Program Requirements

General Program Requirements:
Number of Credits Required to Earn the Degree: 57

Required Courses:

Core Courses
GUS 5159Geographic Inquiry3
GUS 8097Research Design3
Methodology Courses 16
Electives 239
Research Courses 36
GUS 9994
Doctoral Qualifying Examination
GUS 9998
Dissertation Proposal
GUS 9999
Dissertation Research
Total Credit Hours57

Students select two courses from a departmental list of approved methodology courses.


Any GUS course at the 5000 level or higher may be taken as an elective. With approval from their advisor and the graduate chair, students may take graduate-level courses outside the department.


Of the 6 required research credits, a minimum of 2 credits of GUS 9999 must be taken. The other 4 credits may be taken in any combination of GUS 9994, GUS 9998, and GUS 9999.

Culminating Events:
Qualifying Examination:
The qualifying exam is taken after all coursework is completed. The exam has written and oral components. Students develop the parameters of the exam with their committee, which approves reading lists prepared by the student before the exam. All parts of the written exam must be passed before the student proceeds to the oral exam. The oral exam, based on the written portion, assesses the candidate’s readiness to commence dissertation research.

In conjunction with their Graduate Advisor, each student identifies at least two other faculty members for the exam committee. At least two committee members must be GUS faculty, while the third may be from outside the Department. The Graduate Advisor/Chair and all but one of the remaining members of the examination committee must approve in order for the student to pass.

Students are expected to demonstrate breadth of knowledge and intellectual sophistication across the field of Geography. Students should be able to employ various theoretical approaches to investigate geographic and urban patterns and processes and to use data to illuminate concepts. When student pass the exam (1 credit), they achieve candidacy. If the student fails the exam, they are given the opportunity to retake the exam, usually within one term. If the student fails the second time, they are recommended for academic dismissal.

Ordinarily, the exam should be administered no later than six months after coursework is completed. Several different written formats are possible, at the discretion of the committee, including a single extended paper, individual papers prepared for separate examiners, and closed or open book exams administered within a time limit. The oral portion of the exam may expand on the questions asked on the written exam. It may include additional but related questions.

The proposal defines the research problem, scholarly significance, pertinent literature and methodology. It should contain an outline of the projected document and timeline for completing various tasks involved in the dissertation. Within one term after finishing the qualifying exam, a candidate is expected to submit a 5 to 6 page preliminary dissertation proposal to the Doctoral Advisory Committee. Within one year of passing the qualifying exam, a candidate is expected to submit a more substantial proposal to the committee members. When the proposal is ready, the committee chair schedules a meeting of the committee. The student gives an oral presentation of the proposal, and the committee members ask questions and give suggestions. The committee must approve the proposal and give specific instructions on how the student can improve it. After the meeting, the committee chair sends a letter to the Department’s Graduate Director indicating whether it has been accepted (1 credit) or rejected, summarizing comments from the overall committee. At that time, the student is scheduled to present their proposal at a departmental colloquium.

The PhD dissertation should make an original contribution to the field of Geography. The dissertation must demonstrate formulation, design and independent execution of a significant research project. The student must complete a minimum of 4 credits of dissertation research. While no ceiling on the number of dissertation credits exists, students should note that seven years from matriculation is the time limit for completion of the degree.

When the student and the committee chair judge the dissertation complete and ready to be defended, the committee chair schedules the defense. The Coordinator arranges the time, date and room, and forwards to the student the appropriate forms. With approval of the committee chair, the Coordinator sends a completed "Announcement of Dissertation Defense" form, found in TUportal under the Tools tab within "University Forms," to the Graduate School at least 10 working days before the defense. The Coordinator notifies all members of the Dissertation Examining Committee and all faculty members and graduate students in the Department. Changes in the membership of a committee must be approved by the Department’s Graduate Director. If approved, the Graduate School must be notified.

The entire Dissertation Examining Committee must attend the defense to evaluate the student's dissertation and oral defense. This committee is comprised of the Doctoral Advisory Committee and at least one additional Graduate Faculty member from outside the Department of Geography and Urban Studies. Affiliated faculty may serve as external members of the Dissertation Examining Committee. The student presents a formal lecture at the defense. The oral defense should demonstrate that the student’s work satisfies the standards for original research in Geography; that the candidate has mastered the appropriate methodology or methodologies; and that the candidate has an understanding of the relationship of the dissertation to the broader field. Following the public lecture and discussion, the Dissertation Examining Committee convenes in a closed session with the candidate for the defense. Directly after this session, the committee votes whether to accept or reject a completed dissertation.