The doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degree is an academic degree offered in the following degree programs: environmental and forest chemistry, environmental and forest biology, forest resources management, environmental resources engineering, and environmental science. The doctor of philosophy degree requires a minimum of 60 graduate credits, of which 30 to 48 credits are for coursework and 12 to 30 credits are awarded for dissertation. Individual departments will determine the applicable credit hour requirements within these ranges to reflect individual program requirements and emphases. The graduate credits earned for a master’s degree that are applicable to a student’s doctoral study plan (Form 3B) are determined on an individual basis by the steering committee. All steering committee members should sign the 3B form before the end of the last year of the student’s program. Students may not use master’s thesis credits to fulfill doctoral program coursework requirements.
Students must pass the doctoral candidacy examination covering selected fields of study at least one year prior to dissertation defense and successfully defend the dissertation. The dissertation must be prepared according to college standards and submitted to Digital Commons.
Doctoral students must demonstrate competence in at least one research tool as a requirement for graduation. Such tools include statistics, computer science, or the ability to translate technical articles in a language, other than English, commonly used in science. Tool requirements and standards for each doctorate program will be determined by the corresponding program department.
Student Advising and Study Plan (Form 3B)
The student’s study plan (Form 3B) includes an individualized sequence of courses and a plan for research or professional experience. The student and all steering committee members should sign the 3B form, submit it to the department chair for approval and then forward it to the dean of Instruction and Graduate Studies by the end of the third semester for the M.S., M.L.A., or Ph.D. degree; it must be submitted by the end of the first semester for the M.F. or M.P.S. degree. For all graduate degrees, the program of study must be submitted by no later than the end of the last year of the student’s program. The study plan can be changed during the course of a student’s program. Changes must be approved by the major professor and department chair with notification to the Dean of the Graduate School.
Major Professor: Appointment and Responsibilities
The student’s major professor is appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School upon the recommendation of the department chair. A major professor should be appointed upon the student’s matriculation into a graduate program. For the graduate student accepted into a graduate program but lacking a major professor, a temporary advisor will be appointed by the department chair. However, every effort should be made to expedite appointment of a major professor.
The major professor shall be a member of the ESF faculty, except those with visiting appointments. The major professor, or at least one of the co-major professors, must hold a degree equal to or higher than the degree sought by the student. The major professor, or at least one of the co-major professors, must be a full-time member of the department granting the degree sought by the student. An adjunct faculty member may also serve as a co-major professor. It is the duty of the major professor to fulfill a primary role as the student’s mentor. Aided by other members of the steering committee, the major professor guides the student in the development and implementation of the student’s study plan (Form 3B), including course selection, research planning, choice of the professional experience, and facilitation of the examination schedule. The major professor also guides the student in reviews of thesis or dissertation drafts, including a complete review of the thesis or dissertation before the final copy is presented for defense. It is the responsibility of the major professor to ensure that the document presented at defense is the final version, subject only to minor grammatical changes.
Steering Committee: Appointment and Responsibilities
The steering committee for master of science and doctoral students is composed of the major professor and at least two faculty members or other qualified persons. The steering committee for master of forestry, master of professional studies and master of landscape architecture students is composed of the major professor and at least one other faculty member or other qualified person. Other qualified people include faculty at other institutions or other recognized professionals.
The student’s steering committee is appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School upon the recommendation of the department chair. The steering committee should be appointed within the first semester. For all students, the steering committee must be established and must have met by the end of the third semester of graduate study.
The steering committee assists the student in the development of the student’s study plan (Form 3B), including the development of the student’s research or professional experience. All steering committee members should sign the 3B form before the end of the last year of the student’s program. The steering committee guides the development of the thesis or dissertation, including a review of the thesis or dissertation before the final copy is presented for defense.
Upon completion of 12 credit hours as a matriculated student, the part-time student will request assignment of a steering committee that consists of the major professor and one other person. The steering committee will meet and agree upon a program of study (Form 3B) and specify the delimitation date according to the needs of the part-time student.
All students entering graduate programs at ESF are expected to be proficient in communication skills, including technical writing and library skills. Students are required to have completed at least one course in technical writing and one course in library usage, either as an undergraduate or as a graduate student. Credit for such courses taken during the graduate program are not counted towards degree requirements. Alternatively, graduate students can meet the requirement by demonstrating the equivalent in experience in writing and library skills, as determined by the steering committee.
Participation in seminars, including the preparation and presentation of technical material, is vital to the student’s graduate education. All graduate students at ESF are required to participate in graduate seminars as follows:
Topic Seminar: Each graduate student is expected to participate in topic seminars, including presentations, as determined by the individual department. This requirement can be fulfilled, with appropriate approval, by seminars offered at Syracuse University or SUNY Upstate Medical University.
Capstone Seminar: Students completing the master of science degree or the Ph.D. degree are required to present a capstone seminar on their thesis or dissertation research. Other master's students may be required to present a capstone seminar on a topic chosen in consultation with the major professor and steering committee. The purpose of the capstone seminar is to provide an opportunity for the graduate student to present technical information to a critical body of professionals and peers. This seminar will be presented prior to the thesis or dissertation defense and should be attended by the student’s steering committee. Each seminar is open to the college community and will be announced collegewide to encourage attendance by students and faculty.
MS Thesis or PhD Dissertation Proposal
All students participating in a Master of Science or Doctor of Philosophy degree program must complete a thesis or dissertation proposal for approval by the members of the student's steering committee. The major professor and each of the graduate steering committee members must approve the proposal using the Graduate School's on-line dissertation proposal approval form. MS thesis proposals should generally be completed two semesters prior to defense of the thesis; PhD dissertation proposals must be completed to achieve candidacy (in concert or in parallel with the candidacy examination process). A department may, at their discretion, incorporate an oral defense of the dissertation proposal as a component of, or substitute for other forms of the oral component of the Graduate School's required candidacy examination.
Each Department/Program may have requirements that exceed those specified broadly in this policy; however, they must be consistent with the Graduate School's requirements. Departmental requirements beyond the minimum stated here must be specified in writing and submitted to the Graduate School as well as listed in departmental web pages. It is the responsibility of the student to be aware of, and comply with, all Graduate School and Departmental dissertation proposal requirements.
Students who wish to complete the doctoral candidacy examination, defense of thesis or dissertation should request formation of their examining committee guided by the schedule provided by the Office of Instruction and Graduate Studies.
To ensure the integrity of the examination process, all members of the examination committee appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School will be present at the oral examination. Students must complete the oral examination within six months from the appointment of the examination committee or the student will be required to request the assignment of a new examination committee. Exceptions may be granted by the Dean of the Graduate School.
Doctoral Preliminary Examination
The requirement for this examination is determined by individual departments. The purpose of this examination is to assess the entering student’s basic knowledge in the chosen field of study. The results of this examination may be used to determine the student’s suitability for the doctoral program and as a guide in selecting coursework and developing a program of study.
Doctoral Candidacy Examination
The objectives of this examination are to determine the breadth and depth of knowledge in the chosen field of study and assess the student’s understanding of the scientific process. The doctoral candidacy examination is taken when the majority of coursework is completed and no more than three years from the first date of matriculation has elapsed or the student may be dismissed from the doctoral program. This examination must be taken at least one year prior to the dissertation defense.
Upon the recommendation of the appropriate department chair, the Dean of the Graduate School appoints the doctoral candidacy examination committee consisting of the student’s major professor, the student’s steering committee and an additional faculty member from an appropriate area. Additionally, the Dean of the Graduate School appoints a committee chair who is not from the department of the student’s degree program. The examination must have both written and oral components.
The role of the examination committee chair is to manage the examination, ensure its integrity, and represent the interests of the faculty and student. Any member of the faculty may be an observer. The student examinee may invite a silent student observer to attend the oral examination with notification of the chair of the student’s exam committee.
The composition of a candidacy examination committee, once formally appointed and constituted by the Dean of the Graduate School, may not change following the commencement of the candidacy examination. In the event of a suspension of proceedings, or a failure of the examination, the composition of the committee may only be changed in the presence of a legitimate extenuating circumstance (illness, departure from the institution, sabbatical leave, etc.) which prevents the participation of one or more of its members.
Written Examination: The examining committee shall convene at a planning meeting with the student. During the first part of the planning meeting, the committee determines the schedule for the process and establishes the date for the oral component. The student is then excused from the meeting and the committee develops and discusses the exam content.
There are three alternative forms for the written component, as follows:
Form 1: The members of the committee submit questions or problems addressing the objectives of the exam. The questions are discussed and agreed upon at the planning meeting.
The major professor administers the written examination. Usually, one-half day is allocated to questions submitted by each examiner. Upon completion by the student, the examination questions are reviewed and graded by the committee members who prepared them. The committee then reviews the entire examination.
Form 2: The student prepares a written report on a topic or problem assigned by the examining committee. The topic or problem must meet the objectives of this examination and its content cannot be directly related to the student’s thesis research. The student has approximately one month to develop a thorough understanding of the assigned topic and prepare a written report. The report is reviewed by the committee members and committee chair.
Form 3: The student prepares and defends a written proposal of future research likely to be carried out during his or her Ph.D. project. This research prospectus must be presented to the examining committee two weeks prior to the candidacy exam and should include preliminary studies supporting the feasibility of the proposed research. The exam will test the candidate’s understanding of concepts directly related to his or her immediate area of research, knowledge of prior related research that has been conducted by others, his or her ability to design and interpret experiments in this area, and capacity to think and write independently and to present work plans orally in a clear and rational manner. The report is reviewed by the committee members and committee chair. This option is available only to doctoral students in the Department of Chemistry.
Oral Examination: Following the written examination under Form 1, completion of the report under Form 2, or completion of proposal under Form 3, the committee meets with the student for an oral examination usually lasting two hours. However, the duration can be longer if required. The questions may address the report or other areas appropriate to the objectives of the examination, including subject matter in allied fields. At the conclusion of the examination period, the student examinee and observers are excused from the room and the examination committee determines whether the student has passed the examination. Unanimous agreement is required to pass the student. If less than unanimous agreement is reached, the student is considered to have failed the first doctoral candidacy examination. The student can request a second examination which must take place no more than one year from the date of the first examination. A student is considered to have passed the second examination if there is not more than one negative vote. A student who has failed the second examination is terminated from the graduate program.
Thesis or Dissertation Defense Examination
At the conclusion of the study and research program, each master of science and doctoral candidate must successfully defend the thesis or dissertation. The objectives of the defense examination are (1) to probe the validity and significance of the data and information presented; (2) to assess the student as a critical thinker and data analyst; (3) to evaluate the student’s scientific creativity, including the student’s ability to relate research results to scientific theory within the chosen field; and (4) to present the results effectively in writing.
Upon the recommendation of the appropriate department chair, the Dean of the Graduate School appoints the defense examination committee. It consists of members of the steering committee and at least one additional faculty member for the master’s degree examination and two additional faculty members or other qualified persons for the doctoral degree examination. Additionally, the Dean of the Graduate School appoints a committee chair who is not from the student’s degree program.
This oral examination principally covers the material in the thesis or dissertation, as well as literature and information relating to it. At least 14 days prior to the date of the oral examination, the student is required to submit a final document to all members of the examination committee. Within five days of the oral exam, the major professor confirms with the chair of the examining committee that the oral examination should proceed as scheduled. If the major professor determines that the written document does not meet the standards established for the thesis or dissertation exam, the exam may be postponed by the Dean of the Graduate School at the recommendation of the chair of the student’s exam committee.
The role of the examination committee chair is to manage the defense, ensure its integrity, and represent the interests of the faculty and student. Any member of the faculty may be an observer. The student examinee may invite a silent student observer to attend the examination. The composition of a defense examination committee, once formally appointed and constituted by the Dean of the Graduate School, may not change following the commencement of the defense examination. In the event of a suspension of proceedings, or a failure on the first attempt of the defense examination, the composition of the committee may only be changed in the presence of a legitimate extenuating circumstance (illness, departure from the institution, sabbatical leave, etc.) which prevents the participation of one or more of its members.
The defense examination usually lasts two hours, although this time period may be extended as required. At the completion of the examination, the candidate and observers are excused from the room and the examination committee determines whether the candidate has successfully defended the thesis or dissertation. The committee chair has the option to vote. Unanimous agreement is required to pass the student. If less than unanimous agreement is reached, the student is considered to have failed the first defense examination. A student who fails the first defense may request a second defense which must take place no more than one year from the date of the first examination. At the second defense, the student has passed the defense if there is not more than one negative vote. A student who has failed the second defense is terminated from the graduate program.
Standards for Theses, Dissertations and Professional Experience Reports
Collegewide standards for theses and dissertations are developed and specified by the Moon Library faculty in consultation with the various departments and are available online: