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General Timeline

Although the graduate program is best characterized by its flexibility, there is a general process to be followed and an expectation for timely progress. In most cases, graduate study toward the Ph.D. degree can be completed in four to five years as a full time student. There is rarely the need for more than five full time years, unless especially complex research for the dissertation requires additional time.

The general process and timeline for graduate study are briefly outlined below, and may be referred to as a quick reference throughout your graduate studies. These give a sense of how the program unfolds and provide information about what criteria will be used for assessing whether a student is making acceptable progress through the program.

Components of the Program

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  • Course work
    • Major Area (18 credits)
    • Breadth (depends on option)
    • Statistics (507 and 508 or equivalent)
  • Masters Thesis
    • Proposal meeting with committee
    • Masters thesis defense with committe
  • Advancement to candidacy
  • Research with a second faculty member
  • Comprehensive exams
  • Dissertation
    • Proposal meeting with committee
    • Dissertation defense with committee

Recommended Time Frame

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Year 1

  • Identify and develop relationship with faculty advisor.
  • Coursework
    • Begin major area course work (2 in Fall and 2 in Spring typically)
    • Complete stats sequence (PSY 507 and 508 typically)
    • Satisfy English language requirement through graduate student orientation course (501)
  • Begin conducting research. This is typically with your faculty advisor. (PSY 600 credits in Fall, perhaps 610 credits in Spring if beginning Masters research in first year).
  • Master’s Thesis
    • Lay out plans for Masters research
    • Identify and set up Masters committee.

Year 2

  • Master’s Thesis
    • Propose thesis (Fall).
    • Complete thesis research (Spring).
    • Defend thesis (Spring or Summer).
  • Continue course work (3 courses in Fall and 3 courses in Spring typically, depending on specific requirements of the area).

Year 3

  • Make plans for meeting requirement to conduct research with at least two faculty members*
    • Identify second research advisor
  • Complete remaining course work.
  • Advance to candidacy.
  • Comprehensive Exam
    • Prepare plan for exam with advisor and committee.
    • Take exams (End of spring or summer).

*For adult clinical students, this is typically the minor project and needs to be completed before doing comps. So, it should be done sometime during the third year. For SCAN students this is typically the SCAN rotation.

Years 4–5

  • Dissertation
    • Propose dissertation before committee
    • Conduct dissertation research.
    • Defend dissertation before committee

Although most faculty members have a strong working knowledge of these graduate program requirements, it is expected that each student will be responsible for the Departmental requirements presented in the GUIDELINES and the Graduate School requirements as presented in the Graduate Degree Programs Bulletin (http://www.psu.edu/bulletins/whitebook/$gradreqs.htm). It is a good idea to rely on yourself and not just your advisor with regard to program requirements!

Good Standing and Acceptable Progress Toward Degree

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Department funding is awarded only to those students who are considered to be in good standing in the Department and who are making acceptable progress toward the degree. The above time frame is the base set of criteria on which assessment of acceptable progress toward the degree is made. Individual situations may involve deviation from that general time frame. However, when deviations occur, an explicit statement as to why the deviation occurred and a specific plan for getting back on track that is approved by the student’s advisor must be documented in the student’s file with the graduate staff assistant.

There are several “drop deadlines” for which a failure to meet automatically places students in poor standing and results in the loss of priority for funding. These are the following:

  • Failure to successfully propose Master’s thesis by the end of Spring semester of the second year.
  • Failure to defend a thesis and file for the Masters degree with the graduate school by the end of Spring semester of the third year.
  • Failure to complete comprehensive exams by the end of the Fall semester of the fourth year.
  • Failure to successfully propose a dissertation by the end of the Fall semester of the fifth year.

These should not be thought of as due dates. Instead, they are extreme dates that are to be avoided.

Finally, any of the following situations also places students in poor standing and results in the loss of priority for funding:

  • Failure to identify a faculty advisor by the end of Spring semester of the first year.
  • Receiving a failing grade in any course that is part of program
  • Receiving grades lower than B+ in multiple courses.

Being in poor standing or failing to make acceptable progress toward a degree places a student at risk for termination from the program.

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