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Doctoral Degree Requirements

Doctoral Degree Requirements

The Institute of Philosophic Studies awards the Ph.D. and M.A., under the titles Doctor of Philosophy in Literature, Philosophy or Politics, and Master of Arts in English, Philosophy or Politics.Heading (Intro Lead Paragraph)

5 Steps to your Ph.D.

  • Three years of residency.
  • A total of 66 credit hours of course work that includes 21 hours of the Core Curriculum sequence and 45 additional credit hours in the concentration discipline (9 of which may be in a related field, with the approval of the concentration director).
  • Successful completion of the Qualifying and Comprehensive Examinations.
  • Reading knowledge of one classical language (Latin or ancient Greek) and one modern language (usually French or German).
  • Successful defense of a Ph.D. dissertation.

Doctoral Requirements: Details

All requirements for the Ph.D. degree must be met within ten years from the time the student begins course work in the program. Periods for which a Leave of Absence is requested and granted are not counted toward the limit. Any extensions to the limit must be formally requested of and granted by the Director of the Institute.

Each student is ordinarily required to complete the first two semesters in full time doctoral course work, that is, nine credit hours per semester. This one-year residency is the minimum expected of all doctoral students. Generally, all course work is done in full time work. Doctoral studies at less than six credit hours per semester are discouraged.

Students are required to complete the 21-hour Core Curriculum sequence plus an additional 45 hours of course work in their chosen concentration, nine of which may be in a related discipline (with the approval of the concentration director).

A cumulative grade point average of 3.0 for all doctoral course work is required for graduation. A GPA of 3.5 is required for scholarship support.

The Qualifying Examination provides an occasion early in the student's course of study for the Institute faculty to assess the candidate's ability to continue in the program. Students must take the Qualifying Examination at the beginning of their fourth semester in the Institute.

The Examination consists of three parts:

  1. On the first day of the examination, each student must submit a substantial paper (of 10 - 20, doublespaced, typewritten pages) as evidence of writing, scholarly, and intellectual abilities. Although this paper may be one previously submitted as a course requirement in Concentration work at the University of Dallas, it should be free of instructor's grades or remarks.
  2.  A written examination is held during a four-hour period at the beginning of the fourth semester. The exam will consist of an explication of a passage selected by the student from three choices presented by the examination committee.
  3. An oral examination is held two to four weeks after the written. It consists of an hour examination conducted by members of the Institute faculty. Although examiners will begin their questions with issues drawn from the written examination and submitted paper, they may range more broadly over related topics in the concentration and core.

The Qualifying Examination is conducted by an examining panel appointed by the IPS Director. The panel consists of at least one member from the Departments of English, Philosophy, Politics, and Theology. Members of this panel conduct each oral examination and are responsible for an overall assessment of three parts of the Examination. The director of the student's concentration sits in on the examination ex officio. Together with the IPS Director, they shall determine whether the examinee should continue in the Ph.D. program. Should the panel find the student's examination unsatisfactory, the student will be allowed to complete the Institute's Master's degree, but will not be allowed to continue further work in the Institute.

The comprehensive examination provides an opportunity to achieve and demonstrate a comprehensive grasp of the area of concentration and of the core program.

The comprehensive examination is normally taken in the semester following the completion of 66 hours of course work and both language requirements. In special cases it may be postponed a semester. It is offered twice a year and consists of both a written and an oral examination. The written examination is offered during the first week of October and the first week of March.

It consists of three parts:

  1. four-hour examination on the first day on the Core 
  2. a four-hour examination on the second day in the student's area of concentration 
  3. four-hour examination on the third day on a chosen focus text
    1. Parts a) and b) of the written examination are based on reading lists in the Core and the area of concentration. In part c) of the written examination, the student is examined on a book, a series of texts, or an author in the area of concentration. These are chosen by the student and approved by the concentration director and the IPS Director. The student is expected to know the text or texts thoroughly, including the major secondary literature.
    2. A 90 minute oral examination is usually given within three weeks of the written. It includes questioning of the student's answers in the written examination, but may also include other questions about any of the texts on the core and concentration reading lists.
    3. The questions of the written examinations in the concentration areas are composed by the faculty of the concentration concerned, with consultation of the Concentration Director and with the approval of the IPS Director. Those in the core are composed by a committee consisting of the IPS Director and two faculty members appointed by the Director each year.
    4. The written examinations are graded by a members of an examining committee, which will also conduct the oral examinations. At least two faculty members will read each part of the written examination. The examining committee for each student will be chosen by the IPS Director in consultation with the Concentration Director and will normally consist of two members from the concentration, two from fields outside the concentration, and the IPS Director as Chairman.
    5. At the discretion of the committee, students who do not pass may be given a re-examination no later than the semester following the one in which they failed the examination.

Students must fulfill the language requirement in one of three ways:

  1. By taking an upper level (3000+) course (other than the special reading courses) at the University of Dallas in the literature of the language in question and by passing with a grade of B or better (students entering the Institute with a bachelor's degree from the University of Dallas may fulfill the requirement with such a course taken at the University no more than three years prior to admission into the IPS). Request for this option should be made prior to the registration for a course. Upon completion the student should submit an unofficial transcript to the Graduate Coordinator.
  2. By taking and passing a written examination in a language. (This examination may be the final examination in the special language courses offered for graduate students.)
  3.  In the classical languages only, by passing a written examination on material from a classic text pertinent to the student's concentration and agreed upon by the Concentration Director and the Institute Director.

In some cases, where the student's dissertation requires proficiency in a language other than the normal four (for example, in dealing with Machiavelli or Cervantes or Kierkegaard), another language may be substituted for German or French. No one is allowed to do a dissertation on a topic whose major texts are in a language in which the student has not attained reading proficiency.

Before undertaking any of the ways of fulfilling the language requirement, the student should obtain a language approval form from the Graduate Coordinator and secure the approval of the Concentration Director, IPS Director and, outside of following the course option, of the language examiner. In the non-course options, the Concentration Director suggests to the IPS Director the text and the examiner.

All grades earned for foreign language courses will be recorded on the transcript but will not be included in determining the grade point average. The only exception will be for those language courses which may be counted for course credit towards a student's degree.

Requirements at this final stage of the Institute education include:

  • Selection of one's Dissertation Director
  • Registration for Dissertation Research I and II
  • Approval of a dissertation proposal
  • Oral defense of the dissertation
  • Public lecture


  1. The Ph.D. dissertation is written under the direction of a Dissertation Committee and in especially close collaboration with the Dissertation Director. Toward the end of one's course work, the student should visit with his Concentration Director, the IPS Director, and various members of the faculty with a view toward identifying a viable dissertation topic and qualified prospective director. Determining a dissertation topic and winning the cooperation of a faculty member as Dissertation Director is one of the doctoral student's most important tasks. Success is a matter of prudence that resists routinizing in rules and procedures. Remember that a dissertation is written under the direction of a faculty member. Don't think of it as a freelance project for which one later seeks endorsement. Practically speaking, this means the topic ought to be of interest to the directors and be one in which they have special competence. Therefore, in the earliest stages of considering a Dissertation Proposal, formulate the thesis and its development in consultation with a professor you hope will be the Dissertation Director. This collaboration is more likely achieved if the student has prepared the way in previous course work, term papers, and serious discussion on the topic with members of the Institute faculty. With respect to the proposal, the more it is developed in consultation with interested, competent faculty, the more likely it is to lead to an expeditiously and successfully completed dissertation.
  2. Registration for Dissertation Research I and II indicates full time work on dissertation research and writing. Registration in Dissertation Research I presupposes that the student is working under the direction of his prospective Dissertation Director. Prerequisite to enrolling in Dissertation Research I is completion of the Comprehensive Examination and the Language Requirements. Registration in Dissertation Research II presupposes the student is working on an approved Dissertation Proposal.
  3. The student must submit to the IPS Director a Dissertation Proposal which should have been developed in consultation with a prospective Dissertation Director and approved by the Concentration Director. At this point, the IPS Director will approve the Dissertation Proposal and appoint a Dissertation Committee which shall consist of the Dissertation Director and at least two other readers. The proposal should state the thesis to be developed, outline the basic argument of the dissertation, and indicate the general direction and/or key areas of research. It should include a complete bibliography of primary source material and a substantial selection of relevant secondary references. In length the narrative of the proposal should be no shorter than four or five (double-spaced, typed) pages.
  4. After submission of the final typescript of the dissertation which has met with the approval of all the readers of the Dissertation Committee, the IPS Director sets the date for an oral defense by the candidate before a select committee. The committee includes the Dissertation Director as chair, the other readers and two other members of the Institute Faculty outside the concentration who are appointed by the Institute Director after consultation with the candidate's Dissertation Director. One of these latter two may be a scholar from another academic institution. The Institute Director, the Graduate Dean, and the Provost may be ex officio, but non-voting, members of the committee. The defense is open to attendance by all members of the Institute Faculty and the Graduate Directors. Such visitors do not have the right to vote upon the candidate's performance. Immediately after a successful defense by the candidate, the three readers sign the dissertation. An unsuccessful defense means that the dissertation will not be accepted and the doctoral degree will not be awarded. A second and final defense will be permitted by the examiners after the candidate has made the required correction or revisions. The final copy should follow consistently one of the options provided by The Chicago Manual of Style as summarized in the Turabian-Honigsblum manual for thesis and dissertation writing. To ensure permanence, the final copy should be on 100% cotton rag paper. The print should be letter quality. Detailed procedures are available in the Graduate Coordinator's office. The final draft of the dissertation, approved by three readers, must be submitted to the Graduate Dean no later than six weeks before graduation in regular semesters.
  5. After candidates have successfully completed their oral defense, they must prepare a public lecture of approximately thirty minutes based upon the dissertation. A reception follows the lecture. The IPS Director or Dissertation Director will normally preside at the lecture.