Each advanced degree awarded by the University requires as a minimum the successful completion of a specified number of approved credits of graduate study at the University and the passing of prescribed examinations. Credit hours for a master’s or doctoral degree may include formal course work, independent study, research, preparation of a thesis or dissertation, and such other scholarly activities as are approved by the student’s program committee and the Dean of the Graduate School. It is the student’s responsibility to know the calendar, regulations, and pertinent procedures of the Graduate School and to meet its standards and requirements. These are set forth within the Graduate School website in documents such as the Graduate Manual. These documents govern both master’s and doctoral degree programs. The Graduate Manual provides detailed information on topics including responsibilities of major professors and program committees, examination procedures, preparation of theses and dissertations, academic standards, and the Graduate Student Academic Appeals System. The requirements immediately following are general requirements for all graduate students. Additional requirements for individual programs are itemized in the section that describes specific programmatic requirements.
The purpose of the Program of Study is to ensure that students, at an early stage in their graduate study, organize coherent, individualized plans for their course work and research activities. It is expected that the successful completion of students’ Programs of Study along with collateral readings, research, etc., will enable them to demonstrate that they have achieved the high level of competence required of graduate students in their respective fields. All students in degree programs are required to prepare a Program of Study with the guidance of their major professors (for master’s degree programs) or of their plan committees (for doctoral programs) in accordance with the guidelines in the Graduate Manual. After the Program has been approved by the major professor for master’s degree students or by the program committee for doctoral students, the Program of Study is submitted for approval to the Dean of the Graduate School.
All regular graduate courses are numbered at the 500 and 600 levels. All 900-level courses are special graduate courses for which no graduate program credit is given. Courses numbered at the 400 level are for advanced undergraduates, but may, with approval and to a limited extent, be accepted toward meeting degree requirements at the master’s level. For doctoral students who have completed the master’s degree in the same field or one closely related, all program work must be at the 500 or 600 level.
Graduate work is evaluated by letter grades. All grades earned will remain on the student’s record, and unless the courses were approved for no program credit prior to registration, all unacceptable grades will be included in calculating the student’s scholastic average. A grade of C+ (2.33) or lower in courses numbered at the 400 level is considered a failing grade. In such cases of failure the course must either be repeated, if it is a required course, or else replaced by another course approved by the student’s program committee and the Dean of the Graduate School. When students receive more than one grade of C+ (2.33) or lower in courses at the 400 level, their graduate status is subject to review by the Dean of the Graduate School. Grades of C- or lower are failing grades in courses at the 500 and 600 levels and require immediate review of the student’s status. Students failing these courses must repeat them, if they are required courses, or else they must replace them with courses approved by the student’s program committee and the Dean of the Graduate School. The grades S (satisfactory) and U (unsatisfactory) are used for courses of study involving research undertaken for the thesis or dissertation and for certain courses and seminars so designated. The letter I (incomplete) is used for excused unfinished work. Incomplete grades assigned to graduate students may be removed within one calendar year. If the grade of I (incomplete) is not removed within one calendar year, it will remain on the transcript but may not be used for program credit. Grades of S, U, I, and all grades in courses below the 400 level are not included in the academic average. To qualify for continuation in the degree program and for graduation, a cumulative average of B (3.00 on a 4.00 scale) in all work is required, except for courses meeting entrance deficiencies or approved for no program credit prior to registration in the course. At any time when the academic record indicates unsatisfactory performance, the student’s status is subject to review. A student who fails to maintain a satisfactory quality point average or to make acceptable progress toward the degree may be dismissed as a graduate student.
There are no major or minor area requirements for the master’s degree. However, no degree can be awarded for the accumulation of credits without a planned and approved Program of Study. Courses for the degree are expected to be concentrated in the student’s field of interest and related areas to produce a well-developed and coherent program. Requirements for the master’s degree must be completed within a period of five calendar years, or within a maximum of seven calendar years with special permission of the department and the Dean of the Graduate School if all of the study is done on a part-time basis. The master’s degree may be earned through full- or part-time study, or a combination of the two. Students must take at least 80 percent of the credits required for the degree at the University of Rhode Island. Some departments offer both a thesis and a nonthesis option, while others offer only one plan. The general requirements for these options follow.
Thesis Option. The minimum requirements for a master’s degree are: 1) the successful completion of 30 credits, including six thesis research credits; 2) at the discretion of the department, the passing of written comprehensive examinations toward the end of the course work; 3) the submission of an acceptable thesis and the passing of an oral examination in defense of the thesis. Four copies of the thesis prepared in accordance with Graduate School requirements must be submitted to the Graduate School. A statement on preparation of theses is available in this website.
Nonthesis Option. Depending on departmental requirements, some master’s degrees may be earned without a thesis. The minimum requirements for a nonthesis master’s degree are: 1) the successful completion of a minimum of 30 credits; 2) completion of practicums, internships, or other experiences useful to the student’s future professional career; 3) registration in one course that requires a substantial paper involving significant independent study; 4) the passing of a written comprehensive examination toward the end of the course work. Some departments may also require a final oral examination. Although not normally required for the master’s degree, a student’s major professor or thesis committee may require proficiency in a foreign language, statistics, or computer science where appropriate for the subject chosen.
Students should refer to the specific program requirements for professional degrees and consult with the appropriate dean or director.
The Doctor of Philosophy degree must be completed within seven years of the date when the student first enrolled in their doctoral program. The requirements for the doctoral degree are: 1) the completion of a minimum of 72 credits of graduate study beyond the baccalaureate degree, of which a minimum of 42 credits must be taken at the University of Rhode Island; 2) the passing of a qualifying examination; 3) if required by the department, proficiency in one or more foreign languages and/or in an approved research tool; 4) the passing of a comprehensive examination; 5) the completion of a satisfactory dissertation; 6) the passing of a final oral examination in defense of the dissertation; and 7) fulfillment of the residence requirement of maintaining full-time residence for at least two consecutive semesters while acquiring the last 42 credits for the degree, but prior to taking the doctoral comprehensive examinations. Residence is interpreted as full-time attendance (nine credits or more) on campus or in the College of Continuing Education during a regularly scheduled semester. Full-time registration for both terms of a summer session counts as one semester of residence. With the exception of graduate assistants, instructors, research assistants, or the equivalent, no student in a doctor program may count part-time study toward satisfying this residence requirement unless a specific request for an exception, outlining the reasons and alternate method of satisfying the requirement, is approved by the student’s doctoral committee and submitted together with the student’s Program of Study for the approval of the Dean of the Graduate School. The department in which the student studies for the doctoral degree may or may not require a master’s degree as a precursor to, or as part of, the regular course of study.
Qualifying Examination. This examination is intended to assess a student’s potential to perform satisfactorily at the doctoral level. A student without a master’s degree who is accepted into a doctoral program is expected to take a qualifying examination, usually after 24-30 credits have been completed. A student who holds a master’s degree in the same or a closely related field is normally not required to take the examination. If an examination is required, it will be stipulated at the time of admission.
Research Competency. Each department, in cooperation with the Graduate School, is authorized to formulate and to amend its own requirements and methods of testing for competency in research tools such as foreign language(s), computer science, or statistics. The department may, in turn, delegate this responsibility to the program committee for each individual doctoral student.
Comprehensive Examination. Each doctoral student will take comprehensive examinations at or near but not later than 12 months after completion of the formal courses stipulated in the Program of Study. The examination is designed to assess the student’s intellectual capacity and adequacy of training for scholarly research. The comprehensive examination consists of two parts: written and oral. The student, with the approval of his or her program committee, applies to the Graduate School to take the examination. The oral examination committee includes the student’s committee and two additional members of the graduate faculty appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School. One of the additional members represents a field of study allied to that of the student’s major. The student’s major professor arranges for and chairs the examination. Unanimous approval by the examining committee is required for the passing of the comprehensive examination. A student whose performance fails to receive unanimous approval of either examining committee may, with the committee’s recommendation and the approval of the Dean of the Graduate School, be permitted one re- examination in the part or parts failed, to be taken no sooner than 10 weeks and no later than one year after the initial examinations.
Final Oral Examination. This examination is a defense of the dissertation and is open to all members of the faculty and, generally, to all students. The examination, usually two hours long, is conducted by an examining committee comprised of the student’s program committee and two additional graduate faculty members appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School. One of the appointed members will be designated by the Dean to chair the examination. Unanimous approval of the examining committee is required for passing. If the student does not perform satisfactorily, the committee may recommend to the Dean of the Graduate School that the student take one re-examination under stated conditions.
The entire process, from proposal to presentation of final copies is covered in a brochure.