GEOG PhD Handbook
The following requirements (revised January 2020) will apply to all incoming PhD students as of the Fall 2020 semester. Students in residence prior to Fall 2020 may elect to be governed by the requirements in force in the academic year in which they entered the PhD program.
The Geography Doctoral (PhD) Degree provides training for those seeking to advance their understanding of concepts and methodologies to the standards of professional geographers. Doctoral students are expected to develop the following during their course of study:
- Basic understanding of the discipline of geography, its relationship with cognate fields, and its contribution to knowledge. This entails gaining a working knowledge of general geographic literature, familiarity with the structure of the discipline and sub-disciplines, and principal philosophical approaches and concepts.
- Detailed understanding of at least one specialty within the discipline of geography. This entails gaining a thorough knowledge of the specialty’s historical development, associated literature, main theories, and empirical findings.
- Ability to conduct independent research of a professional quality. This entails gaining theoretical and practical knowledge of specific research techniques and demonstrating this knowledge in the conduct of original research.
- Ability to communicate the results of research in both oral and written forms. This entails demonstrating skills in oral presentation and the writing of formal papers during coursework, and ultimately, a dissertation.
- Familiarity with and adherence to the codes of practice established for academic study at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (UHM) including Campus Policies, Academic Policies, and the Student Code of Conduct.
While advisory services are available, responsibility for familiarization with, and adherence to, University and Departmental regulations ultimately rests with the doctoral student. For University regulations, consult the Graduate Division as needed. For Departmental regulations, consult the Graduate Chair as needed.
Attendance and participation in the Fall/Spring Public Lectures is required by all doctoral students in residence.
Each doctoral student is required to complete a minimum of three semesters of full-time work. Students must consult with their respective advisor before registering for courses each semester and maintain a Synopsis of PhD Program form. Upon completion of coursework, including any pre-program breadth requirement, a completed Synopsis of PhD Program form must be submitted to the Graduate Chair for final approval.
Incoming doctoral students will meet with the Graduate Chair to review the student’s previous record to determine whether any significant gaps exist in basic geographical knowledge in the following areas:
- Human geography
- Environmental geography
- Geospatial technologies
- Statistics or equivalent quantitative methods
If breadth fulfillment is required, this can be remedied by receiving credits in approved courses in the Department. Students receiving a B (3.0) or better in coursework at the graduate level taken to address the breadth requirement may apply this towards fulfillment of their Research Skill and Specialization requirement if approved by the student’s Advisory Committee.
Students who have fulfilled the breadth requirement can proceed and file Form I with the Graduate Division
Two core courses are designed to introduce doctoral students to the Department faculty and to the discipline of geography:
- GEOG 692, Faculty Seminar Series (1 credit)
Single credit course in which faculty present ongoing research in their fields. Pre: consent. Co-requisite: 695.
- GEOG 695, Concepts and Theories of Geography (3 credits)
Concepts, theory, models. Geographic approaches to spatial and environmental problems. Required of entering graduate students unless waived by department. Pre: consent.
The two core courses are required of all incoming doctoral students and should be taken during the first fall semester in residence, although it is recognized that this is not always possible. These courses may be waived if previously taken during a student’s MA program at UHM. Students must obtain a B (3.0) grade or better in both core courses to satisfy the requirement.
A minimum of 15 credits of graduate-level coursework in a specialization is required. Courses must be approved by the doctoral student’s Advisory Committee. Coursework taken at the MA/MS level, either at UHM or elsewhere, may be used in partial fulfillment of this requirement with approval of the Advisory Committee. Students, in consultation with their Advisor, should devise a program of courses that together constitute a coherent specialization.
These specialization credits must:
- Include a minimum of nine course credits offered by the Department of Geography and Environment; and,
- Come from courses numbered 600 and above. Up to six credits of upper division courses may be approved by petition to the Advisory Committee and the Graduate Chair.
A minimum of six credits of coursework in research methods or techniques is required. Courses must be approved by the doctoral student’s Advisory Committee and may include GEOG 696 (research design), statistics, cartography, remote sensing, GIS, quantitative or qualitative methods, field methods, experimental methods, and laboratory techniques. Additionally, competency in a foreign language may be required if a foreign language is essential to the student’s dissertation research. Competency may be demonstrated by passing the foreign language proficiency examination administered by the respective language department, or the completion of the second semester of 300-level language instruction with a grade of B (3.0) or better.
The dissertation must demonstrate the student’s ability to formulate a research problem, to assemble and analyze relevant data, to draw appropriate conclusions, and to express findings clearly and concisely. It should be of publishable quality as judged by the Advisory Committee. Students should consult the Graduate Division regarding the document formatting and submission requirements. Students should consult the Graduate Chair regarding document submission to the Department. Consult past dissertations for guides to length and style.
Inclusion of previously published materials is allowed to the extent stipulated by the Graduate Division. The following conditions must be met:
- The publication must be logically integrated into the manuscript in a coherent manner. Binding reprints of the publication to the manuscript is unacceptable.
- The manuscript must contain an introduction and conclusion that clearly integrates the publication into the general theme of the manuscript.
- The abstract for the manuscript must be “comprehensive” in the sense that it covers the manuscript as well as any publication to be included.
In general, the student should be the sole or primary author of any published material to be included. Co-authored material may be included only if the student has made a primary contribution, in terms of both research and writing, and that the nature of the contribution is clearly defined and indicated in the introduction of the dissertation. Written permission shall be obtained from all copyright owners of the co-authored material and attached to the publication agreement of the dissertation as applicable
All incoming doctoral students will be assigned an Interim Advisor based on information provided at the time of admission. It is recognized that this information may not always be an accurate reflection of the student’s interest, which can change during the first few semesters. The function of the Interim Advisor is to direct and guide the student’s program of courses and research until a Permanent Advisor and Advisory Committee is appointed, which typically occurs by the end of the third semester. In many cases the Interim Advisor will become the Permanent Advisor, but students should always try to identify faculty with interests that most closely relate to their intended research.
The Permanent Advisor will serve as the Chair of the doctoral student’s Advisory Committee.
Forming the Advisory Committee
The student, in consultation with the Advisor, should submit the Proposed Dissertation Committee form to the Graduate Chair. In addition to the requirements stipulated by the Graduate Division, the committee membership must have the following components:
- At least five members
- All members must hold a PhD or another terminal graduate degree
- A minimum of two members must be regular graduate faculty (i.e., not cooperating or affiliate) in the Department of Geography and Environment
- A minimum of three members must be graduate faculty (regular, cooperating, or affiliate) in the Department of Geography and Environment
- One external committee member (the University Representative) must be University of Hawai‘i graduate faculty without affiliation to the Department of Geography and Environment. See Graduate Division website for specific rules regarding the University Representative.
- One chair, who is a regular graduate faculty member (i.e., not cooperating or affiliate) in the Department of Geography and Environment. The Chair will work most closely with the student on research proposal development and completion of the research. The Chair is responsible for scheduling all formal Advisory Committee meetings, and communicating decisions for the Advisory Committee to the student, Department faculty, and Graduate Chair.
The Advisory Committee should be selected as early as possible, ideally by the end of the third semester. It is possible to change the composition of an Advisory Committee if necessary (e.g., if a committee member resigns or is unavailable) but any changes must be approved by the Graduate Chair.
The Advisory Committee and doctoral student will meet to review progress, typically when the student and Permanent Advisor decide that the student has completed the coursework requirement and is ready to begin dissertation research. At this point the Advisory Committee will review the Synopsis of PhD Program form, conduct the comprehensive exams and discuss the dissertation proposal.
Written and Oral Comprehensive Exams are required by the graduate program. Comprehensive exams assess whether the doctoral student has attained an adequate level of geographical knowledge to continue with dissertation research, and are taken after the student has completed their coursework requirements. The exams consist of questions directly related to the student’s specialization, but may also test a general understanding of the history of geographic thought, the nature of critical inquiry, and research methodologies appropriate to the student’s field.
Each doctoral student will begin the comprehensive exams with the development of a bibliography in consultation with each Advisory Committee member. This bibliography constitutes the core knowledge upon which the written and oral examination will be based.
- Written Exam
The Advisory Committee will determine the format and content of the written exam. Each Advisory Committee member may ask a question or a series of questions. The written exam will be carried out on five consecutive workdays. Each day, the student will answer question(s) from one committee member within four hours. The written exam can be open book or closed book, at each committee member’s discretion.
- Oral Exam
The oral exam will take up to three hours. The Advisory Committee will determine the format and content of the exam. The student will be asked to clarify and elaborate on written exam answers, and may also be asked other questions on their specialization, or general questions on philosophy or methodologies in the discipline of geography.
A student passes the comprehensive exams when a majority of the Advisory Committee that includes the Committee Chair votes in favor of a positive assessment. A student who fails the comprehensive exams can repeat once. A student who fails to pass the comprehensive exams for the second time will be dropped from the program.
Approval of Dissertation Proposal
Upon passing the comprehensive exams, the doctoral student prepares a formal dissertation proposal for review by the Advisory Committee. Students are required to orally present their proposal before the Department.
The Advisory Committee must approve the proposal, and this can require multiple revisions. Once approved there should be regular consultation between the Advisory Committee and student concerning progress in the dissertation research. Students should maintain consistent communication and inform the Advisory Committee of any significant deviations from their approved proposal.
The student must pass the comprehensive exams and have the proposal approved by the Advisory Committee in order to file Form II with the Graduate Division and advance to candidacy. Changes to the Advisory Committee after the filing of Form II must be approved by the Graduate Chair in consultation with all the current and proposed committee members on the Petition to Revise the Doctoral Committee.
In the spring semester, the progress of all doctoral students will be reviewed, except those students who are on approved leaves of absence or those that have had a recent degree check completed by the Graduate Chair. The review requires students to consult with their Advisor who will then report to the Graduate Chair. The report will consist of an up to date Synopsis of PhD Program form together with a brief statement by the Primary Advisor. This review process insures that students are progressing satisfactorily and is a useful tool for recognizing and solving problems. The Graduate Chair may require further action in problematic cases and refer to the Graduate Program Committee, which can recommend that the Graduate Chair submits a request for Graduate Division to place the student on probation if the student’s performance is deficient. If the student subsequently fails to meet the conditions of probation, the Graduate Chair can request the Graduate Division to dismiss the student from the program.
Exceptional Masters Students who wish to change their degree objective to PhD can petition to the Graduate Program Committee and submit an application for admission to the PhD program. To qualify, the student must have been the primary author in at least one publication in peer-reviewed journals that is approved by the Advisory Committee and the Graduate Chair. The supporting materials for such applications must include a letter of support from the current academic advisor and a writing sample.
It is in the interest of all parties to have doctoral programs completed in timely fashion to make the most efficient use of University, Department, faculty and student resources. The doctoral program should take between 48-60 months (4-5 years) to complete including coursework, fieldwork, and the writing of the dissertation. In practice, time taken will vary according to the prior experience of the student and the nature of the dissertation research project. Candidates who fail to complete all requirements after seven years are subject to being placed on probation. If the student subsequently fails to meet the conditions of probation, the Graduate Chair can request the Graduate Division to dismiss the student from the program.
Students pursuing a doctoral degree who are not on an approved leave of absence must maintain continuous registration during the academic year. Students failing to meet this requirement are considered to have voluntarily withdrawn from the program and must petition for re-admission should they wish to return. International students must be registered as full-time students during their doctoral degree program. This typically requires registration in at least 8 credits of coursework, or registration in GEOG 800.
- Preliminary Conference [First semester]
Doctoral students meet with their Interim Advisor and Graduate Chair upon entrance into the program to discuss a broad outline of the program and suggest courses.
- Appointment of Permanent Advisor [Second semester]
The Permanent Advisor, who may have been the initial Interim Advisor, should be selected by the second or third semester of residence.
- Satisfy Pre-Candidacy Requirements [First-Third semester]
Students should complete pre-program breadth and file Form I as early as the first semester, and no later than the third semester.
- Appointment of the Advisory Committee [Third semester]
The doctoral student, in consultation with their Permanent Advisor, should select an Advisory Committee.
- Comprehensive Exams [Third/Fourth Semester]
The written and oral exams are scheduled as soon as the doctoral student has completed the course requirement. Students who fail the comprehensive examinations may repeat it once. A student who fails the second round of examinations is dropped from both the graduate program and by the Graduate Division.
- Approval of Dissertation Topic [Fourth Semester]
Upon passing the comprehensive exams, the doctoral student prepares a formal dissertation proposal for review by the Advisory Committee. Students are required to orally present their proposal before the Department. Form II is filed after the approval by the Advisory Committee.
- The Dissertation [Fifth to Eighth semesters]
The dissertation is the capstone of the PhD degree and is a demonstration of the student’s ability to make a significant independent contribution to knowledge. Students register for 1 credit of GEOG 800 (Dissertation Research) while collecting data and writing the dissertation. Enrollment in 1 credit of GEOG 800 is required in each term until graduation.
- The Defense [Eighth semester]
The formal defense may be held after the Advisory Committee has read a draft of the dissertation and given preliminary approval. The event must be publicly advertised according to Graduate Division guidelines and approved by the Graduate Chair. Departmental faculty and graduate students must receive an invitation that is distinct from any other public notice. At the conclusion of the defense, Advisory Committee members will indicate approval or disapproval of the student's ability to defend the dissertation on Form III. A simple majority of approval, inclusive of the Committee Chair and the University Representative, is required in order to file Form III.
- Final Approval and Dissertation Submission [Eighth semester]
After all required revisions to the dissertation have been completed, Advisory Committee members sign Form IV to indicate approval of the content and the form of the finalized manuscript. A simple majority of approval, inclusive of the Committee Chair and the University Representative, is required in order to file Form IV.