Requirements for the Degree

Section I. Requirements for Non-Clinical Students

The non-clinical Ph.D. program in Psychology can and should be completed in five years. Students who require more time must petition the CHD (Committee on Higher Degrees) and receive written approval of their request. Requests for one additional year will typically be approved and—except under extraordinary circumstances—subsequent requests will be denied. Students who have not completed the Ph.D. program at the end of six years will be withdrawn. Students who have been withdrawn may seek readmission, which will be contingent on (a) the willingness of a tenured or tenure-track faculty member in the Psychology Department to serve as the student’s advisor; (b) approval by the CHD; and (c) successful completion of an examination approved by the CHD.

A. Courses and Projects

All students must complete the following requirements. Course requirements are completed by achieving a grade of B+ or better.

  1. Contemporary Topics in Psychological Research (PSY 2010) must be completed by the end of the first year.
  2. Two out of three of the following survey courses must be completed by the end of the second year: Cognition, Brain, and Behavior Proseminar (PSY 2020), Proseminar in Social Psychology (PSY 2500), or Developmental Proseminar (PSY 2170).
  3. Two elective courses must be taken from a list of elective courses approved by the CHD. Elective courses are typically substantive seminars offered by Psychology Department faculty.
  4. Two statistics courses: Intermediate Statistical Analysis in Psychology (PSY 1950), which must be completed by the end of the Spring semester of the first year, and Multivariate Analysis in Psychology (PSY 1952), which must be completed by the end of the Spring semester of the second year. Students may petition the CHD to be approved for exemption from 1950 or 1952, or both. 
  5. Students must complete a first-year project. Students must write a satisfactory proposal for an original research project (not a review). The report must be approved by the student’s faculty advisor(s) by the end of the Fall semester of the student’s first year. Students must complete the proposed project and submit a satisfactory written report to their faculty advisor by the end of the Spring semester of the first year.
  6. Students must complete a second-year project. Students must write a satisfactory report of an original research project (not a review). The report must be approved by the student’s faculty advisor(s) and an independent reader (i.e., a faculty member who is not a collaborator on the project) by the end of the Spring semester of the student’s second year. Students must also make a satisfactory oral presentation of this work to the department in May of the second year.

B. Master of Arts (AM)

Students may be recommended for the non-terminal degree of Master of Arts upon completion of the relevant GSAS residence requirements and the requirements in I.A.1-8.

Section II. Requirements for Clinical Students

The clinical Ph.D. program in Psychology can and should be completed in six years (prior to internship). Students who require more time must petition the CHD and receive written approval of their request. Requests for one additional year will typically be approved and—except under extraordinary circumstances—subsequent requests will be denied. Students who have not completed the Ph.D. program at the end of seven years will be withdrawn. Students who have been withdrawn may seek readmission, which will be contingent on (a) the willingness of a tenured or tenure-track faculty member in the Psychology Department to serve as the student’s advisor; (b) approval by the CHD; and (c) successful completion of an examination approved by the CHD.

A. Courses and Projects

All students must complete the following requirements. Course requirements are completed by achieving a grade of B+ or better.

  1. Contemporary Topics in Psychological Research (PSY 2010) must be completed by the end of the first year. 

  2. Intermediate Statistical Analysis in Psychology (PSY 1950), which must be completed by the end of the Spring semester of the first year, and Multivariate Analysis in Psychology (PSY 1952), which must be completed by the end of the Spring semester of the second year. Students may petition the CHD to be approved for exemption from 1950 or 1952, or both.

  3. Contemporary Topics in Psychopathology (PSY 2040) must be completed by the end of the spring semester of the second year. 

  4. History of Psychology (PSY 2050) must be cmpleted by the end of the spring semester of the fourth year. 

  5. Students must complete a first-year project. Students must write a satisfactory proposal for an original research project (not a review). The report must be approved by the student’s faculty advisor(s) by the end of the Fall semester of the student’s first year. Students must complete the proposed project and submit a satisfactory written report to their faculty advisor by the end of the Spring semester of the first year.

  6. Students must complete a second-year project. Students must write a satisfactory report of an original research project (not a review). The report must be approved by the student’s faculty advisor(s) and an independent reader (i.e., a faculty member who is not a collaborator on the project) by the end of the Spring semester of the student’s second year. Students must also make a satisfactory oral presentation of this work to the department in May of the second year.

  7. Students must complete a six-hour general examination covering in considerable depth the literature in the area of psychopathology and clinical psychology during the summer preceding the Fall semester of the third year.

  8. Students must complete a one-year clinical internship. Students must complete all of the above requirements described in II.A.1-8 before beginning the internship. In addition, students must meet the course requirements and the practicum placement requirements of the APA and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts licensing board before beginning the internship.

  9. Finally, students must meet or exceed the standards for professional conduct and responsibility that are described in the clinical program handbook. Failure to meet these standards can be grounds for termination from the clinical program, even if a student is in good academic standing.

B. Master of Arts (AM)

Students may be recommended for the non-terminal degree of Master of Arts upon completion of the relevant GSAS residence requirements and the requirements in II.A.1-8.

 

Section III: Requirements for All Students

A. The Dissertation Prospectus

By the end of the spring semester of their penultimate year, students must complete a dissertation prospectus for an original project that is meant to culminate in the dissertation.

  • The prospectus committee will comprise three members, at least two of whom must be faculty members in the Psychology Department.

  • The prospectus committee members will be nominated by the student and his or her advisor and must be approved by the CHD.  (Nominees who are tenured or tenure-track members of the faculty of the Psychology Department are automatically approved). The student must supply the CV of any nominee who is not a tenured or tenure-track member of the faculty of the Psychology Department.

  • The prospectus committee will not be approved by the CHD until the student has completed all requirements listed in Section I.A of this document.

  • The Department requires that the prospectus be approved by the end of the Spring semester of the penultimate year. (Note that students who wish to apply for the guaranteed Dissertation Completion Fellowship must observe the GSAS deadline, typically in the early part of the spring semester; check the Fellowship Office website for details).

  • Students whose prospectuses have not been approved by the prospectus committee by the end of the Spring semester of the penultimate year will be considered in bad standing and will be withdrawn from the graduate program. Students in bad standing may not receive financial aid such as tuition grants, and may not hold teaching fellowships.

B. The Dissertation and the Oral Defense

In the ultimate year, students must submit a doctoral dissertation in one of two formats.

  • The traditional format is described in the document The Form of the PhD Dissertation available at http://www.gsas.harvard.edu/current_students/the_phd_dissertation.php
     
  • The 3-paper format consists of:
     
    1. Three articles describing original empirical research that the dissertation committee deems “of publishable quality.”  The student must be the first author on each paper. At least one of the three papers must be under review, in press, or published in a peer-reviewed journal. 
       
    2. An introductory chapter that thoroughly reviews the literature relevant to the three papers.
       
    3. A concluding chapter that describes what was learned from the three papers.
       
  • The dissertation committee comprises the members of the prospectus committee and an additional member—the outside examiner—who was not a member of the prospectus committee. The outside examiner must be approved by the CHD. Any tenured or tenure-track faculty member in the Psychology Department is automatically approved as an outside examiner.
     
  • The dissertation must be approved by the student’s advisor before it is submitted to the dissertation committee.
     
  • Once the dissertation committee is satisfied with the written dissertation, the student may schedule an oral defense of the dissertation. Oral defenses may not be scheduled during summer months.
     
  • The interval between the date that the dissertation committee receives the dissertation and the date of the oral defense may not be less than two weeks.
     
  • The format of the oral defense is determined by the chair of the dissertation committee.