Preliminary Oral Examination

To make satisfactory progress towards a Ph.D., the student should complete the Preliminary Oral Examination within the first 24 months of residence. The purpose of this examination is to determine the student’s grasp of the research problem and to assess future plans and goals. The proposal should be approximately 10 double spaced pages exclusive of appendices. Copies of this proposal should be submitted to members of the committee at least two weeks before the oral presentation is to be made. This proposal should contain:

  • a description of the problem;
  • the objectives of the research;
  • the proposed methods of conducting the research;
  • preliminary results;
  • the methods of analyzing the data resulting from the research;
  • proposed research required to complete the dissertation;
  • a proposed timeline for completing the dissertation.

Along with the proposal, the student must submit the following two forms to the committee:

  1. Learning Outcomes
  2. Doctoral Preliminary Oral Form

The Program of Work includes the courses you have taken, additional courses that you plan to take, and your prospective dissertation title. Note that there is a thirty-hour minimum of required coursework hours for the Ph.D. degree, which includes Dissertation hours. The form lists all graduate coursework the student has taken at UT or plans to take. The student should consult with the supervising professor about the details of the written proposal, the oral presentation, and any proposed coursework (other than dissertation).

The Preliminary Oral Exam will consist of three parts plus the Program of Work form. First the student will submit a short written summary of proposed research then present a 30-minute presentation on the proposed research. This will be followed by a question and answer session on the research program meant to test the student on his/her fundamental understanding of the fields pertinent to the research.

Following this examination, the Dissertation Committee will deliberate and determine whether the student has an adequate plan for proceeding with the research. If the Dissertation Committee feels that a major revision of the plan is needed, then re-examination may be scheduled. The Dissertation Committee will also carefully review the Program of Work and determine if any additional courses should be required.

The Dissertation Committee determines whether the research topic is appropriate and if the plan of action is adequate. In effect, they are agreeing that if the student executes this program successfully that it should lead to an acceptable dissertation. In addition, the committee is there to advise the student about any difficulties they can foresee with the research plan and to recommend any suggestions that would help the student achieve maximum success in the research. At the Preliminary Oral, the Dissertation Committee effectively reaches an agreement with the student regarding the coursework that will be acceptable for the Ph.D. At the end of the exam the committee signs the Preliminary Oral Exam form which is returned to the Graduate Coordinator after the Preliminary Oral with the committee members’ printed names and signatures. The Graduate Coordinator will solicit the GSC Chair’s signature for the Program of Work form after you have successfully completed the Preliminary Oral Examination.