Preliminary Examination

The student will demonstrate competence for doctoral study to the advisory committee during the first year of the doctoral program through an independent written examination in the first year. Students will receive a reading list related to their interests. The committee must reach consensus regarding adequacy of performance. If performance is inadequate, a written statement detailing areas needing development will be provided for the student by the committee. Unsatisfactory performance on the preliminary examination may be grounds for dismissal from the program.

Comprehensive Examination

Before admission to candidacy for the Ph.D., the student must pass a comprehensive examination in the field of concentration, the minor area and related fields as shown on the student’s plan of study. The examination will be both written and oral and will test the student’s mastery of a broad field of knowledge, not merely the formal course work that has been completed. The specific nature of the comprehensive exam will be determined by the student and the student’s advisory Committee. The advisory committee must approve the proposal for the examination. The oral part of comprehensive examination is open to members of the graduate faculty. The committee must reach consensus regarding adequacy of performance on the exam. The student must be registered on the Boulder campus during the semester in which the comprehensive examination is taken. Following the semester in which the comprehensive exam is taken and passed the student must be registered each fall and spring semester for dissertation hours until graduation.


Students must prepare a prospectus for the dissertation. This document will be presented to the dissertation committee two weeks before the prospectus meeting. The student is expected to present the prospectus at this meeting and provide the committee with an opportunity to discuss the plan. The Committee must reach consensus for approval of the prospectus. Students contemplating use of human subjects in their research must obtain approval from the Human Research Committee before beginning such research. Guidelines and forms for submission of research protocols to the Committee are available at the Graduate School.

Final Defense

After the completed dissertation has been accepted by the student’s advisory committee, the student has a final oral defense of the dissertation, which is open to the public. The committee must reach consensus with regard to approval of the document and defense. The Graduate School publishes a list of deadlines for each semester; the student is expected to obtain this information from the graduate school for the semester in which completion of the program is anticipated. Students should reference the Graduate School's website for information on thesis & dissertation submission. Students planning to graduate must contact the Graduate Program Manager at the beginning of the semester in which they plan to receive the degree.