Policies

Doctoral Program Policies

Doctoral Admission Requirements

Eligibility for admission to a doctoral program is limited to superior students who have demonstrated intellectual ability, high achievement, and adequate preparation for advanced study and research in a chosen field.

Minimum university standards for admission can be found in the Admissions section of the catalog. Meeting minimum university admission standards may not satisfy doctoral program admission requirements. Programs often require additional or higher criteria. See the Graduate Programs section of the catalog for specific program requirements.

Course Requirements

The primary objective of doctoral study is to educate students to a point of excellence in conducting, disseminating, and applying scholarly research, with the explicit goal of making original, substantive contributions to their degree discipline. The advanced nature of doctoral education requires student participation, debate, evaluation, and discussion of diverse ideas and approaches. Careful analysis, independent research, and greater understanding and application of ideas are also expected.

The doctoral degree program requirements will consist of core and elective courses, seminars, directed and doctoral research, independent study, and dissertation research.

  • Each doctoral program of study will include a minimum of 72 semester hours of graduate credit beyond the baccalaureate degree or a minimum of 42 semester hours of graduate credit beyond the master’s degree; these graduate credits must be taken as part of an approved graduate program of study. Some programs require considerably more than the minimum of 72 hours because of the nature of the discipline and the standards of the associated profession.
  • All graduate credit in a doctoral program must be at 5000 level or higher.
  • At least one-half of the credit hours used to meet program requirements must be in 6000-level or 7000-level courses, including the allowed number of research and dissertation hours.
  • At least 50 percent of the credits offered for the degree are expected to be derived from a single field of concentration (that is, from one department). However, programs that are interdisciplinary in nature may be exempt from this policy upon approval from the Graduate Council Curriculum Committee.
  • Only graduate-level credit with a grade of "C-" or higher may be used to satisfy degree requirements.
  •  A university-wide minimum of at least 27 hours of formal course work exclusive of Independent Study (XXX 6908), dissertation and research is required for all doctoral programs; some programs require a greater number of formal course work hours.
  • A university-wide minimum of at least 15 hours of dissertation credits is required for all doctoral programs, although some programs require a greater number of dissertation hours.
  • The dissertation hour requirements may only be satisfied by enrollment in dissertation hours.

Course Levels

6000- and 7000-Level Courses—A minimum of 36 credit hours (including courses taken in a master's program) must be in 6000-level and 7000-level courses, which are designed, respectively, for graduate students and doctoral students only. For students with waived hours from an earned master's, this amount is at least one-half of the program hours remaining after the waived hours are applied.

Transfer of Credit

Types of Transfer Credit

Three different types of credit may be brought into a program of study for course work taken outside of UCF or prior to enrolling in the program for which the degree is sought.

  1. External transfer credits: course credits completed at a regionally accredited institution (excluding UCF) or recognized international institution.

    External transfer credits are eligible for transfer only if they meet the following criteria:

    • Only graduate-level courses may be accepted as transfer credits.
    • Only courses with a grade of "B-" or higher are allowed to be transferred into a program of study (not petitionable)
    • Only hours that are no more than seven years old at the time the degree is conferred may be transferred, unless part of an earned graduate degree.
    • Only formal course work hours, but not thesis or research hours, may be used as transfer credits (not petitionable).

    External transfer credits are limited to up to 9 credit hours for students who do not have a completed graduate degree or for students in doctoral programs that require a master’s degree for admission.

  2. Internal transfer credits: graduate-level course credits completed
    1. at UCF prior to enrolling in the program for which the degree is sought, including those taken in undergraduate status at UCF as part of a Senior Scholar or accelerated program; or
    2. as a Traveling Scholar (see Traveling Scholars in the General Graduate Policies for more information).

      Internal credits are eligible for transfer only if they meet the following criteria:

      • Only graduate-level or higher courses may be accepted as transfer credits.
      • Only courses with a grade of "B-" or higher are allowed to be transferred into a program of study (not petitionable)
      • Only hours that are no more than seven years old at the time the degree is conferred may be transferred, unless part of an earned graduate degree.

      (Note: Internal thesis or research hours may be used as transfer credits, but may not be used to satisfy formal course work requirements.)

      Graduate degree programs are permitted to accept as internal transfer credits up to nine hours of graduate-level course work taken by a student while in undergraduate status at UCF. More than nine hours may be accepted if part of a formally approved accelerated program.

  3. Waived credits: 30 credit hours in a program of study that are waived on the basis of an earned master’s degree, not based on individual courses.

    For students in doctoral programs that do not require a master’s degree for admission, students with an earned master's degree may have 30 credit hours waived if the following criteria are met:

    • the earned degree is from a regionally accredited institution or recognized foreign institution;
    • the master's degree was earned in the same or a closely related area of study
Transfer Credit Limits 

In no case may the sum of all transfer and waived credits exceed 50% of the total degree requirements of any doctoral degree.

The acceptance of transfer or waived credits in a program of study must be approved by the program; graduate programs may stipulate additional constraints beyond those included in the university transfer policy.

All transfer and waived credits to be used toward a doctoral degree should be finalized by the end of the third major (fall/spring) term of program enrollment (based on full-time enrollment), and must be finalized prior to the change to candidacy status.

The thesis or dissertation credit requirements of a program may not be satisfied by waived or transfer credits.

Students may be required to obtain a Joseph Silny evaluation to obtain transfer or waived credits from recognized international institutions.

For students who do not have a completed graduate degree, the total number of transfer credits are limited to up to 15 credit hours, or up to all of the hours taken to fulfill an earned UCF graduate certificate.

For students in doctoral programs that require a master’s degree for admission, the total number of transfer credits are limited to up to 15 credit hours, or up to all of the hours taken to fulfill an earned UCF graduate certificate. Credits from the required, earned master's degree may not be used to satisfy doctoral program requirements.

For students in doctoral programs that do not require a master’s degree for admission, students with an earned master's degree from a regionally accredited institution or recognized foreign institution may:

  • waive 30 credit hours of requirements and credits in a program of study; or
  • transfer up to 30 credit hours from any earned master’s degree in the same or a closely related area of study, provided a course-by-course review is performed.

Students who transfer up to 30 credit hours from any earned master's degree or who have 30 credit hours waived from an earned master's degree may also transfer up to 9 additional graduate credits, provided the sum of all transfer and waived credits does not exceed 50% of the total degree requirements.

Summary Table of Transfer Credit Limits
Student Situation Specific Requirements General Requirements
Students without an earned master's degree; students in doctoral programs that require a master’s degree for admission
External credits ≤ 9 SCH Sum may not exceed 15 SCH*
Graduate-level credits while in UCF undergraduate status ≤ 9 SCH
Other internal credits ≤ 15 SCH

Students with an earned master's degree in doctoral programs that do not require a master’s degree for admission
Waived credits from earned degree in the same or related discipline (internal or external) 30 SCH Sum may not exceed 50% of program requirements
Transfer credits from earned degree in the same or related discipline (internal or external) ≤ 30 SCH
Other external credits ≤ 9 SCH
Graduate-level credits while in UCF undergraduate status ≤ 9 SCH
Other internal transfer credits ≤ 15 SCH

*Exceptions:

  • Up to all of the hours taken to fulfill an earned UCF graduate certificate.

 Academic Integrity Training

All students newly admitted to doctoral programs must complete training designed to inculcate an awareness and understanding of the fundamental issues of academic integrity and the responsible conduct of research (RCR) in a manner that is consistent with federal regulations. This required training includes:  (1) the online Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) “Responsible Conduct of Research” training module in the appropriate disciplinary area; and (2) four face-to-face ethics/RCR workshops coordinated by the College of Graduate Studies and the Office of Research and Commercialization, or an approved alternative training offered as a program requirement for all students in the program. Students in a program that has approved alternative ethics/RCR training must still complete the online CITI Responsible Conduct of Research training in the appropriate disciplinary area. 

The workshops and CITI training modules are open to all UCF graduate students and postdoctoral fellows and associates. For the ethics/RCR workshops, priority is given to doctoral students who are required to complete these workshops prior to advancement to candidacy.

Deadlines:

  1. All academic integrity/RCR training requirements must be completed prior to a student’s advancement to candidacy.
  2. The CITI module should be completed by the end of a student’s second major (Fall/Spring) term of enrollment.
  3. All academic integrity and RCR training requirements must be completed in a manner that is consistent with federal regulations.

A doctoral student who has not completed the required training in academic integrity and the responsible conduct of research will not be advanced to candidacy.

Workshops:

The College of Graduate Studies and the Office of Research and Commercialization offer a series of workshops to enable students to fulfill the four workshop requirement. Students must take at least two workshops from a set of core workshops which focus on:  personal integrity in the classroom; plagiarism; data management (including fabrication, falsification, and confidentiality); authorship and peer review; mentor and trainee responsibilities; collaborative research; and conflicts of interest. Students must complete two additional workshops from among the set of core workshops or a series of additional workshops, which will provide more specialized training such as human subjects, animal welfare; and other areas of ethical concern unique to a discipline or research area.

Programs may develop alternatives for the training workshops that focus on issues of particular relevance to their specific disciplines and fields, or that better accommodate the schedules of their students. Alternative training must be offered as a program requirement for all students in the program. The training content must be specified in the syllabus/syllabi of required formal courses and include the core topics listed above as well as other topics appropriate to the specific discipline. Alternative training content must be submitted for review and approval by the College of Graduate Studies and the Office of Research and Commercialization prior to student attendance.

Further information concerning workshop sessions and registration and how to complete the CITI training module may be found at Academic Integrity Training.

 Time Limitation and Continuous Enrollment

A student has seven years from the date of admission to the doctoral program to complete the dissertation and the doctoral degree. No courses used in a program of study can be older than seven years at the time of graduation. Credits that are part of an earned master's degree are exempt from this 7-year expiration, including those earned "along-the-way" in a doctoral program.

Students who anticipate being out for an extended period of three consecutive semesters or longer should apply for a Special Leave of Absence no later than the end of the add/drop period of the third semester of absence. Students who do not maintain continuous enrollment without a Special Leave of Absence (see Continuous Attendance and Special Leave of Absence in the General Graduate Policies) must file for readmission to the university, although seven years is measured from when the student was first admitted to the program.

Readmission

If doctoral students do not maintain continuous enrollment (see Continuous Attendance in the General Graduate Policies), they must file for readmission to the university. To file for readmission, the student must complete a new online Application. For more information about readmission, refer to the Admissions in this catalog.

Readmission decisions are individually made, based on such factors as space in the program, reasons for the break in graduate education, progress in the degree program, among others. Readmission is not guaranteed.  

Conferral of Master’s Degrees for Students in Doctoral Degree Programs 

A student making satisfactory progress in a doctoral program may be eligible to be awarded a master’s degree in the same discipline. Policies concerning these degrees can be found under Master's Program Policies.

To avoid confusion of terminology for examinations, all programs should use the following terms:

Qualifying Examination. Eligibility to continue a doctoral program should be limited to superior students who have demonstrated intellectual ability, high achievement, and adequate preparation for advanced study and research in a chosen field. The decision to allow a student continuing progress toward a doctorate is made by the graduate committee of the program area concerned on the basis of the qualifying examination (optional by programs) and/or other criteria as specified by the individual program area. This exam is normally given within the first year of the doctoral program. This is a written examination and is permanently filed in the student's records in the program. Programs have their own requirements as to how many times this exam can be repeated.  

Candidacy Examination. This exam takes place prior to admission to Candidacy Status. This is a written examination and is permanently filed in the student's permanent records. It is normally taken near the end of completion of course work, and must be passed before being allowed to enroll in doctoral dissertation (XXX 7980) hours. Programs have their own requirements, which are explained in their graduate student handbooks, as to how many times this exam can be repeated.

Dissertation Proposal Examination. After passing the general Candidacy Examination, the student will write and defend a Dissertation Proposal in an oral examination. Programs have their own requirements as to how many times this exam can be repeated. All materials including the approved proposal and other agreements will be kept in the student's file in the program.

Dissertation Defense. This is an oral examination (or defense) of the dissertation.

Examination Committee

In some programs a doctoral examination committee will be formed consisting of several faculty members representing the appropriate disciplines and approved by the Dean or college designee to administer qualifying and/or candidacy examinations. In many cases this committee will consist of the program graduate committee. All members will evaluate and vote as to whether students have successfully completed the exams. 

 Candidacy

Admission to Candidacy

A student must demonstrate his or her readiness for the PhD program by successfully completing the candidacy examination before admission to full doctoral status and enrollment into dissertation hours. The Candidacy Examination should be taken when the student is nearing the end of course work. The exam is administered by the members of the student’s dissertation advisory committee or another appropriate committee appointed by the program. External committee members of the dissertation advisory committee are not appointed until after the student has passed the Candidacy exam. Admission to candidacy will be approved by the program director and the college coordinator and forwarded to the UCF College of Graduate Studies for status change. Only after admission to candidacy may a student register for doctoral dissertation hours (XXX 7980). Effective beginning in the fall 2010 term, students must have passed candidacy and have the candidacy and dissertation advisory committee documentation received and processed by the College of Graduate Studies prior to the first day of classes for the term in order to enroll in dissertation hours for that term.Students enrolling in dissertation hours for the first time during the summer must have their paperwork submitted prior to the first day of classes for Summer C, regardless of which summer session they will enroll in. 

Doctoral students admitted to candidacy are expected to enroll in dissertation hours and to devote full-time effort to conducting their dissertation research and writing the required dissertation document. Students in doctoral candidacy must continuously enroll in at least three hours of dissertation course work (XXX 7980) each semester (including summer) until the dissertation is completed.

Candidacy Examination

The purpose of the Candidacy Examination is for the student to demonstrate a strong foundation of knowledge within the specific discipline, and the ability and preparation to conduct independent scholarly research. The committee may examine a broad range of appropriate capabilities, including theory, bibliography, research methodology, and the evaluation of preliminary research, when appropriate. The examination must have a written component; it also may include an oral defense of a written report or dissertation proposal. All written examination materials will be kept in the student's file in the program.

 Dissertation Requirements

Dissertations are required in all PhD programs. For EdD programs, some tracks require a dissertation, while others require a dissertation-in-practice (see the program information for description of a dissertation-in-practice). The dissertation consists of an original and substantial research study designed, conducted, and reported by the student with the guidance of the Dissertation Committee. The written dissertation must include a common theme with an introduction and literature review, details of the study, and results and conclusions prepared in accordance with program and university requirements. The dissertation is expected to represent a significant contribution to the discipline. Since this work must be original, it is very important that care is taken in properly citing ideas and quotations of others. Failure to do so is academic dishonesty and subject to termination from the program without receiving the degree. An oral defense of the dissertation is required.

Enrollment in Dissertation Hours

The university requires all doctoral students to take a minimum of 15 credit hours of doctoral dissertation hours; however, specific programs may require more than this minimum. Dissertation research is considered to be a full-time effort, and post-candidacy enrollment in at least three doctoral dissertation (XXX 7980) credit hours constitutes full-time graduate status. Doctoral students who have passed candidacy and have begun taking doctoral dissertation hours (XXX 7980) must enroll in at least three dissertation hours each semester (including summers, without skipping a semester) and continue doing so until they complete and successfully defend the dissertation. Students who need to interrupt their dissertation work for extenuating circumstances must submit a Leave of Absence Form to the College of Graduate Studies. Submission and approval of the form must be obtained prior to the first day of classes for the term of non-enrollment.

Dissertation Advisory Committee Membership

Doctoral students must have a Dissertation Advisory Committee prior to advancement to candidacy status. The Committee will consist of a minimum of four members who are approved members of the Graduate Faculty or Graduate Faculty Scholars (see Graduate Faculty). At least three members must be Graduate Faculty, one of whom must serve as the chair of the committee. One member must be from either outside the student's department at UCF (or college, if a college-wide program) or outside the university. The Graduate Program Committee may specify additional advisory committee membership beyond the minimum of four. These additional advisory committee members must also be approved members of the Graduate Faculty or Graduate Faculty Scholars. Graduate Faculty members must form the majority of any given committee.

Committee membership must be approved by the program director and submitted to the College of Graduate Studies. All members must be in fields related to the dissertation topic. The UCF College of Graduate Studies reserves the right to review appointments to a dissertation advisory committee, place a representative on any dissertation advisory committee, or appoint a co-chair. A student may request a change in membership of the dissertation advisory committee with the approval of the program director and re-submission to the College of Graduate Studies.

All members vote on acceptance or rejection of the dissertation proposal and the final dissertation. The dissertation proposal and final dissertation must be approved by a majority of the committee.

Responsibilities of Members of Doctoral Advisory Committees

All members of the doctoral advisory committee have responsibilities. See the Graduate Faculty and Graduate Faculty Scholars Policy for this information.

Dissertation Preparation 

Thesis and Dissertation (ETD) describes university requirements and formatting instructions for dissertations and outlines the steps graduate students must follow in order to submit their dissertations electronically to the UCF College of Graduate Studies. The Thesis and Dissertation Office offers online and face-to-face workshops to inform graduate students about procedures, deadlines, and requirements associated with preparing a dissertation. Students who have just passed Candidacy are strongly encouraged to visit the online workshop.

Dissertation students will submit their dissertations electronically. Electronic thesis/dissertation (ETD) submissions will be archived by the UCF library in digital format and will be more widely accessible. In addition, students may use video and audio clips as well as other formats that may be appropriate for their field of study.

All dissertations that use research involving human subjects, including surveys, must obtain approval from an independent board, the Institutional Review Board (IRB), for this prior to starting the research. Graduate students and the faculty that supervise them are required to attend training on IRB policies, so this needs to start well in advance of the research start date. It is imperative that proper procedures are followed when using human subjects in research projects. Information about this process can be obtained from the Office of Research and Commercialization (www.research.ucf.edu). Click on "Compliance" and the IRB Policy and Procedures Manual is available. In addition, should the nature of the research or the faculty supervision change since the IRB approval was obtained, then new IRB approval must be sought. Failure to obtain this prior approval could jeopardize receipt of the student's degree.

Students who wish to complete their degree requirements in a given semester must take their oral defense and submit their dissertation to the UCF College of Graduate Studies by the dates shown in the Academic Calendar.

Dissertation Defense

The dissertation defense is an oral presentation and defense of the written dissertation describing the student’s research. The advisory committee will evaluate and judge the dissertation defense. Successful students must demonstrate that they are able to conduct and report original independent research that contributes substantially to the discipline in which they study. The defense is a formal academic requirement and should be accorded respect and dignity, and thus, no refreshments or other distractions should be served during the defense. 

The dean of the college or his/her designee will normally attend all dissertation defenses. Dissertations will be approved by a majority vote of the dissertation advisory committee. Further approval is required from the Dean or Dean designee and the UCF College of Graduate Studies before final acceptance of the dissertation in fulfilling degree requirements. 

Dissertation Virtual Defense

Graduate programs may elect to offer the option of a virtual dissertation defense (student off-campus defense) upon approval of the program coordinator/director, the department, and the college. Programs that choose to offer the option of a virtual defense must develop and ensure procedures for the implementation of the virtual defense process and procedures must be published in the program’s handbook. These procedures should address the form and time for the student’s request for a virtual defense, the process for seeking approval, the teleconferencing facilities and equipment to be used, the availability of technical support during the defense, alternative plans if needed, and other relevant issues. Use of a web conferencing platform like Lync or Adobe Connect is recommended as is the preparation of participants and testing of the system prior to the defense date. Students must also seek approval for a virtual defense by the time they file the intent to graduate. It is expected that at minimum the dissertation committee chair will be present at the campus location of the public defense. Individual programs may add further restrictions or requirements for students to proceed with virtual defenses.

Review for Original Work

The university requires all students submitting a dissertation as part of their graduate degree requirements to first have their electronic documents submitted through iThenticate for advisement purposes and for review of originality. The dissertation chair is responsible for scheduling this submission to iThenticate and for reviewing the results from iThenticate with the student's advisory committee. The advisory committee uses the results appropriately to assist the student in the preparation of their dissertation.

Before the student may be approved for final submission to the university, the dissertation chair must indicate completion of the Review for Original Work through iThenticate by signing the Dissertation Approval Form.

Dissertation Dissemination

While UCF respects the wishes of students who would like to publish their work and/or apply for patents, it is essential for scholarly research conducted at a university to be available for dissemination. While several options are available for the release of an ETD, it is the goal of the university that all dissertations be available through the UCF Libraries catalog. Students with potential patent concerns are required to discuss the following options with their dissertation adviser and indicate the availability choice on the Thesis and Dissertation Release Option electronic form, which the student submits in the myUCF Student Center.

For those with no patent or copyright concerns:

  • Immediate worldwide dissemination with no restrictions.

For those who have patent issues, dissemination options must be discussed and agreed to with your adviser. Choices are:

  • Pending dissemination of the entire work for six months for patent or other proprietary issues, with an additional six months extension available. Once the patent and proprietary issues are resolved, then immediate worldwide dissemination with no restrictions.
  • Pending dissemination of the entire work for six months for patent or other proprietary issues, with an additional six months extension available. Once the patent and proprietary issues are resolved, choosing this option allows the student to make the dissertation available to the university community for the period chosen below, and then for it to be distributed via the Web beyond that time.
    • one year
    • three years*
    • five years*

For those who have copyright concerns, dissemination options are a student decision within the guidelines of individual departments that may have requirements for dissemination. If a department has no guidelines for dissemination, then students are free to choose one of the options below. In general, those in the sciences and engineering will choose one year while students in the arts and humanities may choose longer. Choosing this option allows the student to make the dissertation available to the university community for the period chosen below, and then for it to be distributed via the Web beyond that time.

  • one year
  • three years*
  • five years*

*Does not require dissertation adviser signature and approval.

Public Access

Students, faculty, staff, and other interested parties are strongly encouraged to attend dissertation final defense sessions. Notices providing date, time, and location of such meetings must be distributed to all academic departments.

These sessions are educational and informative for graduate students and provide an opportunity for colleagues to observe the work of their peers with students. At the discretion of the Chair of the Committee, questions may be invited from the audience. That part of the session involving committee discussion leading to a vote on the acceptance of the work will be closed. Sessions may be recessed briefly to excuse visitors and the candidate before this stage begins.


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