Ph.D. Road Map

Here are the steps that doctoral program students should take, along with recommended resources that students should consult in the various phases in pursuit of a doctoral degree: preparation for the qualifying exam; taking the examination; advancing to candidacy; writing your dissertation; and submitting it.

Road Map to Ph.D. Completion

Professor Julia Menard-Warwick, faculty graduate advisor for the Department of Linguistics, prepared this essential guide.

Check frequently with , the staff graduate advising coordinator, in person, frequently, about paperwork requirements, which are subject to change.

Before the qualifying exam

  • Course work: Talk to a grad advisor regularly, at least yearly, perhaps quarterly. Familiarize yourself with pages 1–4 of the Ph.D. Degree Requirements
  • Language requirement: Demonstrate competence in two languages besides English. Talk to a grad advisor about your plans, and consult page 4 (Special requirements, Language other than English, subsections "A" and "B") in the Ph.D. Degree Requirements
  • Major professor: By the end of your first year or beginning of your second year, identify a major professor from the Linguistics Graduate Group, based on shared research interests. Talk to a grad advisor if you need help. Download and fill out the Major Professor Selection Form. You may save it to disk, open it in Adobe Reader (or Acrobat), version 8 or later, fill it out and sign it electronically (or not) and send it electronically (or not) to the graduate coordinator for further processing. 
  • Preliminary examination paper: Students should complete this paper by the end of second year at the latest, but it is advisable to start as early as possible, preferably around the end of year one, when you have identified a major professor. Read more about the preliminary examination on pages 5–6 of the Ph.D. Degree Requirements
    1. Determine a topic in consultation with your major professor
    2. Set up a committee of two other professors who are willing to read the paper. Fill out the "Committee Members" form and submit it to the Graduate Coordinator for placement in the student academic file. 
    3. Write an abstract and send it to your major professor and rest of committee; revise if asked to do so.
    4. Work on a first draft of the paper with your major professor, then send to the rest of the committee; revise if asked to do so.

When completed to the satisfaction of you committee, fill out the Report on Preliminary Exam for the Ph.D. Use this form to indicate the results of a preliminary exam paper review for the Ph.D. program. You may save it to disk, open it in Adobe Reader (or Acrobat), version 8 or later, fill it out and sign it electronically (or not) and send it electronically (or not) to the graduate coordinator for further processing.

Qualifying exam (QE)

The qualifying examination is normatively taken by the 9th quarter, end of 3rd year. Read about the QE on pages 7–8 of the Ph.D. Degree Requirements.

  • Qualifying Paper (QP): In consultation with your major professor (and perhaps other professors with expertise in this area), write and revise your qualifying paper. This should be done as soon as possible — that is, immediately after finishing prelim paper. Complete this to the satisfaction of your major professor during your 7th quarter.
  • Dissertation Prospectus: In consultation with your major professor (and perhaps other professors with expertise in this area), write and revise your dissertation prospectus. This should be done as soon as possible — that is, immediately after finishing qualifying paper. Complete this to the satisfaction of your major professor during your 8th quarter.
  • Qualifying Exam Committee: In consultation with your major professor, set up a qualifying exam committee with five members. Select an exam chair who is a member of the Linguistics Graduate Group but not your major professor/dissertation advisor. Complete this during your 8th quarter. Download and fill out the Qualifying Examination Application for Ph.D. Degree, ask your graduate advisor to sign the completed form, and give it to the graduate coordinator, for submission and filing.
  • Exam committee: Consult with your exam committee about your qualifying paper and dissertation prospectus. Revise as requested.
  • Schedule qualifying exam: In consultation with your exam committee, set the date for your qualifying exam and reserve a room. This should be during your 9th quarter.
  • submit qualifying Paper: Send the final draft of your qualifying paper and dissertation prospectus to your exam committee no later than 10 days before the exam.
  • Qualifying Exam: The exam is oral, and typically lasts for two hours. Your committee will ask you about your qualifying paper and dissertation prospectus. At the completion of the exam, your exam chair will fill out a form that s/he has received in an email from Grad Studies, certifying the result of the exam (Pass, Not Pass, Fail). This form should go to the Graduate Coordinator.

Advancing to candidacy

  • Dissertation committee: Once you have passed the exam, set up a dissertation committee, in consultation with your major professor, who now becomes your dissertation advisor.
  • Candidacy Fee: Pay the candidacy fee at the Cashier’s Office (the fee was $90 in 2016).
  • Candidacy Form: Download and fill out the Advancement to Candidacy for Ph.D. form, obtain all required signatures, and give it to the graduate coordinator to file with the Office of Graduate Studies.

Writing your dissertation

You will write your dissertation during years 4 and 5.

  • Data collection and analysis: In consultation with your dissertation advisor, collect and analyze data. Draft chapters. Ask your dissertation committee members if they want to read individual chapters as they are ready, or if they prefer to wait for a complete first draft.
  • Chapter revision: Revise chapters and complete the first draft as the dissertation advisor and committee request. Continue revising until all members are satisfied.
  • Obtain signatures: Collect the signatures of the dissertation advisor and committee members.
  • Submission: File your dissertation with the UC Davis Office of Graduate Studies.