PhD Checklist

A doctoral degree in Geography is designed to provide students with the methodological skills and theoretical perspectives necessary for undertaking independent, analytical research. Note, while the Graduate Program Director monitors progress, it is the student who is ultimately responsibility for fulfilling all requirements for the PhD degree. This checklist serves as a guide to doctoral students to complete these requirements. Please also refer to the FSU Grad School for official updates on the process.

Forty-eight (48) credit hours are needed to complete the PhD degree. The timeline is as follows:

1. Coursework of 24 credit hours.

2. Preliminary examination (student must enroll in zero credit class GEO8964. A pass leads to Doctoral Candidacy.

3. Doctoral candidacy must have dissertation prospectus approved by committee, and at least 24 dissertation hours (GEO6980).

4. Dissertation Defense (GEO8985) pass (form) leads to the award of the PhD degree and graduation.

1. Coursework24 credit hours with at least grade B for required classes and B- for elective classes. These hours are comprised of 12 from required courses: GEO5058 Survey of Geographic Thought, GEO5118C Geographic Research, GEO5165C Quantitative Geography OR GEO5934 Qualitative Geography, and GEO6093 Professional Development–12 from electives. Students should create a committee by no later than the fall semester of the second year of study. Committees must have a minimum of 3 from the Geography Unit (one being the main professor) and one University representative (tenured FSU professor from outside of the Geography unit).

2. Preliminary Examination. Students must register and pass the zero credit GEO8964 preliminary doctoral examination (known also as qualifying exams or the comprehensive examination), which includes written and oral portions, for admission to candidacy to the doctoral degree. Students who fail the preliminary examination on the second attempt will be dismissed from the doctoral program. The format of the examination is typically three 24-hour exam days, separated by 2 recovery days. Students answer 4 open-book questions per day (12 questions in total). Note, the format may change with the discretion of the major professor. The questions are prepared by the 3 geography committee members (the University Representative is invited to contribute one or more questions but is not required) along three themes, most usually the student’s immediate geographic interests, the broader geography sub-discipline where their interests lie, and the general field of geography. Questions are based on a reading list given to the student at least 2 weeks in advance (but preferably one or even two months in advance). The reading list may have any number of journal articles, books, book chapters, news reports, and other sources of information; and be complied either solely be the committee member or in consultation between the committee member and the student (and even with the main professor). The main professor is responsible for collecting questions from committee members, and then sending the questions to the student on each of the three exam days. The student is responsible for returning the answers to the main professor no more than 24 hours later. The main professor will then forward the answers to the rest of the committee and schedule the oral portion no less than two weeks after the third exam day. During the oral portion the student can be asked any of the following: clarification of answers, extensions to answers, or topics beyond the 12 questions. At the end of the oral portion the committee, by a majority vote, will determine one of the following grade for GEO8964: pass, incomplete, or fail. Pass grade leads to candidacy, incomplete grade leads to re-writes, fail grade leads to a re-take if the first time or program dismissal if the second time.

3. Doctoral Candidacy. Upon successful completion of the preliminary examination the student is admitted to doctoral candidacy, and must complete 24 dissertation hours (GEO6980). Before writing the dissertation the Department requires that the student first prepares a written dissertation proposal (prospectus) that demonstrates the potential to conduct original research making a significant contribution to geographic knowledge (note: this is a Departmental requirement and not an FSU Grad School requirement). Once the proposal is deemed acceptable to the major professor and the committee, the student begins research and commences the writing process over at least one calendar year. If not completed after one year students must register for a minimum of 2 hours per semester to remain a graduate student and complete the degree. (Note, students receiving assistantships with a stipend and waiver must enroll for a minimum of 9 hours of which at least 2 must be dissertation hours, so too students on fellowships (internal or external) must enroll for at least 9 of which at least 2 must be dissertation hours as stipulated by the fellowship requirements). Domestic students without an assistantship or fellowship may opt for part-time status with the approval of the Graduate Program Director in which case they must enroll for a minimum of 2 dissertation hours. To receive financial aid, students must meet the minimum enrollment requirement of 6 credit hours. Federal guidelines require that international students be enrolled full-time.

4. Dissertation Defense. The final step involves an oral defense of the dissertation, which is announced to the Department and FSU Grad School at least 4 weeks prior, and open to public viewing. During the dissertation defense, all committee members, and the student must attend the entire defense in real time, either by being physically present or participating via distance technology. A grade for GEO8985 will be determined by a majority vote by the committee and is one of the following: pass, incomplete, or fail. Pass leads to the award a PhD, incomplete leads to revisions (which may be limited to 30 days or less) which may result in a pass, and fail leads to the non awarding of the PhD.

Supervision. All students are expected to develop a research program of study in consultation with their major professor and committee members; but it is the student’s responsibility to initiate and refine the program until it is at a level of proficiency worthy of a dissertation; students who cannot develop a scholarly dissertation program may be diverted to the Master’s program. It is not the responsibility of the major professor or committee members to compose dissertation programs for students; it is a collaborative process that requires students to learn how to engage and contribute to scholarly knowledge, participate at conference meetings and workshops, master organizational abilities, manage time efficiently, sharpen communication skills, and demonstrate independent research ethics. To that end, students are only admitted to the Department on the premise that their research interests overlap to some extent with one or more faculty members. Students should declare a major professor by the beginning of the second semester of year 1, and are allowed to switch to another professor at any time (as long, out of courtesy, they inform the current professor and inform the program director). Faculty members are not obliged to accept supervision of students; instead students must impress on faculty the depth of their research interests, articulate scholarly potential, and maintain good academic standing in the program.

Duration. Department by-laws state that, given satisfactory scholastic progress and a good disciplinary record students entering the PhD program with a master’s degree are funded for 3 years (4 years if the major professor deems it necessary). Students entering the PhD program without a Master’s degree are funded for 4 years (5 years if the major professor deems it necessary). Please note that a lack of timely progress can result in loss of funding and/or dismissal from the program.

Funding. Students are funded by being paid a stipend and their tuition covered by the Department through graduate teaching or research assistantships (btw, these are not tax exempt from the IRS). Students are required to perform up to 20 hours of work per week for the Department as well as registering for exactly 9 credit hours per semester (these should be Geography classes or other classes across the University with the approval of the major professor). In return, students receive in-state and out-of-state tuition waivers and a stipend of $8,500 for the fall semester and $8,500 for the spring semester (assuming of course the student is in good scholastic standing and resources are available). Summer semester funding is available, but is more competitive and pays $2,500. Note, students are still liable for paying University fees. Work assignments for semester 1, year 1 is minimal, and typically is in the form of online mentoring. From semester 2, year 1 students may be given full responsibility for the teaching one course, assisting faculty with research, or managing Departmental computer facilities. Note, students without a master’s degree are not allowed full responsibility teaching until year 2. Out-of-state U.S. residents on assistantships must fill out paperwork after year 1 to become Florida residents. Self funded students are not expected to teach classes and may enroll for up to 12 credit hours per semester. International students must be enrolled full-time for 9 credit hours per semester.

Teaching. PhD students are called instructors and must maintain high teaching standards. They must start classes at the scheduled time and end no earlier than 10 minutes before the scheduled end time. Decisions on which classes are taught are decided on Departmental needs and student interests/experience, but normally are assigned 1000, 2000 or 3000 level classes in years 1 and 2, and 4000 level classes in year 2 and beyond. Instructors are encouraged to request specific classes to teach or even propose new classes with the graduate program director’s approval. Classes must NOT be canceled. If instructors are unable to hold class due to sickness or other unforeseen circumstances they must arrange for someone to cover for them. However, if time is very short and finding someone to teach the class is unreasonable instructors must inform their undergraduate students (by email or Blackboard) and call the Department front desk and email the graduate program director. To qualify for teaching all instructors must attend either the fall or spring semester PIE workshop; failure to be PIE certified negates appointment as teaching assistant and forfeits stipends. Teaching quality is assessed by Electronic Student Perception of Courses and Instructors (eSPCI), (negative assessments will enforce teacher training classes or even termination of funding). FSU regulations state that instructors must drop students who do not attend the first day of classes (this can be done through Blackboard) and no tests can be given in the last week of teaching, immediately prior to exam week.