COE Doctoral Program Guide

This guide provides important information to College of Education doctoral students. It presents a step-by-step guide through the policies and paperwork essential to College of Education graduate students. It combines brief procedural explanations with a check list format to assist in accurate record keeping. Students can find information on the following topics:

First Semester as a Doctoral Student

  • Your letter of acceptance will include the name of your temporary advisor.
  • Your first step is to meet with your advisor to plan your course work for the first semester and to discuss the doctoral process.
  • During your first semester, you will put together your program advisory committee and develop a program of studies.

Program Advisory Committee

A doctoral student's studies in the College of Education will be guided by the Program Advisory Committee. The Program Advisory Committee will assist the student in developing a program of studies and conduct the comprehensive examination. A Dissertation Advisory Committee may or may not be the same as the student's Program Advisory Committee. The Dissertation Advisory Committee will direct the development of the student's dissertation proposal, dissertation, and final dissertation defense.

Meet with your advisor to identify a Program Advisory Committee of at least 3 members. You may request a different advisor. The advisor serves as chair of this committee. You may choose to also add a fourth member required for the Dissertation Advisory Committee.

Committee Membership

  1. Membership
    1. The Program Advisory Committee must consist of at least three graduate faculty members.
    2. The Dissertation Advisory Committee must consist of at least four graduate faculty members.
  2. The Chair (major professor) must be a full graduate faculty member from the student's area of concentration within their major.
  3. Only one external graduate faculty member may serve as a member of the committee.
  4. At least one other committee member must be a faculty member in the student's major.
  5. The remaining committee members may be within or outside the student's major, department and college.

File a Doctoral Committee Appointment form> with the COE Office of Graduate Studies, 215 Ball Hall.

Note: Most forms submitted by doctoral students require the signature of the doctoral advisor (major professor), the department chair (or designee), and then the COE Director of Graduate Programs. The Dean's Office staff will deliver forms which are to be forwarded to the Graduate School.

Program of Studies

Each Program of Studies is individually designed by the student and the Program Advisory Committee to accomplish the student's educational goals and ensure mastery of the knowledge, skills, and disposition requisite of the discipline. The Program of Studies for the Doctoral degree must include a minimum of 54 semester hours to be earned within ten years of passing your comprehensive examination and within twelve years of the date of graduation. (Some programs have a shorter time limit for completion of requirements.) Courses taken at another university and included within the Program of Studies must be approved by the Program Advisory Committee in order to fulfill degree requirements. 

  • If transferring course work, complete the Evaluation of Transfer Credit> form.
  • The College of Education may offer graduate courses for credit by examination and course validation. Refer to the Graduate Catalog > for guidelines.
  • Meet with your Program Advisory Committee in order to plan the Program of Studies. The doctoral student is responsible for organizing this meeting.
  • File a completed Doctoral Program of Studies form with the COE Office of Graduate Programs.

Comprehensive Examination (Comps)

The doctoral comprehensive examination assesses the student's mastery of the body of knowledge requisite for the discipline and the student's ability to synthesize and apply that knowledge to issues and problems.

When a doctoral student has completed all course requirements or is enrolled in the last course(s) on the student's Program of Studies, exclusive of the dissertation, and has completed residency, the candidate must pass a comprehensive examination. The examination must consist of both written and oral portions and shall be conducted by the student's Program Advisory Committee. Prior to Comprehensive Examination, the student will meet with their advisor to plan for the comprehensive examination and schedule dates for the written comprehensive examination.

Written Comprehensive Examination

The written portion of the comprehensive examination involves a minimum of nine hours with a minimum of two hours covering the College of Education core research area. The number of questions may vary according to the preferences of the exam coordinator
(major advisor), as long as the time allotted fulfills the time requirements for the examination.

Reference materials may be used during the portions of the examination that are subjective and application based. The Program Advisory Committee will decide for which questions, if any, reference materials may be used and the nature of the reference materials to be used.

Oral Comprehensive Examination

The oral portion of the examination should be taken within a semester of the written comprehensive examination. The oral portion of the examination should be conducted to allow the student both to clarify portions of the written examination and to discuss additional questions and issues relevant to the field of study.

There is no set length of time for the oral examination. Written questions should be evaluated prior to the oral examination and be available for review by the Program Advisory Committee at the time of the examination.

Evaluation of the Comprehensive Examination

At the conclusion of the oral examination, the student should be dismissed from the room while the committee discusses the performance.

The Program Advisory Committee may judge the examination to be successful (pass) or unsuccessful (fail). This evaluation jointly considers the written and oral portions of the comprehensive examination. If unsuccessful, the Program Advisory Committee shall specify what the student should do to address any weaknesses and the time period in which to complete these requirements. The comprehensive examination may be taken no more than twice.

The Program Advisory Committee will complete and sign the comprehensive examination form>. The chair of the Program Advisory Committee (your advisor) is responsible for securing the appropriate signatures and submitting the form to the COE Office of Graduate Programs.

Doctoral Candidacy Status

After passing the comprehensive examination, the student will have achieved Doctoral Candidacy status. From this point, the student must be continuously enrolled (every fall and spring semester) for dissertation credit hours until graduation. Summer registration is also required if defense of the dissertation proposal or of the dissertation occurs during the summer or if actively working with the Dissertation Advisory Committee during the summer.


Dissertations must be prepared according to the guidelines specified by the College of Education. All dissertations in the College of Education conform to the current APA Style Manual. Consult with your Dissertation Advisory Committee in order to determine how they want to be involved in the development and review of your dissertation study. Information about dissertation preparation can be found on the Graduate School Website>.

Dissertation Advisory Committee

The Dissertation Advisory Committee will be formed after a student passes the comprehensive examination It will direct the development of the student's dissertation proposal, dissertation, and final dissertation defense. The Dissertation Advisory Committee must consist of at least four graduate faculty members. Its membership may be the same as the Program Advisory Committee with the addition of one graduate faculty member.

  • See Program Advisory Committee section of this site for more specific information about committee membership.
  • Meet with your advisor to select a Dissertation Advisory Committee. The Chair of this committee becomes your advisor. Your Chair and previous committee members may remain the same or may change.
  • File a Doctoral Committee Appointment form>.

Dissertation Proposal

In order to provide a relatively uniform framework for preparation of the doctoral dissertation proposal, the College of Education has specified guidelines to be followed in its preparation.

  • Develop your dissertation proposal with the assistance of your advisor.
  • Schedule a meeting with your Dissertation Advisory Committee to approve your proposal. All committee members must be active participants in this meeting.
  • Give copies of your proposal to each member of your committee at least two weeks prior to this meeting.
  • All University of Memphis faculty, staff, or students who propose to engage in any research activity involving human subjects must have approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) before data collection begins. Additional information can be obtained from the following website: http://irb.memphis.edu/
  • File Proposal Approval Form> and a copy of the IRB approval letter with the COE Office of Graduate Programs.

Submitting Dissertation

Dissertations are submitted to the Graduate Office. Carefully review their thesis/dissertation preparation guide > for information, deadlines, forms and procedures. 

Final Semester and Graduation

Review the Graduation process on the Graduate School website> for detailed instructions and timeline for graduation.

Congratulations! You have graduated from the College of Education!