Two forms help guide and document the student's plan for a doctoral degree program. A Ph.D. Program of Study Planning Document provides organizational support for the planning process. The Ph.D. Program of Studies form is the only form submitted to the UNL Office of Graduate Studies to reflect the coursework the student has completed or plans to complete for the degree. Both forms are to be filed with the Department Graduate Coordinator.

The Ph.D. Program of Study Planning Document is available for use by Ph.D. students in collaboration with their mentor and members of their Supervisory Committees. This form can be drafted by the student and his/her mentor and shared for discussion purposes with the Supervisory Committee members. This form helps the Committee and student consider department and university requirements for experiences as well as coursework that would best help the student meet his/her stated academic and professional goals.

A copy of the completed Program of Study Planning Document should be submitted to the Graduate Coordinator along with the Program of Studies form and Supervisory Committee form. The Chair of the Department Graduate Committee will review these documents in order to identify necessary edits to be made by the student and mentor before these documents can be forwarded to the Office of Graduate Studies. Submission of this paperwork should occur before the student has completed 45 credits of the minimal 90-credit hour degree plan. For full-time students, this is generally the spring or summer of their first year. Submission is to be no later than the Monday of the 15th Week in Fall or Spring semester or final exam week of a Summer session. The sections of the Program of Study Planning Document are described in the following paragraphs.

Program of Study Planning Document

Program Goals and Objectives. Each Ph.D. Program of Study Planning Document contains student-identified goals or objectives. At least one goal/objective addresses each of the following areas: primary content emphasis, secondary or related content emphasis, and research/evaluation design and statistics. Additional goals/objectives may address student-specific areas of interest such as the development of college-level teaching skills, attainment of grant-writing expertise, mastery of distance education technology and course organization, or mastery of technology-based diagnostic and evaluative procedures. For students pursuing the Ph.D. in Educational Studies, the Program of Study Planning Document should describe opportunities for the student to learn, be mentored in, and demonstrate competence for teaching in higher education settings. Members of the Supervisory Committee are responsible for assisting students in developing a program of study that prepares them adequately to meet the multiple program goals and objectives outlined in their Program of Study Planning Document.

Content Emphasis. The student’s content emphasis should address both the academic and experiential knowledge necessary for gaining professional competence in an area of specialization. Both courses completed and to-be-taken that reflect the content emphasis should be listed on the Program of Study Planning Document. Examples of content emphasis areas in Special Education include behavioral disorders, autism spectrum disorders, early childhood, learning disabilities, and literacy issues; examples of content emphasis areas in Audiology and Hearing Science include pediatric audiology, balance and vestibular functioning, and amplification; examples of content emphasis areas in Speech-Language Pathology include infant development and communication, aphasia, child language disorders, motor speech disorders, traumatic brain injury, and augmentative and alternative communication. For many students, courses from their Master's Degree provide them with much of this content emphasis knowledge.

Second or Related Content Emphasis. In-depth mastery of a primary content area typically requires a student to have a broad knowledge base in one or more related fields either within or beyond the bounds of the selected profession. For example, a Ph.D. student whose primary content emphasis is childhood disorders of language and literacy may wish to expand his/her knowledge of child development as a secondary content emphasis; alternately, another Ph.D. student with the same area of primary content emphasis may choose to obtain expertise in genetic syndromes associated with developmental disabilities as the related content emphasis. Students work with their Supervisory Committees to identify appropriate areas of related content emphasis to match their professional goals and objectives. The number and type of courses selected to ensure adequate mastery of the second or related content emphasis is at the discretion of the Supervisory Committee and should be documented on the Program of Study Planning Document.

Research Design and Statistics Requirements. All Ph.D. students must complete a minimum of 15 credit hours of coursework in research/evaluation design and statistics. This coursework should provide the student with a foundation both in introductory and advanced statistical and research methods. The selection of specific courses to satisfy this requirement is at the discretion of a student’s Supervisory Committee and should be documented on the Program of Study Planning Document.

Research Experiences and Doctoral Seminars. Ph.D. students participate in research activities every semester in which they are enrolled in the program. This includes enrollment in SPED/SLPA 894 Independent Study, SPED/SLPA 992 Doctoral Seminar, SPED/SLPA 898 Research other than Thesis and/or SPED/SLPA 999 Dissertation. This research activity can be completed in semesters both prior to and during performance of dissertation research. Ph.D. students in the SECD programs are expected to produce a minimum of two manuscript-quality documents related totheir research experiences over the course of their Ph.D. programs. Students and the supervising mentor for the research activities are encouraged to use the Scholarly Activity Agreement form to outline and document the expected activities and outcomes each term.

Grading. Completion of any of these semester-long research/scholarly activities will result in a letter grade. If, however, the student fails to complete the contracted project by the end of the semester, he/she will be assigned a grade of Incomplete in the form of either IP or XP to reflect adequate or inadequate progress, respectively. Progress is determined by the supervising mentor and guided by the Scholarly Activity Agreement. Once the proposed activities and products are completed, the supervising mentor will submit a grade change to a letter grade. Receipt of a XP will result in a letter from the Department Graduate Governance Committee warning the student of the consequences of receiving additional XP grades and resources available to help the student address the inadequate progress. Receipt of two XPs during the student's program of study may result in dismissal from the program.

The Doctoral Seminar provides Graduate Faculty with an opportunity to mentor doctoral students by working intensively with them on outcome-based projects of shared scholarly interest. All Ph.D. students complete a minimum of four semesters of three-credit Doctoral Seminars (SLPA/SPED 992) prior to candidacy. 

These seminars should be under the supervision of the Supervisory Committee Chair, Co-Chair, Committee member or a qualified Graduate Faculty member. Most Ph.D. students complete the Doctoral Seminars in consecutive semesters - including or excluding summer semesters at the Committee's and/or Advisor's discretion, if the Advisor is acting as the Ombudsman for the Committee.

The four required Doctoral Seminars for each student must be described breifly in the Program of Study Planning Document and approved by the Supervisory Committee. The description would include a statement of possible projects and expected products from each seminar. These Doctoral Seminars are not formal classes, but rather individual research mentoring experiences with Graduate Faculty members. The student and Doctoral Seminar mentor should use the Scholarly Activity Agreement form to outline and document expected activities and products each semester.

Teaching, Supervisory, and Service Experience. All Ph.D. programs in SECD must include one or more new experiences for students within the realms of teaching, supervision, or providing professional services. Experiences fulfilling this requirement may include teaching semester-long courses or providing one-time lectures, workshops, and in-services; making research presentations to students, colleagues, faculty members, and professionals in practice; providing professional consultations or clinical supervision related to an area of expertise; and/or participating in service activities contributing to higher education institutions or professional organizations.

The breadth and frequency of teaching, supervisory, and professional service experiences should be described in the Program of Study Planning Document and be individualized to each student’s needs, skills, and goals. Students should receive feedback regarding their teaching, supervisory, and service experiences from their mentors or appropriate Graduate Faculty members designated by their mentors.

International students will be required to complete UNL's Institute for International Teaching Assistants before assuming a role as instructor or co-instructor. Students with previous degrees from U.S. colleges or universities are exempt from this requirement.

Program of Studies Form

The Program of Studies form should be filed in the Office of Graduate Studies:

  1. with at least half of the program of courses remaining to be taken for the student's doctoral program (before 45 credits are completed).
  2. within the same semester as the appointment of the Supervisory Committee and submission of the Supervisory Committee form.
  3. after the Program of Study Planning Document has been shared and discussed with the Supervisory Committee.

Students can submit the Program of Studies form to the Graduate Coordinator when submitting the Program of Study Planning Document and the Supervisory Committee form.

The Program of Studies must:

  1. contain at least 90 graduate credit hours, including a minimum of 12 or a maximum of 55 credit hours of dissertation research.
  2. include any departmental language or research tool requirements and the general area of research for the dissertation.
  3. reflect a major from the list of approved doctoral programs from which at least half of the graduate work, including dissertation, will be done.

The Supervisory Committee will determine what coursework taken prior to filing of a Program of Studies, including hours earned toward a Master's Degree, will be accepted as part of the 90-hour program.

The Supervisory Committee is not obligated to reduce the doctoral Program of Studies by applying coursework completed prior to its appointment. Prior coursework should be assessed in relation to its contribution to framing a foundation for the doctorate. Each course accepted must be determined to be current and relevant in relation to the desired degree.

No graduate credit will be accepted from a previously awarded doctoral degree at any institution, including UNL.

Occasionally, a student may need to modify his/her Program of Study after it has been filed with the Dean of Graduate Studies. In such a case, the student should consult with his/her Supervisory Committee Chair about possible changes. The Supervisory Committee or Chair approves any subsequent change in the program. The Supervisory Committee Chair will email the Graduate Coordinator with information about any agreed upon changes to a student's Program of Study, and the action is then reported in writing to the Office of Graduate Studies.

The time limit on granting the doctoral degree is eight years from the time of filing the student's Program of Studies in the Office of Graduate Studies.