Doctor of Philosophy

The following items are required for admission to the Ph.D. program, in addition to those listed above that are shared with the M.A. program:

  • Applicants’ statements of purpose must specifically address the area of intended Ph.D. dissertation study and indicate how the proposed program of study resonates with the expertise of the department faculty and resources available in the Department of Religion. In some cases, it may be helpful to also identify any additional appropriate Temple graduate faculty members outside of the Department of Religion whose expertise is relevant to the proposed project.
  • The applicant must obtain the prior agreement of at least one member of the Graduate Faculty of the Department of Religion at Temple to supervise the applicant’s proposed project. This can be obtained by electronic correspondence if a face-to-face visit cannot be arranged. The applicant should submit proof of the faculty member’s willingness to work with the applicant along with the application. After admission, it is possible for the student to change her or his project and advisor, provided that another departmental professor can be found to work with the student. The Department of Religion is not required to provide another advisor in the student’s area if the student does not wish further to work with the original advisor. Rather, in such a case, the burden is entirely on the student to gain the voluntary agreement of another professor to serve as advisor.
  • It should be noted that the number of admissions per year to the Ph.D. program is limited and admissions are competitive. Therefore, the general requirements listed above represent the minimum threshold of potential admissibility and do not actually guarantee acceptance of a candidate into the program. The actual admission requirements in a given year may thus be more stringent than the threshold described above. This includes in specific the numerical criteria, such as the threshold of GRE scores and undergraduate and graduate GPAs, which may be higher for Ph.D. applicants than the university-wide minima.

Course Requirements of the Doctoral Program:

Students will be expected to complete sixty (60) semester hours of graduate studies, generally including the following types of courses:

  • Foundation Courses – 15
  • Advanced or Specialized Courses – 33
  • Courses outside Religion Studies – 6
  • Dissertation Research (after Preliminary Exams) – 6

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Units of Academic Work

The Ph.D. program is divided into three sequential units of studies:

  • Unit I: The first 24 s.h. of courses, including all the required Foundation courses, and satisfying a first foreign language requirement. These courses are intended to provide a firm and broad academic base across the field of religious studies. The Foundation courses must include 12 s.h. of courses in the basic thought, practices, and history of three particular religious traditions and 3 s.h. in an introductory methodology course. The remaining 9 s.h. consist of Advanced or Specialized courses chosen by the student for the benefit of his or her program after consultation with the advisor.
  • Unit II: The remaining courses and second language competency to complete the required specialization in preparation for the preliminary examinations and the dissertation proposal. These include 24 s.h. of further Advanced or Specialized courses and 6 s.h. of courses taken outside of the department, for a total of 30 s.h.
  • Unit III: The writing and defending of the dissertation. The student registers for 6 s.h. of dissertation research, usually one s.h. per semester.


Upon entry into the Program, each student is assigned an official faculty advisor by the Graduate Studies Committee. The student and advisor are required to meet at least twice per semester to discuss the student’s course selection, progress in the Program, thesis or dissertation projects, and the like. This assignment may be changed if both the student and the advisor deem such a change to be beneficial to the student’s program of study. After Unit I review, each student’s advisor is to prepare an annual written evaluation of the student’s program, which is to be added to the student’s academic file, as required by the Graduate School. Students and their advisor commonly discuss program proposals at pre-registration or registration, and both parties are encouraged to engage in enduring conversation. The Director of Graduate Studies is always available for counsel and discussion and to review a student’s program file.

Academic Standards

Passing-level graduate work is reported with the grade B or B+; superior graduate work is reported with the grade of A or A-. Superior graduate performance is the standard for continued success in the Religion Graduate Program. A student may not continue into Unit II with three or more grades of B, B+, or below in the required foundations courses.

Transfer of Previous Graduate Study Credits

When the student arrives at Temple to begin her or his studies, she or he should make an appointment with the Director of Graduate Studies to evaluate any graduate credits from previous study elsewhere that the student may wish to transfer. Such credits may include up to 24 s.h. of work (eight courses), must be not more than five years old at the time of the student’s matriculation, and must show a grade of B or higher. These should also be in relevant subjects that contribute directly to the student’s program of graduate study at Temple. These transfer credits are counted in Unit II, so that the student must complete 24 s.h. of work at Temple for Unit I. However, appropriate Foundations course equivalents from elsewhere may fulfill the Foundations requirements, in lieu of which the student may take electives. Any course must show a grade of A- or equivalent to be accepted as a Foundations course equivalent. . Generally, professional courses in ministry are not appropriate for transfer credit, nor are courses taken for the purpose of learning foreign languages. Transferable courses do not need to correspond exactly to Temple Religion Department offerings but must be academically sound and of demonstrable curricular relevance.

Documentation accompanying a petition for transfer of credits should include official transcripts, published course descriptions, syllabi, or, when appropriate, instructors’ attestations. Recommendations for transfer courses may come from the student’s primary advisor and must be approved by the Graduate Director and ratified by the Graduate Studies Committee. According to the Graduate School Policies and Procedures (, such transfers of credit must also be approved by the Dean of the College and the Graduate Council.

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Language Study

Students are strongly encouraged to begin their necessary language study before commencing their graduate programs and, if possible, to have prepared to satisfy at least their first language requirement before matriculation. Until language requirements are completed, a student should be enrolled in continuous language study approved by the Graduate Director. Introductory language-study courses do not count as graduate credit, nor may they be transferred in for credit. Advanced language courses also do not usually count as graduate credit, though exceptions may be made by the Graduate Director after considering the course content.

Language Requirements and Examinations

All students are required to pass an examination in at least reading competence in two languages other than English during their doctoral program in Religion at Temple. These languages must be relevant to the student’s program of study. If no other languages can be shown to be relevant, the default languages are French and German, both of which are always acceptable. The languages offered by a foreign student may include that student’s native language if that language is deemed relevant to the student’s graduate work by the Director of Graduate Studies and the Graduate Studies Committee at the Unit I and Unit II reviews. Additional languages may also be required at the discretion of the student’s primary advisor. Each student should propose a program of language study to the Director of Graduate Studies upon admission. This program may be revised subsequently as necessary.

Competence in at least one language other than English must be shown by examination prior to Unit I review. Language courses are not acceptable in lieu of a formal examination by which at least reading competence is established. These exams will be those given by the Temple language departments for all those languages having a specific department or professor, including Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Italian, Russian, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Chinese, and Japanese. A language other than these may be tested in the department if a faculty member with full competence in the language is available to oversee it; otherwise, the examination may be given in the Temple University Department of Critical Languages, if available, or outside of the university by a qualified entity. Each student must pass a competency examination in a second, different language than the first at Unit II review in order to pass into Unit III. Language study does not contribute to the credit hours required for graduate programs of study, or to the requirement of courses outside the Department of Religion. All requisite language competencies must be satisfied before the preliminary examinations for the doctorate are taken. Students are allowed three attempts to pass a language examination.

Guidelines for the Use of Foreign Language Publications in Graduate Research Papers

A graduate research project should take into account the current state of research, including relevant research that exists in languages other than English. Accordingly, persons who have shown competence in a foreign language, or who are currently studying that language, should view their research projects as opportunities for practical applications of their developing skills. Where evidence from non-English sources is cited, the original text of the citation should appear in a footnote, followed by the student’s own translation. Students who have not completed all their necessary language study should at least locate and include appropriate titles of foreign language publications in bibliographies and attempt to read them effectively in due course.

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Leave of Absence

Students are to be continuously registered each semester unless on an approved leave of absence. This includes the semester in which the degree is awarded. The names of persons not registered (excepting those on approved leaves of absence during the period in question) for three consecutive semesters will be removed from the roster of students in the department.

A leave of absence is intended to recognize a situation in which a student, for sufficient reason, temporarily can make no progress in her or his graduate program. During such a leave, the student has no access to university facilities and should not expect to have regular contacts with advisors or committee members. A leave, however, does not extend the overall time limitation on degree programs. Leaves of absence are granted, on successful petition to the Graduate Studies Committee, for periods of one semester or one academic year. A leave for a second year must be accompanied by a petition, supported by the advisor, that includes a statement of, and a plan for, progress in the program. After two consecutive years of an approved leave of absence, one must resume the program. A leave-of-absence form is available in the Graduate Religion Office.

If a student has been admitted to the program but has to delay commencing her or his studies, a request to roll over their admission to a subsequent term should be filed to avoid having to reapply. The Graduate School assesses a records-maintenance fee while students are on leaves of absence.

Time Limitations and Extensions

The University has set limitations on degree programs of three years for the M.A. degree and seven years for the Ph.D. degree. An extension of up to three years beyond the limitation is granted in one-year increments only on successful petition to the Graduate Board of the University, to be made through the department’s Graduate Studies Committee. The student must have passed her or his doctoral examinations to be eligible for an extension of time for the Ph.D. program. The student must present sufficient evidence that progress on the program has been substantial and that the program may reasonably be expected to be completed within the period of the extension according to a written, detailed time schedule. Usually, this means that the student must be in Unit III and must show that actual written work on the dissertation has been completed. Forms for submitting requests for extension of time, along with other Graduate School forms can be found on the Graduate School website.

Incomplete Grades

No incomplete grades can be assigned unless the student signs an agreement with the professor specifying the work that remains to be done and a deadline for its completion, which in no case is to exceed one year beyond the date of the agreement. The professor also must assign a default grade, which is the grade the student will receive if the work is not done within the time set. No graduate student in Religion may continue to register for courses with two or more incomplete grades on her or his record. For more on policies on incomplete grades, students should check the Graduate School website. under Section 02.24.12; see also the university-wide policy mandated by the President.

Auditing Courses

Students may formally register to audit courses provided that they pay the regular tuition fees. Students may enroll for audits with varying degrees of involvement in a seminar. A memorandum describing the student’s participation may be signed by the instructor and entered into the student’s file. No credit is given for audited courses.

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Unit I Review

When a student has completed the first twenty-four (24) s.h. of graduate course work (Unit I) and has completed a first language requirement, her or his program will be reviewed by the Graduate Studies Committee. Students should petition the Graduate Studies Committee with the following information: a statement that they have completed 24 s.h. of graduate studies with the necessary diversity in Foundation courses, examination evidence that a first language requirement has been completed, a declaration of a specialization area, and the signature of a faculty member who has agreed to be the student’s primary doctoral advisor. Those meeting the standards of graduate performance will be approved to continue with their programs of study and to register for further courses.

Unit I review is intended to be a rigorous measuring of a student’s scholarly performance and potential for success. Unless a student has shown a record of distinguished graduate performance, she or he should not be advanced to studies preparing for the preliminary doctoral examinations (Unit II). The decision of the Graduate Studies Committee is not a mathematical computation of the accumulated grades and recommendations but rather a comprehensive judgment based on all the available data. Toward amassing such data, all instructors of Unit I students are required to submit an Evaluation Report upon completion of the student’s work for each of their courses. These reports are placed in the student’s file and thus are not confidential but may be read by the student. Students should review the contents of these evaluations and make sure that a complete complement of Unit I Evaluation Reports is in their file folders. Students are likewise responsible for seeing that all seminar reports, teaching evaluations, current transcripts, and other relevant data are included in their files.

Students should prepare a petition for Unit I Review that describes how they have completed the following requirements:

  • Twenty-four credit hours, including:
  • Fifteen hours of Foundation courses;
  • Nine hours of Advanced or Specialization courses;
  • A successful first language examination;
  • A statement of the chosen general field of specialization with the signature of a faculty member who has agreed to become the program advisor.

Interpretation of the Data Available for Unit I Review

Evaluation Reports for Unit I provide a detailed evaluation of each student at the conclusion of each seminar. Each report on a student in a seminar contains one of the following recommendations from the instructor:

  • Certain Ph.D.: i.e., there is unambiguous evidence in favor of continued graduate work.
  • Potential Ph.D.: i.e., there is evidence that sufficient potential exists if other data prove positive.
  • Marginal Ph.D.: i.e., the potential for success is insufficient to warrant advancing the student to Ph.D. standing unless other positive data are forthcoming.
  • Terminal M.A.: i.e., the student’s work is acceptable for the M.A. but does not have sufficient potential for the Ph.D.
  • Below M.A.: i.e., the student is not doing acceptable graduate work.

Connotation of Transcript Grades

A, A- Levels of superior graduate performance

B+, B, B- Levels of satisfactory graduate performance

C+, C Levels of unacceptable graduate performance

Decision Alternatives for the Graduate Studies Committee

Admit to Ph.D. degree standing: This is the choice if a student has done sufficiently distinguished work in Unit I to give substantial assurance for success in completing a doctoral program of courses, in passing examinations, and in writing a creditable dissertation.

Admit to the M.A. degree: Students who have done acceptable work but not of a quality to augur success in the remaining Ph.D. program may take the M.A. degree if they satisfy the M.A. requirements above. The M.A. degree will end the student’s academic career in the department.

Termination of Program: This is without the M.A. degree if a student has not done acceptable graduate level work.

Students may acquire the M.A. degree while in the doctoral program when they have completed these requirements:

  • Thirty semester hours of study (10 courses), including: four Foundation seminars, distributed across the field of religion;
  • No language study is required, except that demanded by special subjects of concentration as determined by the student’s advisor;
  • Students must have at least a 3.0 grade point average at graduation.

At the beginning of the term in which a student expects to complete the requirements for the M.A. degree, they should file an “Intent to Graduate” form available at the Graduate School. See the University Calendar for deadlines.

Graduate Student Grievance Procedure

Please click here to view the Graduate Student Grievance Procedure (pdf.)

These procedures have been developed for students who wish to appeal an academic matter, including final course grades, comprehensive or preliminary exam results, or dismissals. Appeals beyond the department may go to the Vice Dean for Graduate Affairs and the CLA Graduate Committee and then to the Graduate School level.

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Unit II: Preparation for Doctoral Examinations

Following a successful Unit I review, students advance to Unit II, where they prepare for their preliminary doctoral examinations and develop their dissertation proposals. Furthermore, students in Unit II establish working arrangements with their primary advisors and form a Doctoral Advisory Committee designed to cover several major areas of study. The committee and the student together develop a detailed program of study in the student’s projected areas of specialization to prepare for each examination. All remaining language competencies should be completed and demonstrated by examination. Students should use draft copies of the proposal as discussion documents in consultations with their Doctoral Advisory Committee.

The program of study at this level should include the remaining courses to fulfill the fifty-four credits required prior to Unit III. These courses may include, besides courses in the department:

  • Relevant courses taken at Temple University outside of the Department of Religion;
  • Relevant courses taken under our Graduate Student Reciprocity Agreements with the University of Pennsylvania Department of Religious Studies, the Lutheran Theological Seminary, or the Westminster Theological Seminary;
  • Graduate religion study courses taken at other institutions;
  • The requirement for two or more courses taken outside the discipline of religion study;
  • Independent tutorials, known as Individual Study, which cannot, however, exceed half of the Unit II courses in number; that is, four courses, or twelve s.h. of credit.

Students should remember that the accumulation of a certain number of graduate credits does not in itself entitle them to be admitted to the preliminary doctoral examinations. This decision is based on the judgment of the Doctoral Advisory Committee that the student is fully prepared to be examined and to write a dissertation.

Courses Outside the Study of Religion

During Unit II, two courses are to be taken outside the field of religious studies; this means outside Temple’s Department of Religion, outside other institutions’ religious studies departments, and outside theological seminaries. These courses may be taken any time after Unit I review. Certain courses in philosophy, anthropology, classics, psychology, sociology, and history, for example, may satisfy this requirement. As the intent is to give students exposure to different methodological perspectives, courses taught by our religion faculty, even if offered in another department or program, do not satisfy this requirement, nor do introductory language courses.

Individual Tutorials

Tutorials or individual studies are intended to provide opportunities for individualized and intensive research in specific areas. They are normally available only to students in Unit II, as a broad-based classroom experience is part of the structure of Unit I. Tutorials should be within the student’s area of specialization and be selected with care because of the extraordinary demand they place on the instructor’s time.

Tutorials, in the first instance, should be conceived of as special projects within the structure of scheduled seminars, so that the student should preferably register for the scheduled seminars whenever possible. Because of the benefits to the student and to the seminar from interaction with the project, the student and the instructor should agree on an appropriate schedule of participation in the seminar beside private consultations. Depending upon circumstances, this may range from substantial involvement in the seminar to solely a final presentation of the project to the seminar for reaction and response. A proposal to the Graduate Studies Committee will not be necessary when a tutorial is thus in the context of a seminar, but the student must register for the seminar.

If, in unusual circumstances, the tutorial subject makes it inappropriate for the student to be a participant in the instructor’s seminar, the student should register in Rel. 9994, “Preliminary Exam Preparation” (1 to 6 s.h.), REL 9998, “Pre-dissertation Research” (1 to 6 s.h.); REL 9182, “Individual Study” (1 s.h.); or REL 9282 or REL 9382, “Individual Study” (3 s.h. each). The student’s project proposal must be approved by the instructor prior to registration and then by the Graduate Studies Committee either before the beginning of the term or during its first month.

Special tutorials may be arranged during the summer semesters, depending upon the availability of faculty members. Such a proposal should be submitted to the Graduate Studies Committee before the end of the spring term.

When a proposal for a tutorial is to be made to the Graduate Studies Committee, it should contain: (1) a statement of the problem or special subject of study, (2) the methodology involved, (3) a list of the bibliographic and other resources available, and (4) the format of the expected results. The proposal must have the signature of the instructor.

Individual tutorials may also be used for courses taken at the three other Philadelphia institutions under our reciprocity agreement (see above). Students should secure a letter of introduction and academic standing from the Graduate Religion Office before presenting themselves to the other institution.

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Composition of Doctoral Advisory and Examination Committees

Completing an acceptable number of courses in religion does not guarantee that the department will approve a particular dissertation topic, provide a dissertation director, or draft other departmental faculty members for committee service. If a student fails to satisfy any professor that she or he has envisioned a workable program of study, or a viable dissertation topic, or, having convinced one, fails to enlist two other faculty members, the student may, by that fact, have come to the end of her or his graduate program.

The Doctoral Advisory Committee is appointed by the Graduate Studies Committee, upon nomination by the student and the primary advisor. The Committee is composed of at least three Graduate Faculty members from Temple University, two of whom, including the chair or primary advisor, must be from the Department of Religion (see Graduate School Policies and Procedures, The Doctoral Advisory Committee may include emeritus, full-time non-tenure-track, adjunct, or affiliated faculty members of the Religion Department or other Temple University departments, or faculty from other universities, all provided that they have Ph.D.s and subject to approval by the Dean of the Graduate School. Generally, such faculty members must have qualifications equivalent to the Graduate Faculty of Temple University. Full-time non-tenure-track faculty are usually not approved to serve on graduate student committees unless they have substantial records of scholarly publication and participation. The nomination petition should include a current curriculum vitae for each of proposed members who are not Graduate Faculty of Temple University. Doctorally-prepared expert advisors from outside university settings may also be asked to serve on Doctoral Advisory Committees, subject to the same approval process. To sustain a pass in either the preliminary doctoral examinations or the final dissertation defense, the Committee must have at least two affirmative votes from current Religion Department faculty. The Dissertation Examining Committee will also include an External Examiner who serves as final advisor to the Committee (see below).

Tentative arrangements for the participation of persons outside the department are to be negotiated by the primary advisor, and financial arrangements are to be discussed with and approved by the chair of the department. Formal invitations to committee members outside the department are to be offered by the chair of the department upon the recommendation of the Graduate Studies Committee. In general, students are strongly urged to draw all their faculty committee members from Temple. Exceptions are normally made only when specific linguistic or other expertise unavailable at Temple is required, in which case an outside faculty member from an institution between New York City and Washington, DC may be sought. Only one member of a committee may be from outside of Temple.

Changes in the composition of the Doctoral Advisory Committee are made only by the Graduate Studies Committee. A member of a Doctoral Advisory Committee, once appointed by the Graduate Studies Committee, cannot be removed except by her or his own resignation or by a decision of the Graduate Studies Committee.

Each Doctoral Advisory Committee will meet at least once a year to review the candidate’s progress and to make suggestions concerning future research. A written record of this meeting, including the findings of the committee and the suggestions made, must be placed in the student’s file and a copy given to the student.

The status of a member from outside the department will be determined in each case. They may participate as:

  • A fully involved member of the Doctoral Advisory Committee, participating in the writing and reading of examinations and in giving direction to the dissertation;
  • a participant in the examinations but not in the dissertation, or in the dissertation but not the examinations;
  • or, as a special consultant, who need not evaluate the completed dissertation or attend the final examination.

Note that the primary advisor can only be a member of the Graduate Faculty in the Department of Religion, and not someone else.

Preparation for the Preliminary Doctoral Examinations

The preliminary doctoral examinations should raise two questions:

  • Does the student display sufficient competence in her or his chosen subjects of specialization to merit advancing to candidacy and to begin the research and writing of a dissertation?
  • Is the proposed topic of investigation sufficiently viable to be expected to ultimately take the form of an acceptable and defensible dissertation?

The criterion for admission to the preliminary doctoral examination is not the calculation of the required 54 credits (six credits remain to be taken during Unit III), but a determination by the Graduate Studies Committee of the adequacy of the student’s preparation to be examined and to write a viable dissertation.

The preliminary doctoral examinations consist of two parts, the area examinations and the dissertation proposal, each of which has two segments, written and oral.

It is the responsibility of the primary advisor, the chair of the Doctoral Advisory Committee, to see that the student receives regular and continuing guidance in her or his research, including timely responses from all committee members to work submitted to them by the student. It is also the responsibility of the chair to coordinate the responses of committee members, so that the candidate does not receive fundamentally-conflicting advice. In addition, each Doctoral Advisory Committee must meet at least once a year with the student to review the candidate’s progress and to make suggestions concerning future research. Candidates who are not making reasonable academic progress should be so informed and should be told what they must do to avoid being dismissed for failure to make such progress. A written record of this meeting, including the finding of the committee and the suggestions made, must be place in the student’s file. A copy must also be given to the student. The Graduate Studies Committee will meet once each year after the advisory committees have met to consider reports from those committees and to discuss issues that arise from these reports. The Graduate Studies Committee has the authority to dismiss any student found not to be making satisfactory progress from the program.

Petition for the Doctoral Examination

In consultation with the advisor and with the Doctoral Advisory Committee, the student will prepare a petition to the Graduate Studies Committee for the preliminary doctoral examinations. The committee usually meets on the second Wednesday of each month during the academic year. For a petition to be considered at the monthly meeting, the student must submit a completed petition with the signatures of all members of the student’s doctoral advisory committee to the Religion Coordinator by the first day of the month. The Graduate Studies Committee will not consider any petitions submitted after the first of the month until the following month. For a petition to be considered at the first meeting of the academic year it must be submitted to the Religion Coordinator by September 1st. For a petition to be considered at the last meeting of the academic year it must be submitted to the Religion Coordinator by April 1st. The Graduate Studies Committee will not consider any petitions before the first meeting of the fall semester or after the last meeting of the spring semester. The petition will contain the following items:

  • The nomination of a Doctoral Advisory Committee;
  • A completed copy of the university form used to collect the signatures of the Doctoral Advisory Committee, which will serve as certification that the student is ready to sit for the Doctoral Examinations;
  • A description of the areas proposed for the preliminary doctoral examinations, including a list of courses taken in preparation for each area of examination;
  • The dissertation proposal (see below for details).

When the petition for preliminary doctoral examinations has been approved by the Graduate Studies Committee, copies of the petition, including the dissertation proposal, shall be added to the student’s file, and a copy of the proposal shall be sent to the Graduate School.

Areas of Examination

The subject areas of examination may vary from four to six and are defined as:

  • Major and minor subjects in which the student intends to claim competence;
  • Areas that comprise a coherent and workable group in religious studies and related fields in relation to each other and to the field of the dissertation topic;
  • Subjects in which the members of the Doctoral Advisory Committee themselves claim research and teaching expertise;
  • Subjects that, taken together, present the student appropriately for employment.

The subjects of examination should be conceived of broadly. They should also in some way reflect the cross-disciplinary and cross-tradition considerations for which the Department of Religion is renowned and at least one of the Department’s three areas of thematic concentration, namely Historical Texts and TraditionsReligion and Society; andCritical Investigation of Religion and Human Differences. No more than one examination area should be tailored to the student’s dissertation proposal. The examinations should serve as a measure of broad competency and knowledge in multiple subfields in the academic study of religion. If one professor has two exam areas, that professor must be the primary advisor. Preparation for each examination area should include at least one relevant course or individual study tutorials with the respective examining professor, as well as an appropriate bibliography agreed upon with the professor of books and other materials to be studied by the student in preparation for the exam. Documentation must be provided for each subject of specialization based on this program of study. While the subject area of an exam is thus defined in advance, the professor should not agree on any specific questions to be asked in the exam, as that would reduce the breadth of the area covered, and breadth is what is sought in these exams.

In the proposal to the Graduate Studies Committee, the names of the members of the Doctoral Advisory Committee submitted shall include an explanation of the appropriateness of each to the proposed subjects of examination. The Graduate Studies Committee, in approving the student for the preliminary doctoral examinations, should carefully scrutinize each of the exam areas and the student’s preparation for them.

The Dissertation Proposal

The dissertation proposal, which is part of the petition for the doctoral examinations, is expected to show the student’s knowledge of and ability to conduct the proposed research. An approved proposal, signed by the Doctoral Advisory Committee, is a contract between the student and the Committee, provided that the proposed research is completed in a timely manner ensuring the continuing relevance of the research topic.

The dissertation proposal must have the approval of the Doctoral Advisory Committee and be submitted according to the following scheme:

  • Dissertation title, student’s name, signatures of the Doctoral Advisory Committee (indicating they approve of the viability of the topic), and dates of the doctoral examination;
  • An abstract of the thesis of the proposed dissertation;
  • A clear statement of the problem with which the dissertation proposes to deal;
  • An explanation of the general significance of the problem;
  • A summary of what research has already been done in this area and an explanation of the respects in which this approach to the problem will be different from those of others;
  • An indication of how the student proposes to go about solving the problem and the reasons for thinking that this solution would constitute a contribution to knowledge;
  • A bibliographic review of the available sources that will be consulted.

The preliminary examination petition, including the subjects of examination and the dissertation proposal, with nominations of a Doctoral Advisory Committee, must be submitted to the Graduate Studies Committee with the appropriate university form in time for the Graduate Studies Committee to act upon it prior at a regularly-scheduled meeting. It is the responsibility of the student to assure that the necessary documents and procedures have been executed properly and in a timely manner.

A cover sheet should contain the following: the student’s name; the dates of the written examinations; the date, and time, and place of the oral parts of the examination; the names of the members of the Doctoral Advisory Committee; the subjects of examination; and a brief abstract of the dissertation proposal. Copies of this sheet should be distributed by the student to the entire department faculty as the formal announcement of the examination.

Once the proposal has been approved, and provided the proposal remains current, the Doctoral Advisory Committee may not unilaterally require significant theoretical or methodological changes in the substantive direction of the project. The Committee and the student may, however, jointly agree on such changes. Changes in the membership of the Doctoral Advisory Committee after the acceptance of the proposal do not require re-approval of the proposal itself. A candidate whose dissertation fulfills the commitments made in the proposal and any modifications made to it as specified above is entitled to an oral defense of that dissertation.

The doctoral dissertation is the culminating step of the Ph.D. program. The dissertation should make a significant contribution to the body of knowledge it addresses and demonstrate that the author understands its subject thoroughly and is capable of further original and impactful research, and the proposal should clearly reflect the project’s potential for as much.

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Administration of the Preliminary Doctoral Examinations

The written portion of the examinations may extend over a period of three weeks to a month and is scheduled and administered by the Graduate Religion Office with materials supplied by the student’s Doctoral Advisory Committee, to whom the exams are returned for evaluation. Usually, one area exam is given each week. Examinations may be started as early as at 8:30 am but absolutely must be returned to the Religion Coordinator by 4:00 pm at the latest. For students wanting to take their examinations in the fall semester, the last examination must be taken by the Monday before the university’s Fall Break, which is usually in November. For students wanting to take their exams in the spring semester, the first exam must be taken by the last day of classes in the spring semester.

Because the criterion for entrance into Unit II is distinguished academic performance, the quality of the preliminary examinations must be superior. If a student passes more than half the exams with satisfaction or half with distinction, she or he may be re-examined once on the exams not passed. If less than this minimum has been passed, and if the student has the recommendation of the Doctoral Advisory Committee, she or he may petition the Graduate Studies Committee to retake once all the written exams.

Between two weeks and one month after the completion of the written exams, the oral examination will be scheduled with the Religion Graduate Studies office. This is done by the student in consultation with the primary advisor. The student should assure that a time block of three hours can be scheduled with each member of the Doctoral Advisory Committee and with a faculty representative of the Graduate Studies Committee, who may be the Graduate Director or the Director’s designee. The student’s Doctoral Advisory Committee plus the representative of the Graduate Studies Committee constitute the oral Doctoral Examination Committee. No member of this examining committee can be constrained to be available at a given time simply to accommodate the needs of the student; rather, the professors must freely give their consent to the time proposed.

During the oral examination, the student will respond to questions raised by the written examination. It is not appropriate to open new topics for questioning beyond those related to the written questions. The examination will be open to other faculty members and graduate students. Other faculty members may participate in the examination of a candidate, but may not vote on the outcome of the exam.

Each part of the preliminary examination will result in one of three decisions:

  • Pass with no more than minor reservations.
  • Fail with the recommendation that one opportunity to repeat be offered.
  • Fail with recommendation that the student’s program be ended.

Should the student fail either the written or oral portion of the examination, the doctoral examination will end at this point, in which case the student should arrange a meeting with the examining committee to review the examination. If the decisions on the doctoral examinations, both written and oral, are favorable, however, the examination will continue with a consideration of the dissertation proposal. Should all parts of the doctoral examination be sustained, the student will be recommended to the Graduate Board for Ph.D. candidacy by means of the properly-signed relevant university form.

If a dissertation topic substantially different from the one already approved is proposed after successful preliminary examinations, a request for new examinations and, when necessary, a new Doctoral Advisory Committee is to be submitted.

Students who do not receive their doctoral degree within five years of passing their preliminary doctoral examinations must retake and pass the examinations to remain in good academic standing. Requests from such students for extensions of time will not be considered until they have successfully retaken their preliminary doctoral examinations.

Students who have completed all of their course work and have not passed the doctoral examinations should register for REL 799, “Preliminary Examination Preparation.”

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Unit III

In Unit III (Ph.D. Candidacy) the student will register for a total of six credits of REL 999, “Dissertation Research” (included in the total credits required), and secure from the Graduate School office (Carnell Hall, 5th Floor [x1380]), a packet of materials for doctoral candidates, including the Dissertation Handbook. The Department of Religion employs the formatting and citation guidelines of The University of Chicago Manual of Style. At the beginning of the final semester, the student should file with the Graduate School the form “Intent to Graduate.”

When writing the dissertation, the student should maintain regular contact with all members of the Doctoral Advisory Committee. It is generally good practice to submit the text of the dissertation in units to each member of the Doctoral Advisory Committee, whose members should each ultimately be in possession of a copy of the entire dissertation. Each member of the committee should present to the student a written critique of the student’s work, which could be in the form of notes written on the copy of the dissertation.

External Dissertation Examiner

It is required that an External Examiner from outside the Department of Religion participate in the final examination process. This person may be either a member of the Graduate Faculty from another Temple department or from outside the university, preferably the former. Examiners from outside Temple University will normally not be approved by the Graduate Studies Committee unless there is a compelling reason for their approval. This examiner reads the completed dissertation, attends and fully participates in the Final Examination, and provides a written evaluation of the dissertation. The External Examiner may not serve as a member of the student’s Doctoral Advisory Committee, participate in the Preliminary Examination or in direction of the dissertation. The primary advisor should secure a curriculum vitae and the Social Security number of the proposed External Examiner and give them to the Graduate Religion Office. The External Examiner does not need to have any special expertise in the topic of the dissertation. If the External Examiner is from outside Temple, the matter of an honorarium, travel costs, and housing must be arranged with the Department Chair before an invitation is offered or the examination is scheduled. The Chair of the department will then issue the formal invitation to the External Examiner on behalf of the department.

The Final Examination and Oral Defense of the Dissertation

The Final Examination (Oral Defense of the Dissertation) is an examination of the candidate by the faculty of the Department of Religion. If the examination is passed, it is the faculty of the Department of Religion that recommends that the University award the candidate the degree.

The Doctoral Examining Committee consists of the Doctoral Advisory Committee plus the External Examiner and, pursuant to Graduate School Procedures and Policies, the Chairperson of the Department of Religion or the Chair’s representative

The purpose of the oral defense is to show:

  • That the dissertation meets acceptable standards of academic quality and rigor;
  • That the dissertation is an original and soundly researched contribution to knowledge;
  • That the ethics and standards governing research in the field have been followed;
  • The candidate’s mastery of the research and the appropriate methodology;
  • The candidate’s understanding of the relationship of this work to the broader fields in which it is situated.

The student should submit the relevant signed forms to the Graduate Secretary in the Religion Graduate Studies Office. The Secretary will formally schedule and announce the Final Examination on the Official Calendar of the Graduate School. The Final Examination cannot be held unless it has been scheduled at least two weeks in advance with the Graduate School. The Graduate School will send the advisor two title pages with a cover letter giving deadlines for the submission of the final copies of the dissertation and abstract. The advisor should give these completed title pages to the Graduate Secretary for safekeeping in the student’s file until the day of the examination.

All members of the Doctoral Examining Committee must be present for the defense unless exceptions are approved in writing by the Dean of the Graduate School. According to Graduate School Policies and Procedures, such exceptions may only be granted in case of an emergency or similarly grave circumstances. An absent member of the Doctoral Examining Committee must still participate in the defense through, for example, the use of teleconferencing, videoconferencing, or, where necessary, the submission of written comments and questions. No more than one member of the Examining Committee can be physically absent from the defense in any case. If two or more members of the committee are physically absent, the defense cannot be held. In all cases the student and the dissertation advisor both must be physically present for the defense.

Affirmative votes of a majority of the Doctoral Examination Committee, including affirmative votes from at least two members who are current faculty members of the Department of Religion with Graduate Faculty standing, will be necessary to sustain the examination or to approve the dissertation. Other members of the faculty and student body may attend and participate in the questioning but not the voting.

Decision Options for the Examining Faculty at the Final Examination

  1. Pass, with no changes, or only cosmetic changes: The Committee members sign the lower section of University Form III and the three dissertation title pages. They have now completed their obligations to the examination. The Chair of the Dissertation Committee (the primary advisor) holds the Dissertation Completion form until the dissertation is ready to be carried to the Graduate School.
  2. Pass, with significant changes:
    1. If Committee members do not need to see the revisions to be made and entrust the monitoring of these changes to the Chair of the Doctoral Advisory Committee, they may sign the examination Form III, and the dissertation title pages. They have now completed their participation in the examination;
    2. If Committee members need to see the revisions to be made, they should sign the examination form, but should withhold their signature from the dissertation title pages. They will have the opportunity to give a final judgment on the dissertation later, after the student has made the final changes and submitted a revised copy.
  3. Fail: all members sign the examination form with their vote, but do not sign the dissertation title pages. If another opportunity to take the Final Examination is provided, the scheduling process must be repeated in its entirety.
  4. Pass with Distinction: This is an accolade that the Department awards to a distinguished minority of its graduates. It is intended to recognize a few outstanding dissertations. Distinction may be proposed by any member of the Doctoral Advisory Committee other than the primary advisor. A vote for distinction is often based on the following criteria: (1) the dissertation unambiguously merits consideration by experts as an outstanding work in its field; (2) the dissertation is thought to be immediately publishable in a refereed scholarly venue; and (3) the candidate’s oral defense of the dissertation is deemed to be outstanding. The vote for distinction must be unanimous; any question of its appropriateness usually suggests it should not be given. The candidate may include the accolade of “dissertation passed with distinction” on her or his resume.

When the dissertation is completed, the advisor should fill out the “Certificate of Acceptability” that must accompany the completed dissertation a when it is submitted to the Graduate School.

Following the Final Examination

All changes to the dissertation, whether major or minor, must be made and the final version of the dissertation submitted to the Graduate School with the “Certificate of Acceptability” form within four weeks of the examination. If the dissertation is not received by the Graduate School within that time, the final doctoral examination is nullified and a new oral defense must be scheduled. When major revisions are required that cannot be completed within four weeks, the defense should be suspended until the dissertation has been revised and is then defendable. At this point the oral defense should be reconvened. All defenses, including reconvened defenses, must be announced in writing at least ten days in advance.

Each member of the Doctoral Advisory Committee will record a vote by signing the report section (lower section) of Form III.

Two copies of the dissertation must be submitted to the Graduate School, each with a signed flyleaf, and with the “Certificate of Acceptability” by the deadline for submitting final copies of doctoral dissertation, as announced in the University Calendar. A copy of the dissertation in electronic form (CD) will be provided for the department library. It is a common courtesy to members of the Examination Committee to provide a copy of the dissertation to each of them, either printed or electronic. Normally the copy given to the primary advisor should be hardbound.

Dissent at the Examinations

If there is dissent before or at the Preliminary or Final Examination, a dissenting member of the Doctoral Advisory Committee may resign, but need not, and, indeed, cannot,be removed. Whether or not the dissenting member resigns, the primary advisor should petition the Graduate Studies Committee to appoint an additional member to the Doctoral Advisory Committee.