The requirement of writing of a research paper in the second and third years is a salient feature of the PhD program. The paper should be a sole-authored work that demonstrates the student is ready to begin dissertation work. The paper should demonstrate the student’s ability to choose a suitable research question, execute the research, and write the paper according to professional standards.
Initial ideas for the qualifying paper (consisting of a concise research question, a sketch of a framework for investigation, and verification of available data) must be submitted to the Qualifying Paper Committee by March 31 of the second year. Students are encouraged to start thinking about ideas at the beginning of the second year, and to discuss ideas with faculty and other students.
The student selects a Qualifying Paper Advisor in consultation with the Qualifying Paper Committee. Thereafter, students report to and interact frequently with their Qualifying Paper Advisor. Students are also encouraged to seek advice or reactions from other faculty throughout the development of their paper just as a faculty member might seek advice from a colleague. Students will have multiple opportunities to discuss their ideas at informal workshops or meetings. However, the paper must be solely the student's work, which excludes work done jointly with faculty here or elsewhere (such as with a professor in prior graduate/undergraduate work). Criteria for plagiarism found in most academic journals apply to this paper.
The student's progress is evaluated by the Qualifying Paper Committee and Advisor in the context of a paper-writing workshop at the end of the second year of coursework. Attendance is required.
The student's qualifying paper must be submitted to the Qualifying Paper Committee by September 30 following the second year. After soliciting a thorough review of the paper by the Qualifying Paper Advisor and an independent reviewer selected from the faculty, the Qualifying Paper Committee classifies the paper into one of two categories: (i) the paper demonstrates the student is ready to begin dissertation work, or (ii) the paper needs more work. The first category satisfies the qualifying paper requirement.
Students with papers in the second category are given detailed advice on how to bring their papers up to passing status, and continue to work with their Qualifying Paper Advisors. The revised paper must be submitted by March 1 of the third year, when a similar evaluation process occurs. If the revised paper fails to achieve a passing grade, the student's PhD program is terminated or converted to an MS program. The chair of the Qualifying Paper Committee conveys the committee's final evaluation for each student in writing to the Director of Graduate Studies, who, in turn, provides written notification of the final decision to the student and the Department Chair.