Procedures for Doctoral Study

The Ph.D. degree is the highest earned degree offered by a university. It is conferred only for work of distinction and only in recognition of marked ability and achievement. Nothing in the following procedures should be construed to imply that the degree will be granted merely in recognition of faithful performance of prescribed work.

Program Requirements

The doctoral program in Communication Disorders (COMD) requires 72 hours of graduate coursework beyond the bachelor’s degree. The program must have a minimum of 9 hours of research tools including two graduate courses in statistics; 12 hours of dissertation work; and 51 hours of graduate coursework related to the area(s) of emphasis (i.e., either child language, adult language, phonology, fluency, neurogenic disorders, speech science, or others). A limited number of hours completed during a master’s degree may count toward this total, at the discretion of your doctoral committee. Students are expected to enroll in courses and seminars offered within the department. Students also may take coursework in related fields such as psychology, human ecology, education, kinesiology, or others (see the Program of Study Procedure below). If a minor field of study is chosen in addition to the major, additional coursework may be required. 

Part-Time Enrollment

Students may enroll in the doctoral program part-time. However, to assure that the student is involved in the full dynamics of a doctoral experience, one year (e.g., two consecutive semesters) of full-time enrollment (see Residency Requirement) is mandatory. Part-time students are also not eligible for departmental stipends, and some faculty in the department only accept students if they commit to full-time study. 

Full-Time Enrollment and Stipends

Doctoral students are encouraged to enroll full-time whenever possible. The range of experiences and opportunities to participate in research and teaching are far greater for full-time students. Students are eligible to apply for graduate stipends during years of full-time enrollment. Doctoral students are eligible for 4 years of departmental funding. Generally, these stipends are assistantships that require work within the department. These assignments may be for teaching or research assistants, or for other responsibilities that will provide appropriate experiences to prepare the students for a university position. Stipends also may be available through grants, or through other sources within and outside of the university. LSU funding opportunities are posted on the university website.

The Program of Study Procedure

Once the Graduate School has determined that an applicant satisfies all minimum requirements for initial admission, the file is sent to the Chair of the Graduate Advisory Committee for the Department of Communication Disorders (COMD). The Chair first identifies the students’ area of interest and assigns a temporary advisor (major professor). The temporary advisor meets to assist the student to formulate a tentative program of study based on interest, strengths, and options available. The advisor and the student then form an advisory committee that includes the advisor and a minimum of two other professors from the graduate faculty. Of the three professors, one must be a full member of the graduate faculty. The student may elect a minor field of study and a minor advisor from that area. If a minor is selected, the minor professor submits to the student and the student’s advisor a list of courses to be taken to satisfy the minor field. The minor professor becomes part of the advisory committee, and questions from the minor area will be included in the general exam.

The student may change the major professor at any time during the doctoral program. This may occur after a student has taken several courses and has identified a professor whose research is closely aligned with the student’s interests, or for other academic reasons. The student should speak with the professor to determine if she/he is able to serve as the major advisor, and also speak with the temporary advisor before making the change.

Residency Requirement

One full academic year of continuous residence as a full-time graduate student (minimum course load of nine semester hours) is required at LSU. The academic year consists of two consecutive semesters, fall and spring or spring and fall. Summer sessions do not count toward fulfilling this requirement. Students employed full-time should not be full-time students. Students may be required to sign an affidavit attesting that they are not employed full-time during this period. An approved Program of Studies must be filed and approved before a semester may count toward residency. Check the dates with the university calendar; the date for filing is within the first few weeks of the semester.

The General Examination

As the student approaches the end of his/her coursework and the direction of research is established, the student prepares for a general examination. This examination is to be passed within 3 years (36 months) of classification as a doctoral student (or a time deemed equivalent for part time students). Exceptions must be petitioned to the dean of Graduate School. Examinations may not be taken between semesters, but they may be taken until the end of the semester. NOTE: one academic year must fall between passing the general exam and taking the final examination (i.e., dissertation defense). This year interval is defined as “a general examination held early in one term and a final examination held toward the close of the following term.”

The general exam may take on a variety of formats but must demonstrate knowledge of the literature in the area of concentration, research, theory, and minor area (if applicable). At that time of the general exam, a full advisory committee is established. The student, in consultation with his/her permanent major professor (advisor), expands the advisory committee to include: 

  • 2 additional members of the LSU Graduate Faculty for a total of 3 plus the Dean's Representative.  (One of the additional members of the doctoral committee must be from the Department of Communication Disorders)
  • 1 committee member must be represented by the minor department if a minor is elected.
  • Some faculty members may decline to serve unless they have taught the student in question.
  • The deans representative will be assigned by the graduate school

In addition, once the Request for the Doctoral General Exam form is received: 

  • 1 or more outside member(s) appointed by the graduate school will serve on the examination committee as the Dean’s representative. 

The members of the general examination committee are typically the student’s advisory committee and any members added at the time of the general exam. The committee must be approved by the Dean of the Graduate School, who may make changes deemed appropriate. 

The General Examination is usually scheduled during the student’s last semester of course work, or soon thereafter. The examination is both written and oral. The Request for Doctoral General Examination Form and Degree Audit must be submitted to the graduate school at least three weeks prior to the scheduled oral examination (see LSU Graduate School website for forms). Three copies of the form must be typed and printed on light blue paper (available from the department secretary). The 3 copies must have the signatures of the major professor and chair. One is placed in the student’s file within the department, and 2 are submitted to the Dean of the Graduate School. Photocopies of the Examination Form are to be distributed to the committee members. The request must state the time and the place proposed for the oral examination and the names of the faculty members selected to serve as the examining committee. The Graduate School will also appoint an outside faculty representative to the committee.

The written portion of the Examination may take on a variety of formats but must demonstrate knowledge of the literature in the area of concentration, research, theory, and minor area (if applicable). The major professor consulting with the student and the advisory committee will determine the format and written documents to be evaluated by the committee. Once the plan for the General Examination is approved, the student will be given a timeline and expectations for the written documents. The written portion of the General Examination must be submitted in final form to the student’s committee no later than two weeks prior to the oral examination. The oral defense of the examination will deal with the student’s work as determined by the examining committee.

Formats of The Examination

The purpose of the General Examination is to demonstrate that the student has mastered sufficient knowledge and skills to demonstrate with reasonable confidence that the student will be successful if allowed to proceed toward a doctoral degree (LSU General Catalog). The examination is intended to be the most rigorous test in the entire doctoral program. It must be comprehensive enough to demonstrate expert competence over broad segments of the major area of study and a high degree of familiarity in any minor fields (if appropriate). In order for the student to pass this examination, there may not be more than one dissenting vote.

A minimum of 3 written documents must be submitted to demonstrate the expert competence in knowledge of the literature in the area of concentration, research, theory, and the minor area (if applicable). The possible formats for demonstrating this knowledge may include any combination of the following:

  • Response to written questions generated by the major professor or advisory committee members. The major professor may edit questions submitted by advisory members so that they represent an adequate cross-section of the student’s work.
  • Comprehensive literature reviews related to the student’s area(s) of concentration and/or research interest. These should be critical reviews, with attention to the controversies, conflicting evidence, unanswered questions, and conclusions drawn by the student.
  • A study conducted by the student and written in publication format, including a relevant literature review, methodology, data analysis, discussion, and references.
  • A grant in response to an actual or hypothetical announcement. Students must provide a relevant literature review, methodology, proposed data analysis, budget, resources, management plan, and formative and summative measures.
  • Other demonstrations of expert competence approved by the major professor and advisory committee.

The 3 written documents must show evidence of understanding major theories in the area of concentration, knowledge of the extant literature in at least 2 areas of interest, and ability to apply research design and analysis to student’s area of concentration using at least one type of methodology. 

Minor Area (if applicable)

The minor section of the examination will be constructed by the minor professor and cover the course content the student has taken in the minor area. 

Oral Examination

The format of the oral examination is determined by the major professor and the advisory committee. The meeting usually lasts between 1-2 hours. While all oral examinations are different, general guidelines can help the student prepare for this portion of the exam. 

  1. The student is advised to generate a power point presentation to summarize the main points of the General Examination papers.
  2. When the committee is assembled, the student is asked to leave the room. The committee then discusses general impressions of the work and expresses whether there is any reason why the oral examination should not continue at that time.
  3. The student is called back into the room and may be asked to begin the presentation of one of the papers selected by the committee.
  4. The advisory committee is free to ask for elaboration, clarification, justification, or to ask any question related to any aspect of the paper or area of concentration addressed in the paper.
  5. The same procedures may be followed for the other examination papers.
  6. Once the committee members have had the opportunity to ask all questions, the major professor may call for an end to the examination.
  7. The student and all observers are asked to leave the room.
  8. The committee holds a discussion on the performance of the student, including both the written and oral portions of the examination. A vote is then held.
  9. If there is not more than 1 dissenting vote, the student passes the exam.
  10. The committee may vote to conditionally pass the student, contingent upon satisfactory completion of modifications to one or more of the papers as specified by the committee.
  11. If modifications are required, cards will be held until the changes are made and approved by all committee members.
  12. Dissenting votes, along with assenting votes, must be recorded on the examination cards and submitted to graduate school.
  13. A student who fails the General Examination (more than 1 dissenting vote) may be terminated from the doctoral program at that time or may be given the opportunity to retake the examination by consensus of the committee. If the committee concludes that the work does not demonstrate with reasonable confidence that the student will be successful if allowed to proceed toward a doctoral degree, the student will fail and not be allowed a reexamination.
  14. A copy of the signed cards is made for the student’s file and the original cards are forwarded to Graduate School. 

Once the general examination has been successfully completed, the student is expected to spend the remaining time in his/her program concentrating on the dissertation and in preparing for the Final Examination.

The Prospectus and Dissertation

Although not a university requirement, it is highly recommended that all students develop a prospectus for their dissertation project. Without this step, a student may complete a dissertation project that is unsatisfactory to one or more committee members. With the help of the major professor, the student develops a written prospectus for the dissertation. This minimally must include a method’s chapter detailing the questions of the study, anticipated subjects, exact procedures to be followed, and intended data analysis. If a formal meeting is to be held to discuss the prospectus, the document must be submitted to the student’s committee no later than two weeks prior to the oral presentation. 

When the committee is satisfied with the prospectus, all members sign the cover page of the prospectus, which is placed in the student’s file. Any changes in the prospectus must be approved and signed by the committee. Such changes will be appended to the prospectus. 

Once the prospectus has been approved, the student will devise appropriate instrumentation, collect and analyze the data from the study, and write the dissertation. The student will work closely with the major professor in the writing of the dissertation. The student’s committee may act as consultants in the writing process.

The Final Examination

When the student has finished the dissertation and it has been approved by the major professor, the student must defend it in a final examination. The student submits his/her application for the doctoral degree to the Graduate School before the final date of application specified on the Academic Calendar. This application is completed after consultation with the major professor. 

The Request for Doctoral Final Examination Form (see Graduate School website) must be submitted to the Graduate School by the current semester deadline for degree candidates or three weeks prior to the proposed final examination date. A defense may be held after that final date for submitting the completed document to Graduate School. In this case, the student will need to register in the following semester as a “Degree Only” student and will graduate at the end of that term. 

The request must specify the major and minor fields, dissertation title exactly as it will appear on the final document, time and place proposed for the examination, and the members of the Examining Committee including the Dean’s Representative from the General Exam. The Examining Committee must have copies of the dissertation at least two weeks prior to the Final Examination.

Permission to hold the Final Examination will be granted by the Dean of the Graduate School only after one academic year has elapsed since the student passed the General Examination.

The Dean of the Graduate School must approve the Final Examination Committee. In most cases, it will consist of the full advisory committee and the Dean’s Representative who was appointed at the time of the General Exam. 

The committee will ask the student questions pertaining to the rationale, method, results, and discussion of the dissertation. The student will be prepared to defend orally what he/she has stated in writing (see the guidelines for the General Examination for the general procedure).

Following the oral defense of the dissertation, the Committee will vote on the successful completion of the examination. The Committee has the option of passing the student, passing with appropriate revisions, or failing the student, abstentions are not permitted under Graduate School regulations. There must not be more than one dissenting vote in the decision to pass the student. If the student fails, he/she may be given one reexamination.

The program for the doctoral degree must be completed within seven years from the time a student is classified as a doctoral student.

***Refer to the Academic Calendar for All Deadlines****


Summary of Procedures for Doctoral Students in Communication Sciences and Disorders

  1. Student applies and is admitted with a major professor identified. The major professor can change but the goal is for the student to have a major professor at all times through the doctoral program.
  2. Student takes courses with guidance from a major professor until all course requirements are completed. Through these courses, a student should identify and ask two other members of the faculty to serve as the student’s committee. Through these courses, a student may also identify a minor of study and complete courses for the minor.
  3. Student, with the major professor, chooses General Examination Committee and consults with the members.
  4. Student works with the major professor and committee to select the format of the 3 written General Examination documents.
  5. Date for the oral portion of the General Examination is set and requested of the Graduate School at least three weeks prior to the exam date. Written documents are to be submitted to the committee at least two weeks prior to the orals. 
  6. Student orally defends the exam at the scheduled time.
  7. A prospectus for the dissertation is developed based on the area of research and nature of the study, as well as course work.
  8. Formal meeting on the dissertation proposal may be held. The prospectus is accepted (modified or rejected) and placed in student’s file. 
  9. Student submits preliminary drafts of dissertation to major professor. With the major professor’s direction, the student may hold informal sessions with other committee members as the study is conducted. A final draft is prepared.
  10. When major professor is reasonably sure that the dissertation is complete and defensible, a date for the Final Examination is set and requested of the Graduate School. The date must be in accordance with deadlines set by the College and the Graduate School.
  11. Final Examination is held and the committee accepts (modifies or rejects) the dissertation. (It is understood that at this point a dissertation would be totally rejected if the student has failed to conduct the study according to the accepted prospectus.)
  12. Successful completion of the Final Examination is reported to the Graduate School.
  13. The “Application for Degree” form must be submitted in accordance with the timelines established by the Graduate School. This is always early in each semester or summer term.

Procedural Guidelines for Doctoral Examinations and Dissertation

Role of The Major Professor:

  • Advises student as to courses to schedule and activities to pursue in preparation for the general examination.
  • Encourages student to assume primary responsibility in such matters as meeting deadlines, completing necessary paperwork, and keeping informed on regulations set forth in the Graduate School section of the General catalog.
  • Works with student in designing program of study.
  • Mentors student in small research projects or aspects such as data analysis of the major professor’s current research.
  • Works with the student in scheduling written and oral examinations; works with student following examinations as various suggestions are evaluated; files prospectus cover sheet in the COMD departmental office after committee members have signed cover sheet.
  • Advises student in preparation for General Examination. Presides at oral segment of this evaluation. 
  • Holds extended discussions with student as the dissertation study evolves.
  • The major professor should not hesitate to reject a proposal if, in his/her opinion, the proposal would not lead to a meritorious study. While he/she must be willing to accept committee suggestions that would strengthen a study, the major professor should not schedule a formal meeting for approval of the prospectus until convinced that the proposal could reasonably lead to a study that meets Graduate School requirements.
  • Works closely with student as dissertation is prepared. The major professor assumes responsibility for seeing that the dissertation draft is at least approaching final form before it is circulated through the committee.
  • After the draft is circulated through the committee, the major professor works with the student in evaluating suggestions made by committee members before the draft is submitted as a final product.
  • Encourages the student to disseminate dissertation results through publications, presentations at professional meetings, and to appropriate persons who are involved in the study. It is recommended that a manuscript be ready to be submitted to a professional journal to be prepared and available at the Final Examination. It is acceptable to have this be the format of the dissertation.

Role of the Student:

  • Schedule rooms for oral examinations.
  • Contact committee members about dates for examinations.
  • Make contact with the Dean’s Representative appointed to the committee by the Graduate School for both the General and Final Examinations.
  • Meet all deadlines and requirements as independently as possible.

Role of the Doctoral Committee Members:

  • Serve in an advisory capacity to students.
  • Participate in several examinations as scheduled by the student.
  • Serve as “sounding boards” and informal advisors to the students as dissertation plans are developed. Ideally, the student will have conferred with committee members regarding the study prior to the prospectus meeting.
  • Give careful study to the final prospectus as presented at the prospectus meeting so that the student may proceed with confidence to fulfill his/her “contract” as spelled out in the prospectus.
  • Carefully read and comment on the draft of the dissertation.
  • Maintain a positive approach throughout the entire process.

Procedures for Approval of Dissertation

  1. The student is responsible for keeping completely informed regarding deadline dates as shown in the graduate catalog. This includes such matters as, “The examining committee must have copies of the dissertation at least two weeks prior to the final examination.” This refers to the final draft.
  2. The major professor has the primary responsibility for working with the student in the processes of writing, editing, correcting, assembling, and circulating the dissertation.
  3. Dissertations should be written in a conventionally recognized publication style such as the American Psychological Association, the Modern Language Association or Chicago Style; but must be formatted as required in the “Guidelines for Preparation of Theses and Dissertation” which should be obtained from the Graduate School.
  4. A draft copy of the dissertation should be circulated to the committee members before the final draft is passed out, as this makes for a substantial saving in committee time.
  5. During the period of research and writing, the student should feel free to seek help on specific points as they arise, either from the major professor or members of the committee.
  6. There is no best way to turn in a dissertation. Some professors prefer to have the student turn in one chapter at a time; others prefer to wait until the complete volume can be examined. The latter system probably facilitates the work of the committee in locating inconsistencies, redundancies, etc.
  7. The major professor should function as coordinator or arbitrator in applying suggestions and corrections from the committee members.
  8. A finished, fully assembled clean copy must be used for the Final Examination. A copy must be in the hands of each committee member including the Dean’s Representative at least two weeks prior to the date of the final examination.
  9. The primary purpose of the Final Examination is to provide the student with an opportunity to defend the findings and conclusions of the dissertation.
  10. Copies of the completed dissertation should be presented to the major professor and to each committee member. One copy should be placed on file with the department, and a copy provided to any other appropriate person/persons involved in the study.

Ph.D. Student Checklist

General Examination

____ 1. Discuss format and topics of written documents with major professor and committee.

____ 2. Upon receiving approval from the committee, begin preparing the written documents.

____ 3. Submit degree audit to Graduate School and Request for oral examination three weeks prior to exam.

____ 4. Schedule date of oral examination with committee members, including the Dean’s Representative.

____ 4. Schedule room for oral examination with departmental administrative assistant

____ 5. Take copies of General Examination responses to committee members, including Dean’s Representative, at least 2 weeks prior to the defense.


____ 1. With mentoring from major professor, prepare a written prospectus.

____ 2. Schedule room for defense.

____ 3. Take copy of the prospectus to committee members at least two weeks prior to defense.

____ 4. Complete paperwork for Internal Review Board concerning research for human subjects (Office of Sponsored Research – 117D David Boyd Hall).

____ 5. Complete sign-off sheet for front of prospectus.

____ 6. Check room for equipment required for your presentation and arrange for equipment as needed.


____ 1. Obtain “Guidelines for the Preparation of Theses and Dissertations” from the Graduate School.

____ 2 . Follow Graduate School calendar for the semester in which you plan to graduate. Pay special attention to the Application for Degree, final exam request and dissertation deadlines.

____ 3. Schedule defense with committee members, including the Dean’s Representative appointed by the Graduate School at the time of the General Exam.

____ 4. Schedule room for defense.

____ 5. Take copy of the dissertation to committee members including the Dean’s Representative at least two weeks prior to the defense.

____ 6. Complete signature sheet on paper provided for front of the dissertation.

____ 7. Check room for equipment required for your presentation and arrange for equipment as needed.

Before Graduation

____ 1. Obtain and complete paperwork for Graduate School (Graduate School Office of Records).

____ 2. Schedule an appointment with Graduate School editor as early as possible for a format review of the dissertation.

Examination Policy for Graduate Examinations Where Student Performance is Unsatisfactory

The Doctoral General Examination


Committee will suggest areas where further study is necessary and develop a written plan designed for the student to make up deficiencies. All or part of the written exam may be retaken once at the discretion of the committee. The student is NOT automatically entitled to retake the exam. If the committee concludes that the work does not demonstrate with reasonable confidence that the student will be successful if allowed to proceed toward a doctoral degree, the student will fail and not be allowed a reexamination.


Committee will suggest areas where further study is necessary and develop a written plan designed for the student to make up deficiencies. The oral may be retaken once at the discretion of the committee. The student is NOT automatically entitled to retake the exam. If the committee concludes that the revised work remains unsatisfactory, the student will fail and not be allowed a reexamination.

The Prospectus Meeting

  • If the proposal is unsatisfactory, the committee will suggest areas that need to be strengthened.
  • It is the student’s responsibility to consult with individual faculty members during the development of the proposal.
  • After two meetings (if necessary) the committee will decide if the student should proceed further.

The Final Examination

  • Major professor and committee members will formulate a written plan for the student to follow in terms of revisions or explore other avenues that the committee may wish to consider.
  • The examination may be repeated only once.