2016-17 General Bulletin

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Master RequirementsDoctoral Requirements  I  Grading

Academic Requirements for Master's Degrees

In recognition that the objectives of master’s degrees differ for various departments and for individual students, especially in the importance given to research, two general plans for master’s degrees may be followed. Master's Thesis option (Plan A) is for MA or MS degrees with a thesis based on individual research and a final oral examination. Master's Non-Thesis option (Plan B) is for MA, ME, MFA, MPH, MSA, or MS degrees without a thesis but requiring a comprehensive examination and/or a major project to be administered by the academic unit.

Within the framework of these general regulations, it is expected that a relevant program of study will be planned for each candidate for the master's degree by the student and the faculty advisor or advisory committee. This planned program of study (PPOS) must be submitted to the School of Graduate Studies by the end of the second semester. Such a program should include appropriate courses, thesis, and/or project hours, and may also include, where relevant, such experiences as field work or practicum. Guides to submitting and updating the PPOS through the student information system are available from the University Registrar.

Master’s Thesis Option (Plan A)

The minimum requirements for the master’s degree under the thesis option are 18 semester hours of course work at the 400-level or higher plus a thesis equivalent to at least 9 semester hours of registration, or 21 semester hours of course work, with at least 18 hours of coursework at the at the 400-level or higher plus a thesis equivalent to at least 6 semester hours of registration. At least 12 semester hours of course work must be graded. Once registered for thesis credit (Course 651), a student must continue 651 registration each succeeding regular semester until graduation. However, if a student is registered for course work or research toward the doctorate in the semester in which the thesis examination is expected to occur, concurrent registration for 651 is not required.

Each student must prepare an individual thesis. Joint theses are not permitted. The written thesis must conform to regulations concerning format, quality, and time of submission as established by the dean of graduate studies. Detailed instructions can be obtained from the School of Graduate Studies website.

For completion of master’s degrees under the thesis option, an oral examination (defense) of the master’s thesis is required. This examination is conducted by a committee of at least three members of the university faculty. The candidate’s thesis advisor customarily serves as the chair of the examining committee. The other members of the committee are appointed by the chair of the department or curricular program faculty supervising the candidate’s course of study. The examining committee must agree unanimously that the candidate has passed the thesis examination. Because theses are made public immediately upon acceptance, they should not contain proprietary or classified material. When the research relates to proprietary material, the student and advisor are responsible for making preliminary disclosures to the sponsor sufficiently in advance to permit timely release of the thesis, and these plans should be disclosed when the thesis is submitted to the School of Graduate Studies.

Master’s Non-Thesis Option (Plan B)

The minimum requirements for the master’s degree under the non-thesis option are 27 semester hours of course work (with at least 12 semester hours of graded course work), a comprehensive examination, and in some fields, an approved project. At least 18 semester hours of course work must be at the 400 level or higher.

Each candidate for the master’s degree under the non-thesis option must pass satisfactorily a comprehensive examination to be administered by the department or curricular program committee. The examination may be written or oral or both. A student must be registered during the semester in which any part of the comprehensive examination is taken. If not registered for other courses, the student will be required to register for one semester hour of EXAM 600 Master's Comprehensive Exam before taking the examination.

Acceleration Toward Graduate Study

Students admitted to the School of Graduate Studies through the IGS, BS/MS, or BS/ME program should refer to the Acceleration Toward Graduate Study page, maintained by the Office of Undergraduate Studies, for additional requirements for the completion of their degrees.

Academic Requirements for Doctoral Degrees

The degree of Doctor of Philosophy is awarded in recognition of in-depth knowledge in a major field and comprehensive understanding of related subjects together with a demonstration of ability to perform independent investigation and to communicate the results of such investigation in an acceptable dissertation.

Curricular Requirements

Within the framework of these general regulations, it is expected that a relevant program of study will be planned for each candidate for the doctorate by the student and the faculty advisor or advisory committee. This planned program of study (PPOS) must be submitted to the School of Graduate Studies by the end of the second semester. Guides to submitting and updating the PPOS through the student information system are available from the University Registrar.

Although specific requirements vary among departments, students entering with a bachelor’s degree will satisfactorily complete a minimum of 36 semester hours of courses (which may include independent study/research, course 601), tutorials, and seminars. All course work must be at the 400 level or higher, and at least 24 semester hours of course work must be graded. For students entering with an approved master’s degree, completion of at least 18 semester hours of 400-level or higher course work and at least 12 semester hours of this course work must be graded. A minimum of 18 semester hours of dissertation research (Course 701) is required for all doctoral students.

Examination Requirements

In order to meet the requirements for the doctorate, a student must pass satisfactorily a general examination (or a series of examinations covering different fields) specified and administered by the student’s department or supervising committee. The examination generally precedes advancement to candidacy. A student must be registered during the semester in which any part of the general or qualifying examination is taken. If not registered for other courses, the student will be required to register for one semester hour of EXAM 700 PhD General/Qualifier Exam, before taking the examination. A student who fails the examination on the first attempt may be permitted to take the examination a second time within one year at the discretion of the department. Except in unusual circumstances, a student who fails the examination a second time will be separated from further graduate study within the same department or program.

Advancement to Candidacy

The formal acceptance of a student as a candidate for the doctoral degree is the responsibility of the student’s department or the committee supervising the doctoral program in accordance with the written procedures of the academic unit. Generally, advancement to candidacy allows the student to enter the dissertation research phase of the degree program, and occurs after all course work and exam requirements are satisfied. At its discretion the supervising unit may require a student to pass qualifying examinations before candidacy is granted. Students are expected to make regular and continuous progress toward the degree. Advancement to candidacy in a PhD program should occur within a maximum of 6 years post-matriculation with a bachelor’s degree (no later than at the completion of 36 semester hours of graduate study) and 4 years post-matriculation with a master’s degree (no later than at the completion of 18 semester hours of graduate study). Students may continue in pre-candidacy status beyond this time by means of a petition to the School of Graduate Studies by a program director, based on evidence of student progress toward the degree. Individual programs can require advancement to candidacy before the time limit set in this policy.

The School of Graduate Studies must promptly be notified in writing of the decision concerning a student’s advancement to candidacy, and a copy of the notification must be sent to the student concerned. A student who is refused candidacy status may not undertake further study for credit toward the doctoral degree within the same department or supervising unit. With the approval of both the department concerned and the School of Graduate studies, such a student may:

  1. Take additional courses, if required, in order to complete an approved master’s degree in that department.
  2. Seek admission to the graduate program of another department.

Course 701 Requirements (Dissertation Research, Pre- and Post-Candidacy)

When a student has been advanced to candidacy, he or she may begin dissertation research by formally registering for course 701 credits. At the point at which students begin registering for course 701, the department must identify a university faculty member who will serve as the doctoral student’s principal research advisor and formally notify the School of Graduate Studies. Students who have been advanced to candidacy may register for 1-9 credits of course 701 each fall and spring semester (or up to 6 credits for the summer when needed). In certain cases, students who have not advanced to candidacy may begin registering for up to a total of 6 credit hours of course 701 at the discretion of the department and upon written notification to the School of Graduate Studies. Pre-Candidacy 701 hour(s) may be taken concurrently with course work. Once a student begins registration of 701 hours, he or she must register for at least one credit hour of 701 each semester until graduation. Doctoral students have five consecutive calendar years from the semester of the first credited 701 registration, including leaves of absence, to complete all requirements for the doctorate.

Foreign Language Requirements

Although there is no general foreign language requirement for the doctorate, each department or supervising committee may set such requirements as are appropriate to the student’s program of study. It is the student’s responsibility to ascertain the foreign language requirements approved by the supervising unit. Each department must notify the School of Graduate Studies in writing of the specific language(s) required and the date of examination determining the student’s proficiency in the required language(s).

Dissertation Requirements

All candidates for the PhD degree must electronically submit a dissertation as evidence of their ability to conduct independent research at an advanced level. The dissertation must represent a significant contribution to existing knowledge in the student’s field, and at least a portion of the content must be suitable for publication in a reputable professional journal or as a book or monograph. Students must prepare their own dissertations. Joint dissertations are not permitted. The dissertation must conform to regulations concerning format, quality, and time of submission as established by the School of Graduate Studies. Detailed instructions can be obtained from the School of Graduate Studies. Research work connected with a dissertation is to be carried out under the direct supervision of a member of the university faculty selected by the student in consultation with departmental faculty and approved by the chair of the department.

Approved dissertations are to be uploaded to OhioLINK before certification for the doctorate. Because dissertations are made public immediately upon acceptance, they should not contain proprietary or classified material. When the research relates to proprietary material, the student and advisor are responsible for making preliminary disclosures to the sponsor in advance to permit timely release of the dissertation. These arrangements must be disclosed when the dissertation is submitted to the School of Graduate Studies. The required form can be found in the graduation packet.

Dissertation Research Advisor

Each doctoral student is responsible for becoming sufficiently familiar with the research interests of the department or program faculty to choose in a timely manner a faculty member who will serve as the student’s research advisor. The research advisor is expected to provide mentorship in research conception, methods, performance, and ethics, as well as focus on development of the student’s professional communication skills, building professional contacts in the field, and fostering the professional behavior standard of the field and research in general. The research advisor also assists with the selection of the other faculty to serve as members of the dissertation advisory and defense committee.

Dissertation Advisory and Defense Committee

The composition of each student’s dissertation committee must have formal approval by the School of Graduate Studies on recommendation of the chair of the department, division, or curricular program committee. The dissertation committee must consist of a minimum of four members of the University faculty (any tenured or tenure-track Case Western Reserve University faculty member, and any CWRU full-time faculty member whose primary duties include research who is authorized to serve on a PhD dissertation committee by the school or college through which they are affiliated with the university). At least one of these CWRU faculty must hold a primary appointment that is outside of the student’s department, program, or school. The chair of the committee must be a CWRU tenured or tenure-track faculty member in the student’s program. The student’s dissertation research advisor must be a member of the committee and may serve as chair if consistent with departmental policy.

Persons who are not members of the University faculty may serve as additional members of the defense committee, subject to approval by the School of Graduate Studies. A petition with the rationale for the request must be submitted to the School of Graduate Studies along with the proposed member’s curriculum vitae.  Under special conditions, a former faculty member whose time of leaving the university has not exceeded 18 months may be approved as a committee member by the School of Graduate Studies.

Throughout the development and completion of the dissertation, members of the dissertation advisory committee are expected to provide constructive criticism and helpful ideas generated by the research problem from the viewpoint of their particular expertise. Each member will make an assessment of the originality of the dissertation, its value, the contribution it makes, and the clarity with which concepts are communicated, especially to a person outside the field. The doctoral student is expected to arrange meetings and maintain periodic contact with each committee member. A meeting of the full committee for the purpose of assessing the student’s progress should occur at least once a year until the completion of the dissertation.

Final Oral Examination (Defense of Dissertation)

Each doctoral candidate is required to pass a final oral examination in defense of the dissertation. The examination may also include an inquiry into the candidate’s competence in the major and related fields.

The defense must be scheduled with the School of Graduate Studies no later than three weeks before the date of the examination. The chair of the examining committee should give approval to schedule the defense when the written dissertation is ready for public scrutiny. The candidate must provide to each member of the committee a copy of the completed dissertation at least ten days before the examination so that the committee members have an opportunity to read and discuss it in advance.

Scheduled defenses are publicized by the School of Graduate Studies, and any member of the university may be present at that portion of the examination pre-designated as public by the chair of the dissertation defense committee. Others may be present at the formal defense only by invitation of that chair.

It is expected that all members of the dissertation defense committee be present at the defense. Exceptions to this rule: a) must be approved by petition to the School of Graduate Studies and only under extraordinary circumstances; b) no more than one voting member can ever be absent; c) the absent member must participate through real-time video conferencing at the department’s expense; however, if such video conferencing is not available, the absent member may participate through telephone conferencing; and d) the student must always be physically present.

The dissertation defense committee is responsible for certifying that the quality and suitability of the material presented in the dissertation meet acceptable scholarly standards. A student will be certified as passing the final oral examination if no more than one of the voting members of the committee dissents.

Institutional Review Board (IRB)

The promotion of scholarship and the discovery of new knowledge through research are among the major functions of Case Western Reserve University. If this research is to be meaningful and beneficial to humanity, involvement of human subjects as experimental participants is necessary. It is imperative that investigators in all disciplines strive to protect human subjects. University policy and federal regulations demand compliance. Per federal regulations (45 CFR 46), all research involving human subjects requires submission of an IRB application prior to initiation of research to the Case Western Reserve IRB.

Each IRB application must have a faculty member noted as the Responsible Investigator. Applications that are not fully completed as instructed will not be accepted. See university policy on the involvement of human participants in research for guidelines under which investigations involving human subjects may be pursued.


Course Designations

Courses numbered 100 to 399 are undergraduate-level courses. Courses numbered 400 and higher are graduate-level courses.

Graduate Students are expected to take courses at the 400-level or above. Some departments do allow courses at the 300-level to be used for graduate programs, however this should only occur when no graduate-level course is available. Departments are strongly encouraged to create cross listed graduate-level courses to accommodate this need. Graduate-level versions of courses must require additional work beyond that which is assigned to the undergraduate students in the course.   

Grading System

See the University Registrar section of this Bulletin for a list of valid grades for the School of Graduate Studies and their appropriate use in assigning to graduate students. The only grades that can be changed after they have been assigned by the instructor are Incompletes (I). All others will remain permanently on the student’s academic record. Additional work cannot be done to change an existing grade to a higher grade.

There are some grading schemes in the School of Graduate Studies that have important policy implications. They are:

Incomplete (I)

Grades of I should only be assigned for letter-graded and Pass/No Pass courses for extenuating circumstances and only when a student fails to complete a small segment of the course. Students may not sit in the same course in a later semester to complete the work required for the original course. All work for the incomplete grade must be made up and the change of grade recorded in the Office of the University Registrar by the date specified by the instructor, but no later than the last day of class in the semester following the one in which the I was received. Grade changes received after that date must be accompanied by a petition signed by both the advisor and the chair of the department indicating the reason for the late change and must be approved by the Deputy Provost. Unresolved Incomplete grades will remain permanently on the student’s academic record, if the work is not made up by the designated deadline. A student who has a permanent Incomplete for a required course must retake the course in a later term. If the student cannot complete the work by the end of the following semester, he or she must petition for an extension which must be endorsed by the instructor, explain the reasons why the work has not been completed, and include a new date for completion. Students will be allowed only one extension of no more than one additional semester to complete the work for an I grade.

Pass/No Pass (P/NP)

Some graduate courses are graded on a pass or no pass basis, and students need to be aware of the regulations governing letter graded and pass/no pass credits. Of the minimum credit hours required beyond the bachelor’s degree to complete course work requirements, at least 12 credits must be letter graded for the master’s degree, and at least 24 credits must be letter graded for the PhD degree. For students with approved master’s degrees who are admitted to PhD programs, at least 12 credits of the required minimum of 18 credits of course work must be letter graded. Letter graded courses should be the courses most central to the student’s plan of study. Additional credit hours of letter graded course work may be specified by departmental policy. Performance evaluation for course 601 (Independent study/Research) is limited to P/NP grading.

Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U)

Grades of Satisfactory (S) and Unsatisfactory (U) are to be used exclusively for two courses: 651 thesis research and 701 dissertation research. Satisfactory indicates an acceptable level of progress towards completion of the research required for the degree, and Unsatisfactory indicates an unacceptable level of progress towards completion of the research for the degree. Any student who receives a grade of U will automatically be put on academic probation, and if a second U is received, the student will be separated from further study in his or her degree program. Students who receive a U must repeat the course for the same number of credits the following semester.