Advancement to candidacy requires that the student take three department administered Preliminary Examinations. The purpose of the Preliminary Examinations is to determine that the student has the theoretical and empirical background germane to the field of urban and regional planning. The examinations may be taken in any order. Students may begin taking the examinations as soon as they and their advisor deem it appropriate. Students must take and successfully complete all three preliminary examinations within five regular semesters, i.e., two and one-half academic years, of program entry (not counting summer sessions).
Preliminary Examination I deals with the area of planning theory. It covers the rationale for planning, models of the planning process, and the history of planning and planning thought. Preliminary Examination II deals with the student's individual area of research specialization. Preliminary Examination III deals with the area of planning techniques and research methods. For all students, research methods shall include statistical techniques, research and survey design, data collection and field work skills. It may also involve philosophical analysis or communication techniques.
Preliminary Examinations I and III are administered by a rotating set of committees of departmental faculty members appointed by the Committee on the PhD; Preliminary Examination II is offered by a pre-dissertation committee constructed by the student and her/his advisor.
The purpose of the Minor Field requirement is to supplement and support the student's program of study in the department. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of planning, the department prefers that the minor program be in a single discipline (Minor Option A in the Graduate School Policies). Students have minored in fields such as sociology, economics, political science, geography, industrial engineering, among others. The standards for satisfaction of this requirement are set by the minor department.
A student who has met the requirements for being advanced to candidacy then begins work on the doctoral dissertation. This involves two steps: (1) the preparation and defense of the dissertation proposal–the purpose of which is to formulate and finalize the student's ideas for original research and creative scholarship; and (2) the defense of the completed dissertation. Students may prepare dissertations on a wide variety of subjects, using diverse methodologies. An oral examination is conducted on both the proposal and the dissertation. They are administered by the student's full PhD Committee of five members, three of whom must be departmental faculty members.