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Division of Natural Sciences & MathematicsDepartment of Geography & the Environment

Degree Programs

Department of Geography


PhD Research Proposal Presentation

Each student is required to prepare and present a research proposal to be formally approved by the student's faculty committee. Doctoral students must present their proposal for the committee approval by the time that the student would be finishing his/her substantive course work; this is equivalent to having completed 91-quarter hours toward the PhD degree (including 45 hours from Masters program). If a doctoral student does not have an approved proposal by the end of the quarter in which the student has completed 91-quarter hours, the student is placed on academic probation and is given one additional quarter to have a proposal approved by the student's committee. If the proposal has not been approved by the end of the quarter following the completion of 91-quarter hours of PhD degree coursework, the student's program will be terminated due to insufficient progress toward the degree. The student may, however, file a petition before the eighth week of that quarter requesting an extension of probationary status for one additional quarter. If this petition is granted, the student must have a proposal approved by the eighth week of the next quarter to continue in the program. If not, the program is automatically terminated. If a student has encountered severe extenuating circumstances beyond the student's control, a petition may be filed to extend probationary status subject to approval by the Department Chair and the departmental Director of Graduate Studies.

Comprehensive Examination

This exam, which includes both written and oral parts, is designed to evaluate the student's work at the University of Denver. This exam is usually scheduled after all substantive course work has been completed, the dissertation proposal has been approved, and at least three quarters prior to expected graduation. Students should consult with their advisor and committee members to achieve a greater understanding of what will be on the exam. The written portion of the exam can be taken in one of two formats: 1) a written examination conducted in the department usually taken over two days, lasting four hours each day, or 2) a take-home examination in which the student has 5 days to complete the exam. An oral examination is held two weeks after the written exam has been completed. A candidate who fails one or all parts of the comprehensive exam may petition the department for re-examination. Re-examination, if granted by the department, may not be scheduled until the succeeding quarter and can not be retaken more than one time.

Final Exam

Upon completion of course work, approved proposal, comprehensive exam, and the dissertation, each student will undergo a final oral examination. A final examination may not be scheduled until at least the second quarter following the quarter in which the comprehensive exam was successfully completed (the summer may count as a quarter; though, no examinations should be scheduled during the summer). The final oral examination is to be conducted at least two weeks before the end of the quarter in which the degree is to be awarded. This exam is usually about two hours in length, and is composed of a 15 to 20 minute presentation by the student followed by questions from the committee. The examining committee consists of no fewer than four members chosen from the faculty of the department, related cognate disciplines, or outside the University. There is also a non-voting outside member of the examining committee who serves as the chair for the final examination and must be a tenured or tenure-track faculty member at the University serving as the University's representative.


Please refer to the Geography Graduate Handbook by year of your program acceptance and the Graduate Policy Manual from the Office of Graduate Studies; or you can go to their website for more information and deadlines at