Steps to Degree Completion – Doctoral Degree

Due to the variability of each graduate study program, this guide is not an official checklist. Please check with your graduate program coordinator for official degree completion guidance. 

By the End of the Third Semester

Establish your supervisory committee

When a doctoral student is admitted, the department head appoints a temporary advisor to work with the student until a supervisory committee is formally established. A Supervisory Committee Approval form (SCAF) must be submitted to the School of Graduate Studies for approval by the end of the student’s third semester in the program. Committee changes must be documented by submitting a SCAF revision form, and are not to be made during the six weeks prior to the final defense.

A doctoral supervisory committee must include at least five faculty who hold doctoral degrees and are current members of the graduate faculty. The committee must consist of three members from within the student’s department and at least one member who is outside either the department or interdepartmental degree-granting program in which the student is enrolled. Adjunct faculty can serve on doctoral committees with the approval of the Vice Provost of Graduate Studies. Upon recommendation of the department head, emeritus faculty may serve on supervisory committees, but may not chair new committees.

Within School of Graduate Studies and departmental requirements, the supervisory committee (1) determines courses for the student’s Program of Study; (2) oversees any qualifying examinations and the comprehensive examination, unless another departmental or program procedure is in place*; (3) approves the dissertation proposal; (4) supervises the student’s research and preparation of the dissertation; (5) participates in or conducts departmental annual reviews*; and (6) conducts the final oral examination. The major professor is the chairperson of the committee and usually directs the student’s research. Continuation in a doctoral program is contingent upon the availability of a major professor.

*Some departments or interdepartmental programs administer qualifying examinations. Each department or program has the responsibility of administering comprehensive examinations.

Finalize your Program of Study

The Program of Study is a contract between you, your committee, and the graduate school outlining which courses you will take to meet all requirements and complete your degree program. A student completes this after they have organized their supervisory committee.

Please work with your graduate program coordinator (GPC) to finalize your Program of Study. Your GPC will then submit all required paperwork, including revisions. 

By the End of the Second Year

Take and pass your comprehensive examinations

Some departments or interdepartmental programs administer qualifying examinations. Please check with your program for more details.

Receive approval on a dissertation research proposal

Finalize what you’ll be doing for your dissertation and present it to your supervisory committee. 

Obtain necessary regulatory approvals to conduct your proposed research.

To provide comprehensive training on professional norms, ethical standards, and research regulations, students are required to complete the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) Training through CITI. 

In addition, all university research involving human subjects, animal subjects, radiation materials, recombinant DNA, biohazardous materials, or certain highly toxic chemicals must be reviewed and approved by the appropriate university committees before the research is started.

Consult with your advisor on which approvals and training are needed for your research and degree.

Application for Candidacy submitted and approved

After you have successfully completed your courses, passed your comprehensive examinations, received approval on your dissertation proposal, and obtained the necessary regulatory approvals to conduct the proposed research, submit an Application for Candidacy form. This form must be submitted at least three months before the final defense. Submission of the Application for Candidacy form is a significant point in the student’s program because the committee and department head thereby attest the student is ready to conduct independent dissertation research—although successful completion is not guaranteed.

Forms to Submit:

Preparing for the Defense

Review the defense process and requirements

Determine your credit load for your defense semester

You must be registered for at least 3 credits the semester of your defense. To maintain full-time status at 3 credits, you must submit a Full Time at 3 Credits form and receive departmental approval.

Submit an Appointment for Examination form

The Appointment for Examination form confirms that all required paperwork is complete, and your committee members have read the dissertation and agree it’s ready to be defended. This form must be submitted 10 business days before your final defense.

Forms to Submit:

After the Defense

Submit the Thesis/Dissertation Format & Style and Electronic Publication Approval form

Notify the School of Graduate Studies which format your dissertation will be in and provide your approval for electronic publication by submitting the Thesis/Dissertation Format & Style and Electronic Publication Approval form.

Submit the Authorship & Copyright form

Specify your plans for publication and confirm data copyright by submitting the Authorship & Copyright form.

Make any necessary dissertation revisions

Notify your graduate program coordinator (GPC) once your committee and department reviewer have approved all the revisions to the dissertation.

Plan for a grace semester (if needed)

After defending a dissertation, students are given until the last day of the next semester (spring, summer, or fall) to resolve any incomplete grades, degree requirements, and final edits to your dissertation. This is known as a grace semester.

Fill out an embargo request form (if desired)

The embargo request form is used to restrict electronic release of your thesis or dissertation.

Make sure you’ve met all degree requirements

  1. Dissertation has been successfully defended.
  2. Residency requirements have been met.
  3. Credit requirements have been met.
  4. The approved program of study courses/credits match USU transcript courses/credits.
  5. Correct credit amounts and letter grades (no “incompletes”) are posted to ALL courses on your USU transcript.
  6. Email notification has been received from DigitalCommons confirming the dissertation has cleared library checks.
  7. The Vice Provost of Graduate Studies has reviewed and signed the dissertation.

Apply for graduation

  1. Complete the graduation application by the university deadline and pay the $15 graduation fee.
  2. Submit a Graduation Check once you have received confirmation that your dissertation has cleared the Library. 

Students who do not complete these forms will not be awarded a degree.

Forms to Submit: