Doctoral Degree Requirements

The Michigan Program in Survey and Data Science (MPSDS) doctoral program consists of several important milestones: 

  1. Required Coursework and Registration
  2. Completion of Responsible Conduct of Research and Scholarship (RCRS) Training 
  3. Achieving Candidacy  
  4. Prospectus Proposal
  5. Writing and Defending Dissertation

Required Coursework

Students are required to take four semesters of PhD level seminars, fulfill a cognate requirement, complete successfully a qualifying and comprehensive examination, develop and write a doctoral dissertation, and to defend the dissertation before a doctoral committee.

Students admitted to the PhD program ordinarily would have completed a course of study equivalent to the Master's degree program. Students may be admitted to the PhD program without such a background, but they will be expected to complete the required background during their first year of PhD coursework. All students must take the qualifying examination at the end of the first year. The examination is written with no outside aids (closed book, closed note) during a one-day examination period, and will cover the contents of the Master's degree program of study.

The PhD program consists of 18 credits of survey and data science and cognate courses, including the four-semester doctoral seminar sequence typically taken in both the first and second year. Seminars are jointly taught by faculty from the social and statistical science areas. The first seminar introduces the doctoral student to areas of integration of social and statistical science approaches in the design, collection, and analysis of surveys.   The second develops and refines doctoral student skills in survey methodology, particularly toward identification of research problems, specification of hypotheses/theorems to extend current understanding of the field, and planning for original research in the field.

It is during the second year course of study students will identify a specialty area within survey methodology and elect courses in the area. At the conclusion of the second year of study, students who have successfully completed the qualifying examination must earn a passing grade on the final paper and final presentation at the end of the last term of enrollment in the Doctoral Seminar. The paper and presentation are designed to assess whether a student has sufficient knowledge and creativity to complete a dissertation.  Students successfully completing the final term in the Doctoral Seminar will be advanced to candidacy, typically at the beginning of their third year of study.

Candidates will, with the ongoing guidance of a doctoral committee, propose and conduct dissertation research that leads to an original scholarly contribution. All doctoral committees will be interdisciplinary, drawing members with backgrounds from a social and a statistical science disciplines, regardless of the students area of interest.

Responsible Conduct of Research and Scholarship (RCRS) Training

Effective for new students in the fall 2014 term, all Ph.D. students are required to complete training in the responsible conduct of research and scholarship before advancing to candidacy.  For MPSDS doctoral students, this training is offered in academic years that begin in fall of an odd numbered years as part of the doctoral seminar in which all first and second year students are required to enroll.

Achieving Candidacy 

Students applying to the PhD program in survey and data science come from a variety of backgrounds.  To help assure that all PhD students are equally prepared for candidacy, students must:

  1. Complete all course requirements in accordance with program policy,
  2. Complete four terms in the Doctoral Seminar,
  3. Earn a passing grade on the Qualifying Examination within twelve months of entering the program, and
  4. Earn a passing grade on the fnal paper and presentation at the end of the last term of the Doctoral Seminar.

The purpose of the Qualifying Examination (QE) is to test students on their mastery of survey and data science at a level equivalent to that of the successful MS students from MPSDS.  All PhD students must complete the QE within twelve months os their entry into the program.  The exam is offered the 4th Friday in May, which makes it possible for incoming students to take the exam before they formally begin the PhD program.

The Doctorl Seminar, final paper and oral presentation  are designed to assess whether a student has sufficient knowledge, creativity, and aptitude to develop and complete a dissertation. More specifically, the paper and presentation tests students’ ability to identify research questions and design a research study that helps to resolve the problem, communicate the study’s rationale and design in writing, and defend the paper in an oral exchange.  Students prepare a paper to be be presented in a meeting of the student, instructors of the Doctoral Seminar, and any faculty, students or staff who wish to attend.  The presentation will take place no later than May 1 of the student's second year in the program. Final decisions about Candidacy will be made following the student's presentation in the Doctoral Seminar at a full faculty meeting.  If approved, the student will be recommended for candidacy to Rackham Graduate School (Rackham Graduate School Candidacy Guidelines).

Detailed documents outlining the examination policies can be requested via email

Prospectus Proposal

The prospectus is a doctoral candidate’s proposal or plan for dissertation research and writing.  In unison with writing a prospectus, a student must assemble a dissertation committee following Rackham Graduate School Guidelines and work with the designated MPSDS administrative contact to submit the required committee paperwork.

A dissertation prospectus is a proposal for research that has not yet been completed.  The prospectus should contain: (1) an abstract of the specific aims of the investigation; (2) the background and significance of the proposed research, including the conceptual framework; (3) the research design and methods of procedure, including measurement techniques to be used, if applicable; (4) analysis strategies to be followed; (5) a tentative timetable.

Students are required to meet this milestone before the end of the 3rd year of their doctoral studies (end of winter term).

Detailed documents outlining the prospectus proposal policy can be requested via email

Writing and Defending Dissertation

The dissertation is a document in which a student presents his or her research and findings.  It is a comprehensive scholarly product that represents the student's own work.  The final steps for the completion of the doctoral degree entail preparing the dissertation for oral defense, conducting the oral defense and submitting the final copy of the dissertation to Rackham Graduate School.

Students are required to complete this milestone before the end of the 4th year of their doctoral studies (end of winter term).

Rackham Graduate School provides many resources related to the completion of this milestone including The Dissertation Handbook, which will provide details about the process of completing the dissertation.