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The Ph.D. program timeline, outlined below, is also available as a PDF: Doctoral Program Structure and Handbook.

The first year of graduate study (for those entering with a B.A./B.S. or an M.A./M.S. without a geography background) is planned to broaden the student’s knowledge of the field of geography and the practices within it, and to help students define their interests within the context of the Clark program. The student will select courses in consultation with the formal first year graduate advisor. Normally, all students must complete GEOG: 318—Explanation in Geography, GEOG 368—The Development of Western Geographic Thought and GEOG 338 – Current Research in Geography and one PDW (Professional Development Workshop) within the first year of residence at Clark. First year students will be expected to attend one PDW in the first semester as part of the orientation to the program organized and lead by the Graduate Advisor/Associate Director. Students who have successfully completed similar courses elsewhere may request, from the Director or Graduate Advisor/Associate Director, permission to be exempted from either of these courses. In order to maintain satisfactory progress in the graduate program, the student must obtain a minimum of 5 course credits by August 1 of the entry academic year. The Graduate Advisor/Associate Director serves as advisor to each student during the first year of residence. However, during the second semester, graduate students may begin to finalize their advisor choice which will be made formal at the first year review meeting in May. The Graduate Advisor/Association Director serves as individual advisor until the first year review.

First-year Review

In May of the first year of study, a formal review of the student’s first-year work and discussion of his/her future program will be held by a three-member First Year Advisory Committee. The chairperson of the first year committee is the Graduate Advisor/Associate Director but committee members should be appropriate to the student’s projected field (s) of study and, preferably, should have the faculty member most likely to direct the student’s doctoral work. The members of the committee are determined in consultation with the Graduate Advisor/Associate Director and must include at least two regular faculty of the geography program. The Graduate Advisor/Associate Director must approve all first year Advisory Committees. About two weeks in advance of the First-Year Advisory Meeting the student should submit to each member of the committee a list of courses taken and TA/RA duties and a reflection on the experience of the first year. (A copy is also given to the Graduate Program Administrator for the department and student files). The advisory meeting involves an assessment of the first year of study, and includes advising on the next year of study. At this time the student should declare his/her formal advisor. In addition to its advisory role, the committee makes a recommendation to the Director on the continuance of the student in the graduate program. Written statements of the meeting will be prepared by the committee and by the student; these statements will be reviewed by the Director and given the Graduate Program Administrator to be placed in the student’s file.

The second year of study should emphasize in-depth work in the student’s field of interest, formulation of possible doctoral exam topics, problem formation and research, and research skills. Usually these goals are intricately linked. Course work should include seminars, directed readings, and directed research. By the end of the second year of study, students are encouraged: (1) to fulfill their skills requirement; (2) to be preparing for their doctoral exams; and, (3) to begin dissertation proposal formulation.

Skills Requirement

Each student is required to demonstrate proficiency in a number of skills relevant to geographic research. The Graduate School of Geography offers courses that will fulfill most skill requirements. Students can demonstrate proficiency in a skill by receiving a passing grade in the indicated course, or by taking an examination set by the graduate school. Each student is required to demonstrate proficiency in two of the following areas:

  • Multivariate Statistics: satisfied by taking and passing Geog. 347
  • Research design/research methods: satisfied by taking and passing Geog. 314
  • Geog. 310 Geographic Information Systems: satisfied by taking and passing Geog. 390
  • Remote Sensing: satisfied by taking and passing Intro to Remote Sensing (Goeg 383).
  • Qualitative Research Methods, Skills and Applications: Satisfied by taking, and passing, (Geog 310).
  • A foreign language: satisfied by completing a second-year, second-semester college level course or by the independent, examined assessment of a Clark University faculty member approved by the Graduate Advisor.
  • One other course approved by the student’s faculty advisor and the Graduate Advisor/Associate Director of the Graduate School of Geography.

Students are required to fulfill the skills requirement by the end of the sixth semester of study, or before the defense of the dissertation proposal, whichever comes first. Students should notify their advisor when they have completed their skills requirement. The advisor will then, in consultation with the Director, place a memo in the student’s file signifying completion of the requirement. The dissertation proposal will not be processed or approved by the Graduate School until the skills requirements are met.

Second-Year Review

Every student will have a second-year review meeting with his or her committee during the University reading days in May of the second year of study. The second-year review committee will normally be comprised of members of the student’s Ph.D. examination committee. The Graduate Advisor/Associate Director must approve all second year review committees. Before this meeting, the student will submit a statement summarizing courses taken, proposed topics/fields for the Ph.D. examination (including preliminary outlines and reading lists for each topic), and progress to date. The fields for the doctoral examination will be discussed and agreed upon at the second-year review. The purpose of the second year review is similar to that of the first year review. Written statements of the meeting will be prepared by the committee and by the student; these statements will be reviewed by the Director and give to the Graduate Program Administrator to be placed in the student’s file.

By the third year of study, students should be well on their way to completing most of the requirements of the graduate program. Course work should deal with specific research topics and degree requirements not yet completed. The specific requirements and degree options are outlined in year two.

Doctoral Examination

The Doctoral Examination Committee is composed of a minimum of four faculty, at least three of whom are regular appointments of the School. Committee members must be approved through the Director during the Fifth Semester or at least three months prior to the Doctoral Examination.

The Doctoral Examination must take place during or before the sixth semester of study. Normally, doctoral exams are taken during the regular academic semesters. Exceptions require unanimous approval of the committee and Director.

The doctoral exam assesses the competency of graduate students in one major and two minor fields (see examples of orals fields below—these fields must be approved by the chairperson of the doctoral examination committee). Competency is defined as an understanding of the substantive content and range of theoretical approaches within each subfield. Students must be able to critique alternative research traditions and defend the theoretical frameworks they adopt.

For the exam in the major field the student will be expected to have an in-depth knowledge of the entire field; in the field selected for the first minor, the student will be expected to have mastered a survey of the field. The appended list of subfields is intended as a guide to the appropriate breadth of subfields for the major and the first minor. The topic of the second minor will be a more narrowly defined field; the student will be expected to have an in-depth knowledge of the second minor. The dissertation proposal is not an eligible field for the Ph.D. exam, although the research context from which the proposal is drawn can be used as a field.

At least three months prior to the doctoral examination, each student is required to submit to the doctoral examination committee (with a copy to the Graduate Program Administrator) an outline (2-3 pages) and reading list (2-5 pages) for each of the proposed fields for the Ph.D. examination. These items must be submitted during the regular semester. Notice of the oral examination cannot be given until the entire reading list is approved by the chairperson of the orals committee and the Director and submitted to the Graduate Program Administrator.

At the student’s discretion, the major and/or first minor can have a written component. This is in addition to, rather than instead of, the oral examination. The question(s) for each written portion of the doctoral exam will be given to the student as a “take-home” not less than one week before the oral portion of the exam, and the student will have 24 hours to complete each of these written exams. The oral portion of the exam on the major will last approximately one and a half hours, and the oral portion of each minor exam will be about 45 minutes. Each student is required to inform the Graduate Program Administrator of the chosen exam format at least one month prior to the exam date.

In the case of a grade of unsatisfactory, all or part of the examination may be re-taken one time. At the committee’s discretion, all or part of any re-taken examination may be in writing. A second grade of unsatisfactory results in failing the Ph.D. examination and dismissal from the Ph.D. program. Student’s failing the Ph.D. examination are eligible for a non-doctoral Master’s degree on completion of a thesis.

The Graduate Program Administrator will ensure that all students have completed their doctoral examination by the end of the sixth semester of study.

Examples of Orals Fields

  • Agricultural Geography
  • Biogeography
  • Cultural and Political Ecology
  • Climate Change
  • Environmental Management, Hazards & Vulnerability
  • Feminist Geography
  • Remote Sensing and GIS
  • Globalization
  • Human-Environment
  • Land Use/Change
  • Nature and Society
  • Economic Geography
  • Industrial Geography
  • Suburbanization
  • Sustainability
  • Third World Development
  • Social and Political Theory
  • Urban Geography
  • Political Economy

This list of fields is to be used as a guide to defining major and first minor orals exam topics; it is based on current faculty interests. This list will be periodically updated as faculty interests and the field change. Students may select alternative major and minor topics (see for example the AAG list of topical fields); these fields may require the use of examiners outside the approval of the student’s orals committee and the Director.

Dissertation Proposal

A formal proposal for dissertation work which normally should not exceed a maximum of 10-15 pages single-spaced pages, must be completed and approved by the student’s dissertation committee. Appendices and references do count toward the page limit.

(a) The proposal must be defended and submitted by the end of year three and at the absolute latest end of year four.

(b) The dissertation proposal committee consists of a minimum of four faculty: the supervisor (or first reader), a second reader and two reviewers. At least three members of the committee must be regular appointments of the School and one is from outside the department (this person may also be from outside the university). The Director must approve all dissertation proposal committees.

(c) At least one formal meeting (a proposal defense) must be held with at least three members of the committee in which a draft proposal is submitted and discussed. The proposed defense can be held during the months of June, July and August only by unanimous consent of the committee and Director.

(d) The dissertation proposal should be a concise, focused document. A good model is the NSF dissertation grant proposal document which focuses on a concise statement of theory, original contribution of the research, previous findings, methodology and the research plan. This will also facilitate the development of grant proposals to NSF and other groups. Normally the proposal should not exceed 30 pages. Indeed, a fifteen page document is usually reasonable and appropriate.

Title page—proposed title of dissertation; name of student; name and signature of 1st and 2nd readers, and the names of two reviewers; date of submission; a 250 word abstract typed (single spaced) stating concisely the nature of the problem to be pursued, objectives of the study, and data and methods to be employed.

Introduction and Justification—A specific statement of the problem as a researchable issue, including its relationship to past and present research.

Literature Review—Discussion of the pertinent literature and placing the proposal in context.

Procedure—Discussion of the research objectives and design, and the data to be employed.

Timetable—A rough timetable for the research, analysis, and writing phases.

Bibliography—Works which most clearly relate to the study as sources of theory, data, or methodology should be cited. While the bibliography should reflect a thorough awareness of the literature, it need not be all-inclusive.

A final proposal must be signed by all committee members. With approval of the first reader, the student submits 1 clean electronic copy of the proposal to he Graduate Program Administrator. Once the Director gives final approval for display, the Graduate Program Administrator then forwards the abstracts to the faculty and places a proposal copy on review in Geography office for a two-week review period. At the end of that period, if no objections have been raised to the first reader, formal approval is granted by the Director. If objections are raised, the committee and the student will assess the case and determine what alterations in the proposal, if any, are needed. Once approved, this proposal has a three year validity limit. If, at the end of this period, the dissertation is not completed, the proposal must be recertified (see residence requirements).

While only students seeking a doctoral degree are admitted to the Graduate School of Geography, two types of M.A. degrees are available: pre-doctoral and non-doctoral.

Pre-Doctoral M.A.

An M.A. degree can be awarded to doctoral candidates who do not already have a master’s in geography after the following requirements: completion of 8 semesters of courses; completion of required course work; completion of doctoral exam; approval of the dissertation proposal. Students must opt for pre-doctoral MA at time of ABD status.

Non-Doctoral M.A.

Normally no later than at the end of the first semester of the second year of residence, after a review process, students may opt or may be advised to shift to a non-doctoral (terminal) M.A. degree, under which circumstances they would normally substitute thesis-writing credits for formal course credits. This thesis is a research paper or short article (15-30 pages), demonstrating an ability to define a problem, as well as serving as evidence of research competence.

After approval by a committee consisting of the major advisor and two other faculty of the student’s choosing, one clean electronic copy of the final draft with a letter by the major advisor noting committee approval will be delivered to the Geography office. The Director will then announce to the faculty that the draft is available for examination. Faculty comments will be reviewed by the major advisor and any changes approved by the advisor. The thesis is accepted by the advisor and the committee. Following acceptance, two unbound copies of the final draft are delivered to the GSG Graduate Program Administrator and one printer ready (unbound) copy to the University Format Advisor (Graduate School Assistant). Students completing the non-doctoral M.A. must re-apply should they subsequently wish to enter the Ph.D. program.

Dissertation Defense and Presentation

The dissertation involves a process of interaction with and approval by a dissertation committee.

(a) The dissertation committee consists of a minimum of four faculty members, three of whom are full-time faculty members of the Graduate School of Geography, and at least one of whom is external. The chair of the committee is always a full-time member of the Graduate School of Geography. The Graduate Advisor/Associate Director must approve all dissertation committees. The chair of the committee may, after approval from the Graduate Advisor/Associate Director, and in consultation with the graduate student, change the make-up of the dissertation committee.

(b) A complete draft of the thesis (an electronic version of all chapters, figures, tables and bibliography) is defended at a working session of the dissertation committee. This “defensible draft” should have already been subject to extensive criticism and re-writing. With the approval of the first reader, the student forwards an electronic copy of an abstract to the Graduate Program Administrator for distribution to the faculty at least two weeks prior to the working session. The student must provide a copy of the defensible draft to all members of the dissertation committee at least two weeks before the working session. Also in preparation for the working session, one copy of the defensible draft must be given the Graduate Program Administrator to be placed for faculty review in the Geography office for a two week period. The defensible draft put on display in the department must be complete in terms of including all chapters and bibliography. The draft copy must be displayed during the academic year when the school is in session. Comments from the faculty are considered during the working session, which is open to any faculty member wishing to attend. The working session can be held during the months of June, July and August only by unanimous consent of the committee and the Director. A written outline of the main comments and suggested changes made at the working session is approved by the committee members, with copies given to the student, the Director, and faculty members involved with the dissertation (i.e. those on the committee and those providing comments).

(c) A final version incorporating changes suggested at the draft stage is approved by the dissertation committee and a letter of approval forwarded to the Director who places the final draft of the dissertation on display for two weeks.

(d) The working session may take place via alternative media, such as video conference, Skype or email discussion.

(e) The dissertation is then formally accepted by the dissertation committee and thee Director. An electronic copy of the dissertation then goes to the GSG Graduate Program Administrator who will help the student finalize the dissertation for printing, obtaining signatures, binding and presentation to the Graduate School.

Dissertation Types
I. Dissertation Monograph

(A) The DM constitutes the “classical: dissertation form in which the topic of the dissertation is treated in monograph form, composed of a series of chapters that lay out the research problem or synthesis theme, review the relevant literature, details the data or evidence and the mode of analysis employed, and provide conclusion and significance statements as well as the bibliography. Appendixes, prefaces and acknowledgements may be appropriate.

(B) The dissertation is completed when approved by the dissertation committee.

II. Three Article Dissertation (TAD)

(A) The TAD constitutes a dissertation volume composed of (i) an introductory chapter addressing the general problem in which the three articles are encapsulated, (ii) at least three stand alone articles (SAA) related to a coherent research problem, and (iii) a summary/conclusion that sets the overall contribution of the research in context.

i. The introductory chapter (i) establishes the broader problem or topic of study and how the three SAAs fit within it, and (ii) provides the relevant literature review and discussion of methods employed in the dissertation research but not found in any of the three articles.

ii. The SAAs constitute original research, review, or conceptual-philosophical contributions to geographical or geographical-related scholarship.

iii. The concluding chapter summarizes-reviews the findings of the SAAs and specifies the contributions that each article and the three-article set make to science/knowledge more broadly, the specific dissertation problem/topic, and the discipline awarding the dissertation degree.

B. The entire dissertation is initially and primarily written by the doctoral candidate regardless of the subsequent revisions and authorship of the articles submitted for publication.

C. The introductory and concluding chapters must follow the style of Annals AAG and contain individual bibliographies. The “article” chapters must follow the style of the journal to which it will be submitted for consideration of publication. The formatting of dissertation must be consistent with the dissertation submission rules of Clark University.

D. Each chapter of the dissertation must contain the requisite tables, graphics, and bibliography, regardless of redundancy that may appear owing to the 3-article format.

E. The dissertation may have prefaces/acknowledgements, appendixes, and other complementary sections as needed.

F. The dissertation is completed when approved by the dissertation committee. It is understood that this approval asserts that the three articles are of sufficient quality that they are ready for submission to the identified journals.

The Stand Alone Articles (SAA)

A. Each SAA is a complete and publishable research contribution or review unto itself following the content and length of a “research article” as defined by major journals (i.e., those journals reviewed by the Social Science Citation Index, the Science Citation Index or the Arts and Humanities Citation Index).

B. None of the three articles can be published in any other dissertation. The articles may have been published or in press previous to dissertation if they are a substantive part of the research proposal defended and approved by the School.

C. Each article must be submitted for consideration of publication (either previous or subsequent to the completion of the dissertation) to a major journal consistent with the research discipline, subfield, or interdisciplinary area of the dissertation author.

D. Authorship of the articles in their submitted form must include the dissertation author as the lead author of any multiple authored submissions. In the dissertation, each SAA will carry a footnote describing if that contribution is to be submitted as a single or multiple authored.