Roadmap to completion

To help students plan for completing their degree, we present a possible timeline for the Ph.D. and both M.S. Plan A (thesis) and Plan B (non-thesis) options. This simply illustrates how all program requirements could be satisfied in a timely manner. Keep in mind that full-time graduate students usually take 6 - 9 credits/semester, and that Plan B students need to take at least one more 700-level course than Plan A students. Also, any student interested in pursuing a doctoral degree after completing the Master’s is urged to choose the Plan A option.

NOTE: Faculty are off-contract (and frequently off campus) during the summer, and only occasionally (and by making prior special arrangements) can a student count on completing a defense during the summer months.

Ph.D. in Geography timeline

Year One

  • Discuss and decide upon research topic with your advisor
  • Discuss and decide upon two or three areas of expertise for the comprehensive examination
  • Establish a graduate committee
  • First draft of dissertation prospectus
  • Map out research agenda & requirements (e.g., prep for fieldwork, necessary forms & protocols, ) 

Year Two

Third semester (Fall):

  • Complete “Program of Study” form – obtain approval of thesis committee
  • Graduate committee approval of dissertation prospectus 

Fourth semester (Spring):

  • Complete coursework
  • Complete comprehensive examination
  • Begin research & writing of dissertation

Year Three

  • Complete research
  • Complete dissertation
  • Defend dissertation 

MS Geography Plan A (thesis) timeline

First (Fall) semester:

  • Begin thesis prospectus (GEOG 700)
  • Discuss thesis topic(s) and potential committee members with Advisor

Second (Spring) semester:

  • Complete “Declaration of Advisor” form
  • Prepare for fieldwork - if necessary, clear Human Subjects committee (requires completion of approved prospectus) or clear Animal Care committee
  • Complete thesis prospectus
  • Constitute committee

Third (Fall) semester:

  • Complete “Program of Study” form – obtain approval of thesis committee
  • Sometime between the second and third semester, the student should have the committee provide final approval of the thesis proposal
  • Conduct fieldwork
  • Analyze data
  • Prepare thesis drafts
  • File for graduation

Fourth (Spring) semester:

  • Finish, defend, and file thesis with the Graduate School

Geography Plan B (non-thesis option) timeline

First (Fall) semester

  • Discuss professional paper topic(s) and potential committee members with advisor

Second (Spring) semester:

  • Complete "Declaration of Advisor" form
  • Complete annotated bibliography
  • Constitute committee

Third (Fall) semester:

  • File for graduation
  • Complete "program of study" form – obtain approval of thesis committee 

Fourth (Spring) semester:

  • Complete non-thesis option (not filed with the Graduate School).

Despite using the non-thesis option, students must still defend their final work, using the same general criteria as the student who is following the thesis option