The Catholic University of America

Graduate Studies Policies and Guidelines

Students can also consult the Graduate Announcements or Graduate Students Frequently Asked Questions to see if a specific question not listed here is discussed and answered there.

Table of Contents

Introduction to Graduate Studies at The Catholic University of America

  1. Definition
  2. Coursework
  3. Transfer of Credit
  4. Language Requirements

Definitions of Enrollment

  1. Full-Time Study
  2. Part-Time Study
  3. Graduate Students on Academic Leave

Enrollment Policies

  1. Continuous Enrollment
  2. Academic Leave and Withdrawal
  3. Residence and Extended Residence

Master's and Licentiate Degrees

  1. Comprehensive Examination
  2. Thesis
  3. Guidelines on Preparation and Timing of Thesis
  4. Option of Degree without Thesis
  5. Completion of Requirements
  6. Admission to Doctoral Program

Doctorate Degrees

  1. Comprehensive Examination
  2. Admission to Candidacy
  3. Dissertation
  4. Criteria for Dissertations
  5. Oral Examination
  6. Deposition and Publication of Dissertation
  7. Copyright
  8. Completion of Requirements and Requests for Extension

 Introduction to Graduate Studies at The Catholic University of America

Graduate programs at The Catholic University of America have as their objectives the discovery, understanding and dissemination of knowledge. These programs are designed to prepare students as research scholars, as teachers and as professional practitioners of an applied discipline. All graduate curricula are organized to lead students to an in-depth understanding of the principles, problems, and historical development of the disciplines with which they are concerned.

The President and the Academic Senate share the immediate responsibility for the academic governing of the university. Under the supervision of the President, the Provost and the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies, jurisdiction in the graduate programs of the university is exercised by the respective deans and faculties. Reviews of the various graduate programs begin at the level of the department or, in the schools that do not have a departmental structure, of the school. Policies developed by departments in the School of Arts and Sciences are reviewed by its Academic Council, in the School of Engineering by its Executive Committee, and in the School of Theology and Religious Studies by its Executive Council. All school policies are in turn reviewed by the Graduate Board, established by the Academic Senate "to exercise general supervision over matters relating to graduate study." The chair of the Graduate Board is the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies and the members are appointed by the Academic Senate.

In addition to these general requirements, each school and department may, with the permission of the Graduate Board, promulgate specific requirements applicable to its programs. Students are advised to consult pertinent sections of the Graduate Announcements and their school dean or department chair.

Definition

Courses carrying graduate credit will normally be scheduled for three (3) credit hours per semester. The semester is considered to be comprised of fifteen (15) weeks which includes one (1) week for examinations.

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Coursework

The program of studies to be pursued by the candidate for the master's degree shall include a minimum of thirty (30) credit hours of graduate work, of which six (6) hours may be in thesis guidance. The thirty (30) credit hours may be applied to the doctoral degree if admission to the higher degree is approved.

The program of studies to be pursued by the candidate for the doctoral degree must include a minimum of fifty-three (53) credit hours of graduate course work, of which at least thirty-five (35) credit hours must be in the major subject. The remainder must be completed in a program that has been approved by the school dean and the department chair (where applicable).

Individual schools or departments may prescribe additional requirements, and the student should consult the appropriate school for information on coursework and requirements specific to the degree program of interest.

Continuing education courses are not acceptable in meeting the requirements for master’s, licentiate, or doctoral degree programs.

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Transfer of Credit

Up to six (6) credit hours of graduate work earned at another accredited institution, in which a student received grades of B or above, may be applied toward course requirements for the master's degree, upon recommendation of the appropriate department and with the approval of the school dean. Academic work completed more than ten (10) years prior to application cannot be considered for transfer.

Students in master's degree programs that require a minimum of two (2) years of full-time residence may be permitted to transfer up to the maximum number of credits earned during one year of residence in an accredited program at another University.

Up to twenty-four (24) credit hours of graduate work earned at another accredited institution in which the student received a grade of B or above may be applied toward course requirements for the doctoral degree, upon recommendation of the appropriate department and with the approval of the school dean. Academic work completed more than ten (10) years prior to application cannot be considered for transfer. All transfer of credit must be approved before permission is given to take the doctoral comprehensive examination.

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Language Requirements

Language requirements are determined by the various departments and schools. Students should consult the school or the chair of the department for information on the language requirements applicable to their degree program. All language requirements must be satisfied before a student will be permitted to take the comprehensive examination.

Although additional requirements may be specified by individual departments or schools, the generally accepted methods of satisfying modern language requirements are the following:

  1. Present a minimum score of 450 on the Graduate School Foreign Language Test. See Bulletin of Information issued by the Educational Testing Service of Princeton, NJ. Information is also available at the Counseling Center, 127 O'Boyle Hall.
  2. Pass the noncredit intensive language course offered by the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures.
  3. A student whose native language is not English, but a language recognized as a medium for scholarly work relevant to the student's career, shall be considered to have fulfilled the language requirement without examination. Satisfying the language requirement through this method is permissible provided the student's adviser states, in writing, to the academic dean that the language is a language of scholarship for the student's discipline.

Any registered student is eligible for language examinations.

In some cases, it may be possible to substitute a research skill or computer proficiency for the language requirement. The student should consult the individual program for information. Research skill or computer courses will not be counted as part of the 30 credits required for the M.A. degree.

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Definitions of Enrollment

Full-Time Study

The University definition of full-time enrollment for master’s, licentiate, and doctoral students is determined on a semester basis as provided below. The University registrar will certify those students as full-time who meet the criteria listed below. Failure to maintain continuous enrollment can significantly affect a student’s academic progress, financial obligations and, in the case of international students, their immigration status.

PLEASE NOTE: The criteria for certification as a full-time student listed below will be effective with the Fall 2015 semester.

Masters Students

To be certified as a full-time master's student, at least one (1) of the following criteria must be met:

  • Enrollment in a minimum of eight (8) semester credit hours.
  • Enrollment in a minimum of six (6) semester credit hours and hold a half-time appointment as a teaching or research assistant (ten [10] hours per week).
  • Enrollment in a minimum of 3 semester credit hours and hold a full-time appointment as a teaching or research assistant (nineteen [19] hours per week).
  • Enrollment for the comprehensive examination.
  • Enrollment for master's thesis research.
  • Enrollment in a distance learning course for pastoral supervision.
  • For the School of Music, enrollment for master's graduate recital and at least one (1) semester credit of private instruction.

Doctoral Students

To be certified as a full-time doctoral student, at least one (1) of the following criteria must be met:

  • Enrollment in a minimum of eight (8) semester credit hours.
  • Enrollment in a minimum of six (6) semester credit hours and hold a half-time appointment as a teaching or research assistant (ten [10] hours per week).
  • Enrollment in a minimum of three (3) semester credit hours and hold a full-time appointment as a teaching or research assistant (nineteen [19] hours per week).
  • Enrollment for the doctoral comprehensive examination.
  • Following admission to candidacy, enrollment:
    • For doctoral dissertation research;
    • For the School of Music, enrollment for doctoral recitals, doctoral compositions, or completion of repertoire list;
    • For required internship.

Note: The time limits of candidacy are set forth in the Graduate Announcements under the heading "Admission to Candidacy".

Certification of Full-Time Enrollment Status

Certification for full-time study is the responsibility of the University registrar. The school or department must notify the University registrar by memorandum or e-mail of teaching or research assistantships, and of the number of hours per week the student is employed in that position.

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Part-Time Study

All students who do not satisfy the criteria for full-time study are part-time students and, except as noted below, must pay tuition in the amount charged per semester credit hour.

A graduate student who is pursuing a program of ministerial studies in any neighboring institution (religious house of studies, theologate, and the like) will not be permitted to register for more than six (6) semester credit hours of graduate study per semester.

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Graduate Students on Academic Leave

Graduate students on academic ;eave cannot be certified as full or part time. The period of academic leave is not counted as part of the time allowed for the completion of residence or other degree requirements. Any incomplete (“I”) grades that are outstanding must be changed in accordance with the policy on incomplete grades by the date published in the Academic Calendar.

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Enrollment Policies

Continuous Enrollment

In order to qualify for a graduate degree from The Catholic University of America, a graduate student must maintain continuous enrollment. Graduate students should be aware of many important factors that affect continuous enrollment, including registration, drop/add and withdrawal dates on the Academic Calendar.

There are minimum academic standards one must uphold in order to maintain scholarships. Furthermore, academic leaves and term withdrawals from The University not only affect the graduate student’s status as a continuously-enrolled student, but also negatively affect the student’s loan eligibility. It cannot be over-emphasized that failure to be enrolled continuously has significant consequences that may hinder the progress toward one’s graduate degree.

Finally, failure to maintain requirements for Satisfactory Academic Progress will affect one’s government loans. Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) is the term used to define successful completion of coursework to maintain eligibility for financial aid. The Catholic University of America is required by federal, state and District of Columbia regulations, as well as institutional policy, to determine whether a student is meeting SAP requirements. SAP evaluation for graduate students occurs once a year at the conclusion of spring semester.

The student’s entire academic career history must be considered when determining SAP status, regardless of whether or not the student has received financial aid during each period of enrollment.

The qualitative component measures the quality of the student’s SAP by conducting a review of the student’s cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA). To meet the qualitative requirement, the student must have a minimum cumulative GPA of at least 3.0.

Specific federal, state, and institutional scholarships and grants may require a higher GPA for continued eligibility. This is a separate and distinct factor in renewing or continuing eligibility for these specific financial aid funds. The GPA for specific scholarships and grants supersedes the GPA requirements referenced above. Information about the terms and conditions of specific student aid programs that have GPA requirements are provided to the student at the time the award is offered.

The quantitative component measures the pace at which the student must progress through his or her program of study to ensure completion within the maximum timeframe permitted and provides for the measurement of the student’s progress at the time of the evaluation. To meet the quantitative requirement, the student must complete at least 67% of the classes that he/she attempts.

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Academic Leave and Withdrawal

1. Academic Leave

Because The Catholic University of America is a term-based credit-hour institution, it cannot offer a federally approved leave of absence (LOA) option. However, students may request to be place on academic leave for a future semester.

A student in good standing who must interrupt his/her studies for adequate reason, such as prolonged ill health or military service, may be granted an academic leave for a stated period, usually not to exceed two (2) semesters or one (1) year.

To request an academic leave, a student must first discuss the issues surrounding academic leave with their adviser, department chair (where applicable), and school dean. Following these discussions, the student must make a formal online application prior to the first day of the semester in which the leave would be taken. Final approval of the request for an academic leave is made by the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies.

An academic leave, if granted, will be effective as of the last day of the semester in which the student was most recently enrolled. The period of academic leave is not counted as part of the time allowed for the completion of residence or other degree requirements. Any incomplete (“I”) grades that are outstanding must be changed in accordance with the policy on incomplete grades by the date published in the Academic Calendar, whether a student is registered for the current semester or not.

Students on academic leave are expected to return to The University when their stated duration of leave has expired, unless they have applied for and have been given an extension. Students who do not return from an academic leave when scheduled will be subject to permanent withdrawal during the semester in which they failed to return. If the student thereby withdrawn from The University desires to return to graduate studies at The Catholic University of America, he/she must apply for readmission and satisfy current degree requirements to be reinstated.

2. Term Withdrawal

Students who wish to temporarily leave The University during a semester in which they are enrolled in classes will receive a term withdrawal for that term.

During Registration Drop/Add Period - Students enrolled in classes who subsequently drop all their classes within the Registration Drop/Add Period will be considered to be on a term withdrawal, effective as of the date they notify The University or, if they do not notify The University, on the date they drop the last class in which they are enrolled. They will receive a notation on their transcript that they dropped every class in which they were enrolled, and are subject to the tuition refund schedule policy.

If the separation from The University is intended to be for the duration of the current semester only, no further action is required, and the student will be eligible to enroll for the next semester. If the separation is expected to go beyond the start of the next semester, they must apply for an academic leave (see above).

After End of Registration Drop/Add Period - Students who are currently enrolled in classes and who decide to withdraw from all their classes after the last day of the Registration Drop/Add Period will be considered to be on a term withdrawal, effective as of the date they notify The University or the date they withdraw from the last class in which they are enrolled if they do not notify The University. They will receive a grade of “W” in every class in which they were enrolled, and are subject to the tuition refund schedule policy.

Students are encouraged to discuss issues surrounding a term withdrawal with their adviser, department chair (where applicable), and school dean prior to submitting a term withdrawal application. The formal application for a Term Withdrawal is submitted online to the Office of the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies, who gives final approval to the request.

PLEASE NOTE: As required by Federal law and United States Department of Education guidelines, The Catholic University of America must notify the National Student Clearinghouse of all students who fail to maintain continuous enrollment. Recipients of Federal student loans will then enter their loan grace period, and is they have previously used up their loan grace period, will immediately enter into loan repayment.

3. Permanent Withdrawal

Graduate students who no longer wish to continue their studies at The Catholic University of America must submit an application for permanent withdrawal. This application is submitted online to the Office of the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies.

Permission for permanent withdrawal from The University is not required. It is necessary, however, to inform the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies in writing of the decision to withdraw permanently from The University. This letter is in addition to the online application for permanent withdrawal. Furthermore, it is suggested that the student contact their adviser, school dean and department chair (where applicable) to determine if there are additional requirements for withdrawal, such as a letter of resignation and/or an exit interview.

Students who make the decision to leave before finishing the semester in which they are enrolled will be withdrawn as of the date they submit the application for permanent withdrawal. For those students who inform The University of their intent to withdraw for a future semester, the withdrawal date will be the last day of the semester in which they are currently enrolled.

Students who withdraw from The University during a semester in which they are enrolled are subject to the tuition refund schedule policy, regardless of the reasons for their withdrawal. Exceptions to the refund schedule will be considered by the Withdrawal Committee. Students who withdraw during a semester will receive a “W” grade in each class in which they were registered.

Students who do not enroll in The University for a given semester and do not inform The University of their intention to leave on a temporary or permanent basis will be administratively withdrawn from The University as of the last date to enroll in any class offered for that semester.

If a student who has withdrawn from The University subsequently decides to return to The Catholic University of America, he/she must submit an application for re-admission to the Office of Admissions. If a student who has withdrawn from The University without receiving a degree applies for re-admission to a degree program, no credits earned by the student more than seven (7) years before the time of re-admittance will be applied toward a degree unless they have been evaluated and approved by the school to which the student is applying.

PLEASE NOTE: As required by Federal law and United States Department of Education guidelines, The Catholic University of America must notify the National Student Clearinghouse of all students who fail to maintain continuous enrollment. Recipients of Federal student loans will then enter their loan grace period, and is they have previously used up their loan grace period, will immediately enter into loan repayment.

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Residence and Extended Residence

Residence - The term "residence" denotes enrollment leading to a graduate degree that is done under the direction of the faculty of a school. Such residence, as is usually the case in the United States, entails enrollment for specified course hours and credits for which corresponding tuition and fees are charged. The minimum period of residence for the master's degree is one (1) year in full-time enrollment or the equivalent; the minimum period of residence for the doctorate is three (3) years of full-time enrollment (including time spent on the master's degree and in dissertation guidance) or the equivalent. A school or department (where applicable) may, with the approval of the Graduate Board and the Academic Senate, require longer periods of residence than those stated here. Students are advised to consult their school and department (where applicable) for special regulations.

The normal maximum course load for a full-time graduate student during the period of required residence is nine (9) semester hours per semester or the equivalent. With the permission of the department chair (where applicable) and the school dean, a student may be permitted to register for a maximum of fifteen (15) semester hours.

Teaching or research assistants must be full-time students and may not enroll in more than nine (9) semester hours, depending upon the number of hours of teaching or research per week required by their appointments.

Extended Residence - Students who have completed both the minimum residence requirements and all academic requirements for a degree with the exception of the dissertation and defense must continue in extended residence each semester until all the requirements for the degree are fulfilled. Extended residence is a form of continuous enrollment that requires registration for research or dissertation guidance, for which tuition is charged at the rate of one (1) credit hour per semester, unless a student is granted an Academic Leave. Students in extended residence have full privileges of consultation with their professors and use of University facilities; they also may take courses upon payment of the usual tuition charge.

Students registering in extended residence will be required to observe the deadlines for registration as found in the Academic Calendar.

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Master's and Licentiate Degrees

The general requirements for the master's degree are given below. The student, however, should consult the appropriate sections of this publication and the school dean and department chair for specific information and requirements.

Comprehensive Examination
 

A student in most master's programs must pass a written comprehensive xxamination in the major field. The dates for this examination are listed in the Academic Calendar. This examination is taken in the semester during which the student is completing the course work. Language/research tool requirements as specified for the program of studies must be completed prior to the examination.

Candidates for the comprehensive examination are required to register for this examination. A review of completed and pending degree requirements is conducted in the department (where applicable) and the school at the beginning of the semester in order to secure the school dean's permission to take the examination.

The comprehensive examination is marked pass or fail. The transcript will note if the student has passed the examination with distinction. A student who did not pass may retake the entire examination or the failed portion once, according to school (or department, where applicable) policy. A student who incurs two (2) failures in the comprehensive examination is no longer considered eligible to receive the master's degree. The second failure is recorded on the student's permanent record.

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Thesis
 

The candidate for a master's degree with a thesis requirement must submit the thesis topic to the chair of the department and the school dean for their approval. The student must register for a total of six (6) credit hours of thesis guidance. Information on requirements for the preparation and submission of the thesis are available in the individual departments and schools, and formatting requirements for the final deposit are explained in the Master’s/Licentiate Degree Handbook.

The master's thesis should give evidence of training in research by means of a contribution to knowledge involving a modest problem of investigation. It must prove the candidate's familiarity with the basic methods and techniques of research and also the ability to apply them.

After the thesis has been approved and signed by the director and the reader, one (1) unbound copy must be deposited, by appointment, with The University not later than the date designated in the Academic Calendar, and in accordance with the Master’s/Licentiate Degree Handbook. A fee is charged to cover the cost of the binding of the typescript. A check or money order for the fee must accompany the thesis when it is presented. The amount for such fees and expenses can be found at the Enrollment Services website.

On deposit of the approved thesis, the six (6) credit hours of guidance will be posted to the student's academic record.

A graduate who wishes to publish the thesis must include in the publication a statement of acknowledgement that the thesis was written in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a master's degree from The Catholic University of America. For further copyright information, please see the section entitled “The Copyright” in the Master’s/Licentiate Degree Handbook.

Candidates for the master's degree in certain fields such as music, drama, and architecture may satisfy the thesis requirement by a production of a creative type. Students should consult school and departmental regulations for these requirements.

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Guidelines on Preparation and Timing of Thesis
 

Master's degree candidates must complete all degree requirements within three (3) years (or six [6] summer sessions) after the date of completion of course work. An extension of up to one year may be granted upon petition to the dean. An approved academic leave is not counted in determining the calendar deadlines.

The date for submission of the master's thesis is established by the University and indicated in the class schedule for the spring semester. By this date a copy of your thesis should be given to your major professor. This will give your committee adequate time to read it and make suggestions, and give you time to make any revisions. If the submission deadline is not met, the thesis committee is not obligated to evaluate the thesis that semester. Students should realize that several drafts of the thesis will probably be necessary and thus allow sufficient time for writing. The document must be written in a lucid, concise manner. The completed draft, which is first given to the major professor should be corrected for misspelling, grammatical errors and inconsistencies. The major professor is not responsible for editing the document.

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Option of Degree without Thesis
 

The master's degree without thesis is available in many departments and schools. The student should consult the listings of the department or school concerning such an option. Such degrees require at least thirty (30) credit hours of graduate work, of which no less than six (6) will be in courses that require significant written reports of a research or professional nature.

Students admitted by their schools to proceed directly to the doctorate may be awarded a master's degree. An application for this degree must be filed in the Office of the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies indicating that:

A. A minimum number of credits for degree have been completed,
B. Two (2) research papers have been completed, and
C. The Comprehensive Examination for the doctorate has been passed.

The transcripts of students in all master's programs carry the appropriate notation of "thesis" or "no thesis."

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Completion of Requirements
 

Students who do not complete all the requirements for a master's degree within three (3) years (or six [6] summer sessions) from the date of completion of coursework must submit requests in writing to the dean of their school for an extension of time. An extension of time will normally be granted for one (1) year or one (1) summer session.

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Admission to a Doctoral Program
 

Students in the master's program who wish to pursue a doctorate must submit an application for admission to the Ph.D. program. The completed application should be submitted to the Office of Graduate Admissions.

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Doctorate Degrees

The degrees conferred after the successful completion of approved doctoral programs are listed under Schools of the University section. The doctoral degree is conferred upon students who have completed satisfactorily at least three years of graduate study and have met the other conditions prescribed for the degree.

A student who intends to work toward the doctoral degree usually is expected to have earned the master's degree. Permission to proceed directly to doctoral study must be obtained from the major department and school.

Admission to a master's program or the awarding of the master's degree, does not constitute admission to the corresponding doctoral program. The doctoral degree is granted only to students who give evidence of superior ability in investigation and of high attainment in the special field in which the major work is done.

The general requirements for doctoral study are given below. The student, however, also should consult the appropriate sections of this publication for specific information.

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Residence Requirements
 

The minimum period of residence for the doctoral degree is three (3) years or the equivalent beyond the bachelor's degree. A full-time student may not complete this requirement in less than six (6) semesters. A part-time student may not complete this requirement in less than twelve (12) semesters. At the discretion of the department and with the approval of the dean of the school, work completed at another university may be accepted as fulfilling a maximum of two (2) semesters of the minimum period of residence. Continuous enrollment is required from the date of first registration until a degree program is completed, unless he or she is granted a leave of absence. Following is a summary of the current rules as they apply to graduate students:

PLEASE NOTE: Students who fail to maintain continuous enrollment will be reported to the National Student Clearinghouse as “not enrolled” with an effective date of the day immediately after the conclusion of The University’s Registration Drop/Add Period. Recipients of Federal Student Loans will enter their loan grace period, and if they have previously used up their loan grace period, will immediately enter into loan repayment.

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Comprehensive Examination
 

After fulfilling the language and course requirements, the student must pass a written comprehensive examination. At the discretion of the department (where applicable) or school, the comprehensive examination may also include a written or oral examination in a minor subject. After successfully passing the comprehensive examination, the student may be considered for admission to candidacy for a doctoral degree.

Students should register for the comprehensive examination before the start of classes and must be registered before the conclusion of the registration drop/add period for the semester in which they plan to take the examination. Upon approval of the student's credentials by the school dean and, where appropriate, the department chair, the student will be granted written permission by the school dean to take the comprehensive examination. The student may not sit for the examination until he or she has received this permission.

The comprehensive examination is marked pass or fail. If the student fails the examination, he or she may retake the examination only once. Depending on school and department (where applicable) policy, the student must retake either the entire examination or just the failed portion. A student who fails the comprehensive examination twice may not be considered for admission to candidacy for the doctoral degree. A second failing grade is noted on the student's permanent records.

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Admission to Candidacy
 

Admission to a doctoral program does not automatically include admission to candidacy for the doctoral degree. The faculty of the school and department (where applicable) must evaluate the progress of the student and determine that the student has completed all course and other requirements, has passed the comprehensive examination, and is otherwise qualified to fulfill the requirements of the doctoral dissertation or its equivalent. Schools and departments (where applicable) may follow different procedures for formal admission to candidacy. The student should consult with the school dean or department chair (where applicable) for information on these procedures. 

Candidacy for the doctoral degree begins on the first day of the semester following successful completion of the comprehensive examination. The student has five (5) years (i.e., ten [10] semesters) from this date of formal admission to candidacy to complete, defend and deposit the dissertation. Individual schools and departments may, at their discretion, set different time limits for completion, as long as these do not exceed the five (5) year (ten [10] semester) limit. If more than five (5) years, or the time set by the schools or departments, elapse between formal admission to candidacy and oral defense of the dissertation, the doctoral candidate may be required to retake the comprehensive examination or fulfill additional requirements as determined by the school and department.

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Dissertation
 

After the student has been admitted to candidacy, the department, the school and the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies must approve the dissertation topic and dissertation committee. The Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies, acting on behalf of the Academic Senate, will seek the assistance of a faculty reviewer in evaluating the topic and committee.

The student may not proceed beyond the preliminary stage in the investigation of the topic until both the topic and the dissertation committee have been granted final approval by the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies. If human subjects are involved in the research, the dissertation proposal must be submitted for certification to the Committee for the Protection of Human Research Subjects prior to final approval by the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies. Certification by the committee indicates that the proposed research involving human subject participation is compliant with federal guidelines according to The Code of Federal Regulations 45 CFR 46. The committee will send the student and the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies written notification of its approval of the proposal's research methods.

The department chair, the Dean, and the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies must also approve any subsequent changes either to the title of the dissertation or to the composition of the dissertation committee. Forms for these changes are available in the office of the department chair, the dean of the school, and the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies Web site at graduatestudies.cua.edu/forms/index.cfm.

Dissertation proposals must be submitted for department and school approval no later than two (2) years after formal admission to candidacy. School deans may extend the deadline for cause. If this is necessary, arrangements must be made in advance with the school dean's office.

The dissertation proposal should contain the following elements:

  1. A brief statement of the problem to be studied and the background or antecedents of the problem which have led the student to propose a study of this particular topic;
  2. A specific statement of the purpose or purposes of the proposed study;
  3. A description of the methodology to be used. If the study involves the testing of a hypothesis, the hypothesis should be spelled out clearly. Where applicable, the student should describe the techniques, statistical measures, sampling methods and any other essential methodological features he or she will be using in the research;
  4. An explanation of the specific or unique contribution which this study will make to the field of knowledge under consideration;
  5. A brief selected bibliography of the most important primary and secondary sources relevant to the study.

The doctoral candidate submits the proposal for dissertation topic and committee on the form Doctoral Dissertation Topic and Committee: Request for Approval.

As stated above, the student has five (5) years from the date of formal admission to candidacy to complete, defend and deposit the dissertation, unless the school and/or department (where applicable) have set a different, earlier deadline. If the student is unable to complete the dissertation within this time period, the school dean and department chair (where applicable) will inform the candidate that he or she must submit a request for a reasonable extension. If the student fails to request an extension, the dissertation topic may be withdrawn and the doctoral candidate will be subject to dismissal from the program.

The completed dissertation in definitive form must be submitted for approval to the student's dissertation committee no later than the date specified by the school and department (where applicable) for each graduation date. The school and department (where applicable) establish the procedures for submission of the dissertation to the dissertation committee.

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Criteria for Dissertations
 
Dissertations will be judged according to the following criteria:
 
1. The dissertation should constitute a contribution to knowledge, including:
 
  • the discovery of new facts;
  • the establishment of new relations among facts already known;
  • the solution to a problem or problems hitherto unresolved;
  • the formulation of a new or improved method or technique;
  • the construction of a theory involving new principles; or
  • a critical study correcting errors or establishing negatives.

2. The following are not considered to be contributions to the body of knowledge:

  • Mere compilations or a digest of that which is already known about the subject;
  • Translations of foreign language works without commentary or critical analysis;
  • Bibliographies or other instruments of research, however useful they may be; or
  • Essay-type works not based on detailed factual investigations.

3. The dissertation should demonstrate the candidate's familiarity with the most recent and best methods and techniques of research in the subject and the ability to apply them. Research results must have been achieved through advanced methods or techniques. The dissertation should demonstrate academic maturity in discovering and formulating the broader and more generic aspects of the data collected.

4. The dissertation should demonstrate knowledge of the contributions of previous investigators working on both the subject area of the dissertation and on closely or organically related subjects.

5. The dissertation should give evidence of the candidate's ability to interpret the data both independently and constructively, and to recognize their bearing upon related problems.

6. The dissertation should give evidence of balanced, objective and critical judgment.

7. The dissertation should give evidence of the candidate's ability to marshal facts and evidence, to organize material around the major unifying idea or ideas, to emphasize important points, and to present data in an orderly sequence.

8. The dissertation should be written in clear and direct language, proving the candidate's mastery of style and expression.

9. The dissertation must follow the approved format, which conforms to the norms of The Chicago Manual of Style (University of Chicago Press), with whatever adaptations are appropriate for the candidate's discipline (eg.. the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing of the Modern Language Association of America).

10. The dissertation should include:

  • A precise definition of the proposed contribution to knowledge and a summary of the work of previous investigators of the problem. An exposition of the methods and/or techniques used by the candidate should precede the presentation of data;
  • The presentation of the additional data assembled by the candidate and the exposition of the candidate's contribution to knowledge;
  • A brief summary stating the major results achieved or the contributions made by the dissertation;
  • A bibliography and an index, whenever called for by the nature of the dissertation.

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Oral Examination
 

Upon completion of the dissertation, but prior to final approval, the candidate must defend the dissertation in an oral examination in the presence of an examination board appointed by the school dean with the approval of the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies.

At least three (3) weeks prior to the proposed examination date, the dean of the candidate’s school must submit to the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies an Oral Examination Request for Approval Form. The examination may not be scheduled until all members of the dissertation committee have informed the school dean, in writing, that the dissertation is ready for defense. At least one (1) week before the examination date, the school dean's office shall publish a leaflet publicly announcing the defense and containing a summary of the dissertation and biographical information on the candidate.

The oral examination board shall include, in addition to the candidate's dissertation committee, two (2) faculty members from outside the major department or school, one (1) serving as chairperson and the other as secretary during the examination. The faculty member serving as chairperson has the rank of ordinary professor or its equivalent while the faculty member serving as secretary has at least the rank of associate professor or its equivalent. School deans and department chairs (where applicable) with the rank of associate professor are also eligible to serve as chairpersons of oral examinations.

All members of the examination committee must be physically present for the examination. In extraordinary cases, if a member of the examination committee who is not the chairperson or the secretary cannot be present, the school dean in which the candidate is a student may petition the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies for permission for the examiner to participate via video conferencing or some other electronic means.

Examinations must be conducted in English except in cases where the topic of the dissertation would warrant an examination in a language other than English. In these cases, every member of the Examination Committee including the chairperson and secretary must be fluent in the language used in the examination.

The duration of the oral examination shall not exceed two (2) hours. Oral examinations will not generally be scheduled during the summer session. However, when extraordinary circumstances require that the examination can only convene during the summer session, permission can be granted by the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies. No one may be admitted to the examination room without the permission of the school dean. A public presentation of the research methodology and findings may precede the examination to which only the candidate and the examinations board are invited. Each member of the examination board has one (1) vote. In order to pass, the candidate must receive a "pass" vote from at least four (4) examiners. If merited, a notation of "with distinction" will be recorded. The examination board is not permitted to pass the candidate conditionally. After successful completion of the final oral examination, the candidate may proceed with arrangements for deposit and publication of the dissertation (see below).

If a candidate fails in the first oral examination, he or she must obtain permission from the school to retake the examination. A candidate will not be permitted to retake the final oral examination until at least one (1) semester, or an equivalent period of time, has elapsed from the date of failure. If the candidate fails a second time in the oral examination, he or she ceases to be a candidate for the doctoral degree. 

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Deposition and Publication of Dissertation
 

Following the successful defense and final approval of the dissertation by the dissertation committee, the candidate must arrange for the deposit and publication of the dissertation.

Deposition of the dissertation with the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies must occur by the dates published in the Academic Calendar. If the dissertation cannot be deposited by this deadline, an extension for another semester must be requested. An extension of one (1) additional semester can be granted by the dean of the candidate’s school or by the dean’s designate. Failure to meet the deadline for deposition will result in the invalidation of the oral dissertation examination and would require retaking the examination.

The candidate must arrange for the electronic deposit of the approved dissertation and request written permission for publication. The Doctoral Dissertation Handbook provides detailed information on formatting and printing the manuscript; preparing the abstract; registering the copyright; and arranging for the deposit, publishing and binding of the dissertation. All candidates preparing to write a dissertation must obtain a copy of this publication. If the graduate wishes to publish or republish the dissertation, he or she must include in the publication a statement of acknowledgement that the dissertation was written in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a doctoral degree from The Catholic University of America.

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Copyright
 

Copyright ownership of a thesis or dissertation prepared by a student toward degree requirements shall remain with the student, provided that, unless otherwise agreed in writing, by submitting the work for credit or degree requirements, the student shall automatically be deemed to have granted a nonexclusive, worldwide, royalty-free license to The University (1) to make available to The University community through electronic or other means the entire dissertation; (2) to make available to the broader public a limited number of copies of such thesis or dissertation; and (3) electronic means without limitation on quantity of access or copying. In any event, The University must retain a non-exclusive right to all research reported in manuscripts funded in whole or part by National Institutes of Health funding, so as to ensure compliance with the NIH Public Access Policy, and as needed for other public access initiatives required by law.

Further information on copyrights may be found at the Office of the General Counsel website.

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Completion of Requirements and Requests for Extension
 

The student has five (5) years from the date of formal admission to candidacy to complete, defend, and deposit the dissertation, unless the department and/or school have set a different, earlier deadline.

If the dissertation cannot be completed within the five (5) year candidacy period, the student may petition in writing to the school dean for an extension. The school dean or the dean’s designee (usually the associate or assistant dean for graduate programs) can authorize an extension. If the student fails to receive an extension, the dissertation topic may be withdrawn. In this case, the doctoral candidate will be subject to dismissal from the program. Another student may then submit the topic for approval. If the dissertation still cannot be completed by the end of the period provided by the extension, the student may submit a request for a final extension.

In certain cases such as a medical condition or other changes in circumstances that prevent the student from continuing his or her studies, the student may request an academic leave. If the school dean or the dean’s designee endorses the academic leave request and it is approved by the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies, this suspends the time period allowed for the completion of the dissertation. When the student is ready to resume study and research on the dissertation, he or she must notify the school dean of this intent. Only after the dean (or the dean’s designate) has approved this request, can the student register and resume his or her studies.

 

Contact Information

Office of the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies
116 McMahon Hall
The Catholic University of America
620 Michigan Avenue, NE
Washington, DC 20064
 
Main Phone: (202) 319-5247
Fax: (202) 319-6174