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Doctoral programs normally are arranged in two phases. In the preliminary phase, the student usually pursues courses of study whilst initiating their research (early stage research). This phase is completed when the qualifying examination is passed. In the second part, the student usually pursues an intensive research program and completes only courses of research (advanced stage research). It is concluded when the dissertation has been accepted and the defense of it approved.
The Ph.D. student must advance successfully through (1) a Technical Defense of the Thesis Proposal, (2) a Qualifying Exam, (3) a Public Dissertation Defense, and (4) a Technical Defense. It is critical that the student choose a Major Research Advisor (MRA) and tentative research project during the first semester in residence. This is a research-oriented degree intended for full-time students. Although courses may be taken on a part-time basis, a minimum of one year of full-time residency normally is required for completion of the doctoral dissertation.
The Doctor of Philosophy degree is a research degree and is awarded as a result of the successful completion of a scientifically significant and unique research project, presented in the form of a Ph.D. dissertation.