Timetable for Completing the Ph.D. (Don Gross)

From Professor Don Gross
(Assuming No Prior Coursework)

These recommendations are, of course, only the bare essentials.

Keep in mind the following: during your entire tenure at the University of Kentucky, do your best to take advantage of every opportunity to further your professional development, including research, conferences, and attending speaker engagements. Also, it goes without saying that you will need to develop a good working relationship with the primary faculty on your committee.

Year 1

  • Complete the required PS671/PS672 sequence

  • Take pro-seminars in areas of interest and

  • Get to know the faculty and fellow graduate students

  • It is most important to complete the required PS671/PS672 sequence. Without these essential skills, you will be at a disadvantage when taking subsequent coursework.

  • It is also important to take the pro-seminars (i.e., introductory courses) in your major and minor fields. Select carefully. If you are not yet sure what your major and minor fields will be, narrow you choices by taking a range of pro-seminars, since all Ph.D. students are required to take 6 pro-seminars.

  • Near the end of your first year, make some hard choices. Select your major field and talk to the faculty in the area. Also think about who your faculty advisor is likely to be. It is best to make this selection by the end of the first year. At the end of the year, you should talk with your major professors, or the faculty in your areas of interest, along with the DGS, to plan your coursework for the next semester.

  • Also, discuss your plans for the summer with the appropriate individuals. If at all possible, take advantage of the summer to undertake additional methodological (e.g., ICPSR summer courses) and/or substantive training. Ideally, you might use the summer to polish a seminar paper that can be presented at a professional meeting or submitted to a journal.

Year 2

  • Establish major and minor fields, graduate committee, graduate program

  • Explore ideas for a Directed Research paper and the dissertation

  • Collaborate with faculty

  • Attend professional meeting

  • Pursue research opportunities

  • You must make several hard choices by the early part of your third semester. What are your major and minor fields? Who is going to be your major professor? At this point, you will need to create a graduate program committee. Consult with your major professor when undertaking this process. If there are two or three faculty members who you would like to have serve on your committee, talk to them about additional committees members. You will then schedule a committee meeting to establish a program of study or plan for the remaining portion of your graduate career: major and minor areas; course work for each area; methods and/or language training; a timetable for comprehensive exams, dissertation prospectus, overseas travel if necessary; and your dissertation.

  • Begin to explore various research ideas for PS796, the Directed Research Seminar, and the dissertation. While not absolutely necessary, the research you undertake in the Directed Research Seminar should explore ideas you plan to pursue in the dissertation (and the dissertation prospectus).

  • Pursue opportunities to work on a research project. Convention papers should be presented, polished and submitted to journals for publication. Take advantage of any faculty offers to collaborate and if no offers are forthcoming, take the initiative and invite a faculty member to either serve as an advisor on a project or collaborate with you. Publications substantially raise your prospects in the job market.

  • End the year by reporting your overall progress to your committee members to avoid potential problems. As much as possible, spend the summer working on your professional development. Methods training, research, reading, and narrowing down you dissertation ideas.

Year 3

  • Finish coursework and defend the dissertation prospectus

  • First semester: Use the first semester to finish your required coursework. Undertake some research, if possible, and begin to seriously focus on a dissertation topic.

  • Second semester: study for comprehensive examinations and work on your dissertation proposal. Before taking comprehensive exams,  arrange a short committee meeting and communicate with the DGS to insure that the mechanics of the exam process are in place and that everyone has a shared understanding of the ground rules.

  • Dissertation Prospectus: After completing your comprehensive exams, take a week off; you deserve it. After your brief respite, focus all of your energy on finishing your dissertation prospectus, which you should defend as soon as possible. If you have been directing your efforts toward a dissertation topic for some time, you should be able to defend the prospectus within a month or two after exams. By May of your third year, you should be ready to defend the Prospectus and begin work on the dissertation. You will then have about 16 months to complete the dissertation. The most important factor enabling you to get a job is completing your dissertation.

  • Finally, talk to the DGS about taking residency credits during the first semester of your third year.

Year 4

Complete the dissertation, arrange a defense, get a job, and you’re free!



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