University of Wisconsin–Madison

Requirements for the M.S. and Ph.D. Degrees in the Department of Geoscience

Staff Document 2010-05

                             

A.  GENERAL REQUIREMENTS

 A.1     INTRODUCTION

This document sets forth the requirements and procedures for graduate students working on their M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in the Department of Geoscience.  This document includes all departmental requirements and many of the relevant requirements of the Graduate School.  Certain specialty groups within the department impose additional requirements on degree candidates (a student should consult the thesis advisor about these). 

Nothing in this document alters or supersedes the university-wide requirements for the M.S. or Ph.D. degrees set forth in the Graduate Catalog and the Graduate School Academic Guidelines. While many of the Graduate School requirements are contained herein, certain topics (admissions and thesis format for example) are not discussed here.  Students should familiarize themselves with the Graduate School requirements.

This document supersedes and replaces Staff Document 2009-05.

A.2     GUIDANCE AND EVALUATION (G&E) COMMITTEE

By the start of the first semester, each student will have a main Advisor who will select, in consultation with the student, additional members of the G&E committee.  The Department requires a G&E Meeting once each year until prelims have been completed.  The meetings should occur at least two weeks before the end of classes in the spring semester.  For entering students, it is recommended that the G&E committee meet during the first semester.

A.2.1  Composition

G&E Committees are composed of 3 faculty members.  The advisor will be the chair.  If there are co-advisors for the student’s thesis, one will be appointed chair for purposes of record.  The second member will be a Geoscience faculty member and will be from an area related to the student’s area of interest. The third member may be an affiliated Geoscience faculty member, or a UW-Madison faculty member from outside the department if appropriate, or may be from any of the following catergories:  Graduate Faculty, Tenure-track faculty from a department without a graduate program, Academic Staff (including emeritus faculty), Visiting Professors, Faculty from other institutions; Externally-funded researchers, Postdoctoral scholars, or other individuals deemed qualified by the Executive Committee. 

Members of the G&E Committee, including the thesis advisor, may be changed by obtaining agreement of the prospective member (or thesis advisor) and the thesis advisor and notifying the Graduate Studies Committee in writing of the change.

A.2.2  Responsibilities of the G&E Committee

The G&E Committee provides guidance and assistance to students as they work toward a graduate degree.  In particular, the G&E Committee evaluates student research to verify that the student is making satisfactory progress.  A brief report of required committee meetings should be forwarded by the Committee Chair to the Department Graduate Secretary.and this will be placed in the student’s file.

The chair of the G&E Committee (i.e. the student’s advisor) has primary responsibility to evaluate student progress in course work to ensure that requirements are met in a timely fashion.  The advisor requests from the Graduate Studies Committee any exceptions or variances from regular degree requirements originating from the student, the advisor, or the G&E Committee.  The entire G&E Committee will approve the thesis, and, if asked to do so, recommends for or against admission to a Ph.D. program.  Ph.D. students require an expanded G&E Committee for Preliminary Examination and Final Oral/Defense (see specific requirements for Ph.D. students, section C).

Actions of the G&E Committee or the Graduate Studies Committee may be appealed to the Department faculty.

A.2.3.  Satisfactory Progress in the Department of Geoscience

There are two main components to satisfactory progress in our graduate program: “academic” progress and “research” progress. Grades are a reflection of academic progress. Academic probation, triggered by a cumulative GPA below 3.0, is handled by the Graduate School, but the GPA is also a consideration in departmental evaluations.

Research progress is monitored and evaluated by the student’s main Advisor in conjunction with the Guidance and Evaluation (G&E) Committee. Research progress is evaluated on two principal criteria: 1) Demonstrated ability to conduct independent research and produce scientific results through a productive working relationship with a main Advisor; and 2) Ability to clearly and fairly present scientific research results, both orally and in writing (including at G&E meetings, conference presentations, thesis defenses, professional publications, etc.).

A.3     GENERAL REQUIREMENTS

A.3.1  Students admitted with deficiencies must file a plan for removal of those deficiencies upon arrival for graduate work and remove the deficiencies during the first year.  A deficiency in the field course requirement should be removed (or a waiver of the requirements obtained) before commencing graduate study

The plan is to be approved by the student’s G&E Committee, and made a part of the student’s graduate record.  Failure to meet the schedule for deficiency removal may be considered as not making satisfactory progress toward a degree.  Promising students with excessive deficiencies may be allowed to enter as Special Students and to petition later for regular graduate student status.  They cannot, however, receive financial aid or accumulate graduate credit while in the Special status.  Each case will be judged separately.

A.3.2  A candidate admitted on probation must complete a minimum of 12 credits with a Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.0 or better based on all courses taken within one year of entrance.

A.3.3  Each candidate must maintain an overall GPA of 3.0 or better for his or her graduate career.  Should the overall GPA drop below 3.0 at the end of any semester, the student will be given one additional semester on probation in which to bring it up to the required level.

A.3.4  Grades of incomplete should be removed within the first month of the first semester (excluding summer sessions) following receipt of the incomplete.  An incomplete that is not removed by the end of that semester is considered by the Graduate School to be an unsatisfactory grade.  All incompletes must be removed before a degree can be awarded.

A.4     CREDIT REQUIREMENTS

A.4.1  The minimum number of U.W.-Madison graduate level credits (300 or above) is 16 for Master’s degrees and 32 for Ph.D.’s.

The minimum credit requirement for Ph.D. students must be completed prior to achieving dissertator status.

A.4.2  Each student is required to take a full 8 credits during each semester (excluding summer sessions) on campus, until he or she has attained Dissertator status (see C.1.8).  Exceptions to this rule can be granted only by permission from the student’s G&E Committee at a convened meeting of that Committee, except that permission of the Chair of the Committee will suffice for the student’s first semester in residence.

A.4.3  There is no restriction on the number of research credits that can be used.

A.4.4  After the first two weeks of each semester, a student may neither drop a course, if that lowers his or her total credit load below 8, nor substitute independent reading or research credits for course credits within the 8-credit minimum, without obtaining permission from his or her G&E Committee.   Any student who drops a course without proper substitution or permission will be considered not to be making satisfactory progress toward a degree, and will be placed on probation for the subsequent semester.

B.  REQUIREMENTS SPECIFIC TO THE MASTER OF SCIENCE (M.S.) DEGREE

B.1     SUMMARY REQUIREMENTS FOR THE M.S. DEGREE

B.1.1  By the start of the first semester, each student will have a main Advisor who will select, in consultation with the student, additional members of the G&E committee.

B.1.2  Each candidate must have a final thesis advisor not later than the start of his or her second semester of graduate study.  Advisors may be changed at any time with the approval of the Graduate Studies Committee and the new advisor.  An advisor may cease to sponsor a candidate at any time with the approval of the Department Graduate Studies Chair. 

B.1.3  The minimum number of U.W. -Madison graduate level credits (300 or>) that must be taken for a U.W.-Madison degree is 16 for the M.S.  A candidate who does no graduate work for a period of five or more consecutive years will be considered to have lost all credit.

B.1.4  The normal Master’s degree program takes no longer than two years; candidates working toward a single M.S. degree should obtain their degrees at the latest by the end of five full semesters of credit (summers excluded).  Any student who has not finished by then will be considered not to be making satisfactory progress toward a degree.

B.1.5  In order to receive his or her degree, the successful candidate shall:

(a)      receive approval of the completed thesis from his or her G&E Committee,

(b)      present a public, department-wide oral presentation as part of the defense of the results of his or her research,

(c)      see that his or her satisfaction of (a) and (b) is recorded in the Departmental records,

(d)      deliver the signed Master’s warrant to the Department Graduate Secretary (see para. B.2),

(e)      arrange with the  Curator for deposition of selected thesis material and a reference copy of the thesis in the Museum (see para. B.3),

(f)       file the thesis in the Memorial Library not later than the last day of the session or by any other deadline imposed by the Graduate School.

B.2     THESIS APPROVAL

M.S. students must (1) petition to graduate with the Graduate School (217 Bascom) during the semester they plan to receive their degree (form is obtained from Department Graduate Secretary), and (2) ask the Department Graduate Secretary to procure the warrant from the Graduate School 3 weeks before defense.  The student is required to obtain signatures of all committee members on the warrant and return it to the Department Graduate Secretary.

B.3     DEPARTMENTAL DEPOSIT OF THESIS AND THESIS MATERIAL

An unbound copy of the thesis must be submitted to the Museum Curator for the Department Library.  All samples and other materials referenced in the thesis must be put on permanent deposit with the department.  See the Museum Curator well in advance of finishing the thesis, in order to arrange for a specimen file number, and for labeling instructions.  

              CHECKLIST AND CHRONOLOGY FOR M.S. CANDIDATES

1.       First semester, sem          year         

Are there deficiencies upon entry?

      No          Yes     If yes, submit plan for removal.

G&E Committee meeting, date    ______                                             

Student prepares:  1)  academic background summary; 2)  course plan; 3)  plan for deficiency removal (if needed); 4)  first ideas for research & thesis

Certified as making satisfactory progress _______

2.       Second semester, sem          year         

G&E Committee meeting, date  _______ 

Student prepares:    1)  grade summary; 2)  revised course plan; 3)  research and thesis plan

Certified as making satisfactory progress  ______

3.       Third semester, sem          year         

G&E Committee meeting, date   _______

Student prepares:    1)  grade summary; 2)  final course plan; 3)  research progress report

Certified as making satisfactory progress  _______

4.       Fourth semester (and Fifth if necessary)

G&E Committee meeting, date  _______

Student prepares:    1)  grade and course summary; 2)  preliminary research results; 3)  thesis completion schedule

Certified as making satisfactory progress  _______

5.       Thesis completion checklist:

a.  Credit requirement fulfilled (min. 16-cr.)                                                                        

b.  all incompletes removed                                                      

c.  request the Department Graduate Secretary to obtain the warrant from Graduate School 3 weeks before the defense.                                                              

d.  approval of thesis by advisor and G&E Committee (warrant must be procured in advance)                                

e.  public presentation of thesis results                                     

f.  signed warrant delivered to Department Graduate Secretary                                                                            

g.  thesis copy and selected research material deposited in Geology Museum.  Curator’s      approval.                                                                            

h.  thesis accepted for file by Memorial Library                            

i.  certification in writing for continuation for Ph.D. degree by G&E Committee (continuing students only)                                                                     

j.  return keys and Department property and leave forwarding address                                                             

k.  make arrangement with the Department computer personnel regarding your computer files and forwarding email address.

 

                                        C.  REQUIREMENTS SPECIFIC TO THE

                                    DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY (Ph.D.) DEGREE

“The Doctor of Philosophy degree is the highest degree conferred by the University.  It is a research degree and is never conferred solely as a result of any prescribed period of study, no matter how faithful…  The degree is only granted on evidence of general proficiency, distinctive attainment in a special field, and particularly on ability for independent investigation as demonstrated in a thesis presenting original research or creative scholarship with a high degree of literary skill.”

U.W. Madison, Graduate School

C.1     SUMMARY REQUIREMENTS FOR THE Ph.D. DEGREE

C.1.1  University of Wisconsin M.S. degree students must have been certified to enter Ph.D. study by their final G&E Committee and have completed the M.S. degree.  For M.S. holders from other institutions, admission to the department constitutes approval (but the M.S. must be completed before entry).

Occasionally, a student may be permitted to pursue the Ph.D. degree without first getting a Master’s degree.  Students desiring to do so must petition the Graduate Studies Committee in writing, supported by a separate written recommendation from the prospective major professor.  Permission is granted on a case-by-case basis by the Graduate Studies Committee or the entire department faculty.

C.1.2  Students must have thesis advisors before being admitted.  Advisors may be changed at any time with the approval of the Graduate Studies Committee and the new advisor.  An advisor may cease to sponsor a student at any time with the approval of the Department Graduate Studies Chair.  Written notice of such changes must be supplied to the Graduate Studies Committee.

C.1.3  The candidate must have a minimum of 32 U.W.-Madison graduate level credits (300 or>) for the Ph.D.  The minimum credit requirement for Ph.D. students must be completed prior to achieving dissertator status.  A student who does no graduate work for a period of five or more consecutive years will be considered to have lost all credit.  The normal doctoral program does not take longer than three years beyond the Master’s degree, or 5 years if there was no Master’s degree.

It is very important to file transcripts showing M.S. completion with both the Graduate School and Department Graduate Secretary.

C.1.4  Minor Field

The student must successfully complete a minor program selected for its relevance to his or her specialty.  The purpose of the minor is to give breadth to a Ph.D. major.  The overall minor GPA should be 3.0 or better.  There are two options:

Option A:  an external minor program requires a minimum of 9 graduate credits in a single department/major field of study.  Selection of this option requires the approval of the minor department.

Option B:  a distributed minor requires a minimum of 9 graduate credits in one or more departments and can include course work in the major department.  (Geophysics candidates may minor in geology and vice versa.)  Selection of this option requires the endorsement by the G&E Committee and final approval by the Graduate Studies Committee.   The minor form should include a theme and explanation.

One course cross-listed with the major may be used for the minor so long as it is not staffed by faculty from the major degree program and is not applied to any requirements of the major.  (Geophysics candidates may minor in geology and vice versa.)

The minor, whether Option A or B is designed to represent a coherent body of work, and should not be simply an after-the-fact ratification of a number of courses taken outside the major department.  To ensure coherence, a minor program must be approved by the G&E Committee and the Minor Form must be filed with and approved by the Department at the time the preliminary warrant is requested.  Copies of the Ph.D. Minor Form to be filled out are available from the Department Graduate Secretary.  Approval of a proposed program under Option A is registered by signature of a faculty member from the minor department; under Option B approval is registered by signature of Major Advisor.

C.1.6  Preliminary Examination Committee

The Preliminary Examination (see below) and Final Oral (see C.1.10 and C.1.11) Committees represent the continuing responsibility of the faculty to provide guidance, direction, assistance and evaluation to a Ph.D. student.  Their makeup and responsibilities are described below.

Well in advance of the Preliminary Examination, upon the initiative of the thesis advisor and approved by the Graduate Studies Committee, a Preliminary Examination Committee is appointed which replaces the G&E Committee and assumes its duties.  The preliminary examination committee supersedes the G&E Committee, it must have at least five members, at least 3 of whom must be from Geoscience.  One member may be from another institution.  No more than one retired professor may serve on the Preliminary Examination and Final Oral Committees.  At least one week in advance of the examination, the candidate must submit to the examination committee a formal prospectus as to the nature and scope of the proposed doctoral dissertation.  If the candidate does not pass the Ph.D. preliminary examination on the first attempt, it may be taken a second time.

The major professor shall be the chair of the preliminary examination committee.  Members of the Preliminary Examination Committee can be changed at any time with the approval of the thesis advisor and the prospective new member.  The Graduate Studies Committee must be notified of such membership changes in writing.

C.1.7  Preliminary Examination

C.1.7.1          The candidate must pass a Ph.D. preliminary examination to be taken:

(a)      within five years after entrance to our graduate school if he or she does not hold a Master’s degree.

(b)      within three years after entrance to our graduate school if he or she holds a Master’s degree from another University, or

(c)      within three years after attaining his or her Master’s degree at Wisconsin.

Any candidate who has not satisfied these requirements may be considered not to be making satisfactory progress toward a degree.  Completion of the minor is certified by the signature of the appropriate professor (the minor professor or the Department Chair) on the preliminary examination warrant.

C.1.7.2          The purpose of the preliminary examination is three fold:

(a)      to examine the proposed thesis topic for originality, scientific importance, and likelihood of completion as an acceptable Ph.D. dissertation

(b)      to examine the student’s proposed methodology for pursuing the thesis research, and

(c)      to examine the student’s preparation and knowledge of those subjects and methods that the proposed research may require.

C.1.7.3          The preliminary examination is usually oral, but, at the direction of the examining committee, may be written, or partly oral and partly written.

C.1.7.4          Certain faculty members within the department may require an additional comprehensive examination or course work in their area.  Those making such a requirement should notify the Graduate Studies Committee so that prospective students can be so advised, and such exams must be completed before the Preliminary Examination.

C.1.8  Dissertator Status

Students are formally admitted to status as Ph.D. candidates (dissertators) upon successful completion of the Preliminary Examination, major and minor requirements (C.1.4) and credit requirements.  For more details, see the Graduate School Academic Guidelines:  Dissertator (FAQs).

C.1.8.1          Dissertators engaged in research and writing, whether on campus or not, must be enrolled for at least three graduate level credits each semester until the Ph.D. dissertation is filed in Memorial Library.  They must also register for at least three dissertator level credits in the regular eight-week summer session during any summer in which they use University facilities such as laboratories, libraries, or faculty time.  Students who file a thesis in the Memorial Library during the summer must be registered for three graduate level credits for the summer.  Tuition and fees will be assessed in accord with the actual Wisconsin resident or non-resident status of the student.

C.1.8.2          If dissertators fail to maintain continuous registration, a degree completion fee equal to twelve times the current per-credit dissertator rate is required.  The fee will be assessed by the Graduate School at the time the dissertation is brought to the Graduate School for final review.  The completion fee is based on the actual Wisconsin resident or non-resident status which existed at the last term of registration.  Students who re-enter and complete the degree in less than four continuous terms will pay the 12 credit fee minus all continuous registration credits paid since the time of re-entry and before graduation.

C.1.8.3          For fee assessment purposes, a student who has fulfilled the continuous registration requirements and registers in a given semester or summer session is permitted to complete the Ph.D. degree (including the filing of the thesis in the Library) on any date before the first day of classes of the next academic session (semester or summer).  However, fee assessment and degree conferral periods do not coincide.  The Ph.D. degree will be awarded on the first degree granting date following its completion.

C.1.8.4          Fee assessment and registration decision are made by the Graduate School and dissertators are urged to consult with the Graduate School Catalog, the Graduate School Academic Guidelines, or the Graduate School office for further details.

C.1.9  The Ph.D. Dissertation

The Ph.D. dissertation is expected to be an original and creative research contribution presented with a high degree of literary skill.

C.1.9.1          Before beginning any typing, drafting, etc., the Candidate should review  the Graduate School Academic Guidelines to comply with the detailed rules and regulations of the Graduate School and Memorial Library.

C.1.9.2          The final oral examination committee is appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School.  Candidates are required to present a draft copy (not the final version) of the dissertation to the Ph.D. examining committee one month in advance of a proposed examination date.  Examination may not be scheduled until the draft is in the hands of the examining committee.  Exceptions to this rule must be approved in writing by the Graduate Studies Committee.

C.1.10   The Final Oral Committee

The Final Oral Committee is made up of 5 or more members and is appointed by the G&E Committee.  The thesis advisor is always chair.  Usually, but not always, members of the Preliminary Examination Committee will be appointed.  One member must be from outside the department.   Four members must be Graduate Faculty, former Graduate Faculty up to one year after resignation or retirement, and one may be an affiliated Geoscience faculty member.  The required fifth member may be from any of the following catergories:  Graduate Faculty, Tenure-track faculty from a department without a graduate program, Academic Staff (including emeritus faculty), Visiting Professors, Faculty from other institutions; Externally-funded researchers, Postdoctoral scholars, or other individuals deemed qualified by the Executive Committee. The Final Oral Committee administers the Final Oral Examination (thesis defense) and signs the warrant certifying satisfactory completion.

C.1.11 The Final Oral Examination

The final oral examination is administered by a committee of 5 or more faculty and is to ascertain the suitability and quality of the Ph.D. dissertation.  It is typically given in closed session following a public, oral summary of the Ph.D. research, but may be given at another time.

C.1.11.1  Copies of the dissertation must be provided to all members of the examining committee 1 month before the scheduled exam.

C.1.11.2  The final oral examination may not be given until all other requirements are satisfied and any incompletes removed.

C.1.11.3  The final oral examination must be taken within five years of passing the preliminary examination; a student is required to take another preliminary exam and be readmitted to candidacy if more than 5 years has elapsed.  Extensions to this time limit are occasionally granted for cause, but must be requested, in writing, by petition to the Graduate School.

C.1.12   Completion Requirements

To complete the degree the candidate will then: 

a)       obtain written approval of his or her finished thesis from the final oral examining committee,

b)       present a public, oral summary of the results of his or her research,

c)       submit one typewritten copy of the complete dissertation and abstract to the Graduate School Office for approval of mechanical form and execution, not later than the last day of the session or by whatever other deadline may be imposed by the Graduate School. 

e)       deliver the signed Ph.D. warrant to the Graduate School Office, and

d)       arrange with the Curator for deposition of selected thesis material and a reference copy of the thesis in the Museum (see para. C.2)

C.2     DEPARTMENTAL DEPOSIT OF THESIS AND THESIS MATERIAL

An unbound copy of the thesis must be submitted to the Museum Curator for the Department Library. 

All samples and other materials referenced in the thesis must be put on permanent deposit with the department.  See the Museum Curator well in advance of finishing the thesis, in order to arrange for a specimen file number, and for labeling instructions.  

Note:  Before beginning preparation of any final typing or drafting for thesis, candidate should obtain the packet from the Graduate School (217 Bascom) giving instructions on thesis format and preparation.  The rules are detailed and strictly enforced by the Graduate School and Memorial Library.

 Checklist and Chronology for Ph.D. Candidates:  checklist