The dissertation represents the culmination of a student's graduate training and involves an original piece of research that advances psychology as a science.


The attainment of candidacy marks the completion of all requirements for the doctoral degree other than those related to research leading to the writing, submission, and defense of the thesis. Since faculty and students in this department have diverse research interests and philosophies of education, we believe that a flexible system for admission to candidacy is preferable to a uniform set of requirements; thus, a student’s candidacy requirements are determined by his or her admission to candidacy committee.

Department Requirements

As soon as you have finished your master's thesis (or earlier if you had a master's degree when you enrolled at Rice), you should form your admission to candidacy committee. A student’s admission to candidacy committee is often the same as the master's committee, but it does not have to be.

Once you have chosen your admission to candidacy committee, they should meet to decide on a set of candidacy requirements. You should initiate this process by giving each member of the committee a summary of your progress in the program. Your statement should include publications, research in progress, presentations, courses taken (with grades), and any other relevant information. The committee will use your statement as a basis for preparing candidacy requirements. Requirements may include (but are not limited to):

  • A completed version of the master's thesis, in a form suitable for submission to an appropriate journal.
  • Successful completion of at least one additional research project that has been written up in a form suitable for submission to a journal.
  • Presentation at a conference.
  • Completion of additional courses or reading necessary to fill in gaps in background.
  • A written exam.

Admission to Candidacy

After completing the candidacy requirements, obtain a signature from each member of your committee on a statement that your admission to candidacy requirements have been met. You can download a “Completion of Requirements” form from the department website for this.

University Requirements

After the candidacy committee approves your admission to candidacy, decide on a thesis committee for your dissertation. This committee will be responsible for reviewing your dissertation and for examining you on the subject matter contained therein. The committee must be comprised of at least three members, including two members from the department and one outside member whose primary appointment is in another department within the university. The outside committee member must be a Rice faculty member: adjunct faculty--even those with a primary appointment within Rice--do not meet this requirement, but joint appointments are acceptable.

Download and complete the Petition for Approval of Candidacy for a Doctoral Degree, found on the website of the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. You will need to attach the Department’s “Completion of Requirements” form. You should also complete and attach a checklist indicating that you have fulfilled your RIG’s course requirements; the checklist is available for download on your RIG’s web page. The petition also requires a transcript, but the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies prefers ones printed from Banner, the staff database, so your Graduate Coordinator will prepare one for you.

Present the Petition form and attachments to the Director of Graduate Studies or the Department Chair, who will sign the form. Then submit everything to the Graduate Coordinator, who will sign the form, prepare a transcript, and upload the petition to the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

A student who is in good standing and making satisfactory progress may change specialty areas and/or advisors at any time prior to filing for admission to candidacy (subject, of course, to agreement on the part of the new advisor and/or committee). Once the admission-to-candidacy procedure is set, however, it must be satisfactorily completed before any further change is considered. In the unlikely event that a student should want to switch areas after successfully completing the admission to candidacy procedure, he or she may do so only by repeating the procedure in the new area.

Doctoral Dissertation

The dissertation represents the culmination of a student's graduate training and involves an original piece of research that advances psychology as a science. Typically, work on the dissertation begins with a series of conversations between you and your advisor. Once a clear direction for the research is established, you will write a dissertation proposal summarizing the relevant literature and outlining in detail the methods to be used in the dissertation research.

Once your advisor judges that your proposal is ready to be presented to the committee, you should provide a copy of your proposal to the committee members and arrange a proposal meeting. The purpose of the dissertation proposal meeting is to get feedback from the committee members on ways to improve the proposed study. At the end of the meeting, the committee members and you should agree on the exact nature of the study and whether or not another proposal meeting is required.

It is critical that you keep your advisor updated on the progress of your dissertation research and any changes and decisions made along the way. Your advisor must decide if any deviations from the proposed research warrant review by the rest of the committee.

Once the research is complete, you begin the process of writing and rewriting your dissertation. This revision process often takes several rounds before your advisor judges that the document is ready to distribute to the committee for the final dissertation defense.

Differences of opinion within the committee on any aspect of the research should be resolved as follows: (a) at the proposal meeting, anyone who does not accept the general process agreed upon by the majority should resign from the committee and be replaced by another faculty member and (b) any disagreement about any phase of the conduct of the research must be resolved in a timely fashion by the entire committee. If agreement cannot be reached by any other means, a vote must be taken. Those in the minority must then either accept the majority decision or appeal the matter to the Department Chair. If the Chair cannot resolve the issue through discussion with the parties involved, he or she may replace the minority members through consultation with the majority and the student. The dissenting members may appeal the Chair’s decision by calling a special meeting of the entire Department faculty.

If you feel that your committee’s instructions are unclear or ambiguous, or that different members are making different or conflicting demands, it is your responsibility to obtain clarification. It is your prerogative to call a committee meeting if you want assurance that the matter is resolved. Students accept verbal understandings with individual committee members at their own risk; the best procedure is to put all changes of plans in writing for the committee members.

A complete draft of your dissertation should be given to your advisor at least one month before it is given to the whole committee. A full version of your dissertation (complete with all references, figures and tables) must be submitted to the committee at least two weeks prior to the scheduled defense; a copy should be emailed to the department office ( as well.

A public oral defense is required for all Ph.D. degrees. Public notice must appear at least two weeks in advance of the oral examination; without sufficient notice, you will not be permitted to proceed with the defense as scheduled. To arrange for public notice, complete and submit the Rice Events online form, which will post to the Graduate Studies calendar. The Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral studies will email your Graduate Coordinator, who will forward the announcement to the Department; they will also mail a hard copy of the announcement, which will be posted in the mailroom and copy room. In certain circumstances, an oral examination for the Ph.D. may be scheduled during the summer; the procedure for posting of notice is the same as during the regular school year.

When you post your defense announcement to the Graduate Studies calendar, you should also email a copy of your dissertation to Carrie, who will print it and make it available in the Department office for the two weeks prior to your defense, as required by the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

Be sure to follow the thesis procedures described on the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website.