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Doctor of Philosophy


Graduate Education Doctoral Degree Programs

Requirements and Procedures for Doctoral Degrees

Time Allowed

Doctoral students are expected to complete all requirements within seven years after admission into the doctoral program. Candidates who fail to complete all requirements within seven years of admission will be placed on probation and are subject to dismissal at any point after, but automatically after 10 years. Extensions of time are allowed only upon petition by the graduate chair explaining why more time might be justified.

Credit Hour Requirements

There is no minimum number of required course credit hours set for doctoral degrees. Registration in courses by doctoral students is governed by (1) the judgment of advisors or faculty in charge of the relevant program of study as to the importance of particular course work to the training and preparation of the candidate for the writing of examinations and/or the dissertation; (2) residence requirements; and/or (3) provisions of graduate assistantships, fellowships, or scholarships. For information regarding required or recommended courses, see the section appropriate to the graduate program.

Language Requirements

At the discretion of the graduate program, candidates may be required to take an examination to demonstrate comprehension of one or more additional languages. Please refer to the graduate program’s website for additional information on such requirements.

Doctoral Committee

The chair of the graduate faculty of the program recommends to Graduate Education appointment of a doctoral committee consisting of at least five members of the graduate faculty. Formation of the committee should occur prior to the student’s preparation for the comprehensive and dissertation proposal process. The student and chair of the committee should ensure the eligibility of members to serve on the committee in advance. The committee must include one graduate faculty member from another field of study. This is the University representative and he/she must be a full member of a graduate faculty at arm’s length from the program of the candidate. The majority of the committee and the committee chair must be from the graduate program in which the degree program is offered. This committee, appointed by Graduate Education, prescribes for the candidate a course of study in preparation for the comprehensive and oral examinations described below. It also approves the dissertation research topic and the dissertation itself.

It is the student’s responsibility to select an appropriate dissertation topic coinciding with the expertise and interest of a graduate faculty member who is willing to work with him/her.


Doctoral candidates must pass the following examinations:

Qualifying Examination

A qualifying examination may be required by some graduate programs. The purpose of this examination is to determine whether to encourage students to proceed in a doctoral program and, if encouraged, to enable advisors to assist students in planning a program that will familiarize them with the requisite knowledge and techniques of their chosen graduate program. Graduate programs requiring this examination give it early in the intended candidate’s program (often coinciding with the master’s final examination). It may be oral and/or written and is conducted by a special examination committee appointed by the graduate chair of the graduate program or by the student’s doctoral committee. A student who fails the qualifying examination may repeat it once at the discretion of the graduate faculty concerned. However, students failing the qualifying examination a second time are dropped from the program and lose their status as classified graduate students.

Comprehensive Examination

The comprehensive examination is an important step in the sequence of study toward the doctoral degree. This examination covers the major graduate program and work fundamental thereto and minor fields as may be required by the graduate program. Its purpose is to ascertain the student’s comprehension of the chosen graduate program.

The examination is given only after the student has completed the foreign language requirement, if any, and when, in the judgment of the graduate faculty, the student has had sufficient preparation in the graduate program either through course work or other individual study and research. The comprehensive examination may be either oral or oral and written. It is conducted by a committee of the graduate faculty.

A student who fails the comprehensive examination may repeat it once at the discretion of the graduate faculty concerned. A student who fails the examination a second time is dropped from the program and loses classified graduate student status.

The student who passes the examination is eligible, at the option of the various graduate programs, to receive a UH Manoa certificate indicating that all requirements of the doctorate except for the dissertation have been completed.

Final Examination

A final examination in defense of the dissertation may also cover related subjects and is required of all candidates for the doctoral degree. The examination is oral and is conducted by the candidate’s doctoral committee. It is never less than one hour in length. Arrangements for the final examination must be made at least two weeks prior to the date of examination, since an announcement must appear in the News@UH. The examination must be held while UH Manoa is in session and must be open to the public.

A candidate who fails the final examination may be allowed to repeat it upon approval by the graduate faculty concerned. Notification should be sent to the Graduate Student Services Office via the Form II of a second attempt. A candidate who fails the final oral examination twice is dropped from the program and loses classified graduate student status.

A candidate who passes the examination, and who has met all other requirements, will be awarded the doctoral degree at the end of the appropriate term.


The doctoral dissertation for the PhD is expected to be a scholarly presentation of an original contribution to knowledge resulting from independent research.

An essential aspect of dissertation research is the free and full dissemination of research results. Moreover, all dissertations must be publicly defended in an oral examination. Therefore, proprietary or classified information is not suitable for a dissertation; data which cannot be made public at the time of the final defense should not be incorporated into the student’s research.

When the dissertation topic has been approved by the doctoral committee, it will notify the Graduate Student Services Office through submission of Student Progress Form II. The candidate may then register for the dissertation research course (800) during the next registration period.

A candidate should look to the chair of his or her doctoral committee for primary direction regarding research methods and the preparation of results. It is the joint responsibility of the chair and the student to see that all members of the committee are kept informed of the scope, plan, and progress of both the research and the dissertation. Guidelines for preparation of the dissertation can be obtained on the Graduate Education website.

Copies of the completed dissertation must be submitted to committee members at least four weeks prior to the date of the final oral examination. Please check with Graduate Student Services (or the website) regarding the submission procedures for thesis and dissertations.

A majority of the members of the doctoral committee, including the committee chair, must approve both the dissertation and the oral defense of the dissertation. A minority member has the right of appeal to Graduate Education for a final decision. The chair must ensure that the final form of the dissertation, including revisions and amendments agreed upon, is acceptable to a majority of the committee. The committee members express their approval on the Student Progress Form III and Student Progress Form IV (formerly signature page).

Candidates must be registered in the appropriate dissertation research course (800) during the term in which the work for the degree is completed. Failure to make satisfactory progress on the dissertation does not entitle a student to a refund of tuition.

The graduate chair of a program has the privilege of being an ex officio member of all doctoral committees in the field.

All doctoral students are required to publish their dissertation (in its entirety) with ProQuest Information and Learning or an equivalent publishing firm suggested by the student and approved by Graduate Education.

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