individual Advising Committee, augmented by two additional members. The student develops, in consultation with the Individual Advising Committee, a proposal for the dissertation research. This proposal must be sufficiently detailed to inform all members of the examination committee of the major theoretical and methodological problem areas to be encountered in the dissertation research.


Once the oral examination has been passed, the student must file for candidacy for the Ph.D., and a dissertation committee is appointed by the graduate dean. The student must then develop and carry out an empirical investigation of a significant problem in the chosen area of specialization. Once the dissertation has been completed, the candidate may be asked to defend the dissertation in a formal oral examination.

Progress Reviews

The progress of all students is reviewed annually by the faculty.