Degree requirements for Ph.D. students

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Ph.D. requirements must be completed within 7 years of the student's admit date to the doctoral program. Exceptions and the time limitation policy. 

An advisor is assigned to each student at the start of their program until the student identifies a dissertation advisor. 

Credit requirements

A minimum of 90 semester credits beyond the baccalaureate degree is required for the completion of the Ph.D. program. The division of these credits will be as follows: at least 12 credits of coursework in the major (not including directed study or research credit); 32 additional credits of coursework, pre-dissertation research and directed study; and 30 credits earned in four consecutive candidate status semesters (9991, 9992, 9993, 9994) of dissertation research and direction after candidacy has been approved. Each department determines its own requirements for a minor. The total Ph.D. program must include 30 credits, excluding candidate status semesters, in courses open only to graduate students (i.e., 7000-level and above).

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Program load

The university considers a program of eight graduate credits per semester to be full-time study. 

A student with a strong academic record who is devoting full-time to graduate study and carrying no outside employment may register in a program not to exceed 16 credits per semester.

Graduate assistants are required to register for a minimum of six credits each semester.

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Responsible Conduct of Research

All Ph.D. students are required to take the Graduate School course GS0900: Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) during the first year of their program. GS0900 is a zero credit pass-fail course offered in both the fall and winter terms. This is an institution-wide comprehensive training program conducted by the Graduate School that provides basic training in the ethical conduct of research. In addition to the GS0900 course, students should receive additional discipline-specific RCR training from their home department or program. Documented completion of RCR training is required for many external and internal individual fellowship applications.

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Plan of Work

Submit prior to 40 credits of coursework being completed. 90 graduate credits beyond the baccalaureate degree are required - 60 in coursework and 30 in dissertation research.

A Transfer of Credit is required for all applicable courses not completed at WSU. Transfer credit must be appropriate to the student's degree program, as determined by the department. A minimum grade of B is necessary to transfer credits - credits graded B- (minus), P or S cannot be transferred. A minimum requirement of 30 credits of coursework, excluding dissertation, must be earned at WSU. 

Any changes to the plan once approved by the Graduate School are approved at the program level. 

NOTE: Prior to candidate status, registration of at least one graduate credit is required in all semesters in which the Ph.D. student uses university resources, including the semester in which the Qualifying Exam is taken. 

Complete a Plan of Work
Complete a Transfer of Credit

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Directed study

Independent study may be authorized for areas of interest not covered by regular courses. Only advanced students should engage in directed study. The student should confer with their advisor to get permission for and to plan the study. The advisor typically serves as the instructor for the study. The plan for a directed study should indicate the outline of the study, its significance to the student's program and the evaluation method. The advisor and the graduate director must approve the study before the student's registration for the course can be approved by the department.

Complete a Directed Study Petition

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Residency requirements

The Ph.D. residence requirement stipulates that the student must elect at least 30 credits in graduate work, exclusive of dissertation registration, at Wayne State University.

In addition, the Ph.D. requirement of one year of residence is met by the completion of at least six graduate credits in coursework, exclusive of dissertation research, in each of two successive semesters. The spring/summer semester may be excluded from the definition of successive semesters. Additional residence requirements may be imposed by departments. Students should learn whether such additional requirements exist.

In the experimental sciences, for which it can be demonstrated that a student's research must be completed on campus, the residence requirement for the Ph.D. degree may be met by the dissertation director's written certification that the student has been in full-time residence for at least two successive semesters and one summer session. In such cases, a count of course credits is not required for fulfillment of the residence requirement, but specific dates of residence must be furnished.

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Annual Review/Individual Development Plan (recurring) 

The AR/IDP provides a structure to identify concrete steps toward long-term goals and a framework for constructive conversation between students and their mentors. An annual AR/IDP is required for all doctoral students regardless of funding status.

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Qualifying Exam

The Qualifying Exam contains a written portion and may include an oral component. Don't know if the Qualifying Exam includes an oral component in your program? Consult the Graduate Bulletin. If the Oral Examination is part of the final Qualifying Examination it must be completed within 60 days of the written exam.

The student must have the Plan of Work on file with the Graduate School before taking the Qualifying Exam. Successful completion of the Qualifying Exam is a requirement for Ph.D. candidacy. 

The Qualifying Exam committee consists minimally of three faculty members, at least two of whom are from the major department and two of whom hold graduate faculty appointments. An external member may be added at the discretion of the department. 

Note: Neither the  dissertation proposal nor coursework can be used to satisfy the written qualifying examination requirement.

Complete a Report on Oral Examination (only if the oral exam is part of the Qualifying Exam

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Dissertation committee

The dissertation advisory committee is established prior to candidacy and is reported to the Graduate School via the Recommendation for Candidacy. 

Committee requirements: 

  • Must consist minimally of four members. If there are co-chairs, the committee must consist of five members. 
  • At least two committee members must be from the student's home department. 
  • At least two members, including the chair, must hold graduate faculty appointments in the home department. . If there are co-chairs, the one from the home unit must hold a graduate faculty appointment. 
  • The committee must have an external member who broadens the dissertation committee beyond the home program to represent a different perspective by virtue of their field, location or knowledge application. The external member cannot hold any salaried or contractual appointment, tenure line or retreat rights in the home unit and may be from within or outside Wayne State. 

Prior to completion of the prospectus, any changes to the committee do not need to be reported to the Graduate School. Changes to the committee after the prospectus must be documented via a Change of Committee form and submitted to the Graduate School for approval.

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The requirements for advancement from Ph.D. applicant to degree candidate are 

  • Completion of at least 50 credit hours of didactic coursework
  • Satisfactory completion of the Qualifying Exam(s)
  • Establishment of the dissertation advisory committee

Complete a Recommendation for Candidate Status

Candidate status registration

With the achievement of candidacy, the student begins registration in the dissertation research courses: 9991, 9992, 9993 and 9994 (Doctoral Research and Direction I, II, III and IV, respectively). Students must enroll in these four courses in consecutive academic year semesters with the exception of spring/summer. These courses will provide students with full-time status. 

If a student completes all four of the Doctoral Research and Direction courses but has not completed all the dissertation requirements and desires to maintain full-time student status, the student may register in Candidate Maintenance Status (9995) until their completion.

To request an override for a Dissertation Research Course, click the button below.

Request an override

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Prior to initiating doctoral research, the Ph.D. student must prepare a prospectus of the proposed dissertation research describing the scope of the problem, the materials or subjects used, method and design of the study, and projected results. If human or animal subjects will be used, please view the guidelines for research

When the prospectus is ready for presentation to the advisory committee, the student should complete the prospectus and record of approval form and submit it to the departmental graduate director for verification of graduate faculty appointments.

Prospectus meeting as oral examination 

In some departments, the advisory committee members review the prospectus. In others, a prospectus meeting is held, and it serves as the oral examination where the  student orally presents the prospectus to their advisor and committee for discussion and questions. The committee's signatures on the prospectus form indicate approval of the prospectus.

Complete a Prospectus and Record of Approval

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Conflict of Interest

All doctoral candidates will be required to submit the conflict of interest form in concurrence with the prospectus. The candidate and each member of the dissertation committee must disclose any potential conflicts and sign the form. Given the length of time required in the dissertation process, students will be required to resubmit the conflict of interest form with the final report form prior to the dissertation defense. 

Complete a Conflict of Interest

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Final Dissertation Defense

All procedures must be finished by the completion deadline the Graduate School has established for the semester.

Prior to determining a defense date, confirm via Student Profile (in Academia under Student Records) that you have completed (or will complete by the end of the semester of your final defense) a minimum of 90 graduate credits 60 in coursework, including a minimum of 30 credits taken at Wayne State University and 30 credits from 7000-level courses and above, and 30 in dissertation research and preparation.

Note: Students must be enrolled in the semester of the Final Defense, including spring/summer. 

Complete the Final Defense Report

Procedures before the Final Defense

By the end of the fifth week in their graduation term, a candidate must: 

File an online application for graduation via Academica. 
Submit the Dissertation Title and Previous Degrees form

Two weeks before the Final Defense, a candidate must: 

  • Submit the dissertation manuscript electronically to the Graduate School for a format check after adhering to all the formatting instructions
  1. Create an account on the Electronic Thesis/Dissertation (ETD) Administrator website of ProQuest/UMI, the publisher of dissertations and theses. 
  2. Complete a Publishing Agreement. This is mandatory. The student also has the option to copyright the thesis through the site. It is recommended that they do so. 
  3. Submit the thesis manuscript as a PDF file. 
  4. The Graduate School staff, as the ETD administrator, will notify the student of "changes required" or "manuscript accepted," (manuscripts cannot be accepted for publication prior to receiving the student's signed title page) which requires no format changes and will be sent to ProQuest/UMI for publication. 
  • Receive tentative approval of the dissertation from all members of the dissertation committee by obtaining their signatures on part 1 of the Final Report form. Their signatures on the Final Report form indicate approval of the content of the dissertation and its readiness for a public lecture presentation. Consequently, no requests for major revisions of the dissertation should arise at the defense. The graduate director's approval attests the committee meets composition policies. The candidate then submits the Final Report, a new Conflict of Interest and an announcement publicizing the Final Defense to the Graduate Shool for approval. 
  • The person (either the committee advisor or graduate director) who runs the plagiarism check must check the  box and sign their name on the Final Report. See detailed instructions on how to run a Unicheck report below. 
  • Wayne State University Libraries maintains electronic copies of students' dissertations and theses and would like to make these available to the Wayne State community and the general public through Digital Commons @ WSU. Students can control the level of access to their theses via the permission form

The Graduate School will verify the appropriateness of the committee on the Final Report form and send the form, along with the Graduate Examiner's Report form, to the dissertation advisor for completion following the defense.

Plagiarism Check Policy

The Graduate School requires that all dissertations and theses must be submitted for a plagiarism check through UniCheck prior to the defense. Graduate directors or the committee chairs must run the plagiarism check for their students.

Directions for running dissertation and thesis plagiarism checks through UniCheck

Plagiarism checks for dissertations and master's theses are run through a course on Canvas called the Dissertation Plagiarism Review. Here is the procedure:

  1. Faculty must be added as "students" to the Dissertation Plagiarism Review course to gain access. To be added to the course, email with the request. 
  2. Once you are added to the Dissertation Plagiarism Review course, login to Canvas, click on the course, and you will see that only the assignment section is open. 
  3. Upload the document as an assignment. Please name the document with the student's last name as the first part of the document name, e.g. Smithdissertation. This is very important, as it will allow the Graduate School to track and confirm your submission. 
  4. There are two ways to upload a document, either as a draft or final. Draft does not add the dissertation to the institutional database. The final does enter the document into the database to be used for future checks. 
  5. Review the report. To review the report, go to submission details, which will redirect you to UniCheck. You can download the report by reviewing information under "Grades" in the Canvas site in the plagiarism check course. 
  6. If the UniCheck report finds that there is less than 15 percent duplication of materials from other sources, check the box on the Final Report that states that Unicheck is complete and sign. 
  7. The Graduate School will verify electronically that Unicheck is complete. If the document you upload is not named to correspond with the student's last name, this verification may be delayed. 
  8. If the UniCheck report finds that there is greater than 15 percent duplication of material from other sources, the faculty advisor should review the material and provide an explanation on why this level of duplication is permissible. 

For any questions regarding the plagiarism check, contact Terri Renaud at 313-577-7740 or email

Procedures of the Final Dissertation Defense

The Final Defense is conducted by the student's dissertation advisory committee, is open to the public and must occur during regular business hours. It must be publicized by the student's department in advance. The graduate examiner, usually the dissertation advisor,  oversees the proceedings and reports the results to the Graduate School.

The Final Defense consists of: 

  • The first part of the Final Defense is a public presentation in which the candidate presents the methodology, research and results of the investigation to the committee and the audience, then responds to their questions. 
  • In the second part immediately following the public presentation, the candidate meets privately with the committee and responds to further questions. 
  • The final phase is the evaluation, in which the committee discusses the candidate's performance, agrees on any revisions the candidate should make to the manuscript and determines whether or not they passed. The candidate is informed of any required dissertation revisions. 
  • The committee's decision is then conveyed to the Graduate School via the Final Report. 

Procedures after the Final Defense

The Graduate School estabishes a completion date by which all requirements must be fulfilled for each term for the degree to be certified. 

By the established completion date for the semester, a candidate must: 

  • Make all requested content and format revisions to the dissertation manuscript and submit the final manuscript electronically to the Graduate School using the ETD administrator website
  • Email a copy of the dissertation title page signed by the advisor and all committee members to the Graduate School at Submission of the cover page indicates that the student has made the revisions satisfactorily and the dissertation is ready for publication. 
  • Complete the online Survey of Earned Doctorates
  • Compete the online Doctoral Student Exit Survey

Binding the dissertation 

Students wishing to have their dissertations bound should use a professional bindery service.

Bohemio Bookbindery provides dissertations bound in the Wayne State University standard format or custom bound in any style desired. Genuine leather bindings also available.

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