Coursework requirements include:
1. GEOG 801 - Contemporary Approaches to Geography (3 credit hours)
2. An advanced techniques course, taken at the 700 level or above, appropriate to the student’s specialization and dissertation topic and selected with advisor approval (3 credit hours)
3. An 800-level advanced seminar in area of specialization (3 credit hours)
4. Additional courses including at least one course outside of Geography (12 credit hours)
Please note the following:
No more than 6 credits of independent study in Geography (i.e. 705, 706, or 805) may appear on the Doctoral Program of Study. No more than 9 credit hours of independent study with any designator may be used on a Program of Study.
At least one-half of the coursework credit hours listed in the student’s Doctoral Program of Study (D-POS) must be in courses numbered 700 or higher (this does not include 899 credit hours).
Doctoral students must complete GEOG 531 or its equivalent, either at the Master’s or the PhD level, in order to advance to candidacy.
- GEOG 801 - Contemporary Approaches to Geography (3 cr)
- Technical Proficiency – This is demonstrated by completion of a 700 or above level techniques course, appropriate to the student’s specialization and dissertation topic and with advisor approval. (3 cr)
- 800-level advanced seminar in specialization (3 cr)
- Additional courses at the graduate level including at least one course outside of geography (12 cr)
B. Dissertation Preparation
Doctoral students are required to complete a minimum of 12 credit hours of dissertation credit hours (GEOG 899).
C. Admission to candidacy
Three conditions must be met to be admitted to candidacy: 1) full admission to the doctoral program; 2) approval of Doctoral Program of Study; and 3) the successful completion of GEOG 801, GEOG 531 or its equivalent, and an advanced techniques course (see section A above), each with a grade of B or better. The admission to candidacy should normally be completed within the first year of enrollment in the PhD program.
D. Comprehensive examination
The comprehensive examination consists of the dissertation proposal, the oral defense of the proposal, and a written exam. The proposal defense and the written exam must take place within one regular semester (or the equivalent) of each other.
The comprehensive examination committee must include no fewer than four members, and must include one (but no more than one) member from outside the major department. Regular Graduate Faculty of any rank may serve on or chair doctoral committees. Research faculty who have been appointed to associate membership in the Graduate Faculty may also serve on or chair a doctoral committee. Faculty members with term appointments may serve on, but may not chair, doctoral committees.
The dissertation proposal must be of a quality commensurate with a funding proposal to a nationally-recognized funding source. Normally the proposal defense takes place by the fourth semester. The proposal defense is open to the public and should be announced at least one week ahead of time. A copy of the proposal should be placed in the departmental office at this time. Students may not enroll in GEOG 899 until the successful defense of the proposal and the completion of any remediation required by the committee. The committee may allow the student up to one month after the proposal defense to complete remediation. Students have only one opportunity to complete remediation.
The written exam occurs after coursework is completed or during the final semester of coursework. The purpose of the written exam is to test the student’s preparedness to carry out independent research and teaching in his/her disciplinary fields.
The examination committee and the student work together to compile reading lists corresponding to each disciplinary field (represented by the committee members) to be examined. The reading lists must be finalized at least 3 months prior to the exam. Each reading list should be composed of references, including classic and contemporary selections, appropriate to the disciplinary field being tested. Exam formats and requirements may vary, but all written comprehensive exams must follow these basic guidelines: 1) Students will be required to answer no more than three questions for each designated disciplinary field; 2) Students must have between 5 and 8 hours to complete the exam for each designated disciplinary field; and 3) The examination committee must inform the student of the exam format and requirements at least three weeks prior to the exam. This includes information about the number of questions and question options; whether the exam will be open-book/note or closed-book/note; whether the exam will be given on consecutive or alternating days; and whether there will be any word-length requirements.
Each committee member is responsible for evaluating written exam responses corresponding with his/her area of expertise within two weeks of the student’s completion of the written exam. Each committee member will assign a grade of Pass, Conditional Pass, or Fail. A Conditional Pass indicates that a student must undertake remedial work on the exam response. The committee may allow up to one month for the student to complete any required remediation. All remediation must be completed before a Pass can be awarded. Students have one opportunity only to complete remedial work. The student must pass each section of the written comprehensive exam in order to pass the exam as a whole.
Upon the successful defense of the proposal, and the satisfactory completion of any remediation required by the committee, the student is eligible to register for GEOG 899 (dissertation preparation credit hours).
A student must be enrolled for at least one credit during any regular semester in which dissertation progress is made and such University resources as the library, computer facilities, or faculty time are used.
1. Dissertation committee
The dissertation is completed under the direction of a dissertation committee, which also examines the student on the content of the dissertation at the defense. The dissertation committee may or may not have the same members as the comprehensive examination committee. The dissertation committee must include no fewer than four members, and must include one (but no more than one) member from outside the major department. Regular Graduate Faculty of any rank may serve on or chair doctoral committees. Research faculty who have been appointed to associate membership in the Graduate Faculty may also serve on or chair a doctoral committee. Faculty members with term appointments may serve on, but may not chair, doctoral committees.
2. Dissertation Format
Dissertations may be traditional style or manuscript style (consisting of at least three manuscripts). All dissertations must follow the formatting guidelines defined by the Graduate School. The preliminary dissertation document will need to be submitted electronically to the Graduate School for a format check at least five weeks before graduation.
3. Dissertation defense
The dissertation defense is open to the public and typically involves a short (typically 25-30 minute) public talk with questions and answers, followed by a closed session with the dissertation committee. The student should submit a complete draft of the dissertation to his/her committee at least two weeks prior to the scheduled defense date. The Graduate School requires that the dissertation defense be publicly announced using the Dissertation Defense Announcement (G-DDA) form at least 14 days prior to the scheduled defense. The dissertation document must be made available for public view in the departmental office at least one week prior to the scheduled defense date. The dissertation defense should be scheduled no fewer than 30 days before the date of graduation. The committee may allow the student up to one month to complete any remediation required on the dissertation. Students will have only one opportunity to complete remediation.
F. Teaching experience
As part of their doctoral program, PhD students must have at least one semester’s worth of experience either as an instructor of record or as a teaching assistant.
G. Presentation of a full-length research talk
Prior to commencement, Ph.D. students must present their doctoral research in a public, full-length talk (i.e., 45 minutes + 15 minutes for questions) to the Department.
Residency requirement, enrollment, and course revalidation
The doctoral residency requirement is satisfied with 18 hours of coursework taken in 3 consecutive major semesters. Enrollment in a summer term is not required to maintain continuity, but credits earned during summer terms (including May Session) will count toward the 18 hours required for residency.
The University considers 9 hours during a regular session (6 hours for students holding an assistantship) to be a full load for PhD students (the maximum course load in each summer session is 6 hours). PhD students on assistantships during the summer must be enrolled in at least one credit hour. Students must be enrolled in at least one credit during the term of graduation.
Doctoral students must request revalidation for USC graduate courses that are over ten years old for inclusion in the doctoral program of study (coursework taken at other institutions may not be revalidated). Approval of the revalidation request is at the discretion of the Graduate Director. Students who do not complete the program within a ten-year period become subject to changes in degree requirements adopted after that ten-year period.
A student must demonstrate satisfactory academic progress. At the time of graduation, the student’s graduate cumulative grade point average (GPA) must be at least 3.00 on a 4.00 scale. All courses listed on the Doctoral Program of Study must be at least a B. Graduate students whose cumulative grade point average drops below 3.00 (B) will be placed on academic probation and allowed one calendar year in which to raise the grade point average to at least 3.00. Financial assistance may be terminated or reduced for a student who is on probation. Students who do not reach a cumulative 3.00 grade point average during the probationary period will not be permitted to enroll for further graduate coursework and will be terminated from the program.
Other causes for termination may include, but are not limited to, the following: (1) failure to complete all requirements for previous degree by the end of the first semester; (2) failure to have a dissertation proposal approved by the end of the fifth semester for full-time students; (3) failure of the written comprehensive exam; (4) failure to produce a defensible dissertation; and (5) acts of academic dishonesty.
A student will be notified of termination, in writing, prior to the beginning of classes for a semester.