Doctoral Program Stages to Graduation

Follow these stages and tips to finish your doctoral degree.

Stage 1 – take classes

Strive to complete your coursework within three years. Write papers for these classes that will work in your dissertation.

During this stage, you will also need to find a committee chair. Toward the end of your coursework, you will create a dissertation committee. *

Stage 2 – take comprehensive exams *

Learn more about the written and oral examinations that comprise your comprehensive exam

Stage 3 – write dissertation proposal

You will write a 15-20 page overview of your proposed dissertation and present it for your committee’s approval.

Stage 4 – write prospectus

The prospectus will consist of the first three chapters of your five-chapter dissertation. 

Stage 5 – formal defense of prospectus

Prepare your Internal Review Board (IRB) paperwork, but do not submit it until you pass your defense. *

Once you pass your prospectus defense, you will be an ABD (all but dissertation) doctoral candidate.

Stage 6 – conduct research

Stage 7 – formal defense of dissertation *

Read the dissertation defense procedures before you schedule your defense. Watch for graduation application due dates early in the semester you will graduate.  

Stage 8 – make revisions and submit your dissertation electronically *

Read more about Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETD).

Stage 9 – graduation

Congratulations on earning your doctorate. Read more about graduation and commencement


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