• Home
  • Academics
  • Degrees
  • Geography Graduate
  • Ph.D.
  • Requirements

Research Skills Requirement.

Research skills are important elements of any graduate program and should complement the student's research topic. Coursework necessary to meet this requirement should commence early in the program. Selection of a particular Research Skills option must be approved by the student's advisor and student's committee members. A student's Research Skills requirement may be met by one of the following:


1. Demonstrate a reading, writing, and speaking capability in a single foreign language sufficient to enable the student to do field work without an interpreter. An examination for competence, including written and oral portions, will be conducted by the appropriate language department having expertise in that language.

2. Demonstrate a satisfactory capability in one research skill from the list below. The actual courses must be approved by the student's advisor and committee members.

 a. Computer Science - complete a computer-programming course in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (e.g., C++, Fortran, or Visual Basic) with a grade of B or higher and create a substantial computer program that illustrates a geographic application of that language. Both the course and computer program must be approved by the Computer Programming Committee of the Department of Geography.

 b. Mathematics - complete nine hours of courses at the 500 level or above with a grade of B or better.

 c. Statistics - complete nine hours of courses outside the Geography Department at the 500 level or above with a grade of B or higher.

 d. An outside discipline relevant to the student's field(s) of specialization within geography, e.g., anthropology, biology, economics, geology, history, psychology - complete nine hours of courses at the 500 level or above with a grade of B or higher. (Atmospheric science courses may be used for this option, but not courses listed or cross-listed as geography.) Students may petition the Graduate Affairs Committee to have nine hours of courses at the 500-level or above in multiple departments fulfill this requirement.


Students whose native language is not English may, in some cases, use their native language to fulfill the Research Skills requirement but only if the language is considered an adequate research tool for their program and is justified by the student's advisor and committee members. Using a native language to fulfill part of the Research Skills requirement must have GSC approval.

Responsible Scholarship Requirement. 

As part of the University requirement that all PhD students receive "training in responsible scholarship relative to the field of study," the Department of Geography will conduct a non-credit training seminar in responsible scholarship to be held at the beginning of spring semester each year. This requirement must be completed prior to taking the comprehensive exam. The seminar consists of eight (8) contact hours between seminar leaders and PhD students. Seminar leaders will include faculty members in the Geography Department who represent the broad range of research fields in Geography and who have expertise and experience in the topic(s) they cover. Topics to be addressed will include (but are not limited to): human subjects, data management, conflicts of interest, appropriate research conduct, collaborative research, authorship of research articles and grant applications, citation ethics, plagiarism, copyright, peer review, confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements, mentor/student responsibilities, classroom behavior and ethics, and professional liability. The format will consist of readings, policy reviews and resources, short presentations, case studies, and discussion.

Residency Requirement.

In order to fulfill the university's residency requirement, a student must be involved full-time in academics for two semesters. One of these semesters can be a summer session. Full-time is defined as any of the following combinations:

1) 9 credit hours per semester; or 6 credit hours per summer session;
 2) 8 credit hours per semester with a 30% TA or RA;
 3) 7 credit hours per semester with a 40% TA or RA;
 4) 6 credit hours per semester with a 50% TA or RA;
 5) 5 credit hours per summer session with a 25% TA or RA;
 6) 3 credit hours per summer session with a 50% TA or RA.

Comprehensive Examination.

The comprehensive examination is scheduled when the student and the advisor believe that competence in the specialty or specialties has been achieved. Normally the process occurs after the student has completed nearly all of his/her coursework, although Graduate School regulations stipulate that the testing can take place as soon as five months after enrollment in the Ph.D. program. Admittance to the examination is by approval of the GSC. In petitioning for admittance, the student must submit the following materials at least three weeks prior to the scheduled examination (forms are available for 1 and 2 in the departmental office).

1. a program sheet listing courses taken, grades received, etc.

2. demonstration that the Research Skills and Responsible Scholarship requirements have been satisfied (see description above).

3. demonstration that the Residency Requirement has been satisfied (see description above).

4. a written dissertation proposal approved by the advisor (see Theses and Dissertations tab on main menu).

5. a list of examination committee members. The Graduate School requires that the committee consist of at least five members of the graduate faculty. People outside the university can be appointed ad hoc members as necessary. At least one member must be from a KU department outside of geography and at least three members must represent the department. Members are chosen by the student in consultation with the advisor on the basis of expertise in the areas of specialization. They must also be approved by the GSC and recommended by the department to the Graduate School.

6. The date and time proposed for the oral portion of the examination.

The comprehensive examination normally focuses on the student's areas of specialization, including proposed dissertation research. It consists of two parts: written questions submitted by the committee members and then an oral examination. At least four members of the committee must submit written questions. The procedure is for each examiner to give his/her questions to the chair of the student's committee at least one week before the written examinations begin. The committee chair has the responsibility of screening these questions for overlap and clarity, and then administering them, one set per day. The questions may be open-book or closed at the discretion of the individual submitting the questions, and the student normally will have up to eight hours to complete each set of questions. At the conclusion of the written portion of the examination, the committee chair will poll the committee. A majority of the members must approve their individual written portions of the examination in order for the second (oral) portion to take place. Three grades are possible for the overall examination: "honors," "satisfactory," and "unsatisfactory." In the unsatisfactory case, the student may be allowed to repeat the process upon recommendation of the committee. Such repetition can be undertaken no sooner than ninety days after the last testing. The comprehensive examination may be taken no more than three times. Approval of the Graduate School must be secured for the scheduling of this procedure and the request must be submitted three weeks prior to the proposed date for the examination.


Department of Geography and Atmospheric Science Events
One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
Nearly $290 million in financial aid annually
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
—ALA
23rd nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets," Military Times
KU Today