Universtiy of Miami Miller School of Medicine Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies

Qualifying Exam and Dissertation


The following excerpt from the University of Miami, Graduate School’s Student Handbook, is intended to provide a general overview of the PhD dissertation process. Note that guidelines and rules differ from one PhD program to another. Consult your graduate program coordinator for guidance.


Supervisory and Dissertation Committees

A supervisory committee (sometimes called the QE Committee) is appointed when a student is formally admitted to a degree-granting program. Dissertation committees must be comprised of no less than four members. The committee chair must be primary or secondary faculty from the student’s program. In addition to the chair, two members must be graduate faculty in the student’s program of concentration. The fourth member can be an outside member. All faculty must have tenured or tenure-earning appointments. A thesis or dissertation committee cannot be chaired by a person unless they hold a higher or equivalent degree as the candidate for the graduate degree. Exceptions to the committee composition may be approved by the chair of the department and Dean of the Graduate School.

This committee is nominated by the graduate program director (GPD). It is appropriate for the GPD to consult with the student regarding the membership of the committee. The supervisory committee is empowered to plan the course of study for the student; to determine deficiencies, if any; to set language and other requirements; to request applicable transfer of credit where appropriate and to make up and administer the qualifying examination.

When the student is admitted to candidacy, a dissertation committee is formed. This may be the supervisory committee, but it may also be a committee formed anew to undertake the duties of advising and passing upon the dissertation. The dissertation committee is nominated by the program and appointed by the graduate program director and approved by department chair. The composition requirements of the committee are the same as above.


Dissertation Committee Responsibilities

  • Consult with and to advise students on their research;
  • Meet, at regular intervals, to review progress and expected results;
  • Read and comment upon the draft dissertation;
  • Meet, when the dissertation is completed, to conduct the final oral examination and to satisfy itself that the dissertation is a contribution to knowledge and that it is written in lucid and correct English and submitted in approved form.

Qualifying Examinations

A written qualifying examination is to be taken by each doctoral degree candidate at the time that the student and the supervisory committee deem appropriate. The program may specify that its students must take an oral examination as well. In those cases, normally, the student shall pass the written examination before the oral examination is conducted. Upon completion of the examination process, the supervisory committee shall notify the Graduate School and the program that the student has passed or failed the examination.

A student who fails the examination will be given one opportunity to retake it with the permission of the supervisory committee. After a comprehensive exam is failed for a second time, the student is terminated from the program. Check with the graduate program coordinator for specific program requirements.


Admission to Candidacy: Required for Doctoral Students

When the student has met all requirements and passed the qualifying examinations, admission to candidacy for the degree is approved. No student may receive the degree in the same semester or summer session in which he or she is admitted to candidacy. The student must be admitted to candidacy before the defense of dissertation is scheduled.


Final Examination

A final public oral defense of the dissertation is required. Refer to the university-wide academic calendar for the deadline regarding dissertation defense for each graduation. Graduate programs set the specific requirements and format of the defense. Please contact your graduate program coordinator for details.


Dissertation Requirements

A student must take a minimum of 12 hours of dissertation research except where otherwise stated. Not more than 12 hours of research may be taken in a regular semester, nor more than six in a summer session.

The candidate is well advised to have a final, acceptable typescript of the dissertation in the hands of each member of their committee at a time reasonably in advance of the final defense of the work a minimum of two weeks prior to the defense..

PhD students must defend their dissertation by the deadline specified in the university-wide academic calendar and upload one dissertation editor-approved PDF to the ETD database and submit final paperwork to the Graduate School by the last day of exams in the semester the student wishes to graduate. It is recommended that students begin the process early in the semester by discussing with their advisors a suitable timetable for meeting these deadlines.

All information pertaining to the formatting and electronic guidelines for electronic thesis and dissertation submission can be found at www.miami.edu/etd. The Graduate School also encourages students to contact the dissertation editor early in the semester at grad.dissertation@miami.edu if they have questions regarding any aspect of the ETD process.

One dissertation editor-approved PDF conforming in style to the standards set by the Graduate School, must be uploaded to the ETD database and final paperwork handed in to the Office of the Graduate School on or before the last day of exams in the semester the student wishes to graduate.

It is the duty of the student to acquire a copy of the guidelines for preparing theses and dissertations and to conform to the requirements therein.

Each dissertation must be accompanied by one certificate of approval of oral defense of thesis signed by all members of the Committee, one Signature page from the dissertation document signed by all committee members, and one ETD Availability Agreement form signed by the student and Committee Chair. The forms can be downloaded from www.miami.edu/etd.

No student gains the right to be recommended for the degree simply by fulfilling requirements. This right is reserved to the student’s committee. Changes of committee members must be approved by the graduate program director and sent to the Graduate School.