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Ph.D. Candidate Requirements

Doctoral Requirements Overview

Before degree conferral is possible, all Ph.D. candidates must:

  1. Maintain continuous registration until the Ph.D. degree is conferred.
  2. Complete a minimum of 72 credit hours of graduate study. A minimum of 50% of the Ph.D. program must consist of courses completed at UB and uniquely applied to that degree program (see the related policy on course sharing).
  3. Complete UB's Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) Training Requirement.
  4. Successfully complete an oral and/or written comprehensive or preliminary qualifying exam; or a dissertation prospectus; or a preliminary paper or prospectus.
  5. Submit an Application to Candidacy within the proper deadline dates for approval at the department, decanal, divisional committee (where required), and Graduate School levels.
  6. Complete and defend an acceptable doctoral dissertation.
  7. Complete additional requirements as the department or program might duly specify.

Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) Training Requirement

All students admitted to a Ph.D. program for the Fall 2009 semester or thereafter are required to document successful completion of "Responsible Conduct of Research" (RCR) training when they submit their Application to Candidacy (ATC) for their Ph.D. degree. This training requirement may be fulfilled by either (1.) enrolling in and passing PHI 640 Graduate Research Ethics or RPN 541 Ethics and Conduct of Research or (2.) completing the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) online Responsible Conduct of Research course with an average score of 80% or higher. Students opting to complete the CITI online course must supply documentation of its successful completion with their Application to Candidacy.

Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) Online Program in Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR)

The University at Buffalo has an institutional membership in the CITI online RCR program. That online program can be accessed through the following website:

Initially, the student needs to register and choose a password, which allows the program to be entered and re-entered as many time as needed. Also, the student is asked, at the time of initial registration, to enter his/her name, mailing address, phone number, e-mail address, and UB person number. A database of UB participants is created using that information.

There are four versions of the CITI online RCR course from which the student should choose the version most appropriate for his/her area of doctoral study: Biomedical Sciences, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Physical Sciences, or Humanities. The RCR program is comprised of a series of modules, each of which consists of readings and case studies and ends with a quiz covering the material. The program allows the student to enter and exit at any point and to re-take the quiz associated with each section. A minimum total score of 80% is required to pass the online course. Assistance is available online at the CITI website if any technical difficulties are encountered.

Once the student has successfully completed the appropriate version of the CITI RCR program with a passing grade of 80% or higher, he/she must print the "Completion Report" from within the CITI program as documentation of successful completion and submit it with the Ph.D. degree Application to Candidacy.

PhD Candidacy Qualification

Qualifying to become a PhD candidate is a significant milestone along the path to program completion and is a gateway to the dissertation-preparation phase of the PhD program. Candidacy qualification may be accomplished through discipline-specific/program-defined assessment measures such as an oral and/or written comprehensive or preliminary qualifying exam; or a dissertation prospectus; or a preliminary paper or prospectus. Oversight and assessment of the candidacy qualification process is limited to Members of the UB Graduate Faculty. Only students who successfully pass or complete the qualifying milestone may refer to themselves as a "doctoral candidate."

PhD Dissertation Committee

A Doctoral Dissertation Committee, selected by the student with the approval of his or her home department, oversees the doctoral student’s work in preparing the Ph.D. dissertation. The Doctoral Dissertation Committee must be comprised of at least three core members: a major professor and at least two additional core committee members. Each core committee member must be a Member of the UB Graduate Faculty. Associate Members of the UB Graduate Faculty may not serve on doctoral dissertation committees as core members, but may serve as additional committee members. On occasion, individuals who are neither Members nor Associate Members of the UB Graduate Faculty may serve as additional Dissertation Committee members if their expertise would be of significant value to the student and the core members of the committee. Questions concerning the composition of Doctoral Dissertation Committees should be referred to the Graduate School.

Changes in Major Advisor and Committee Membership when Graduate Faculty Leave UB

When a graduate faculty member retires from UB with no intention of assuming a faculty appointment at another institution, that faculty member is eligible to continue serving as the major advisor or as a committee member for a current student. The actual decision whether or not that person may continue to serve in such a capacity with a current student rests with the Director of Graduate Studies and the Chair of the department.  However, subsequent to their retirement, graduate faculty members should not accept major advisor or committee membership assignments for any new student.

When a graduate faculty member leaves UB for an appointment at another institution, and the student is at the final stages of completing the dissertation (generally with one year or less needed to finish), the Graduate School will allow the departed faculty member, if he/she is willing, to retain their role on that student’s committee, providing the Department Chair and the Director of Graduate Studies concur.  The primary consideration in retaining a departed faculty member on a committee should be to avoid delaying completion of the degree and unwittingly penalizing the student.   However, if the student is more than a year from degree completion, the Graduate School does not recommend allowing a departed faculty member to remain on that student’s committee since, after that time, the faculty member will become immersed in responsibilities at his or her new place of employment, often leaving little time to devote to our student.


The dissertation should be an original contribution to the field as determined by the Ph.D. candidate's department or program. Doctoral dissertations, except those in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, are normally written in English.

There are several style manuals available in the UB Libraries, including Strunk and White, Turabian, and the University of Chicago Press that answer a host of questions regarding the technical aspects of a properly prepared dissertation. A bibliography is also available which provides further examples that are more specific to various disciplines (e.g., the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association). Students should consult the appropriate professional journals and their major professors to determine the most appropriate style within their area of research.

It is the prerogative and responsibility of the candidate and the sponsoring department to ensure that the canons of organization, presentation, and documentation usually prescribed for publication in their discipline are observed. Likewise, the dissertation must be certified as substantially free of errors and ready for publication before it is submitted to the Graduate School.

Review of the Dissertation

The dissertation must be examined and approved by the candidate's Ph.D. dissertation committee, and if required by the student’s home department, by an outside reader.

Oral Defense of a Doctoral Dissertation

The Oral Defense is a public event scheduled by the department and must be attended by the candidate's Ph.D. dissertation committee, and if required, the outside reader. At the discretion of the department, the defense-of-dissertation examination may take the form of a seminar with a more varied selection of participants. Examination questions will always include questions arising from the dissertation itself. In many cases, particularly ones in which departments have not required extensive examinations during the course of the student's tenure, questions will be more general and the examination longer.

Formatting Requirements

The Graduate School will accept any self-consistent format that follows conventions of a recognized discipline, but some general formatting standards are also expected as outlined in the Graduate School's booklet entitled Guidelines for Thesis and Dissertation Preparation and Submission.


It is the student's choice whether or not to copyright his or her dissertation. Copyrighting formally protects the student's rights as an author. These rights include the ability to make copies of the work, to distribute them, to make derivative works, or to perform or display the work. By copyrighting a dissertation, a student can control the rights to it or may authorize others (i.e., a publisher) to exercise them. It is the student's responsibility to guarantee that the work is original and that he or she has followed accepted standards for documenting the use of references and citations of other works. Students should discuss the option to copyright their work with their major professor before reaching a decision. Once the decision has been made to copyright, the appropriate symbol, the date, and the author's name must be included on the page immediately following the title page. The copyright will run for the life of the author plus fifty years. The law requires that two copies of the work be submitted to the appropriate federal agency. Students may request this service to be provided through the Graduate School's online submission system available on the Graduate School website as an option under the Proquest/UMI Dissertation Publishing Agreement they sign when submitting the final dissertation.

Ph.D.Graduation Checklist

In order to graduate, the following must be on file in the Graduate School:

In addition, the Graduate School will verify satisfactory completion of all courses and minimum number of credits to be applied toward the degree.

Required Degree Forms

  • M-Form (Multi Purpose Form) – As the name implies, the M-Form is used for several purposes. The form is submitted to the Graduate School by the department to certify that the defense of the dissertation was satisfactorily completed and that ALL academic requirements for the degree have been satisfied. This form must be signed by the major professor, the committee members, and the director of graduate studies or chair of the department and must be submitted to the Graduate School by the deadlines established for each conferral date. Students should check with their departments to be sure this form is submitted on time.
  • Doctoral Degree Recipients Surveys – Each doctoral student is required to complete two exit surveys before his or her degree may be conferred: The Doctoral Degree Recipients Survey (conducted by the University at Buffalo to collect data on a student’s experience in his or her degree program), and the Survey of Earned Doctorates (conducted by various agencies of the United States government to collect information from all doctoral candidates in the U.S). The National Research Council publishes summaries of data from the Survey of Earned Doctorates annually. The surveys are available at the Graduate School website.