Doctoral Degree Special Requirements
Visit the GW Bulletin for details on specific Ph.D. and Psy.D. program requirements.
The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
The Doctor of Philosophy degree requires satisfactory completion of a minimum of 72 credits of approved graduate coursework (including dissertation research). The program is divided into two units:
- Pre-candidacy consists of coursework, special departmental requirements, and the general examination
- Candidacy includes the research, writing, and oral defense of the dissertation, known as the final examination
A minimum of 45, but no more than 60, of the 72 credits must be taken in pre-candidacy in preparation for the general examination. You may take a maximum of 12 credits in courses offered by the other affiliated members of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area. The remainder of the 72 credits is taken in candidacy as dissertation research credits, which must be taken in multiples of three. CCAS requires students to take a minimum of 6 dissertation research credits; exceptions to this requirement must be approved by the associate dean for graduate studies. The number of credits required for any part of the total program is assigned by your department and may exceed the minimum required by CCAS. Many departments also have special departmental degree requirements or restrictions beyond those listed here.
You have an overall eight-year time limit for completion of all degree requirements, including all coursework and your dissertation. (An approved leave of absence is not counted toward the time-limit requirement.) If your dissertation is not completed, defended, and accepted within this period, you must apply and be approved for an extension of time by the associate dean for graduate studies if you wish to continue your doctoral study.
The Ph.D. general examination is designed and administered by your department and consists of several examinations (sometimes written and sometimes oral) that cover the whole range of your program of study.
If you fail any part of the general examination you may, with the approval of your department, repeat the examination at the next scheduled examination date. If this is not approved, you may be academically dismissed from your program. If you fail the general examination for a second time, or you do not perform at the level required by your department, no further opportunity to take the examination is permitted and you will be academically dismissed.
A dissertation directed or co-directed by a member of the GW faculty is required of each doctoral candidate as evidence of ability to perform scholarly research and interpret its results. Following the completion of all your pre-candidacy requirements, your department will review the whole range of your academic performance with an eye to determining the likelihood that you will succeed at producing an acceptable dissertation. If your department decides that there is a good chance of success at this final, and most difficult, stage, you will be required to establish a dissertation research committee.
Your dissertation research committee is composed of a director and at least two committee members who advise you during the dissertation research process. Your dissertation director can be drawn from outside the department/program in which you are pursuing your Ph.D., but if you have an external director, then your dissertation research committee must also have a co-director who is a member of your department/program's core faculty. At least one other member of your dissertation research committee should have regular, full-time status in the University. Other members of the GW faculty and external scholars can serve as members of your dissertation research committee, if deemed appropriate by your department/program's faculty.
If your dissertation research involves human subjects, you must obtain Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval before collecting data. Please consult the section on Human Research Requirements for more information.
Once your dissertation research committee has been established, your department may recommend that you be advanced to candidacy. Most departments require an approved dissertation proposal before they will recommend that you be advanced.
Upon entering candidacy, you are expected to work closely with your department and your dissertation research committee. You will register for dissertation research credits while working on your dissertation, until you have completed the required 72 credits. After completing the required credits, if you are still working on your dissertation and are within the degree deadline, you may register for 1 credit of continuing research (CCAS 0940) each fall and spring semester until you complete your Ph.D.
Final Examination (The Defense)
Once your dissertation is complete and approved by your dissertation research committee, you will take the final examination (the defense).
The final examination is designed, scheduled, and administered by your department/program. It is an oral examination conducted by a faculty committee. Your final examination committee must include at least five voting members, including the members of your dissertation research committee, at least one examiner who has not played a direct role in the dissertation research process, and at least one scholar from outside the department/program in which you are pursuing your Ph.D. Your current or prospective immediate supervisor of employment is not permitted to serve as an examiner. The outside scholar can serve either as a member of your dissertation research committee or as an examiner. (Final examination committees can also include outside scholars in each of these roles.)
Your final examination must be chaired by a member of faculty in the department/program in which you are enrolled. This non-voting chair cannot be drawn from your dissertation research committee or examiners.
Please consult CCAS’s Ph.D. Defense Procedures for more information about the final examination process and requirements.
Your final examination should be scheduled to allow time for any required revisions before the published Electronic Thesis and Dissertation (ETD) Submission deadline for the semester in which you are graduating.
Final Degree Requirements
Once you have successfully completed the final examination and your final examination committee has verified that any required revisions to the dissertation have been made, you must submit the following:
- your dissertation through the ETD Submission website;
- the completed ETD Access/Approval Form;
- the Survey of Earned Doctorates; and
- the GW Student Graduation Survey.
These materials must be submitted by the deadlines posted on the ETD Submission website for the semester in which you are graduating. If you do not submit the required materials by the deadline, CCAS will not be able to clear you for graduation. You will then need to register for the next semester and reapply for graduation.
Formatting guidelines are noted on the ETD Submission website. These guidelines are designed to produce documents that are uniform in style, but they also allow for the particular requirements of various disciplines.
The certification page in your dissertation should include only the core members of your dissertation research committee (director/co-director and official committee members). Please use academic titles only; you can find this information in the University Bulletin. Do not use titles such as Dr., Ph.D., or M.D.
Dissertations should first be sent to the Gelman Library for approval. Once approved by Gelman Library, your dissertation will be forwarded to the CCAS for a final check. You may receive instructions from either Gelman Library or CCAS to make changes and upload a revised version of your dissertation. (Requested changes must be submitted in a timely manner in order for CCAS to clear you for graduation.) You will be notified by email once your dissertation has been approved and forwarded to ProQuest.
You must pay any ProQuest fees directly online. The amount charged will depend on the publishing options you choose. GW recommends students choose the Open Access option in the interest of making their scholarship as accessible as possible.
Accepted dissertations and any accompanying illustrations become the property of the University. The University is to be given credit for material used in the publication of any portion of a dissertation, whether as a direct quotation or as an adaptation.
The Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.)
The Doctor of Psychology degree requires the satisfactory completion of a minimum of 83 credits of approved graduate coursework. You may take a maximum of 12 credits in courses offered by the other affiliated members of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area.
You have an overall five-year (10-semester) time limit for completion of all degree requirements, including your Major Area Paper. (An approved leave of absence is not counted toward the time-limit requirement.) If your degree requirements are not completed within this period, you must apply and be approved for an extension of time by the associate dean for graduate studies if you wish to continue your doctoral study.
Major Area Paper
All Psy.D. students must complete a Major Area Paper (MAP), supervised by a member of the GW faculty, as evidence of ability to develop a clinical/theoretical case study from a case (or cases) from your own clinical experience.
During your second year of doctoral study, you should consult with faculty members and supervisors to choose a case (or cases) to provide the basis for your MAP. Throughout your second and third year of study, you will draw on clinical coursework, clinician supervision, and your MAP advisor's input to complete the MAP, using clinical data and a review of relevant recent literature to conduct a scholarly investigation of a clinical question of sufficient quality and rigor to have the potential to contribute to the psychological knowledge base and its clinical application.
Submission of the MAP is handled internally within the Professional Psychology Program; your completed MAP should not be submitted to the ETD Submission website.
If you complete your MAP prior to the start of the semester in which you will begin your internship, you will be permitted to register for a special section of the zero-credit internship course for the duration of your internship. If your MAP is not complete by the start of the semester in which you begin your internship, you are required to register for 1 credit of continuing research (CCAS 0940). Your registration cannot be changed in the middle of a semester. If you complete your MAP after the semester has started, you must remain registered for continuing research; however, you may register for the zero-credit internship course in subsequent semesters.
Your MAP must be complete by April 1 if you wish to participate in the spring Doctoral Hooding Ceremony and other graduation ceremonies. If your MAP is not complete by April 1, you will be invited to attend the Doctoral Hooding Ceremony in the following year.
The General Examination
You are required to complete the program’s general examination no later than the beginning of the final semester of the program; students usually take the general examination in the summer following the completion of two years of study. Please see the Professional Psychology Program’s Student Handbook for more information about the structure of the program’s general examination.
If you fail to pass any part of the general examination, you may, with the approval of the program, repeat the examination at the next scheduled examination date. If you are not approved to retake the general examination, you may be academically dismissed from your program. If you fail the general examination for a second time, no further opportunity to take the examination is permitted and you will be academically dismissed.