PhD Experience

PhD Experience 

Our doctoral experience is crafted into five phases:

1.      Foundation Curriculum

Since most of the potential students come from a professional orientation rather than a research orientation, it is crucial that the curriculum provide a common base of understanding and appreciation for design theory and research methods through a set of Foundation Courses. The Foundation Courses will be required of all students and composed of 19 semester hours of graded coursework.  These courses are:

Arch 930

Doctoral Seminar

Arch 931

Theories of Architectural Inquiry

Arch 951

Methods of Inquiry in Architectural Research


Research Skills Course


Advance Methods Course

Arch 958

Research Practicum Preparation

Arch 959

Research Practicum

2.      Major Area

This part of the doctoral experience is designed for the student to develop an expertise in a particular area of emphasis through a minimum of 12 credits of focused coursework.  Students need to define a major area in keeping with the philosophical position of the program and create a coherent curriculum.  This curriculum is to be planned in consultation with the student’s major professor.  Every PhD student must submit a program of study, which identifies the major professor, the Comprehensive Oral Examination Committee, and the developed curriculum for the major and the minor areas for approval by the PhD Studies Committee in their second year Progress to Degree Form.

3.      Minor Area

The purpose of the minor is for students to develop a complimentary area of interest that can enrich their inquiry or career objectives.  Nine credits of coursework are required to complete the minor. This curriculum, along with that for the major, is to be planned in consultation with the student’s comprehensive oral examination committee.

4.      Comprehensive Oral Examination

This exam will be tailored by the Major Professor to address the student’s major and minor areas as well as the student’s proposed dissertation research. Each Comprehensive Oral Examination Committee member will be responsible for drafting two or more questions, so that each area of expertise represented by the committee will be represented. Evaluation of the examination will be conducted by the comprehensive oral examination committee.

5.      The Dissertation

The dissertation is to be a rigorous inquiry as outlined in the defended proposal above.  Variance from the proposal needs to be approved by the committee.  The dissertation is to be defended publicly, providing an opportunity to members of the committee, faculty and students to question the doctoral candidate’s research.  The dissertation defense needs to be scheduled no sooner than 5 months after passing the Comprehensive Oral Examination.  If the committee determines that the dissertation has been successfully defended, the student is able to apply for the degree of Ph.D. in Architecture.

The purpose of the dissertation is to encourage and ensure the development of broad intellectual capabilities as well as to demonstrate an intensive focus on a problem or research area. The dissertation is to be a coherent scholarly work, not a collage of separate, distinct pieces.  The dissertation itself should be an evident product of the candidate’s growth and attainment of the ability to identify significant problems; organize, analyze, and communicate scholarly results; and bring to bear on a useful area of interest a variety of research skills and scholarly or creative processes. It must show some original accomplishment, but it should also demonstrate the candidate’s potential to make future contributions to knowledge and understanding. 

In this spirit, the dissertation must:

  • Establish the relationship to the existing body of knowledge within the declared disciplines,
  • Develop a clear theoretical framework within which the investigation is grounded,
  • Follow an explicit research methodology,
  • Document the research process,
  • Document the discovery and interpretation of facts and the implications of those facts in revising/extending/refuting accepted theories (hence, developing new knowledge),
  • Address both the transferability of findings as well as their applicability.