Ph.D. Program Archived


A variety of programs can be generated based on selections of our systematic (ESS and HER) and techniques (MMC) emphases. All Ph.D. students must major in a systematic area of study and are expected to develop great depth in one or more techniques areas but will be tested only in one technical area.

Admission Requirements
In addition to fulfilling the general requirements for admission to graduate status, the Department generally requires a Master’s degree for most students entering the Doctoral program. However, qualified students in the MA/Ph.D. program can petition to skip the MA and go directly into the Ph.D. program. Such students must have been enrolled for at least 3 regular academic quarters, and the petition requires the approval of the student’s committee.

Residency/Normative Time

All doctoral students must conform to the regulations and requirements of the Graduate Division, including the following:

  1. Students in doctoral programs must enroll for a minimum of six regular academic quarters, exclusive of summer sessions, in residence on the UCSB campus. Three consecutive quarters of residence must be completed prior to advancement to candidacy.
  2. Continuous registration is expected of all graduate students. Under special circumstances students may request a leave of absence from the Graduate Dean. Students who are neither registered nor on an approved leave of absence, lose all status and privileges as students, cannot hold fellowships or other forms of financial support, and must apply for readmission and, where applicable, readvancement to candidacy.
  3. The normative time for the Ph.D. in Geography for those entering without a Master’s degree is six years; for those entering the program with a Master’s degree it is five years. This is the time span in which the Ph.D. program should normally be completed. The absolute deadline for completion is 7 years (see Academic Senate Regulation 350(A), and this time includes all leaves of absence, quarters in lapsed status, etc.). The Department will enforce these rules and approve exceptions only under unusual circumstances.

Required Courses

These courses are required of all Master’s and Ph.D. students:

  • Geography 201 – Seminar in Geography (required every quarter offered)
  • Geography 200 A, B and C – Introduction to Geographic Research
  • Geography 210 A, B, and C – Analytical Methods in Geography 1, 2, 3
  • Geography 276 are strongly recommended.

Requirements of the Ph.D. Program

For advancement to candidacy, the Geography Department requires a diagnostic interview, a written comprehensive examination, an approved dissertation proposal, and an oral qualifying examination. These are described below.

The Ph.D. Committee
The Ph.D. Committee in the Geography Department consists of four members; at least three must be UC ladder faculty, two of which must be from the Geography Department, one of whom will be appointed as chair or co-chair; and one member must be from outside the discipline of Geography. Faculty who hold Affiliated appointments with the Department of Geography (Tom Dunne, John Melack, Jeff Dozier) do not qualify as outside members. Additional members may be added to the committee beyond the four required, where appropriate. The Ph.D. committee is formally nominated on Ph.D. Form I – “Nomination of Ph.D. Committee.” This form should be filed before you take your written and oral exams.

Diagnostic Interview

All Ph.D. graduate students will be required to take a diagnostic interview to assist in the preparation for undertaking a doctoral program in Geography. The interview will normally be oral and last about one hour. Two professors, appointed by the Departmental Graduate Committee, will be responsible for administering it; however, any Department faculty member may also participate should he or she so elect. Although the student’s primary area of interest will be emphasized, students should anticipate questions which will probe their general knowledge of the entire field of geography. Thus, a systematic review of geography coursework may be helpful in preparing for it. Within ten days of completion of the diagnostic interview, the student will receive a letter from the examining committee assessing strengths and weaknesses, and suggesting coursework or independent study by which such weaknesses may be strengthened. A copy will also be logged in the department files. The interview will normally be administered during the spring quarter of the student’s first year.

Written Qualifying Examination

The written qualifying examination will be administered by the student’s doctoral committee. Past examination questions are maintained in a department file so that you can see the types (and relative difficulty) of the questions asked. To aid in preparation for the examination, the Department will provide a reading list. The reading list is simply a guide for study, and should not be interpreted as a catalogue of required knowledge. Consult with the chair of your committee for additional suggested reading. The written qualifying examination will normally be administered in the student’s fourth, fifth, or sixth quarter of residence. Following administration of the examination, the faculty will evaluate the student’s performance in each section. Except in unusual circumstances the chair of the student’s dissertation committee will provide the student with a written evaluation of the examination within two weeks, and in all cases no longer than 6 weeks, of finishing the exam. An unsatisfactory section of the examination may be repeated once, in the same quarter, or the quarter immediately following the receipt of the written evaluation.

Dissertation Proposal

Prior to the student’s oral qualifying examination, the student will prepare a dissertation proposal which describes the dissertation topic, summarizes the relevant background literature, and presents a comprehensive research plan for the student’s doctoral dissertation, including a timetable and budget which identifies any financial support essential to preparation of the dissertation. This proposal must be approved by all members of the student’s doctoral committee. Students should be aware that the first draft of the proposal is unlikely to be accepted as is. Several drafts are usually necessary. Proper and correct use of the English language is required for the proposal.

Oral Qualifying Examination

Having completed the diagnostic interview, written comprehensive examination and dissertation proposal, the student’s doctoral committee will conduct an oral qualifying examination. The general objective of this examination is to ensure that the student possesses the full knowledge and competence required to carry out his or her dissertation research. Thus, the examination will emphasize (but not necessarily be limited to) the systematic and technical areas relevant to the student’s proposed dissertation research. Following the examination, the committee members shall vote “Pass” or “Fail” on the student’s level of preparation. The vote is reported on Ph.D. Form II – “Report on Qualifying Examinations for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy.” The student should take this form to the oral exam so that the committee members can sign at the conclusion. A majority of passing votes will be required for advancement to candidacy. Graduate Division regulations require that three consecutive quarters of residence must be completed prior to taking the oral qualifying exam. Thus, the oral will normally be taken in the fourth, fifth, or sixth quarter of residence.

Advancement to Candidacy and Doctoral Candidate Fee Offset

Following completion of the examinations described above, the student will be advanced to candidacy. Following advancement to candidacy, the student will normally devote full-time effort during the academic year to carrying out the research for, and writing of, the doctoral dissertation. Graduate Division regulations require that the student be registered and enrolled continuously during this time. Graduate Council has approved a four-year time limit for advancement to Ph.D. candidacy for all graduate students. Any exception to the policy must be requested by the home department on behalf of each graduate student.

Students who have advanced to candidacy and have not exceeded the normative time, are eligible for a merit-based grant equal to the cost of the educational, known as the Doctoral Fee Offset.

Dissertation and Open Defense

Following the completion of doctoral research, the student will prepare a dissertation which must be approved by each member of the student’s committee and conform to the rules and regulations of the Graduate Division and Library. After receipt of the final draft of the Ph.D. dissertation, a formal oral defense will be scheduled and announced to the department as a whole. The purpose of this defense will be to clarify segments of the dissertation and/or acquaint the candidate with the nature of any further work that needs to be undertaken prior to approval of the dissertation. Following approval of the dissertation, the student will be eligible to be conferred the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. This is reported to the Graduate Division on Ph.D. Form III – “Report on Final Examination for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy” or Ph.D. Form III-A – “Waiver of Final Examination for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy.” These forms require the signatures of all committee members so the student should circulate it at the same time that he/she circulates the dissertation signature pages.

A public lecture is encouraged to present the results of the doctoral research to the entire University community.

Teaching Requirement

All doctoral candidates must teach (usually in the capacity of a Teaching Assistant) a minimum of one quarter at some time before being granted the Ph.D. degree.