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FAQ's

What counts as “graduate” courses in the 18 credits before the candidacy?
At Penn State, that includes 400 and 500-level courses, excluding those taken during your B.S. degree. Courses from other institutions would have to be recognized by that institution as graduate courses.

How does my committee really get appointed?
You should discuss your interests, proposed research project, and professional goals with your advisor. Then you and your advisor can select 3-4 other faculty members who could be helpful in advising you on your program. Generally, the same people will serve on your candidacy exam committee and your Doctoral Advisory Committee, although you may make changes in your committee membership if necessary. You should contact each of the selected faculty members and ask if they are willing to serve on your Doctoral Advisory Committee. If they agree, you should inform your advisor, who will inform the graduate programs coordinator.

What if I would like someone who is not on the Penn State Graduate faculty to serve on my committee?
You can do this in one of two ways: (1) The person may be appointed as a Special Member, and attend exams; (2) As a Special Signatory, who signs the dissertation but does not attend exams. The Plant Science Department (via the graduate programs coordinator) sends a memo from the department head or Graduate Program Director to Graduate Enrollment Services, stating that this person should serve in the desired capacity and state whether the person will attend an exam.  A vita of the Special Member or Special Signatory should accompany this memo.

How do I develop my research proposal?
You should work closely with your advisor in developing your proposal. Before you begin writing, you and your advisor should be in agreement on the general nature of the research project. Your proposal is ready for distribution when you and your advisor are satisfied with it. Most students revise their draft proposals several times based on their advisor’s comments before distributing it to the rest of the committee.

What is the least expensive way to register after I pass the comprehensive exam?
If you are working full time on research and thesis preparation, and have met the 2-semester residency requirement, you may register for HORT 601 (full-time) or HORT 611 (part-time). Registering for these non-credit courses will allow you to maintain continuous registration between your comprehensive and the acceptance of your dissertation.

How long is the dissertation presentation at the final exam?
Most students prepare a presentation of about 15-20 minutes, though it may take longer if committee members interrupt with questions. Ask your advisor how long it should be in your case.

What happens during the final exam?
The final exam typically begins with a brief discussion among the committee members, without you (the student) present, on your progress in coursework, research, and scholarly development. Then you will be invited back into the room to make a presentation summarizing your dissertation. The Doctoral Advisory Committee members ask questions which may cover any aspect of the dissertation or related topics. The committee determines the exact form of the questioning. At the end of the question period, you will be asked to leave the room while the committee discusses your performance. You get the news when you are invited back into the room.