Students should be aware of the Graduate Study Timeline available on the Graduate College website.
Degree requirements are usually completed under the policies and regulations listed in the Graduate Catalog in effect at the time of admission. However, and with departmental and Graduate College approval, the Graduate Catalog in effect during the semester in which degree requirements are completed may be used.
All students seeking an advanced degree must adhere to the regulations discussed in this section. With Graduate College approval, departments may have additional specific degree requirements that students must meet to receive an advanced degree.
Policies & Procedures
The Graduate Advisory Committee
Graduate Committee Composition: Additional Committee Members
The Degree Program
Final Research Creative Documents
Doctoral Dissertation Defense Announcements
Graduate Program Examinations
Advancement to Candidacy
All students are responsible for submitting the proper forms to the Graduate College as he or she progresses through their degree program. Failure to do so may cause a delay in the student’s graduation.
Students are assigned an advisor by their graduate program at the time of admission into the Graduate College. The advisor is typically selected by the department from among its Graduate Faculty; after which, if required by degree program, it is the responsibility of the student to personally select an advisor to serve as chair of his or her advisory committee, and other graduate faculty to fulfill the other required roles on a graduate advisory committee. At any time after admission, a student may request (using a Change of Advisory Committee form) a change of advisor and/or change of advisory committee members, and upon departmental recommendation and Graduate College approval, the advisory committee will be changed.
The Graduate Advisory Committee is responsible for guiding the student through the graduate program, assisting the student with her/his professional paper, thesis, or dissertation, and administering the final examination. Not all graduate degree programs require the appointment of an advisory committee. Students should consult with their advisor to determine whether or not an advisory committee is necessary, however all students completing a thesis or dissertation must convene a proper Graduate Advisory Committee. All departmental members of the committee should have expertise in the student’s research area. Generally, four graduate faculty members comprise an advisory committee: three from the student’s department (the chair must have full graduate faculty status in the student’s home department; the other two committee members may have either associate or full graduate faculty status in the student’s home department) and one professor who has full graduate faculty status from another department to serve as the Graduate College representative. The Graduate College representative is a neutral, outside faculty member with full graduate faculty status who participates on the committee to ensure that all Graduate College policies are followed, to make sure that all milestones in the student’s progression are met appropriately, and to witness rigor, quality, and fairness throughout the student’s culminating experience process and defense. Note that with appropriate approval it is permissible for one or more additional graduate faculty members to be placed on the committee. Master’s and doctoral students must submit the Appointment of Advisory Committee form to the Graduate College before establishing the degree program and before submitting their Prospectus Approval forms. The Graduate College must approve the Graduate College representative, and all advisory committee members on the Appointment of Advisory Committee form, before students proceed to work with their advisory committee, sit for exams, defend a prospectus, or otherwise participate in any milestone event involving their advisory committee. If a student needs to make changes to his/her advisory committee after submission of the Appointment form, they may do so with the Change of Advisory Committee form. Students have a right to change their committees as they see fit, however all ethical and professional rules and guidelines governing research data, creative activities, funded projects, must be considered and followed. Also, please note that when a student requests a change of advisory committee immediately after a failed exam or defense, and prior to the retaking of said exam or defense, the department and/or Dean may not allow the committee change until the current milestone exam or defense is completed.
Graduate Committee Composition: Additional Committee Members
When a student constitutes a graduate committee containing a chair, plus 2 graduate faculty from their department as committee members, plus the required Graduate College representative (who has full graduate status in a department outside the student’s own), and then adds an additional committee member from outside their department, that additional member does not need to establish graduate faculty status in the student’s own department in order to serve in this capacity (as a co-chair or additional committee member). However, if the student’s core committee of three (excluding the Graduate College representative) includes a faculty member from another department, that person must establish the appropriate graduate faculty status — full to chair, associate to serve as a member — in the student’s home department.
The Role of the Graduate College Representative
The Graduate College Representative (GCR) has a major responsibility relative to project quality control and also to academic integrity. The GCR serves to: 1) uphold UNLV and Graduate School policies and procedures; 2) impartially observe both student and graduate faculty serving on the committee to help ensure fairness of process and appropriate interactions; and 3) uphold a standard of quality minimally consistent with that of the associated department based on prior experience, review of other final documents, and/or input from department members. If the GCR happens to also have expertise in a particular area that is explicitly related to the student’s thesis or dissertation, the GCR may also participate in the scholarly assessment of the quality and content of the final document, but this is not required of a GCR.
The GCR serves an extremely important role in that he or she is the voice of the Graduate College on students’ committees. It is incumbent upon the GCR to be well versed in the policies and procedures of the Graduate College and to uphold the same. In the case of a committee conflict or policy/procedural violation, the GCR must bring this issue to bear. If the issue(s) of concern cannot be resolved at the local (Department/School) level, it is the GCR who must report such a violation to the Dean or Associate Dean of the Graduate College in an expeditious manner. It is also suggested that the GCR take an active role in assuring basic quality control in that the research/scholarly project as defined is worthy of the associated degree being granted. This can become challenging if the GCR has little knowledge in the content area or if the GCR has not served on a committee in the student’s academic unit in the past. Even with a lack of content knowledge, the GCR can appropriately uphold her/his responsibilities by asking appropriate, probing questions, and carefully reading written materials. The GCR may ask how similar or different the proposed work is to that which has preceded the student. Other appropriate questions include possible recourse the student might have if certain parameters of the work are not attainable ( i.e., unable to achieve proposed sample size, change in status of agreement for services provided by an outside agency). If issues of quality remain, it could be the GCR’s responsibility to communicate such concerns to the Department/School graduate coordinator and chair, and to the Dean or Associate Dean of the Graduate College. Note that quality control includes the quality of writing in the final document, it’s presentation in an appropriate format, adherence to prevailing professional standards for citations, documentation of appropriate IRB/Human Subjects approvals, methodological rigor, and upholding all standards of ethical research.
Students who are not yet in MyUNLV Degree Audit (to ascertain this, please check with your Graduate Coordinator or the Graduate College), must prepare a proposed graduate degree program, with input and guidance from their advisor and advisory committee. This degree program, which outlines the courses the student will complete for the degree, should be thoughtfully prepared. The degree program of study must comply with the regulations of the graduate program or department, the Graduate College and the guidelines in the Graduate Catalog for the year in which the student was admitted. The degree program forms (Part A provided by the Graduate College, Part B is provided by the academic department) requires the approvals of the student, advisor, the graduate coordinator, the appropriate academic dean, and the Graduate Dean, and both parts of the form must be submitted at the same time, prior to applying for graduation.
The most important component of graduate education is the student’s culminating experience. All graduate programs require a culminating experience of some type. This generally takes the form a thesis, a dissertation, a final scholarly research project, a professional paper, a course, a performance, an exam, and/or an oral defense. The culminating experience demonstrates the student’s mastery of their research, scholarship, creative abilities, and/or written and oral communication skills in the chosen discipline. The final document is intended to benefit the student, contribute to the academic discipline or profession, and often they are of significance to the broader society. Students required to complete and defend a final research or creative document must submit the Prospectus Approval Form to the Graduate College along with a brief written statement describing the content of the document prior to beginning work on their thesis or dissertation.Students must complete the research that is described in the written statement submitted to the Graduate College. If the nature of the research deviates from the written description submitted to the Graduate College then a new prospectus defense must be held and a new prospectus approval form must be submitted along with a brief written statement describing the new research. Students may not enroll in dissertation credits until they have completed all required coursework and exams, and submitted their signed Prospectus Approval form (with abstract) and their Advancement to Candidacy form to the Graduate College.
Final documents, including theses, dissertations, professional or scholarly papers, and projects must meet acceptable standards of the given profession. Theses and dissertations must also meet Graduate College standards according to The Guide to Preparing & Submitting a Thesis or Dissertation. The Graduate College and advisory committees expect students to give careful attention to the style and format of the final scholarly or creative documents.
Students should contact the department to determine which document and which forms are required to complete their degree program. Students must maintain continuous enrollment (a minimum of 6 graduate level credits in any three consecutive semesters including summer) while working on their degree and final document, and students be enrolled in a minimum of 3 graduate-level credits in the semester in which they graduate, even if they have already completed all the required degree credits.
Thesis and Dissertation
Some departments require a thesis, or offer the option of a thesis, for the master’s degree. All research doctoral programs require a dissertation. Students must submit the Prospectus Approval form to the Graduate College at the same time the degree program is submitted for master’s students and to advance to candidacy for doctoral students. The thesis or dissertation should demonstrate the student’s ability to select a specific problem or topic, to assemble pertinent and necessary data, to do original research, to organize ideas and data acceptably, and to prepare a written report in clear and effective English. The Guide to Preparing & Submitting a Thesis or Dissertation is available on the Graduate College website. Students must follow the instructions in the guide. Matters of form with respect to capitalization, abbreviation, quotations, footnotes and bibliography should conform to the discipline’s standards. Departments will advise the student on which style manual is appropriate.
The minimum number of thesis credits required for a master’s degree program is six. For the doctoral degree program, the minimum number of dissertation credits required is twelve. A grade is not reported for thesis or dissertation credits. When the final copy of the thesis/dissertation is submitted electronically to the Graduate College and approved by the Graduate Dean, the title of the thesis/dissertation is posted on the student’s transcript with the number of credits earned. Unless approved for a leave of absence, a student must register for a minimum of three thesis/dissertation or non-thesis/dissertation credits each semester (summer excluded) until the thesis or dissertation is completed, submitted to the Graduate College, and the student graduates. However, students intending to complete, defend, submit a thesis or dissertation to the Graduate College, and/or graduate during the summer term, must be registered for a minimum of three credits. It is strongly suggested that no later than eight weeks prior to the last day of instruction in the term the student will graduate, a draft of the work should be submitted to the advisory committee. The committee will review the thesis or dissertation for any corrections and changes, which must be incorporated before the final examination (oral defense) and submission of the final document to the Graduate College. The completed, unbound work must be resubmitted to the committee at least two weeks prior to the final examination. After the successful defense, the final document (incorporating all changes and formatted appropriately) must be submitted to the Graduate College. The Graduate College must approve all theses and dissertations prior to final electronic submission. The Graduate College recommends that an initial format check be performed by the Graduate College by the eighth week of the semester the student intends to graduate. Upon approval, the Graduate College will provide the student with an electronic approval page and the thesis or dissertation must be submitted electronically to ProQuest by the posted date each semester, which is generally not later than two weeks prior to the end of instruction of the term the student intends to graduate. All members of the advisory committee must approve the thesis or dissertation for submission to the Graduate College. Only the Graduate Dean may give permission for an extension of this deadline.
In rare circumstances a student may be permitted to complete the thesis or dissertation away from campus. After considerable progress has been made in collecting data and outlining the work, the student may petition to complete the thesis or dissertation in absentia, waiving the on-campus requirement. If the petition is approved, the advisor and Graduate Dean along with the student will determine the requirements for completion of the work.
The Multiple Article Dissertation
The multiple article dissertation must include a minimum of three under-review, in-press, or published articles reporting on research or scholarship undertaken as a doctoral student at UNLV (prior research, scholarship, creative activity, articles or publications may not be used in a UNLV dissertation). In addition to the article, this format requires an introductory chapter, a concluding chapter, and bridge sections introducing and linking each of the articles to form a cohesive document.
The multiple article dissertation format is not, by default, an option for all programs. The degree-granting department must indicate in their program Handbook whether that the multiple article dissertation format is an acceptable option; a list of departments allowing this option is available here (link). The department may impose more stringent requirements than those delineated in this document. Additional requirements must be described in the program handbook. If this format is an option provided by the department, the student and their committee may then decide whether or not to use a multiple article dissertation format, and indicate the intended dissertation type at the time of the dissertation proposal. In this model an under-review, in-press, or published manuscript serves as a chapter within the larger dissertation. If the committee and department accept this dissertation format, the dissertation must adhere to Graduate College guidelines pertaining to this type of dissertation.
The multiple article dissertation must have a general introductory chapter that provides an introduction to the student’s topic, a review of the relevant literature and presentation of research questions. Each article chapter must include a contextual explanation of the significance of the article chapter ahead as a “bridge” at the beginning of the chapter, to link it to the broader study of which the chapter is a part. This format must also include a concluding chapter that puts the multiple papers in a broader context and explain their significance to the field, as well as offer suggestions for future research. These introductory and concluding chapters ensure that the multiple papers have a general coherence and constitute a singular whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
All dissertations must adhere to Graduate College formatting and stylistic guidelines (e.g., acceptable font, use of headings, margins, spacing, tables, appendices, page numbers, etc.), regardless of whether they are presented in a traditional format or a multiple (3 or more) article format. The multiple article dissertation must have a general abstract; whether abstracts are included for respective chapters is at the discretion of the committee and department. References may be presented at the end of individual chapters, or in a single references section at the end of the dissertation. Acknowledgements should be given not at the end of each chapter but in one place for the dissertation as a whole; proper placement is outlined in the Graduate College formatting guidelines. Appendices should be given near the end of the entire dissertation, as outlined in the Graduate College formatting guidelines, rather than at the conclusion of individual chapters. Article chapters must be included in the appropriate Graduate College format, consistent with the Introduction and Conclusion chapters. Students may not simply “add in” a journal article reprint to serve as a dissertation chapter.
For multiple article dissertation chapters that are published or in press, the student must secure the appropriate copyright from the publisher to include the chapter contents in the dissertation. These must be included in an appropriate Appendix per Graduate College formatting guidelines.
For coauthored chapters used in multiple article dissertations, the student must obtain written permission from coauthors to include the chapters in the dissertation. Coauthor approvals should be noted in the dissertation, either in the general Introduction or in introductions to respective coauthored chapters, and written permission should be included in a separate Appendix.
For coauthored chapters in multiple article dissertations, the student must have made a substantial and documented contribution to the work in order to include it in the dissertation. In practice, this may be acknowledged by the student being the lead author on a manuscript. If not the first author on an article, the student should have made substantial contributions to the research design, execution of the study, analyses, and/or write-up and these must be documented, as well as reviewed and approved by the student’s committee. Quantifying the requirements of “substantial” can be challenging, with best practices in leading peer-reviewed journals (such as PLoS ONE, Nature) offering guidelines for determining sufficient contribution for journal publication authorship, and in turn for inclusion in a dissertation. A student’s contribution in coauthored chapters should be noted and clearly explained either in the general Introduction or in Introductions to respective coauthored chapters.
Professional or Scholarly Papers or Projects
Master’s students not pursuing a thesis option may be required to complete a professional/scholarly paper or project as part of the degree program. Students are encouraged to use The Guide to Preparing & Submitting a Thesis or Dissertation available on the Graduate College website when preparing a professional paper. Professional/scholarly papers or projects are not, however, reviewed, retained, or approved by the Graduate College. Some graduate programs require students doing a professional paper to have a graduate committee and to defend their work; other departments incorporate final papers into culminating experience courses or have other requirements. Please check with your department and the program information herein for detailed guidelines.
Doctoral Dissertation Defense Announcements
Doctoral dissertations must be announced to the campus via the UNLV Master calendar first, and then submitted to the Graduate College via our online form, a minimum of 2 weeks prior to the scheduled event. The reporting form is available on the Graduate College website. In addition, students are encouraged to publicize their defense in their department, and in relevant campus and community groups.
There are three major examinations which students may be required to pass in order to complete a graduate program. The following descriptions are general and may be used interchangeably by departments or programs. For the application of these terms and their use by a particular department or graduate program, refer to the appropriate section of this catalog.
Some departments require doctoral students to take one or more qualifying examinations as part of the admission screening process or for diagnostic purposes shortly after admission. The examination may be written, oral, or both. Written department guidelines determine who prepares the exam(s), who reviews and scores the exam(s), the timetable on which the exams are given, and the consequences for failing to pass one or more qualifying exams.
Comprehensive and Final Examinations
Most graduate degree programs require students to successfully complete one or more comprehensive or final examinations. For master’s students, the comprehensive, or final, examination is generally conducted during the last semester or term of enrollment in which a student intends to graduate. For doctoral students, the comprehensive, or preliminary, examinations are generally taken after all course work, other than dissertation credits, has been completed and always before advancing to candidacy. The examination is intended to test the student’s knowledge of an area of specialization and may be written, oral, or both at the discretion of the department. Written department guidelines determine who prepares the exam(s), who reviews and scores the exam(s), the timetable on which the exams are given, and the consequences for failing to pass one or more qualifying exams.
The comprehensive, final, or preliminary examination must be administered at least three weeks before the last day of instruction of any given semester or term. Students must be enrolled for at least one graduate-level credit during the semester or term the comprehensive or preliminary examination is taken. For comprehensive and final examination requirements, contact the department or refer to the appropriate section of this catalog. In the examination, the student must be able to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of a broad field of study and a detailed understanding of one or more specialized fields of expertise. Generally, the advisory committee must unanimously pass the student. If the committee votes unanimously to fail the student or the vote is not unanimous to pass, the student, in consultation with his/her advisor, may request the committee to administer a second examination, depending on departmental policies and guidelines. Generally, depending on department rules, two failures of required exams leads to separating the student from the program for failure to progress.
Graduate students completing a thesis or dissertation are required to demonstrate their ability to select a specific problem or topic, to assemble pertinent and necessary data, to do original research, to organize ideas and data acceptably, and to prepare a written report in clear and effective English. This demonstration takes the form of an oral defense of the finished document. For some master’s and specialist students, completing a professional/scholarly paper or project an oral defense may be required. All members of the advisory committee must be present and may question the student.
The oral defense must be held at least three weeks before the last day of instruction in the term in which the student plans to complete the degree requirements. It may be conducted before that term only with the Graduate Dean’s permission. Students must be enrolled during the term the oral defense is conducted.
Satisfactory performance on a final examination will consist of a presentation and defense of the student’s original thesis or dissertation research. At a minimum, the defense consists of an oral presentation open to university graduate faculty, staff, students, and the community, followed immediately by a closed deliberation and vote by the advisory committee. More specifically, the oral presentation will be open to UNLV Graduate Faculty, graduate students, relevant administrators, and invited guests.
The oral presentation may be followed by general questions of clarification from attendees (other than the advisory committee members). The advisory committee and chair may choose to include a session of more in-depth questioning open only to the advisory committee and the UNLV Graduate Faculty. An additional phase of questioning with only the advisory committee and candidate may also be included. The final phase of closed deliberation, and the vote to pass or fail the student, will only be open to the student’s appointed advisory committee, after which the student will be immediately informed of the committee’s decision.
The Graduate College must be notified not less than two weeks in advance of the examination. A public announcement regarding an oral defense also must be made to the appropriate department’s graduate faculty, students, and campus a minimum of fourteen (14) days prior to the oral defense.
During the oral defense, the student must be able to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of a broad field of study and a detailed understanding of a more limited field. The advisory committee must unanimously pass the student. If the committee votes unanimously to pass or fail the student, that vote is final. If the advisory committee vote is not unanimous to pass or fail, the student, in consultation with his/ her advisor, may request the committee to administer a second examination. The student must wait at least three months before taking the second examination, during which time the department may require additional course work, substantial reworking of the thesis, dissertation, or professional/scholarly paper or project, or whatever is believed necessary to prepare the student for a successful second examination. The Graduate College will not approve third examination requests.
The Graduate College designates the advancement to candidacy status for doctoral students only. Doctoral students are advanced to candidacy upon successful completion of all course work, passing all required qualifying, preliminary, and/or comprehensive exams, completing and successfully defending the dissertation prospectus, and submitting the appropriate Advancement to Candidacy form to the Graduate College. Doing so qualifies doctoral GAs for an enhanced GA stipend in subsequent semesters (by August 1st for fall stipends; by December 1st for spring stipends; and by May 1st for summer stipends).
Application for Graduation
Students are responsible for applying for graduation by the semester deadline. Doing so triggers your graduate evaluator to review your file and make sure that everything is in order for you to graduate. The graduation application is submitted via MyUNLV. The application must be submitted by the deadline posted on the Graduate College website. Applications for graduation will not be processed unless all required forms and documents have been submitted to the Graduate College.
If students do not complete the degree requirements in the term anticipated, it is expected that they will do so in the next term. One rollover of the graduation application and fee is allowed to the next term (including summer). If the student does not graduate in the next term, a new application for graduation must be filed, and an additional graduation application fee will be charged. In addition, students must be enrolled in a minimum of 3 graduate-level credits during the term they apply for and expect to graduate, regardless if they have completed all their coursework.
Granting of Degrees
Degrees are awarded three times a year in May, December, and August. Students must be enrolled in a minimum of 3 graduate-level credits during the term in which they graduate. When students apply for graduation, the Graduate College reviews the degree program and all degree requirements to ensure every Catalog requirement for the student’s program has been successfully met and completed. The Graduate Dean certifies that students have met degree requirements, and a recommendation is forwarded to the Board of Regents. If any requirement has not been met, the degree will not be awarded. The degree will be revoked if it is awarded in error, or if it is later discovered that the degree requirements were not met, or if fraudulent claims are later discovered.
Students may not participate in commencement prior to completion of all degree program requirements. Commencement is held twice a year in May and December. August graduates may participate in the December commencement following the completion of degree requirements.