Geography (PhD)

The PhD program requires competent understanding of one of the systematic fields of geography and a broad understanding of geographic topics that enables the student to address and synthesize problems that cross the various fields of geography. While this program is designed to suit each individual’s background and interests, prospective candidates should pay attention to the systematic specialization and regional interests of the department’s faculty members before applying for admission.

Program's Admission Requirements

Please visit the program's website.

Program Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this program, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate breadth of knowledge across two or more fields of geography and mastery of a field of geography, including biophysical geography, human geography, or GIScience.
  • Demonstrate independent scientific thinking and advanced knowledge in their field, including the ability to critically analyze geographic problems, ask research questions, conduct literature reviews, design methods.
  • Conduct independent research and analysis and contribute original and substantive work.
  • Demonstrate effective oral and written communication skills.
  • Understand ethical issues and responsibilities especially in matters related to professionalism, including data collection with human subjects, within the laboratory and field setting and in writing and publishing theses and scientific papers.
  • Become active in a variety of professional activities in their field such as submitting publications, presenting locally and at conferences, receiving funded fellowships, and contributing to professional association activities.

The candidate may use Research: [Topic] (GEOG 601) and Reading and Conference: [Topic] (GEOG 605) to follow specific interests with individual members of the faculty. The PhD program, planned with faculty committee approval, is measured by achievement of the stated goals rather than by any specific number of credits.

PhD Requirements

Core Courses 1
GEOG 608Workshop: [Topic] (Thesis Writing) 22-16
GEOG 611–612
GEOG 613
Theory and Practice of Geography I-II
and Research Design 3
Breadth Requirement
Four upper-division or graduate-level courses, with at least one in each area of emphasis (physical geography, human geography, geographic information science) and no more than one in the student's focal area.16
Methods Courses
Doctoral students must take two methods courses, one quantitative and one qualitative8
Total Credits38-52
Additional Doctoral Required Courses
GEOG 607Seminar: [Topic]1-5
GEOG 607Seminar: [Topic]1-5
GEOG 603Dissertation 11-16

PhD students must complete a preparation in fields of specialization requirement that entails completion of courses and seminars recommended by the advisor or committee members.

After completing the appropriate course work, graduate seminars, advancement to candidacy is achieved by passing a comprehensive written examination. The comprehensive exam is an opportunity to demonstrate that the student

  • can articulate core areas of expertise and situate the student’s overall research agenda in relation to these areas of expertise
  • understands and can defend major theoretical and methodological issues in these core research and teaching areas
  • has a sense of where those theories and methods stand in relation to major themes in contemporary and interdisciplinary scholarship

PhD students develop their own questions. These questions should focus on the three areas of expertise as identified in consultation between the student and advisor. At least three questions should be developed for each of the three areas. The committee may ask for more than three. At this point, the committee selects four examination questions. The committee may constrain, expand, or otherwise edit any of the student-written questions. The student has four weeks to write the responses (four to five pages to each question). Approximately one to three weeks after turning in the written responses, the student defends the responses orally. Please see the geography department's Graduate Program Handbook for additional details.

Within nine months of completing the comprehensive examination, the student must present a dissertation proposal for approval by the student’s dissertation committee. The completed dissertation, the capstone of the doctoral program, presents the results of substantive and original research on a significant geographic problem. It is defended in a public oral presentation.