Apr 21, 2024  
2016-2017 Graduate Bulletin 
2016-2017 Graduate Bulletin [ARCHIVED BULLETIN]

Geosciences, Ph.D.

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The principal objectives of the Ph.D. program are to provide students an opportunity to reach a critical understanding of scientific principles underlying their fields of interest and to cultivate their ability to apply these principles creatively through training in advanced methods of analysis, research, and synthesis.


An applicant must have a baccalaureate or master’s degree in physical sciences, natural sciences, engineering, or mathematics from an accredited college or university.

Students with baccalaureate degrees must meet the requirements for admission to the master’s program. Admission to Ph.D. work requires at least a 3.3 grade point average in the first 30 credit hours of graduate work and approval of the Graduate Advisor and the Dean of the Graduate School.

Admission to the Ph.D. degree program requires a minimum GPA of 3.3.  Applicants with a baccalaureate degree must also meet the minimum requirements for admission to the master’s programs.  For applicants with graduate credits, the minimum GPA applies to the first 30 credits of graduate courses as approved by the Graduate Program Advisor and Dean of the Graduate School.  Exceptional students whose grade point average does not meet these standards may be admitted to the Ph.D. program on a probationary basis, subject to approval by the Dean of the Graduate School.

In addition, the following requirements must be met:

  • All applicants are required to take the General Graduate Record Examination. Students with B.S. degrees in disciplines other than geology may wish to take the Advanced Graduate Record Examination in their major.
  • Applicants whose native language is not English must take the TOEFL examination and score at least 90 on the internet-based exam, or 577 on the paper exam, with at least a score of 22 on the Writing subsection. Non-native English speakers may also submit a minimum score of 6.5 from the IELTS examination. Exceptional applicants with TOEFL scores below these published minimums may be admitted conditionally and required to take deficiency courses in English or retake the TOEFL examination.

Curriculum Requirements

The Ph.D. program requires 72 approved credit hours of graduate credit above the baccalaureate level, distributed in the following manner:

Minimum credit hours of research and dissertation, which may include six hours of master’s degree thesis credits 36  
Minimum credit hours of graduate credit in course work and independent study, including master’s degree course work 36  
Minimum credit hours of course work outside the major area 12  
Maximum credit hours of independent study 12  
Maximum credit hours of 6000-level course work 24  

Students may be required to complete prerequisite undergraduate courses and remove deficiencies without graduate credit, resulting in a program of more than 72 credit hours. If approved by the doctoral committee (see below), as many as 30 credit hours of course work and research completed in a master’s degree program at any accredited institution may be distributed, as outlined above, among the 72 hours of graduate credit. Not more than 12 credit hours of approved doctoral-level courses beyond the M.S. may be transferred from another institution. A GPA of at least a 3.3 must be maintained.

These requirements are not variable except under special circumstances and with permission of the student’s advisor and the Dean of the Graduate School.

Residence Requirements

At least two consecutive semesters in residence as a full-time student at The University of Tulsa are required.

Qualifying Examination

The doctoral committee will administer the qualifying examination at the end of the second semester (for students entering with M.S. degrees in Geosciences) to determine if the student is qualified to continue pursuing doctoral research. The structure of the exam shall be determined by the doctoral committee. Outcomes for the qualifying exam include: PASS - The student is prepared to continue with research. CONDITIONAL PASS - The student must fulfill conditions for additional studies as specified by the committee. If the student fails to meet the conditions for the CONDITIONAL PASS, this will be counted as a FAIL. FAIL - The student is not prepared to continue research. The student will be allowed to retake the qualifying exam a second and last time in the following semester, for a PASS, CONDITIONAL PASS or a FAIL grade. A second failing grade will result in dismissal from the program. For students entering with no graduate course work in Geosciences, the exam will be administered at the end of the fourth semester. This exam structure guarantees that the student is prepared to move to the next level of research based on his or her research path.

Doctoral Committee.

A doctoral committee of a minimum of five members will be assembled when the student is enrolled. The committee membership may be amended by the student or the committee at any time in accordance with the rules of the Graduate School. The committee will consist of at least three members from the Department of Geosciences, and may contain as many as three approved researchers from other disciplines and/or institutions. The Chair of the committee will be selected by the student in cooperation with the committee. The student will work with that committee to determine his/her strengths and weaknesses. The doctoral committee will be responsible for reporting all actions and decisions to the Dean of the Graduate School. The doctoral committee will meet at least once per semester to evaluate the student’s overall progress toward the degree. If at any time during the doctoral program, the student or doctoral committee determines that additional course work is needed, that course work should be taken at that time.

Admission to Candidacy

Admission to candidacy is recommended by the doctoral committee upon successful completion of the qualifying examination and acceptance of the dissertation research proposal.

Dissertation Research Proposal

A research proposal detailing the planned course of research for the dissertation is developed under the supervision of the research advisor, and with the oversight of the advisory committee. It should include a literature review, research justification, description of the significance of the research, detailed methodology, and time budget. The proposal must be of professional quality. All members of the advisory committee will review the research proposal before the proposal defense. A favorable vote of a majority of the advisory committee is required for approval of the proposal. After successful defense of the proposal, the student can proceed with the planned research leading to preparation of the dissertation.

Major changes in research direction must be approved by the doctoral committee, and the student should maintain contact with the committee during all stages of the research. The student is expected to present periodic progress reviews in a colloquium setting.


Each Ph.D. candidate must write a dissertation based upon the results of original research. The dissertation must demonstrate the candidate’s abilities to conduct independent scientific investigation in his area of interest and must be a contribution to the understanding of geology, geophysics, or geochemistry. The dissertation will be prepared with the close supervision of the doctoral committee, and will be defended in a public forum.

The dissertation must also conform to the Graduate School’s guidelines. Subject to the research advisor’s approval, a draft of the dissertation is submitted to the members of the doctoral committee for review. Barring unusual circumstances, doctoral committee members must return all comments and recommendations to the student within 14 calendar days; failure to do so will result in their loss of right to make further modifications to the dissertation. Doctoral committee members are not required to act as editors but may require that the student seek professional editorial help. After the dissertation has been reviewed and judged of suitable quality by the doctoral committee, the student schedules a dissertation defense. Before scheduling the defense, the student has the responsibility to see that all rules and requirements have been met. Students should note that several dissertation drafts may be necessary before the defense can be scheduled. The reading copy of the dissertation that has been judged ready for defense must be delivered to the committee members at least 14 calendar days before the scheduled date of defense. At least one week prior to the defense a reading copy should be deposited in the departmental office for faculty and student review.

Defense of Dissertation

A Ph.D. candidate must orally defend his or her dissertation in a public setting before the doctoral committee. The oral defense of the dissertation will consist of a presentation of results and conclusions followed by a public session in which the student will be expected to answer questions about the dissertation. Questions may cover all aspects of geosciences pertinent to the dissertation research.

After the public session, members of the doctoral committee meet privately with the candidate for further questioning. At this time, minor changes to the dissertation may be required. The doctoral committee then meets in closed session and awards the dissertation an evaluation of unconditional pass, or conditional pass. In the case of a conditional pass, the student is responsible for revisions recommended by the committee. The defense of dissertation must be scheduled for a date at least one week prior to the start of final examinations in any given semester, but a student planning to graduate at the end of the spring semester must complete the oral defense and deposit the final, typed version of the dissertation in the library by April 15.

Upon successful completion of the dissertation defense and approval of the final written version of the dissertation, the doctoral committee recommends the candidate for the Ph.D. degree. After acceptance by the Graduate School, the dissertation must be archived by UMI and published in Dissertation Abstracts. A letter grade is not given for the dissertation, which is graded on a pass-fail basis.

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