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Curriculum and Courses

In general, the curriculum to complete a Ph.D. is highly individualized, and in a field as diverse as design it is even more so. The basic structure introduces students to research in their first year and helps them find a topic to pursue, the second year is spent gaining expertise in the selected area of specialty and preparing for preliminary exams, and the third year is dedicated to original research and dissertation writing.

Year One

The courses Research Paradigms and Research Methods were specifically developed to introduce doctoral students to the philosophy and standard practices of scholarship in design. The program attracts many students from diverse cultural and disciplinary backgrounds, but they all build a common foundation in the program through this sequence by studying the theoretical structure of scholarship and how it is most commonly conducted in the design fields. Other first-year coursework is more specific to each student’s discipline and helps them explore the field to find an area of research they would be interested in pursuing as a dissertation topic.

Year Two

At the beginning of the second year, students give their Interest Area Presentation, organize a doctoral committee, and submit a Graduate Plan of Work. The Plan of Work is an agreement between the student, committee, and Graduate School that outlines what courses will be taken to fulfill the requirements of and award the Ph.D. degree. Other coursework in the second year develops the student’s expertise in their specialty and prepares them for Preliminary Exams.

Year Three

At the beginning of the third year, the student takes their preliminary exam and submits a dissertation proposal, usually at the same time. The remainder of this year is spent conducting original research and writing the dissertation as outlined in the proposal. Once the dissertation has been formally accepted and approved by the committee during the dissertation defense, the Ph.D. degree is conferred.

Find more details in the PhD in Design Handbook.