Ph.D. Program Study Requirements

Graduate Supervisory Committee

A five-member faculty committee is selected by the student to supervise the Ph.D. program of study The five-member committee includes (a) four faculty members from the Department of Special Education of which a minimum of three must be tenure-track faculty, and (b) one University of Utah faculty member outside of the Department of Special Education. All committee members must hold a doctoral degree or an equivalent advanced degree in their area of expertise. It is strongly recommended that the faculty member from outside the Department of Special Education have knowledge and expertise in the student's primary area of study.

At the time of admission, each doctoral student is assigned a temporary faculty advisor. During their first two semesters of full-time study, students are expected to identify a faculty member who will serve as the permanent chair of the supervisory committee. Students then select, with assistance from the chair, the four remaining members of their supervisory committee prior to the beginning of their third semester of full-time study.

The supervisory committee is responsible for approving the student's academic program, preparing and evaluating the qualifying examination, approving the dissertation proposal and final dissertation. All matters pertaining to the operation of the supervisory committee must conform to the guidelines of the Graduate School.

Qualifying Examination and Dissertation

The dissertation phase of the Ph.D. program in the Department of Special Education is designed to assess the student’s ability to design, implement, and sustain an independent line of scholarly research. This is accomplished through a cumulative process in which the student develops and orally defends:

  1. A Qualifying Examination for Admission to Candidacy (background, review of literature, and research questions for the doctoral dissertation)
  2. The Doctoral Dissertation Proposal (research methodology section for the doctoral dissertation)
  3. The Doctoral Dissertation

Each component of the dissertation phase of the Ph.D. program is described in the Department of Special Education Doctoral Student Handbook.

Primary Area of Emphasis

Each student is expected to identify a primary area of emphasis upon entering the Ph.D. program. This area serves as a framework for the design of the student’s program of study. A program emphasis area should reflect the student's future research, teaching, and service interests in the field of special education. A program emphasis area must be reviewed and approved by the student’s graduate advisor.

Program Plan

Upon entering the Ph.D. program, the student develops a program plan that lists the course work, internships, and other program tasks (i.e., special projects, research, or independent readings) that will support professional development in the program emphasis area. The program plan must be reviewed and approved by the student’s graduate advisor in consultation with the supervisory committee.

Annual Review

Students in the Ph.D. program are reviewed annually by the tenure-track faculty in the Department of Special Education to determine progress in completing degree requirements. Each student submits to his or her graduate advisor a curriculum vita and a written program plan that includes a description of progress toward completing required tasks. The faculty will provide a written evaluation to each student regarding whether satisfactory progress is being made as per the requirements and timelines of the program plan. The student’s graduate advisor meets with the student, communicates the feedback, and assists in the implementation of any modifications in the program plan. The annual review ensures that students have documented feedback on their progress, and maximizes the likelihood that university resources will be utilized to build the strongest possible program for each student.

Publication Requirement

Students are expected to submit a minimum of two papers for publication or presentation prior to the completion of the doctoral program. The two papers may take the form of an article(s) submitted to a nationally recognized professional journal and/or a scholarly presentation at a national meeting of a recognized professional organization. The article(s) or presentation proposal must go through an external peer review process. Prior to completion of the doctoral program, at least one paper and/or presentation proposal must be accepted for publication (in press or in print). The student should be senior author on at least one of the two papers submitted. This process will be undertaken with the assistance and support of the student's graduate advisor and/or members of the supervisory committee. manuscripts and/or reprints must be available for supervisory committee examination and approval as part of the student's portfolio.