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Ph.D. Program Requirements

Quantitative Graduate Program Handbook


This document outlines requirements for completion of the Ph.D. program in quantitative psychology. Students in the quantitative program are also subject to policies and procedures stated in the Graduate School Handbook and the Psychology Department Rules for Graduate Students. All graduate students in the program are responsible for being familiar with the applicable contents of these documents.

I. Choosing an Advisor


Each student in the quantitative psychology program will have an advisor with a primary appointment in the quantitative program. Initial matches will happen upon admission based on student interests and faculty availability.

Students are encouraged to work with more than one faculty member, and, if necessary, they are permitted to change advisors. The most appropriate time to change advisors is following completion of the Master's thesis, but changes may be considered at other times. A student wishing to change advisors should discuss the matter with both the current and prospective future advisor. Both the current and prospective future advisor must approve the change, and the Psychology Graduate Program Office must be advised of the change after it is approved.

II. Course Requirements


The overall program of study for each student is developed in consultation with the advisor. There are certain course requirements around which the program of study should be built:

A. Students entering the Quantitative program without a degree in Psychology should consider, in consultation with their advisor, completing Psychology 6809, Historical Development of Psychology. Because Psychology 6809 is not always available each year, students who intend to take this course should take the first available course offering.

B. The Psychology department requires completion of Psychology 6810 and 6811, the introductory graduate statistics sequence in psychology, for the Ph.D (see the Psychology Graduate Handbook). For the Quantitative area, these courses are required for the Master’s and will normally be completed in the first year. Students who enter the program with more substantial mathematics and statistics backgrounds, or who intend to complete a dual Master’s degree in Statistics and Psychology, are encouraged to satisfy the Psychology 6810/6811 requirement by substituting either Statistics 6301 and 6302 or Statistics 6801 and 6802. Whether or not a student should or is proficient enough to take these more advanced courses, is at the discretion of the student’s advisor. Similarly, if a student does not have sufficient background for Psychology 6810 and 6811, he or she should consult his or her advisor in devising a plan for remediation. Remedial courses will not satisfy the statistics sequence requirement for the department or for the Master’s in Quantitative Psychology.

If a student, together with his or her advisor, believes that his or her prior course work or experience is equivalent to either Psychology 6810 or 6811, he or she may substitute one or more of the Statistics classes listed above. Students should, however, consider that there are hidden benefits to taking the Psychology 6810/6811 sequence, including:

A unique opportunity to form relationships with other members of their cohort, including students outside their area of study whom they would not in other circumstances have had a chance to meet;
An opportunity to refresh or broaden potentially rusty skills in a class that should not be very demanding if the student has already mastered the material;
If the student is coming to psychology from another discipline, an opportunity to see how statistics are used in psychology and what kinds of statistics are most relevant to psychological research; and
If the student is planning a career in academics, an opportunity to see how statistics is taught and to obtain a set of notes that can later be used in preparing his or her own course after obtaining a university position.

C. Graduate students in Quantitative Psychology should register for Psychology 7896 (the Quantitative colloquium series) every fall and spring semester. This course is an internal colloquium series in which faculty and students in the program give presentations on their work, and outside speakers will be invited as well. Each graduate student in the program is expected to give a presentation to the area at least once per year. It is assumed that each student will register for Psychology 7896 unless they are exempted by their advisor and the course instructor. Reasons for exemption usually involve scheduling conflicts with teaching and other courses.

D. Each student must also satisfy the course requirements for a concentration or minor program outside of Quantitative Psychology. A student may minor in another area of Psychology, or in another department, such as Computer Science, Economics, Mathematics, or Statistics. Specific requirements for a minor are defined by the specific program areas, but must include a minimum of two courses. Minor program requirements should be completed by the end of the third year of study. Students in dual Master’s degree programs are not required to complete an additional minor. Completion of a minor or a dual degree also satisfies the Psychology department’s breadth requirement.

E. Students who intend to complete a dual Master’s degree in Statistics and Psychology will be required to submit a dual-degree program plan approval form to the Graduate School. Per the Graduate School’s requirements, “A minimum of 50 percent of the hours counted toward the credit hour requirement for each degree must be unique to that degree and cannot be used for dual credit. The graduate studies committee may establish a minimum higher than 50 percent.” Pursuit of a dual degree must be approved by the advisor.

F. The Graduate School Handbook specifies minimum grade requirements for coursework. Students must recognize that expected performance in courses is substantially higher than those minimum levels. Because many of the courses offered by the Quantitative Psychology program attract substantial numbers of students from substantive programs in Psychology, Quantitative Psychology students will often constitute a small minority in these courses. The faculty expect that performance by Quantitative students in these courses will generally be superior to students from other programs. The grading scale for Quantitative students in Quantitative courses is viewed according to the following criteria: A = excellent; A- = minimum expected; B+ = below expectation; B = poor. These criteria will be taken into account during the annual evaluation of each student (see below). In addition, area faculty have the option of requiring additional work by Quantitative students in courses where Quantitative students are in the minority.

III. Masters Degree


All students in the Psychology Department are expected to obtain a Master's degree. Degree requirements in the Quantitative area are:

A. Completion of Psychology 6810, 6811, and four additional courses in the quantitative program. Note that students are required by the Graduate School to complete a minimum of 30 credit hours before obtaining a Master’s degree, so students need to take other graduate level courses to meet the 30-credit requirement.

B. Completion and successful defense of a Master's thesis. The purpose of the thesis is to provide the student with experience in conducting research and producing a research document. The topic for the thesis is developed through reading, research, and discussions with faculty, especially the advisor. The student prepares a research proposal, which is evaluated by the student's Master's Examination committee. Upon approval of the proposal, the student carries out the research, writes the thesis, and completes the Master's thesis oral examination. Students who have already carried out research may write their Master’s thesis on the completed work, pending approval from their committee. Students should reference the Graduate School Handbook for university requirements and deadlines.

C. The Master’s examination committee consists of at least three faculty members. Two of these faculty members must be from the Psychology department and at least two of the committee members must be graduate faculty. Further, the advisor must be category M or higher in the graduate program. The advisor serves as chair of the committee. If the advisor does not have his/her primary appointment in the Quantitative area, at least one other faculty member on the committee must have a primary appointment in the Quantitative area and must be able to serve as "co-chair" of the committee.

D. Students who enter the program with a Master’s degree in Psychology (or closely related field) from another university may waive Master’s degree requirements. To be eligible, the student must submit a copy of their Master’s (or other) thesis to the Quantitative area faculty for approval. If the thesis is approved, the student must, in accordance with department guidelines, complete a written first-year project to be kept on file with the Graduate Studies Committee. If the thesis is not approved, the student must complete a Master’s degree as outlined above.

E. Upon completion of the oral defense of the Master’s thesis, the Master’s examining committee, in consultation with the Quantitative area faculty, will recommend whether or not the student should continue in the program as a Ph.D. student. This recommendation will appear on the "Recommendation for Continuation" form provided to the Psychology department. Students who are recommended to continue may pursue candidacy.

F. The Master’s degree should be completed by the end of the second year.

IV. Candidacy Examinations


The candidacy exam is intended to evaluate students' mastery of significant knowledge and literature in the field, and to help students consolidate their knowledge and to prepare for dissertation-level research. The candidacy exam has both a written and an oral component. The written component includes a major area exam in quantitative psychology, and may include a component covering the minor program. The requirement of a written minor exam is left to the discretion of the minor program. The candidacy examination is normally completed during the third or fourth year in the program.

A. The candidacy committee consists of four graduate faculty members. Three of these faculty members must be from Psychology. The advisor must be category P in the graduate program. The advisor serves as chair of the committee and at least two committee members must have a primary appointment in the Quantitative area. If the advisor does not have an appointment in the Quantitative area, one of the Quantitative committee members must be able to "co-chair" the committee. One of the four graduate faculty members must be a representative of the concentration/minor program. A Graduate Faculty Representative may be assigned at the request of the student and the advisor.

B. The candidacy exam proceeds as follows:

  1. In consultation with the advisor and the candidacy examination committee, the student identifies several relevant topic areas of interest. These topic areas should represent depth within the student’s particular subfield (e.g., mixture modeling) as well as breath in related subfields (e.g., structural equation modeling, factor analysis, hierarchical modeling).
  2. The student develops a reading list covering these topics. The list could include important books, classic journal articles, and journal articles representing important lines of research in the area, including current research. The reading list must be approved by the members of the candidacy examination committee, excluding the minor area representative unless the minor area requirements state otherwise.
  3. The student is given time (at least two months, but not more than six months, to be negotiated with the advisor) to study the material represented on the reading list.
  4. At least three members of the candidacy examination committee shall write questions covering the topics on the student’s reading list. The advisor shall collate these questions and present them to the student at the beginning of the examination period.
  5. The student will have four weeks to answer the questions, spending approximately one week on the questions from each committee member, unless otherwise specified. Responses should be typed and can be submitted either electronically or as hard copy. Each committee member should receive the responses to all questions.
  6. About two weeks following the delivery of the written responses, the student will defend his or her answers in a two-hour oral exam.
  7. If the candidacy examination committee determines that the student’s performance on the exam is unsatisfactory, the student may be given a second opportunity to take the exam at the discretion of the candidacy examination committee. If a second opportunity is given, the second exam, which may consist of only the oral portion or both the written and oral portion, must be completed within two semesters of the unsatisfactory attempt. The members of the candidacy examination committee must not change except with permission of the dean of the Graduate School. In addition, the Graduate School will appoint a representative to be present at the second exam.
  8. Upon successful completion of the candidacy exam, the student is admitted to doctoral candidacy.

V. Ph.D. Dissertation


The Ph.D. dissertation represents the culmination of graduate training. The dissertation must show evidence of independent and original contributions to the chosen field of study. The doctoral student develops a research topic in consultation with the advisor. The student prepares a proposal of the research and submits that proposal to the dissertation committee, which meets with the student to evaluate the proposal. Upon approval of the proposal, the student proceeds with the research and writes the dissertation. Upon completion of the dissertation, a two-hour oral examination is conducted covering the dissertation research. Successful completion of the oral examination and approval of the dissertation document completes the requirements for the Ph.D. degree. Students who have already carried out research may write their dissertation on the completed work, pending approval from their committee.

The dissertation committee consists of at least three graduate faculty members, chosen by the student in consultation with the advisor. Three of these faculty members must be from Psychology. The advisor must be category P in the graduate program. The advisor serves as chair of the committee. At least two of the committee members must have a primary appointment in the Quantitative area. If the advisor is not a member of the Quantitative area, one of the Quantitative members must be able to “co-chair” the committee. A Graduate Faculty Representative will be assigned to attend the final oral examination.

VI. Progress and Performance in the Program


It is important for graduate students to understand the expectations regarding progress in the program, as well as other aspects of performance. Progress is defined in part by completion of degree requirements in a timely manner. Performance is judged using a variety of factors involving quality and effort in coursework and research activities. This section describes expectations regarding progress and performance, followed by an explanation of mechanisms for rectifying circumstances where progress and performance are not satisfactory.

A. Expected progress in the quantitative psychology graduate program is defined as follows:

  1. Completion of the Master's thesis prior to the end of the second year in the program;
  2. Completion of the candidacy exam prior to the end of the fourth year in the program;
  3. Completion of the Ph.D. dissertation by the end of the fifth year in the program.

Failure to meet these progress expectations may lead to poor annual review ratings (see Section E. below).

B. In addition to maintaining reasonable progress in the program, students are expected to exhibit an acceptable level of quality in their coursework and research activities. Performance will be judged based on course grades, as discussed in Section II.F above, mastery of relevant literature, and ability to conceive, design, and conduct research, as well as to produce professional written and oral reports of research.

C. There are a number of other activities that will be expected of each student. These expectations are associated with the significant role of research in Ph.D. training. A Ph.D. is a research degree, and students are expected to focus on current research in the field, as well as to develop their own research interests and abilities, and to gain the skills for presenting research results in oral and written form. During the first year it is expected that each student will join appropriate professional societies, and begin reading articles from relevant journals. During the first two years it is expected that students will begin to attend professional conferences whenever possible. Prior to taking the candidacy examination, each student will be expected to have (a) made at least one conference presentation, (b) submitted at least one manuscript for publication, and (c) worked on research projects with at least two faculty members. Conference presentations and journal submissions should be high priority activities at every stage of training, but especially for students beyond the candidacy examination. The degree to which students meet these expectations will be taken into consideration during annual evaluations.

D. In the spring semester each year, the faculty of the program will meet to evaluate each student. Following that meeting, each student will meet with his or her advisor to receive feedback on progress and quality of performance in the program, and to discuss plans for the subsequent year. Each student will be provided with a written summary of this evaluation.

This annual review will include a numerical rating of overall performance by the student, using the following scale: 5 = well above expectations; 4 = above expectations; 3 = meets expectations; 2 = below expectations; 1 = well below expectations. A rating of 3 should be considered as indicating minimally acceptable performance.

E. Inadequate progress in the program is defined as either (a) receiving an annual review rating of “1” or (2) receiving two consecutive annual ratings of “2.” A student failing to make adequate progress is considered to be “in difficulty” in the program. When a student is deemed as being “in difficulty,” the program faculty will notify the student by letter of his or her status and will specify conditions that must be satisfied, along with a time frame, for the student to be re-classified in good standing. This letter will be carbon-copied to the chair of the Graduate Studies Committee. If the conditions in the letter are not satisfied, the Quantitative faculty will meet to determine further action. Possible actions include not recommending the student for further financial support, termination of current support, or activation of the mechanisms to deny further registration as specified in the Graduate School Handbook.

F. A student has the right to appeal any performance evaluation and resulting action by the faculty following grievance procedures in the Department of Psychology Graduate Program Handbook.

VII. Students With Prior Graduate Training


For students entering the program with prior graduate training, some of the requirements stated above (e.g., course requirements, minor program requirements, thesis requirements) may be modified or waived. These modifications or waivers will be treated on a case-by-case basis. In addition, an individualized schedule of expected progress in the program may be established. Such students should discuss this matter with their advisor. The advisor will make a recommendation to area faculty, and the faculty will decide which requirements are to be modified or waived and will determine a schedule of expected progress in the program.

VIII. Outside Employment


For students holding half-time GTA or GRA positions, opportunities for additional employment should be considered very cautiously. If such employment would involve substantial commitments of time and energy, students are strongly discouraged from becoming involved. Such activity almost invariably results in severely impeded progress in the program. Students will not necessarily be discouraged from accepting limited additional employment. Such arrangements might include short term consulting projects, or continuing employment for a very small number of hours. Students are expected to discuss opportunities for additional employment with their advisor. The primary issue of concern in evaluating such opportunities will be the impact on the student's academic progress and performance.

IX. Summary of Required and Expected Activities


Year 1

Coursework (not to exceed three graded courses per semester, except in extraordinary circumstances):

  • Take 12 or more credit hours each semester, including the quantitative area colloquium;
  • Psychology 6810 & 6811; OR
  • For students who want more rigorous training in statistics: Statistics 6301 & 6302;
  • For students who have substantial training in statistics and want to further their training: Statistics 6801 & 6802;
  • Other appropriate courses in quantitative psychology;
  • Possibly one or more courses in concentration/minor program.


  • Join professional societies;
  • Read articles from relevant journals;
  • Begin involvement in research with advisor;
  • Complete first-year project to be presented at quantitative area colloquium;
  • Develop topic for Master's thesis project;

Year one course load

Year 2

Coursework (not to exceed three graded courses per semester, except in extraordinary circumstances):

  • Additional coursework in quantitative psychology, including seminars and appropriate courses for selected track of study;
  • Additional coursework in concentration/minor program;
  • Additional courses in Statistics, as deemed necessary.


  • Complete Master's thesis project research;
  • Write Master’s thesis;
  • Defend Master’s thesis;

Year two course load

Year 3


  • Complete concentration/minor area course requirements;
  • If applicable, complete last relevant advanced courses and seminars in Quantitative Psychology;
  • Typically 0, 1, or 2 courses per semester in Year 3.


  • Submit manuscript for publication based on Master's thesis, or some other research project, for publication;
  • Make one or more conference presentations;
  • Increase involvement in research projects;
  • Work with more than one faculty member on research projects;
  • Identify topic areas for candidacy examination and begin developing reading lists.
  • If possible successfully complete candidacy examination

Year three course load

Year 4


  • Minimal coursework; advanced seminars only.


  • If not yet complete, complete candidacy examination;
  • Increase activity in research projects, conference presentations, and submission of papers to journals;
  • Develop dissertation proposal and begin dissertation research.

Year four course load

Year 5


  • Coursework should be completed prior to the fifth year.


  • Increase activity in research projects, conference presentations, and submission of papers to journals;
  • Complete dissertation research;
  • Write dissertation;
  • Defend dissertation;

Year five course load