Skip to main
University-wide Navigation

EdD & PhD in EPE

EPE offers a PhD and an EdD. One of our most frequent questions is, “What’s the difference?”. Since 2007 we have been participating in the Carnegie Foundation Project on the Education Doctorate to consider this distinction. Some colleges of education in the country only offer the EdD; so, in some circles, this degree represents a terminal degree in the area of education research. In other institutions, like ours, a PhD is also offered. Both degrees have the same number of hours and general requirements. The EdD is focused on live and emerging issues in education with clear consequences and the PhD advances theoretical understandings in the field. Both can be interdisciplinary. And yes, it is possible (with permission of the department faculty) to switch between the two.

Major Professor and Advisory Committee

Doctoral students are guided by their major professor but answer to their entire advisory committee. The advisory committee is made up of four faculty including the major professor. All must be members of the Graduate Faculty. See the Graduate School Bulletin for specific details regarding the composition of your advisory committee.

Do not try to go solo. Although we encourage our students to be as self-directed as possible, you should touch base with your major professor often to be sure you are on the same page. This helps you avoid mistakes that may cost you time. As you move through your program, significant events along the way mark your progress. You will need advice or approval from your major professor and advisory committee on each of these events including:

  • Completion of approved course work
  • Setting qualifying exam questions
  • Qualifying examination
  • Development of a research proposal
  • Approval of the research proposal by your advisory committee
  • Research and writing of your dissertation
  • Final examination
  • Revisions and submission of the dissertation to the University of Kentucky Graduate School

Program Planning

For the majority of your doctoral career, you follow a planned program of study. By the time you have completed about 18 credit hours of course work, your research interests have usually solidified to the extent that an academically sound plan can be devised. Your program plan is developed cooperatively by you, your major professor and your advisory committee. When approved, this document specifies course work selected to further your academic and professional goals and reflects specific program requirements of your doctoral program. As a doctoral student you need to complete approximately 43 semester credit hours, a portion of which represents your doctoral program residency.

Note: Students enrolled in a cooperative doctoral program (UK and another Kentucky public university or college) do count course hours at the cooperative university as a part of the Part B section of the residency requirement.

Program Plan Approval

During the first meeting of your advisory committee (usually after 18 hours of coursework, but at least one year before you plan to attempt your qualifying exam), a draft program plan should be presented including information about any prior graduate study and with full descriptions of seminar courses and independent study courses. At this time, your advisory committee may choose to recognize a master’s degree or extensive graduate coursework in lieu of one year (18 hours) of residency credit. They may also choose to reduce the number of hours necessary to complete the program plan, but only if they determine that this reduced number will still provide the appropriate coursework support to properly prepare the student for his or her qualifying exam and successful completion of the dissertation.

Changing an Approved Program Plan: At times, an approved plan needs adjustment or alteration. You and your major professor determine what changes or alterations are needed and acceptable. Be sure to notify your advisory committee. You are responsible for informing the DGS of such deviations from your approved program plan.

Residency Requirements

Students must complete the equivalent of two years of residency prior to the qualifying examination and one year of post-qualifying residency. Specifics of this requirement are detailed in the Graduate School Bulletin.

For students with extensive prior graduate work, a waiver of up to 18 credit hours of pre-qualifying residency may be appropriate. Such requests should be submitted in writing by the DGS to the Dean of the Graduate School and should include a detailed justification, as well as evidence that the student’s major professor and advisory committee support the request. It should be noted that requests of this nature will be recommended at the discretion of the DGS, only under very rare circumstances.

The Qualifying Examination

The purpose of the qualifying examination is to verify that you have sufficient understanding of and competence in your field to become a candidate for the doctoral degree. The examination is conducted by your advisory committee and has both written and oral portions.

PhD Students

The written part of your examination may include a variety of activities, including but not limited to, research projects, controlled writing sessions, review essays, and/or methodological exercises. Any approach selected by a committee member serves as a mechanism for assessing your knowledge, critical thinking, and writing abilities. Assigned research projects allow sufficient time for you to develop a carefully crafted logical argument and therefore provide you the opportunity to demonstrate highly refined thinking and writing skills. Any qualifying exam projects assigned must be completed at least two weeks prior to the projected date for the oral portion of your examination.

The oral portion of your examination usually occurs a minimum of two weeks after your advisory committee receives your complete written package. This portion of the examination uses your written work as a foundation for further exploration of your academic strengths and will take about two hours. The “oral” requires a formal advisory committee meeting that all members attend—no committee member may be excused. During this time, your committee members explore the depth of your understanding of the various academic areas prominent in your program plan and represented in your written products. However, your committee may probe other academic areas in order to determine your readiness to initiate a scholarly research project.

Getting Started: The decision to schedule the qualifying examination, usually made just before or early in the last semester of your course work, is a joint decision made by you and your major professor. Once this decision is made, you are responsible for organizing and scheduling both components of the examination. In addition, you must inform the DGS and Student Services Assistant of the decision to begin your examination process. Before the oral component of the examination can be scheduled with The Graduate School, any “I” grades and certain “S” grades must be removed from your transcript and Part B of the residency model must be completed.

Planning Meeting: You must arrange an advisory committee planning meeting at which you present bibliographies pertinent to your suggested areas of examination. This meeting should result in a topic and preferred format for each committee member’s written examination question and the discussion should include a description of each member’s expectations of your performance for the written examination.

EdD Students

All EdD candidates are required to follow a two step assessment of their qualification for doctoral candidacy:

Written Comprehensive Exam (internal to department should be completed by 36 hours). This written exam is a review of a problem of practice including 1) an analytic synthesis of existing research appropriate to the student’s interests, 2) a careful treatment of context demonstrating the problem in context both as a specific problem in a particular locale but also relative to the larger social landscape, and 3) the identification of an argument or problematic to be studied and key positions taken relative to this argument.

Oral Defense of Preliminary Research Proposal with a focus on research design and delineation of problem of practice (following Graduate School rules for the qualifying exam). This research prospectus will demonstrate the candidate’s ability to design a high quality research project appropriate for investigating the problem of practice identified in his or her comprehensive exam.

Students must successfully pass their written exam prior to advancing to the oral defense of their research proposal. Students that fail to pass their written exam are allowed a second and final attempt within one year of their first exam. Students that fail to pass their oral defense of their research proposal are eligible to follow UK Graduate School procedures for a second and final attempt at qualifying for candidacy.

An electronic copy of your qualifying exam questions should be sent to the DGS/Administrative Assistant.


Setting Your Exam

  • Request for Exam: Qualifying examinations must be scheduled when the University is in session and faculty members are under contract. Remember that all committee members must be present for the oral portion. You must submit the formal on-line request to the Graduate School to schedule your qualifying examination. The Graduate School must receive this request at least two weeks prior to the scheduled date of your examination. This two-week lead-time required by the Graduate School allows time to verify your compliance with Part B of the residency model and to check your transcript for incomplete or unacceptable satisfactory grades. The Graduate School will deny the formal request if residency has not been satisfactorily completed or unacceptable grades are on your transcript.
  • Distribution of Exam Copies: Advisory committee members should receive copies of all written responses at least three weeks prior to your scheduled oral exam. You are responsible for assuring that these copies are delivered to committee members in a timely fashion. Keep in mind that your committee members must have sufficient time to read and reflect on your written responses before attending the qualifying examination advisory committee meeting.
  • Results of the Doctoral Qualifying Examination: At the end of the two-hour oral examination, your advisory committee makes a decision on whether you have passed the qualifying examination and are now a candidate for the degree, or have failed the qualifying examination and need to take additional steps toward the satisfactory completion of the examination.

Congratulations! When you pass the examination you are referred to as a doctoral candidate and you begin a concentrated effort to prepare an acceptable dissertation research proposal. You must now register for EPE 767, post-qualifying residency credit. It is during these credit hours that you are expected to design an acceptable research proposal.

Post-Qualifying Residency

Students who have passed their qualifying exam (or are in the process of sitting their exam) should register for 2 credit hours of EPE 767. You will stay continuously enrolled in EPE 767 until you graduate. You must be enrolled in the semester you defend your dissertation. You need not be physically present on campus while enrolled for credit after the qualifying examination. See the Graduate School Bulletin for more information regarding residency.

The Doctoral Dissertation

Each candidate must present a dissertation that represents the culmination of a major research project. The dissertation must be a well-reasoned, original contribution to knowledge in the field of study and should evidence high scholarly achievement.

Your Research Proposal: A research proposal articulates the problem or focus of a study, the methodology selected for exploring that problem or focus, and the methods to be employed in such exploration. A proposal supports the need for the study through a discussion of the literature related to the problem or focus and to the methodology of choice.

Research proposals are unique to each study; accordingly, examples of accepted proposals might be of limited value to you. There is no “required” length for a proposal—a proposal’s length is determined by what you need to communicate effectively the purpose and research approach. Some proposals are extremely detailed and others more global in explanation of purpose and procedure. Specific characteristics of your study, the opinions of your major professor, and your own conceptual thinking guide the selection of components needed to explicate your study.

Although EPE does not stipulate a proposal format, a few elements should be incorporated regardless of purpose or procedure. A proposal must have a title page that identifies you, provides your study’s working title, the date of the current draft, your advisory committee members and your major professor. Your proposal needs a consistent format for headers, in-text citations, and the reference section. Your proposal should clearly present your research problem; describe the importance of your study; articulate the relationship of your study to relevant research; state your hypotheses, questions or themes; and detail your methodology and methodological procedures.

Development and approval of your proposal: Given that you most likely have never produced such a document, your major professor is a vital source of guidance and support while you compose your proposal. Accordingly, the development of your proposal is the result of on-going discussions with your major professor. When your major professor declares that your proposal clearly articulates the intent and method of your study, you are ready to contact all advisory committee members and schedule a working session for the purpose of review and approval of your proposal. Once this meeting is scheduled you should inform the DGS of the date, time and location. Be sure to provide each committee member a copy of your proposal at least two weeks prior to the scheduled meeting.

Although you may dread this meeting, that dread is usually caused by the memory of the oral portion of the qualifying examination. Whereas the oral examination was a difficult “rite of passage”, the proposal approval meeting is more of a collaborative working session. Your committees members focus on helping you, as a novice researcher, design a quality exploration into an important topic or problem. During the meeting, you will receive valuable assistance in fine-tuning your proposal.

When your committee approves your research proposal, you may want to alter certain elements of the proposal—the amount of time to devote to alterations needs to be discussed with your major professor.

An electronic copy of the completed proposal and one page abstract written for the “lay reader” must be filed in the DGS office.

The Institutional Review Board: After your proposal is approved and before you gather any data from human subjects, the appropriate Institutional Review Board (IRB), forms must be submitted to and approved by the Office of Research Integrity. With the permission of your major professor, you may wish to prepare a draft IRB application in advance of your proposal hearing.

IRB forms, rules, and procedures can be located through a web link on The Graduate School home page. IRB staff can respond to your questions and, as needed, assist you in completing these forms. In addition, your major professor and DGS are familiar with the requirements of IRB and can guide you in preparing the appropriate form.

Remember that no data from human subjects can be collected without receiving IRB approval of the research study procedures for interacting with human subjects, acquiring data, using data, and storing data.

Implementing the procedures described in your proposal: As data are gathered, analyzed and interpreted, you need to stay in frequent communication with your major professor and other advisory committee members. This frequent contact facilitates the efficient completion of your research project. Your major professor is familiar with research assistance available on UK’s campus and can direct you to such resources.

Writing Your Dissertation

As with your research proposal, your dissertation is a unique product tailored to the character of your study; the formatting guidelines required by the Graduate School must be followed, but these are not content-organization or language-usage guidelines. The Graduate School guidelines help you comply with the publishing requirements of the University of Kentucky. These guidelines, “Instructions for the Preparation of Dissertations and Doctor of Musical Arts Projects,” are located at For direction in shaping the format and content of your dissertation, you must rely on the expertise of your major professor and advisory committee.

At some point, you and your major professor foresee your completion of the writing task. When this time arrives, and in order for you to sit for the final examination, you must submit a series of online forms to the Graduate School according to a definite schedule. The steps in the final examination process are complicated and require the unified effort of you, your major professor, the DGS office, and the Graduate School staff. In addition to meeting the due-dates established by the Graduate School, you must allow sufficient time for three of your advisory committee members to review and discuss your dissertation and, based on their recommendations, time to amend the dissertation before it is ready for the final examination. Accordingly, the later in a semester you plan to sit for the final examination, the tighter the entire timeline becomes.

The final copy of the dissertation must be presented to the Graduate School within 60 days of the final examination or on the last day to present a dissertation for a graduating candidate, if a specific graduation date is desired. Failure to present the dissertation within 60 days may result in the student having to be re-examined. Requests for exceptions to the 60-day policy should be in the form of an e-mail from the student’s advisor to the Senior Associate Dean of the Graduate School. Detailed requirements for the preparation of the dissertation are contained in “Instructions for the Preparation of Dissertations and DMA Projects” available at

Electronic Dissertation (ETD)

The Graduate School, in cooperation with University Libraries, provides graduate students with the option of submitting their doctoral dissertations in wholly electronic format. The submission of an electronic thesis or dissertation is optional; the student may still submit a traditional paper thesis or dissertation. The advantages of submitting and displaying an Electronic Thesis or Dissertation (ETD) on the web include much faster and wider access to the student’s work by the worldwide community of scholars and the possibility of enriched content provided by the inclusion of multimedia elements. Specific instructions are available at the graduate school’s website. To view the current collection of ETD’s, go to

Doctoral Final Examination Process

  • File the “Application for Degree” with the Graduate School: “To be eligible for a degree a student must file an application through MyUK within 30 days of the beginning of the semester (15 days in the summer session)”. Make sure that all members of your Advisory Committee are aware of your intent to graduate in a given semester.
  • Submit the “Notification of Intent to Schedule a Final Doctoral Examination”: This form must be presented to The Graduate School at least eight weeks before the examination is to be given. Upon receipt of the “Notification of Intent to Schedule a Final Doctoral Examination,” the Dean of the Graduate School will assign an outside examiner to join your committee for the final examination. You will need permission from your major professor to take this step, though you may not have finished the final draft of the manuscript.
  • Provide copies of your dissertation to three of your four advisory committee members. Allow at least 2 weeks for these three members to read and comment on your dissertation. This step is necessary for final scheduling of your exam and lets you know if there are any critical issues that need to be addressed before the defense.
  • Review with your major professor all recommendations made by your committee members and amend your dissertation as your major professor suggests. When revision is complete and your major professor is satisfied, your mansucript is ready for the final examination. At this time you must finalize the date, time, and location for your examination.
  • Submit to the Graduate School the “Request for Final Doctoral Examination”: The “Request for Final Doctoral Examination” specifies the date, time and location of your examination and must be presented to the Graduate School at least two weeks before the final examination is to be given. Final examinations must be scheduled for a date no later than eight days prior to the last day of classes of the semester in which you expect to graduate.
  • Provide a clean copy of your manuscript to all committee members and outside examiner AT LEAST two weeks prior to the date of defense.
  • Sit for the final examination
  • Complete all amendments to your dissertation and allow sufficient time for your major professor to approve this final version of your dissertation.
  • Within 60 days of the date of passing the final examination, deliver to the Graduate School two copies of the dissertation, printed on cotton paper. After the Graduate School accepts these copies, pay any remaining fees owed to the University.
  • Doctoral final examinations may only be scheduled when classes are in session (fall and spring semesters, four-and eight-week summer sessions).

The Doctoral Final Examination

The final examination is a doctoral program requirement of the Graduate Faculty. It requires an oral defense of the research presented in the dissertation and may be as all encompassing as deemed appropriate by the advisory committee.

An expanded advisory committee chaired by your major professor or the Director of Graduate Studies conducts your final examination. In addition to your outside examiner the membership of your advisory committee may include the Dean of the Graduate School and the President of the University, or their designees, as ex officio members. This examination is a public event to which the entire University community is invited. Accordingly, the final examination date, time and site are published beforehand. Click HERE to view a listing of all dissertation defenses currently scheduled with the Graduate School.

The examination usually takes two hours and will result in one of two findings: you either pass or fail. When you pass examination, no more than 60 days can pass before you submit two cotton copies of your dissertation to the Graduate School. If you fail to pass your examination, your advisory committee determines the conditions, under which you may be re-examined, if re-examination is deemed appropriate. The Dean of the Graduate School determines whether these conditions are acceptable and a re-examination will be allowed. Only after all conditions have been met may the re-examination occur. A third examination is not permitted.

Outside Examiner on a Doctoral Dissertation Defense

The Graduate Dean will independently appoint the outside examiner to the final examination committee. Care will be taken to appoint outside examiners who have some understanding of and interest in the topic of the dissertation. When the “Notification of Intent” is submitted, the DGS should identify two or more programs whose members are likely to satisfy these conditions. When feasible, the appointment will be made from one of these programs. The Graduate School will not appoint a particular outside examiner on the basis of a student’s (or committee’s) desire to hold the final examination on a specific date, or at a specific time. Students should not contact a potential outside examiner personally. For selected dissertations, the Dean of the Graduate School may appoint a faculty member from another institution to serve as the outside examiner. Our department has been fortunate to participate in the Visiting Distinguished Faculty program which provides funds to invite a faculty member from another university to serve as the Outside Examiner.