The Catholic University of America

Archived 08/19/05

Admission to Candidacy

Admission to a doctoral program does not automatically include admission to candidacy for the doctoral degree. The faculty of the school and department must evaluate the progress of the student and determine that the student has completed all course and other requirements, has passed the comprehensive examination, and is otherwise qualified to fulfill the requirements of the doctoral dissertation. Schools and departments may follow different procedures for formal admission to candidacy. The student should consult with the department chair or dean for information on these procedures.

Completion of Requirements

A student who anticipates, for valid personal or academic reasons, being unable to complete the dissertation within the five-year time limit may petition, in writing, to the dean of the school for an extension of time. Unless a leave of absence has been previously granted, an extension may normally be granted for one year.

Candidacy for the doctoral degree begins formally on the first day of the semester following school and departmental approval of the admission to candidacy. The student has five years from this date of formal admission to candidacy to complete, defend and deposit the dissertation. However, individual schools and departments may, at their discretion, set different time limits for completion, as long as these do not exceed the five-year limit. If more than five years, or the time set by the schools or departments, elapse between formal admission to candidacy and oral defense of the dissertation, the doctoral candidate may be required to retake the comprehensive examination or fulfill additional requirements. This is a determination made by the school and department.

Comprehensive Examination

After fulfilling the language and course requirements in the major subject, the student must pass a written comprehensive examination in this major subject. At the discretion of the department or school, the comprehensive examination may also include a written or oral examination in the minor subject. After successfully passing the comprehensive examination, the student may be considered for admission to candidacy for a doctoral degree.

Students must register for the comprehensive examination for the semester in which they plan to take it. Upon approval of the student's credentials by the dean of the school and, where appropriate, the department chair, the student will be granted written permission by the dean to take the comprehensive examination. The student may not sit for the examination until he or she has received this permission.

The comprehensive examination is marked pass or fail. If the student fails the examination, he or she may retake the examination only once. Depending on school/department policy, the student must retake either the entire examination or just the failed portion. A student who fails the comprehensive examination twice may not be considered for admission to candidacy for the doctoral degree. A second failing grade is noted on the student's permanent records.

Course Work

The program of studies to be pursued for the degree must include a minimum of 53 semester hours of graduate course work, of which at least 35 semester hours must be in the major subject. The remainder must be completed in a program which has been approved by the department chair and/or the dean of the school. Additional requirements may be prescribed by individual schools or departments.

Courses carrying graduate degree credit normally will be scheduled for 14 contact hours for each hour of academic credit.

Continuing education courses are not acceptable in meeting requirements for graduate degree programs.


After the student has been admitted to candidacy, the department, the school and the vice provost and dean of graduate studies must approve the dissertation topic and dissertation committee. The vice provost, acting on behalf of the Academic Senate, will seek the assistance of a faculty reviewer in evaluating the topic and committee.

The student may not proceed beyond the preliminary stage in the investigation of the topic until both the topic and the dissertation committee have been granted final approval by the vice provost and dean of graduate studies.

If human subjects are involved in the research, the dissertation proposal must be submitted for certification to the Committee for the Protection of Human Research Subjects prior to final approval by the vice provost and dean of graduate studies. Certification by the committee indicates that the proposed research involving human subject participation is compliant with federal guidelines according to 45 CFR 46. The committee will send the student and the vice provost and dean of graduate studies written notification of its approval of the proposal's research methods.

The department chair, the dean and the vice provost and dean of graduate studies must also approve any subsequent changes either to the title of the dissertation or to the composition of the dissertation committee. Forms for these changes are available in the office of the department chair, the dean, and the vice provost and dean of graduate studies.

Dissertation proposals must be submitted for department and school approval no later than two years after formal admission to candidacy. Deans may extend the deadline for cause. If this is necessary, arrangements must be made in advance with the dean's office.

The dissertation proposal should contain the following elements:

  1. A brief statement of the problem to be studied and the background or antecedents of the problem which have led the student to propose a study of this particular topic;
  2. A specific statement of the purpose or purposes of the proposed study;
  3. A description of the methodology to be used. If the study involves the testing of a hypothesis, the hypothesis should be spelled out clearly. Where applicable, the student should describe the techniques, statistical measures, sampling methods and any other essential methodological features he or she will be using in the research;
  4. An explanation of the specific or unique contribution which this study will make to the field of knowledge under consideration;
  5. A brief selected bibliography of the most important primary and secondary sources relevant to the study.

The doctoral candidate submits the proposal for dissertation topic and committee on the form Doctoral Dissertation Topic and Committee: Request for Approval, available from the department, the school, and the Office of the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies. Instructions for submitting the form are listed on the back of the form.

As stated above, the student has five years from the date of formal admission to candidacy to complete, defend and deposit the dissertation, unless the department and/or school have set a different deadline. If the student is unable to complete the dissertation within this time period, the dean and department chair may inform the candidate that he or she must submit a request for a reasonable extension. If the student fails to request an extension, the dissertation topic may be withdrawn. In this case, the doctoral candidate will be subject to dismissal from the program. Another student may then submit the topic for approval.

The completed dissertation in definitive form must be submitted for approval to the student's dissertation committee no later than the date specified by the school and department for each graduation date. The department and school establish the procedures for submission of the dissertation to the dissertation committee.

Dissertation Criteria

Dissertations will be judged according to the following criteria:

  1. The dissertation should constitute a contribution to knowledge. Such contributions may include: a) the discovery of new facts; b) the establishment of new relations among facts already known; c) the solution to a problem or problems hitherto unresolved; d) the formulation of a new or improved method or technique; e) the construction of a theory involving new principles; or f) a critical study correcting errors or establishing negatives.
  2. The following are not considered to be contributions to the body of knowledge:
    1. Mere compilations or a digest of that which is already known about a given subject;
    2. Translations of foreign language works without commentary or critical analysis;
    3. Bibliographies or other mere instruments of research, however needed or useful they may be; or
    4. Essay-type works not based on detailed factual investigation.
  3. The dissertation should demonstrate the candidate's familiarity with the most recent and best methods and techniques of research in the subject and the ability to apply them. Research results must have been achieved through advanced methods or techniques. The dissertation should demonstrate academic maturity in discovering and formulating the broader and more generic aspects of the data collected.
  4. The dissertation should demonstrate knowledge of the contributions of previous investigators working on both the subject area of the dissertation and on closely or organically related subjects.
  5. The dissertation should give evidence of the candidate's ability to interpret the gathered data both independently and constructively, and to recognize their bearing upon related data and problems.
  6. The dissertation should give evidence of balanced, objective, and critical judgment.
  7. The dissertation should give evidence of the candidate's ability to marshal facts and evidence, to organize material around the major unifying idea or ideas, to emphasize important points, and to present data in an orderly sequence.
  8. The dissertation should be written in clear and direct language, proving the candidate's mastery of style and expression.
  9. The dissertation must follow the approved format, which conforms to the norms of The Chicago Manual of Style (University of Chicago Press), with whatever adaptations are appropriate for the candidate's discipline (e.g. the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing of the Modern Language Association of America).
  10. The dissertation should include:
    1. A precise definition of the proposed contribution to knowledge and a summary of the work of previous investigators of the problem. An exposition of the methods and/or techniques used by the candidate should precede the presentation of data;
    2. The presentation of the additional data assembled by the candidate and the exposition of the candidate's contribution to knowledge;
    3. A brief summary stating the major results achieved or the contributions made by the dissertation;
    4. A bibliography and an index, whenever called for by the nature of the dissertation.

Dissertation Publication

Following the successful defense and final approval of the dissertation by the dissertation committee, the candidate must arrange for the deposit, microfilming and publication of the dissertation.

The CUA publication Dissertation Handbook, available in the Office of the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies, provides detailed information on formatting and printing the manuscript, preparing the abstract, registering the copyright and arranging for the deposit, microfilming, publishing and binding of the dissertation. All candidates preparing to write a dissertation should obtain a copy of this publication by contracting the Coordinator of Graduate Student Services in the Office of the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies. The coordinator will review the manuscript with the candidate for formatting errors.

If the graduate wishes to publish or republish the dissertation, he or she must include in the publication a statement of acknowledgement that the dissertation was written in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a doctoral degree from The Catholic University of America.


Language requirements are determined by the various departments and schools. Each student should ascertain the language requirements applicable to the student's degree program by consultation with the chair of the department or the dean of the school. Students must fulfill all language requirements before taking the written comprehensive examination in the major subject.

The generally accepted methods of satisfying modern language requirements are the same as those specified for the master's degree. Additional requirements may be specified by individual departments or schools.

Oral Examination

Upon completion of the dissertation, but prior to final approval, the candidate must defend the dissertation in an oral examination in the presence of an examination board appointed by the academic dean of the school with the approval of the vice provost and dean of graduate studies.

At least three weeks prior to the proposed examination date, the dean must submit to the vice provost and dean of graduate studies the form Oral Examination for the Doctorate: Request for Approval. The examination may not be scheduled until all members of the dissertation committee have informed the dean, in writing, that the dissertation is ready for defense. At least one week before the examination date, the dean's office shall publish a leaflet publicly announcing the defense and containing a summary of the dissertation and biographical information on the candidate.

The oral examination board shall include, in addition to the candidate's dissertation committee, two faculty members from outside the major department or school, one serving as chair and the other as secretary during the examination. The duration of the oral examination shall not exceed two hours. Oral examinations will not be scheduled during the summer sessions. No one may be admitted to the examination room without the permission of the dean of the school. Each member of the examination board has one vote. In order to pass, the candidate must receive a "pass" vote from at least four examiners. If merited, a notation of "with distinction" will be recorded. The examination board is not permitted to pass the candidate conditionally. After successful completion of the final oral examination, the candidate may proceed with arrangements for deposit and publication of the dissertation (see below).

If a candidate fails in the first oral examination, he or she must obtain permission from the school to retake the examination. A candidate will not be permitted to retake the final oral examination until at least one semester, or an equivalent period of time, has elapsed from the date of failure. If the candidate fails a second time in the oral examination, he or she ceases to be a candidate for the doctoral degree.

The Copyright

Copyright ownership of a thesis or dissertation prepared by a student toward degree requirements shall remain with the student, provided that, unless otherwise agreed in writing, by submitting the work for credit or degree requirements, the student shall automatically be deemed to have granted a nonexclusive, worldwide, royalty-free license to the university (1) to make available to the university community through electronic or other means the entire dissertation; (2) to make available to the broader public a limited number of copies of such thesis or dissertation; and electronic means without limitation on quantity of access or copying.

The Doctoral Degree

The degrees conferred after the successful completion of approved doctoral programs are listed under "The Schools of the University" section.

The doctoral degree is conferred upon students who have completed satisfactorily at least three years of graduate study and have met the other conditions prescribed for the degree.

A student who intends to work toward the doctoral degree usually is expected to have earned the master's degree. Permission to proceed directly to doctoral study must be obtained from the major department and school.

Admission to a master's program or the awarding of the master's degree, does not constitute admission to the corresponding doctoral program.

The doctoral degree is granted only to students who give evidence of superior ability in investigation and of high attainment in the special field in which the major work is done.

The general requirements for doctoral study are noted in the "Graduate Announcements." The student, however, also should consult the appropriate sections of this publication for specific information.

Transfer of Credit

Up to 24 semester hours of graduate work earned at another accredited institution in which the student received a grade of B or better may be applied toward course requirements for the doctoral degree upon recommendation of the appropriate department and with the approval of the academic dean. Transfer of credit must be approved before permission is given to take the comprehensive examination.

Last Revised 19-Aug-05 03:06 PM.