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Doctor of Philosophy in Gerontology

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Program Requirements

For the Ph.D., the student must complete all general degree requirements, including residence, research skills, comprehensive oral examination, preparation of a dissertation, and the final oral examination.

Each student designs his or her own curriculum with the assistance of a support committee of 3 gerontology faculty members. All students are expected to acquire multidisciplinary training in gerontology by taking courses in the sociology, psychology, and biology of aging.

Students may enter the program with an acceptable master’s degree from KU or another institution. The admissions committee reviews master’s-level preparation for doctoral-level research. An acceptable level of preparation includes basic training in statistics, program assessment, or policy analysis and completion of an empirical research study or thesis.

Students entering the program without an acceptable master’s degree must complete the M.A. in gerontology before the Ph.D.

The requirements for the M.A. in gerontology are as follows:

  • Gerontology proseminar
  • 6 hours of core courses in gerontology (selected from at least 2 of the following areas: biology of aging, psychology of aging, social gerontology)
  • 12 hours of supplemental courses in gerontology and related fields
  • 6 hours of basic statistics courses
  • 3 hours of methodology
  • 6 hours of thesis credit

For students who enter the program with master’s degrees or who complete the M.A. in gerontology, minimum requirements for the Ph.D. are as follows:

  • Gerontology proseminar
  • At least 6 hours of core courses in gerontology (selected from at least 2 of the following areas: biology of aging, psychology of aging, social gerontology)
  • At least 12 hours of additional supplemental courses in gerontology and related fields
  • 6 hours of advanced statistics courses
  • 6 additional hours of methodology
  • Completion of written and oral comprehensive examination
  • 6 hours of dissertation credit, completion of dissertation, and final oral examination

A list of courses meeting requirements in gerontology, statistics, and methodology is available from the graduate adviser.

Evaluation of Satisfactory Performance

The gerontology proseminar and core courses should be completed during the first 2 semesters. Students normally are expected to complete the M.A. degree in 2 years. The maximum time limit for completing all requirements for the M.A. degree is 3 years. Students normally are expected to complete the Ph.D. within 3 years of entering the program or of completing the M.A. The maximum time limit for completing all requirements for the doctoral degree is 8 years after admission to the doctoral program with an acceptable master’s degree or after completion of the M.A. degree in gerontology. Students who complete the M.A. degree in gerontology at KU and subsequently begin doctoral studies have a total enrolled time of 10 years to complete both degrees.

Written Preliminary Examination

Upon completion of the M.A., a major portion of the course requirements, and the research skills requirement, each student must pass a written preliminary examination. This examination covers two content areas reflecting the student’s area of concentration and integrates theoretical and methodological issues in gerontology.

Comprehensive Oral Examination

The comprehensive oral examination covers gerontology. The examination can take one of 5 forms:

  1. A defense of the written preliminary examination,
  2. A defense of a completed research project,
  3. A defense of a prospectus for a future research project, including the dissertation,
  4. A discussion of a major review paper written by the student,
  5. A review of a research grant proposal and a simulated site visit defense of the proposal.

Dissertation Preparation and Final Oral Examination

Upon passing the comprehensive oral examination, the student becomes a candidate for the doctorate. Graduate Studies designates a dissertation committee based on the recommendation of the program. The dissertation committee includes at least three members of the gerontology program faculty.

After passing the comprehensive oral examination, the candidate must be continuously enrolled until all degree requirements have been met. When the completed dissertation has been accepted by the committee, but before it has been bound, and all degree requirements have been met, the program requests the final oral examination to be scheduled, allowing a minimum of 2 weeks to verify the requirements and publicize the examination. At least 5 months must elapse between successful completion of the comprehensive oral examination and the final oral examination.

Research Skills and Responsible Scholarship Requirement

Doctoral students must demonstrate competence in a research skill “distinct from, but strongly supportive of, the dissertation.” The program advisory committee establishes requirements for research skills, including the following options:

  1. Knowledge of a language(s) relevant to research in gerontology;
  2. Knowledge of research methodology, including quantitative and/or qualitative data analysis;
  3. Knowledge of computer programming necessary for the field;
  4. A record of professional experience, publication, or presentation at professional meetings or a record of course work in a substantive area such as statistics beyond that required to satisfy the master’s or doctoral degree requirements in gerontology.

Doctoral students are required to have training in responsible scholarship. Such topics may include protection of human subjects; welfare of laboratory animals; conflicts of interest; data management; mentor/student responsibilities; collaborative research; authorship, publication, plagiarism, copyright; peer review; professional practices; maintenance of confidentiality; and appropriate research conduct and research misconduct.

Note: Contact your department or program for more information about research skills and responsible scholarship, and the current requirements for doctoral students. Current policies on Doctoral Research Skills and Responsible Scholarship are listed in the KU Policy Library.

Research Experience

All students are expected to be continuously involved in research under the supervision of the graduate adviser and support committee. Research involvement includes the design, execution, and dissemination of research on aging.

Courses

Cooperating departments and schools list courses related to aging. See the website for course listings from recent semesters.

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