Policies & Procedures

The Graduate School's policies and procedures serve as a resource for both graduate students and their advisors. These policies contain information on official policies and procedures relating to admissions, registration, grading, student records, degree requirements and academic integrity.

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Academic Progress

Academic Dismissal

Graduate students not meeting the written terms of their academic probation may be academically dismissed from the program by the director of graduate studies, chair of the department or graduate program director. Such dismissals shall be done in a timely fashion but no later than three weeks after the completion of the term. The Graduate School will be notified in writing of all such academic dismissals.

Graduate students who are dismissed for academic reasons from a graduate program will have a "GRD" (Graduate School) service indicator placed on their academic record to prevent future registration.

Annual Academic Review of PhD Students

Each PhD student’s academic progress must be evaluated annually by the director of graduate studies (DGS) and, if appropriate, the student’s dissertation advisor. The most appropriate time for annual review is mid-May, thereby permitting appropriate academic planning for the following semester and allowing for timely responses to inquiries about students in jeopardy of losing federal financial aid. Alternatively, though not ideal, review can take place in mid-October.

Additionally, each PhD student’s academic progress must be reviewed after his/her first semester of enrollment, in order to identify any academic problems early in the program. Directors of graduate study are required to communicate the annual academic evaluation to the student in writing.

Each graduate program is encouraged to develop its own process for student evaluation and advisement. However certain elements must be included in PhD student annual evaluation:

  1. Review of the student’s academic record including:
    • Checking the overall grade point average.
    • Addressing any incomplete and/or resigned courses.
    • Monitoring overall progress toward completing the coursework phase of the program.
  2. Checking on progress in completing or preparing for the preliminary or qualifying exam(s) or paper(s).
  3. Planning for a timely defense of the dissertation research proposal or prospectus.
  4. Monitoring adequate progress in research including timeliness of degree completion.

A sample review form is available to facilitate the academic review process.

Academic Standing

The Graduate School defines "good academic standing" as a student who is making acceptable progress toward a graduate degree and who is eligible to register for and pursue academic coursework at this university for the current semester. All graduate students are expected to remain in good academic standing throughout the entire course of their study.

The minimum academic requirements for good academic standing established by the Graduate School are as follows (individual college/schools may establish stricter academic standards):

  1. Exclusive of S or L grades, grades earned in credits counted toward the student's master's or doctoral program must average a B (3.00) grade point average or better.
  2. The S grade is awarded only in those instances where a student's letter grade would have been equivalent to a B or better.

Academic requirements other than those imposed by the Graduate School are determined by the program faculty and approved by the appropriate decanal unit. All graduate students are expected to demonstrate competence in teaching and research with respect to their educational needs and career objectives.

Probation

Any graduate student who receives a grade of U, F or D in any course, or who indicates a lack of ability as determined by the director of graduate studies or student's academic advisor, will receive an immediate academic review. Upon completion of the academic review, the director of graduate studies may place the student on academic probation.

Students determined to be making unsatisfactory academic progress must be placed on academic probation. A probationary letter is issued to the student (with a copy to the advisor, if applicable) indicating the conditions that must be met and outlining an appropriate time frame in which to regain good academic standing in the graduate program. The outcome that will result if the conditions are not met must also be included in the probationary letter. Probationary letters will be made in writing by the director of graduate studies or department chair or designee at the end of the semester (mid-December or mid-May) and will indicate the terms of the probation and its removal. After the specified time frame outlined in the probation letter, the student must be sent a letter removing the probationary status or a dismissal letter or a second probationary letter with a new set of conditions for regaining good academic standing.

Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Criteria for Federal Financial Aid Eligibility

For financial aid purposes, a graduate student must:

  • Maintain a 2.75 overall graduate grade-point-average (GPA), and
  • complete 75 percent of all credits attempted per term.

in order to be considered making satisfactory academic progress for purposes of continued federal aid eligibility. Any student whose graduate GPA falls below a 2.75, or who completes less than 75 percent of all attempted credits per term, will be considered making unsatisfactory academic progress.

For more information about UB's graduate SAP criteria for federal aid eligibility please refer to the Office of Financial Aid website.

Reinstatement

A graduate student who has been officially dismissed and who seeks reinstatement shall submit a formal request for reinstatement, along with a supporting statement of explanation, to the chair of the academic department. The request shall be acted upon by the established procedure or review group appropriate to the particular graduate program. If a student is subsequently reinstated to the program from which he/she was dismissed or is admitted into another graduate program, the "GRD" service indicator will be removed from the student record by written request from the academic department to the Graduate School.

Advanced Certificate Conferral Requirements

Advanced Certificate Conferral Requirements

Depending on the particular advanced certificate program in question and its admission/eligibility requirements, a graduate student may be authorized to pursue that advanced certificate program on a "stand-alone" basis or in conjunction with an existing graduate level degree program. When a graduate student who is pursuing an advanced certificate program has completed or nearly completed the requirements for the advanced certificate in question (i.e., is currently enrolled in the last needed requisites), the student is responsible for filing the appropriate Advanced Certificate Program of Study Approval form with his/her department to enable timely review of the student's record. Each Advanced Certificate Program of Study Approval form must be approved by the faculty member in charge of that certificate program and must be forwarded to the Graduate School by the relevant application to candidacy deadline as published on the Graduate School website.

On rare occasion, when clerical error causes delay in submission of the Advance Certificate Program of Study Approval form from a department to the Graduate School, that department must file the approval form within 12 months of the student's last date of attendance at UB. Such a request must specifically state the reason for the delay in processing the request. Requests received after the 12-month period will not be processed.

General Graduate Degree Requirements

Application to Candidacy

The Application to Candidacy (ATC) is filed with the Graduate School and indicates that the student is entering the final stages of degree completion. Normally students should expect to file an Application to Candidacy after two or three semesters of full-time enrollment toward the master's degree or after six semesters of full-time enrollment toward the doctoral degree.

Review and approval of the ATC is the responsibility of the student's department and dean, in that order. Some units also require divisional or area committee review prior to submission to the Graduate School. Once admitted to candidacy, a student may not need to enroll for 12 credits (nine credits for graduate, teaching and research assistants) to be certified as a full-time student.

Primary responsibility for evaluation of each student's application to candidacy rests with the student's department or program and major advisor.

The department or program is responsible for ensuring that each ATC is complete prior to submission to the academic dean. The academic dean then forwards the ATC to the appropriate divisional or area committee or directly to the Graduate School if committee review is not required. Where committee review is required, the chair of the appropriate committee will approve or disapprove ATCs. If subsequently approved, the application is then forwarded to the Graduate School for final review.

A candidate must file the ATC by the specified deadline for their expected conferral date. Committees cannot receive ATCs immediately prior to the expected graduation date. Once the Graduate School approves the ATC, written notification of approval will be sent to the student.

Minor amendments to the ATC which become necessary through changes in registration (e.g., adding or deleting anticipated courses or credits) must be formalized through the Change of Expected Conferral Date/Amend ATC petition. This form must be endorsed by the director of graduate studies or chair of the student's department. These amendments are then reviewed by the Graduate School.

Application to Candidacy/Degree Completion Timetable

For degree conferral on:

February 1, 2018 June 1, 2018
September 1, 2018

Application to candidacy due:

October 1, 2017
March 1, 2018 July 1, 2018

All required conferral materials due:

January 19, 2018
May 18, 2018 August 10, 2018

Each student is advised to check with the appropriate office one semester prior to the deadline date listed for up-to-date information. It is the student's responsibility to check with the Graduate School at 716-645-2939 prior to the deadline dates to be sure all the requirements and paperwork for your degree have been completed. Each department has the appropriate forms and additional instructions.

Course Sharing Limits

In cases where a student wishes to utilize selected graduate level courses to satisfy the degree requirements of more than one post-baccalaureate (graduate and/or professional) degree program, the following limitations apply:

  1. The integrity of each master's level degree program must be observed by the student's completion of a minimum of 24 semester hours of credit at UB. Individual degree programs may establish minimum credit hour requirements that exceed that level.
  2. No more than 10 percent of the total credit hours required to complete two UB master's degree programs may be comprised of "shared courses" (i.e., courses applied to both programs). For example, in the case of two MS degree programs each of which requires 30-credits (i.e., a total of 60), no more than six credit hours (10 percent) of the 60 may be comprised of courses applied to both programs. Similarly, in the case of two degree programs that, in total, require 90 credit hours between them, no more than nine credit hours (10 percent) of the 90 may be comprised of courses applied to both programs.
  3. In cases where one or more specific courses are explicitly required by both programs (i.e., not merely as acceptable electives), such course(s) are considered "shared courses" under policy definitions and will be the first course(s) counted toward the 10 percent limit. If those specific courses explicitly required by both programs exceed the normal 10 percent "shared courses" limit, the 10 percent limit is waived and all such courses may be counted toward both degrees.
  4. Up to 50 percent of a student's PhD program may be comprised of courses used to complete another degree program at UB or at another institution. A minimum of 50 percent of the PhD program must consist of courses completed at UB that have not been applied toward any other degree program.

Embargo Option for Thesis and Dissertation

A thesis or dissertation submitted to the Graduate School as a requirement of the student’s degree program must be submitted in digital format and comply with the Graduate School’s Guidelines for Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Preparation and Submission.

Soon after degree conferral, theses and dissertations are submitted to ProQuest/UMI for cataloging and publishing. Approximately 12 to 14 weeks after degree conferral, submissions are available to the academic community (via authentication) through the UB libraries system and the ProQuest thesis/dissertation database. When a thesis or dissertation is based wholly, or in part, on research from which an invention or discovery has resulted or may result, the thesis or dissertation may require special handling to prevent unwanted disclosure which could damage or eliminate U.S. or international patent rights or both. These special procedures will in no way impede progress toward the degree, affect acceptance of the thesis/dissertation or delay conferral of the degree. They are aimed solely at protecting the rights of the university and the inventor. The student must provide both timely disclosure of the invention itself through the Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach (STOR) or Roswell Park’s Office of Technology Transfer, as well as timely notification to the Graduate School of the requirement for special handling of the thesis or dissertation.

When a thesis or dissertation contains potentially patentable material, the student and the major advisor may request, with written approval of the major professor, a three-month/six-month/nine-month or 12-month hold (an “embargo”) on the release of the document. Requests must be made in writing to the Graduate School using the Thesis/Dissertation Embargo Request form. Approved requests will result in the thesis/dissertation being held by ProQuest for the approved embargo period. The thesis/dissertation will then be released for publishing and cataloging after the embargo period ends. Extensions beyond the 12-month hold will be reviewed by the Graduate School on a case-by-case basis with all parties involved.

Acceptable reasons to embargo/restrict dissemination:

  • Patentable rights in the work or other issues in which disclosure may be detrimental to the rights or interests of the author.
  • The ethical need to prevent disclosure of sensitive or classified information regarding persons, institutions, technologies, etc.
  • The interest of an academic or commercial press in acquiring the rights to publish the author’s dissertation or thesis as a book.
  • Extensive content within the dissertation or thesis that is likely to be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.

Review ProQuest's Embargoes and Restrictions guide for more information about when an embargo may be warranted.

Informal Courses

Definition: Informal courses include registration in independent study; project, thesis or dissertation guidance; directed or supervised reading; and directed research coursework.

A formal Independent Study Agreement (see section below regarding Independent Study Agreements) must be established in writing between the instructor and the student for each registered independent study course by the end of the first week of classes. It is the responsibility of the student and the instructor to see that all Independent Study Agreements are maintained in the student’s file within the student’s home department. Independent Study Agreements are to become part of the student's permanent academic record.

Informal courses associated with final project, portfolio, thesis, research or dissertation completion do not require the establishment of formal Independent Study Agreements.

With the exception of Introductory Language Courses, use of undergraduate courses below the 400 level, as the criteria for creating an informal graduate course, is strictly prohibited.

Independent Study Agreements
Independent Study coursework agreements should contain the following components:
• The student and the instructor’s names and signature.*
• Name and number of the course.
• Number of credits for the independent study.
• Description of work required to complete the course.
• Tentative schedule for when/how often the student and instructor will meet during the given term.
• Course objectives.
• Intended learning outcomes.
• Method of assessment.
• Cearly delineated grading type (e.g., pass/fail, letter grade).


*If the Independent Study Agreement is filed electronically, some indication of acceptance of the agreement from both the instructor and the student.

Language Requirement

Although the Graduate School does not have a language requirement for master's or doctoral degrees, some departments have established a language or skill requirement for their programs.

Posthumous Award of a Graduate Degree

In limited instances when certain conditions are satisfied, a posthumous degree may be awarded when a student dies prior to completing all of his/her graduate degree requirements. UB faculty (in consultation with the student's family) may request the posthumous conferral of the graduate degree in recognition of the work completed toward that degree at the time of the student's death.

The request for consideration of the posthumous award of the degree in question may emanate from either a member of the student's family or a UB faculty member. If the request originates from a family member, they should communicate those wishes to the department within which the student was pursuing the graduate degree. If the request originates from a faculty member, it is incumbent upon that faculty member to first seek the family’s concurrence that the degree be awarded posthumously to the student. The faculty member then directs a written request to the chair of the student’s department. The chair, in turn, submits a formal request for the awarding of the posthumous degree to the vice provost for graduate education/dean of the Graduate School (VPGE).

The posthumous award of a graduate degree will be considered providing that the student:

  • Had formally advanced to candidacy.
  • Was considered in good academic standing possessing a minimum graduate degree program grade point average of 3.0.
  • Had been actively pursuing the degree in an appropriate and timely manner at the time of death and had completed virtually all requirements of the degree program in question.
  • Was making satisfactory academic progress and was nearing completion of the final master's degree project or thesis or the doctoral dissertation.

The following documentation is required when filing the formal request:

  1. Departmental evidence of the extent to which the degree program was actually completed and a brief summary of any program requirements that had not been completed. This may include a copy of the application to candidacy, thesis/dissertation prospectus approval forms, evidence of passing qualifying exams or any other documentation deemed appropriate.
  2. A written letter of recommendation from the department chair supporting the conferral, together with correspondence from the instructors of any courses in which the student was enrolled at the time of death (including courses outside the department). Each such instructor should indicate the grade (if any) of the student's work in that course up to the time of death.

If the VPGE reaches a favorable decision in support of granting the degree, he/she will issue a letter authorizing the university registrar to confer the degree posthumously and issue a transcript and a diploma to the appropriate family member's current mailing address. In all such cases the degree will be awarded reflecting the next regular institutional conferral date (February 1, June 15 or September 1) following the date of the student's death.

If the VPGE determines that the degree will not be awarded posthumously, he/she will provide a letter to the chair of the student's department explaining the reason(s) for the denial. It shall be the responsibility of the Graduate School to advise the student's family if the request for posthumous degree conferral is denied.

Registration Prior to Degree Conferral

Students must be registered for at least one credit in the term immediately prior to degree conferral as indicated below:

  • Fall term registration is required if a student intends to finish degree requirements in time for the February 1 degree conferral.
  • Spring term registration is required if a student intends to finish degree requirements in time for the June 1 or September 1 degree conferral.

Time Limits for Degree Conferral

Master's degrees must be completed within four years from the student's first registration date in that master's degree program. Doctoral degrees must be completed within seven years from the student's initial formal matriculation in that doctoral program. Requests for extensions of time limits must be petitioned using the Extension of Time Limit to Complete a Degree Program form. Each divisional or area committee may establish its own stricter policies within the constraints of these overarching institutional policies.

Thesis/Dissertation in a Foreign Language

Students who wish to write their dissertation or thesis in a language other than English (except those in the department of romance languages and literatures) must obtain prior approval from the Executive Committee of the Graduate School. A petition for such approval must include reasons why the work cannot be written as effectively in English as in the other language. In addition, the following conditions must be met:

  1. Students must demonstrate an adequate command of the language prior to undertaking their projects.
  2. The topic of the thesis or dissertation must be extensively represented (i.e., include primary and/or secondary sources) in the foreign language in which the thesis or dissertation is to be written.
  3. The members of the thesis or dissertation committee must all read the language fluently (i.e., with sufficient ease and accuracy to enable them to determine the quality of work).
  4. A lengthy and detailed summary or translation in English of the thesis or dissertation must be supplied by the candidate to the department for the oral defense.
  5. The topical examination and oral defense must be conducted in English.

Transfer Credits

The Graduate School will consider for transfer credit graduate-level coursework from nationally accredited institutions of higher education, as well as graduate-level coursework from any international institution that UB recognizes as equivalent to a nationally accredited institution.

Only those graduate courses completed at accredited or recognized international institutions and with grades of full B or better are eligible for transfer credit. Courses with grades of S or P are eligible for transfer except when the transfer institution’s grading policy equates S or P with lower than a full B grade.

Transfer Credit Limits

Advanced Certificates

A minimum of 90 percent of all credits applied to a UB advanced certificate credential must be comprised of UB credit. The advanced certificate is an official post-baccalaureate credential in New York State. However, it is not considered a degree program. Therefore, all credits satisfactorily completed for a UB advanced certificate, may also count toward a relevant UB graduate degree. Academic programs may have stricter transfer limits.

Master’s Degrees

No more than 20 percent of a master's program may be comprised of credits from another graduate degree program. For example, students pursuing a 30-credit UB master's degree may transfer up to six graduate credits either from UB, or other accredited institutions, into their program. Students pursuing a 45-credit master's degree program may transfer up to nine graduate credits.

Doctoral Degrees

Transfer credits for the doctoral degree may not constitute more than 50 percent of the total credits of that specific degree program.

Courses transferred from another institution into the graduate division will be transferred with full semester credit value. Conversion of credits from trimester, quarterly and other calendar systems will be completed based on nationally accepted standards: i.e., trimester hours are equivalent to semester credits, however quarterly hours are equivalent to two-thirds semester credits.

Transfer Credit Process

The director of graduate studies or chair of the student's home department must first formally evaluate any transfer coursework for its applicability toward any particular graduate program of study. Once transfer credits are deemed appropriate and applicable by the department, the student files a Graduate Student Petition for Transfer Credit form during the student's first year of matriculation to UB. Upon receipt of the transfer credit petition, the Graduate School will evaluate credit and grade equivalences, and verify the courses were completed at an accredited or recognized institution. UB must receive a final official transcript from the transfer institution before the transfer credits may be formally approved and recorded on the student's UB record.

Use of Dual-Listed Courses Toward Both an Undergraduate and a Graduate Degree Program

Dual-listed courses that are taken at the undergraduate level and applied toward an undergraduate degree cannot be taken later at the graduate level and applied toward a post-baccalaureate degree or advanced certificate if the student received a B grade or higher in the undergraduate level offering.

Use of Historical Coursework Toward a Current Graduate Degree Program

Coursework more than 10 years old, whether from another institution or from UB, that is to be included in a current graduate degree program must be petitioned at the time of the student’s matriculation to the program. The student should submit a Use of Historical Coursework Petition upon admission to the graduate program to determine whether such courses and associated graduate credits can be applied toward the current degree program requirements. The director of graduate studies reviews the coursework to determine whether the content of those courses is still relevant and applicable and the student must demonstrate his/her continued knowledge of the course content.

Master's Candidate Requirements

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 thesis or project (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.

Master's Final Project

The focus of the research for a master's project is generally more applied than that for a thesis, with the student often defining a problem and developing a solution for it. The project may be a scholarly undertaking that results in a tangible outcome (a photo exhibit, a performance piece, a business plan, a technical report, a computer program) that does not fit neatly within the framework of a traditional scholarly thesis paper. However, the final project should be accompanied by a paper written by the student that introduces, analyzes and contextualizes the project and demonstrates the student's familiarity with the relevant literature of the field. A master's project/paper receives final approval at the department level.

Master's Graduation Checklist

For candidates completing a project, portfolio or a comprehensive examination, the following must be on file in the Graduate School by prescribed deadlines prior to degree conferral:

In addition, the Graduate School must verify satisfactory completion of all courses to be applied toward the degree.

For candidates completing a thesis: An oral defense of the thesis must be authorized and held. To graduate, the following must be on file in the Graduate School by the prescribed deadlines:

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

Master's Portfolio Option

A small number of master's degree programs at UB offer the portfolio as a culminating capstone option. A student who completes the master's portfolio option is required to compile a set of materials that summarizes and displays the student's knowledge, skills and problem-solving capabilities within their discipline as well as his/her ability to design, manage, operate and report on topics typically required for professional employment. While the project option requires the student to research one specific topic, the portfolio option emphasizes the student's competence across several areas within his/her discipline. The materials in the portfolio must be assembled and presented in a professional manner. All elements of the portfolio must be organized cohesively and be self-explanatory.

The portfolio cannot be solely comprised of a student's previous work/coursework (e.g., course projects/papers). While such materials could comprise elements of the portfolio, the portfolio must also contain new and additional substantive work that would satisfy the expectations of another capstone option (e.g., thesis, project).

Master's Program Supervision

Initial supervision of a student's program is exercised by a faculty member appointed as an advisor by the major department. This advisor assists the student in planning his/her program until the student chooses a major professor under whose supervision he/she will work on the final thesis, project or portfolio. The major professor must be either a full member or an associate member of the UB Graduate Faculty.

The Graduate School requires only one Graduate Faculty member, the major professor, to supervise and approve a master's thesis, project or portfolio. Individual academic departments or programs may permit or require additional committee members to supervise the final master's capstone.

Master's Requirements Overview

Before degree conferral is possible, all master's candidates must:

  1. Maintain continuous registration each spring and fall semester until all requirements for the degree have been completed.
  2. Complete a minimum of 30 credits (or more depending on program) of graduate study.
  3. Fulfill the minimum residency requirement of 24 UB credits of registration.
  4. Apply to graduation or submit an Application to Candidacy within the proper deadline dates for approval at the department, decanal (divisional committee where required) and Graduate School levels.
  5. Pass a comprehensive examination, complete an appropriate special project, prepare a portfolio or finish a thesis based on independent research. Students who select the project or portfolio option must submit to the Graduate School a short summary of the work that was completed (150 words or less) to be included with the M-form.
  6. Complete additional requirements as the department/program might specify.

Master's Thesis

Students who complete the thesis option for the master's degree should generally undertake the following steps in its preparation:

  • Design an appropriate research or other scholarly study with the help of his/her faculty advisor(s).
  • Conduct and document the necessary background literature review.
  • Investigate a specific aim or focused question(s).
  • Analyze the results.
  • Write their findings according to guidelines outlined in the Graduate School's Guidelines for Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Preparation and Submission.

Master's Thesis Copyrighting Option

It is the student's choice whether to copyright his or her thesis. 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 thesis, 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 needs to be included on the page immediately following the title page. The copyright will run for the life of the author plus 50 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 Thesis Publishing Agreement they sign when submitting the final master's thesis.

Master's Thesis 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 Guidelines for Thesis and Dissertation Preparation and Submission booklet.

Master's Thesis Option Requirements

Where the thesis option is completed, electronic submission of the resulting master's thesis is mandatory.

Master's theses, except those in the department of romance languages and literatures and those associated with the Caribbean studies specialization within the humanities interdisciplinary program, should be written in English.

Oral Defense of a Master's Thesis

A public oral-defense-of-thesis examination, scheduled by the student's department is required for all students who complete a master's thesis. The oral-defense-of-thesis is attended by the candidate's major professor (and graduate committee, if applicable), members of the faculty from the major department and the outside reader if one is required by the academic department or program. The department has the prerogative to open the "oral-defense-of-thesis" to a larger audience if that is desired.

Project vs. Thesis

The difference between a master's thesis and a master's project is generally related to the extent and focus of the research, the formatting of the finished written product, the requirement to give an oral defense of the work and the final approval of the finished product.

A thesis is typically longer than a project and is a well-organized, thoroughly documented scholarly paper, detailing research purpose, methods, results, analysis and conclusions. Research for a thesis maybe more extensive than research for a project in terms of the amount required, but this varies with the individual and the discipline. While a thesis must be defended orally in a public forum, a project need not be so defended unless the department requires such a defense. Whereas a master's project only needs approval at the department level, a master's thesis must receive final approval from the Graduate School and will be kept in perpetuity in the university's thesis/dissertation database within the library.

PhD Candidate Requirements

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 thesis or project (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.

Dissertation

The dissertation should be an original contribution to the field as determined by the PhD 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.

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 PhD 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.

Dissertation Copyrighting

The student's copyright is established as soon as the dissertation is fixed in a tangible medium, i.e., saved on a computer hard drive. However, it is the student's choice whether or not to then register that copyright. Registering the copyright will allow the student to file suit against anyone who infringes upon this copyright in the future. Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is not required in order to establish copyright. The rights of a copyright owner include the ability to make copies of the work, make derivative works, distribute copies of the work, perform the work publicly and display the work publicly. Whether or not a student chooses to register his or her copyright, that student retains the rights to his or her dissertation and may authorize others (i.e., a publisher or another researcher) to exercise them. The student retains these rights unless he or she relinquishes them, as is the case with some publisher contracts. 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. Attribution of one's sources, however, has nothing to do with copyright and does not protect a student from copyright infringement when using other copyrighted works in his or her dissertation. Students should discuss the option to register the copyright of their work with their major professor before reaching a decision. Once the decision has been made to register one's copyright, the appropriate symbol, the date, and the author's name must be included on the page immediately following the title page. Regardless of registration, the student's copyright will run for the life of the author plus 70 years. Students may request this service to be provided through the Graduate School's online submission system as an option under the ProQuest/UMI Dissertation Publishing Agreement they sign when submitting the final dissertation.

Dissertation 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 Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Preparation and Submission.

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 PhD 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.

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 Graduation Checklist

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

  • An approved Application to Candidacy (with all necessary attachments).
  • An M-form for PhD degrees - 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.
  • Electronic submission of dissertation through the Graduate School's website.
  • Doctoral degree recipient survey requirement - 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 on the Graduate School website.

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

PhD Requirements Overview

Before degree conferral is possible, all PhD candidates must:

  1. Maintain continuous registration until the PhD degree is conferred.
  2. Complete a minimum of 72 credit hours of graduate study. A minimum of 50 percent of the PhD program must consist of courses completed at UB and uniquely applied to that degree program (see the 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 PhD 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 PhD degree. This training requirement may be fulfilled by either (1.) enrolling in and passing with a grade of B (3.00) or better SSI 640 Graduate Research Ethics, LAI 648 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 percent 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 CITI Program 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, email 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 percent 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 percent or higher, he/she must print the "Completion Report" from within the CITI program as documentation of successful completion and submit it with the PhD degree Application to Candidacy.

Review of the Dissertation

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

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