Guidelines and Forms

Guidelines and Forms​

PhD Qualifying Examination

The examination to determine a student’s candidacy for the PhD degree tests the student’s fitness to undertake independent research. It is comprehensive in nature and includes both written and oral parts.

If the student’s written examination is satisfactory, the student may proceed to the oral portion of the exam. If additional material is to be covered in the oral portion, the student should be notified of the content expectations in advance. The oral portion of the examination should be scheduled within a few days of the written portion of the qualifying exam. It should not be on the same day and it should be scheduled no more than 60 days after submission of the completed written portion to the qualifying exam committee.

PhD Qualifying Examination Committee

The qualifying exam committee is responsible for supervising the student’s preparation for the exam and its evaluation. The Appointment or Change of Qualifying Exam Committee form is used to establish the qualifying exam committee. The form requires the signature of each member of the committee, the department chair or director, and the dean or dean’s designate. The completed form is filed in the student’s home department or program.

The qualifying exam committee is composed of five members. The committee chair and at least two additional members must have an official appointment in the student’s program.

Committee members may be tenured, tenure track and full-time RTPC (research, teaching, practice, clinical) USC faculty.

The committee may also include an “outside” member and/or an “external” member. A USC faculty member from outside the student’s home program is called the “outside member.” The “external member” may be a faculty member from an institution other than USC, or an individual whose professional profile demonstrates an impact on the field in significant, measurable ways. The CV of the external member must be uploaded by the program to the Graduate School as part of the Report on Qualifying Examination. Students should confer with their program about “outside” or “external” members.

Part-time adjunct faculty may serve on a PhD committee as “external members.” Permission from the Vice Provost for Academic Programs is needed if part-time adjunct faculty are to serve in a role other than “external member”. Programs should contact the Graduate School well in advance of the qualifying exam date to request a General Petition that will record the participation of part-time adjunct faculty in a role other than “external member”. The CV must be uploaded by the program to the Graduate School as part of the Report on Qualifying Examination.

Remote Participation during the Qualifying Exam

For the PhD qualifying examination, all committee members may participate remotely. Remote participation of committee members should be indicated in writing on the Report on Qualifying Examination.

PhD Dissertation Committee

The dissertation committee is composed of at least three and no more than five members. The committee chair must have an appointment in the student’s program. All committees must have a majority of members from the student’s home program.

Dissertation committee members may be tenured, tenure track and full-time RTPC (research, teaching, practice, clinical) faculty. The committee may also include an “outside” member and/or an “external” member. A USC faculty member from outside the student’s home program is called the “outside member.” The “external member” may be a faculty member from an institution other than USC, or an individual whose professional profile demonstrates an impact on the field in significant, measurable ways. The CV of the external member must be uploaded with the Appointment of Committee form to Thesis Center.

Emeriti and Former USC Faculty

Emeriti faculty appointed to a qualifying exam committee when they were full-time faculty at USC may continue to serve on the dissertation committee until the student has graduated. Similarly, a former USC faculty member who was appointed to the qualifying exam committee while they were a full-time USC faculty member may continue to serve on the dissertation committee until the student has graduated.

Remote Participation during the Dissertation Defense

For the dissertation defense, the committee chair and the student must be present, unless the relevant dean and the Vice Provost for Academic Programs provide written permission for remote participation. Programs should contact the Graduate School well in advance of the defense date to request a General Petition that will record the remote participation of either the student or chair. Members who participate remotely will be noted on the dissertation Approval to Submit forms.

Dissertation Submission

PhD dissertation manuscripts must be submitted to Thesis Center.

Forms for Qualifying Exams and Dissertation Defense

These fillable PDF forms are best viewed using Adobe Reader. Download the free version here.

After downloading the form, obtain the signatures of the committee members and then submit the form to the department chair or program director. The form will be sent to the dean for review and approval. The original form is to be kept by the program and a signed copy provided to the student. If changes need to be made to the Qualifying Examination or Dissertation Committee, the form should be completed and submitted to the department chair or program director as soon as possible.

Required Documents for Dissertation Filing

All of the documents required to submit a dissertation can be viewed or downloaded and printed. These fillable PDF forms are best viewed using Adobe Reader

PhD Students:

  • Approval to Submit Defended and Final Copy of Doctoral Dissertation form
    • This form is created digitally through the Thesis Center registration process. It is signed by committee members via email after the dissertation has been successfully defended. The student must initiate the email to their committee members in Thesis Center.
  • Appointment/Change of Committee form
  • Survey of Earned Doctorates (PhD students only)

Committee Participation for Master’s Thesis Committees

The student’s master’s committee directs the student’s program of study and thesis or comprehensive examination. The master’s committee consists of at least three and no more than five members. At least two of the members must be faculty in the student’s home program, and may be tenured, tenure track, full-time RTPC (research, teaching, practice, clinical) or part-time adjunct faculty. The committee chair must have an appointment in the student’s program. All committees must have a majority of members from the student’s home program.

The student’s thesis or master’s committee is responsible for the content, adherence to departmental formatting requirements, and bibliographical consistency of the thesis.

Remote Participation at Master’s Thesis Defense

For the Master’s Thesis Defense, all committee members may participate remotely. Remote participation of a committee member should be indicated in writing on the Appointment of Master’s Committee or Change of Master’s Committee form.

Forms for Master’s Thesis Committees

These fillable PDF forms are best viewed using Adobe Reader. Download the free version here.

At least one semester before defending the master’s thesis, the Appointment of Master’s Committee form should be completed.

After downloading the form, obtain the signatures of the committee members and then submit the form to the department chair or director. The form will be sent to the dean for review and approval, and a copy will remain in the department.

If changes need to be made to the Master’s Committee, a Change of Committee form should be completed and submitted to the department chair or director as soon as possible.

Required Documents for Thesis Filing

All of the documents required to submit a thesis can be viewed or downloaded and printed. These fillable PDF forms are best viewed using Adobe Reader

Master’s Students:

  • Approval to Submit Final Copy of Thesis form
    • This form is created digitally through the Thesis Center registration process. It is signed by committee members via email after the dissertation has been successfully defended. The student must initiate the email to their committee members in Thesis Center.
  • Appointment/Change of Committee form

Handbook for Teaching Assistants (TAs), Research Assistants (RAs), and Graduate Assistant Lecturers (ALs)

USC’s Handbook for Teaching Assistants (TAs), Research Assistants (RAs), and Graduate Assistant Lecturers (ALs) is available to you as a PDF. The handbook has been prepared for teaching assistants, research assistants, and graduate assistant lecturers, for the faculty who work with them, and for staff departmental advisors. Download handbook

Accessibility Training for Teaching Assistants at USC

View accessibility training and resources for teaching assistants on the USC Libraries Research Guide page

Parental Leave for PhD Students

The Guidelines

PhD students who meet the following criteria are eligible for a one-semester parental leave:

  • If they are pregnant or are the primary caregiver of their newborn child or adopted child under six years of age
  • The student has completed at least one semester in their PhD program and is making good progress
  • The student was admitted with an offer letter for a 4 or 5-year “package” consisting of support through any combination of teaching assistantship, research assistantship, and fellowship

Parental leave may be taken during the semester in which the child is born or adopted, or during the semester immediately following. A student on approved parental leave receives the base graduate assistant stipend from the Graduate School for one semester. Individual schools are expected to top off the base stipend to the level of the stipend stipulated in the student’s offer letter and to cover the cost of the student’s USC student health insurance and student health center fee. Students should enroll in GRSC 804 to ensure continued access to health insurance and the monthly stipend. While on parental leave, students are not eligible for federal financial aid. Students with loans should consult with the Office of Financial Aid before beginning parental leave. International students should discuss the parental leave with the Office of International Services to be sure there are no unforeseen issues related to their visa status.

The Process

A leave request should be submitted the semester before the leave will take place. The student should submit to the Graduate School the following:

  1. the Request for Parental Leave for PhD Students,
  2. a copy of the offer letter, 
  3. primary caregiver statement, and
  4. one of the following:
  • a verification of pregnancy signed by a US doctor (available at USC Student Health Center) or
  • a birth certificate for the infant child or
  • a statement of adoption from an adoption agency

The Graduate School will process the leave request and inform the student and the staff graduate advisor in the student’s home department when a decision has been made. To begin the process, students should talk with the staff graduate advisor in their department or program.

Requests & Petitions

Below are the most common requests and petitions that require the approval of the Graduate School. To initiate a request or petition, students should see the staff graduate advisor for the department or program.

Application for Readmission

This form is required for a student who wishes to return to their graduate program if the cumulative GPA is below 3.0, or if readmission is sought after more than two years of an unapproved absence.

Extension of Time

If a student exceeds the time limit to complete their degree, then the student must request permission for a time extension.

Leave of Absence

A student requests permission to take a leave of absence if the student does not wish to be enrolled in their degree program in a given semester.

Request for Approval of Graduate Assistant Appointment Over 50% or Less Than 25%

Many PhD students have a 50% appointment as a graduate assistant (RA or TA). Because of the potential risk to students’ timely academic progress, the Graduate School typically will consider an average of five additional hours per week in a second appointment.

Request to Exceed GRSC 800 Enrollment Limit Form

After enrolling in GRSC 800A and GRSC 800B, this form is necessary when a student needs to register for  GRSC 800Z: Studies for the Qualifying Exam.

Reserve for Graduate Credit Coursework Taken as an Undergraduate – Exceptions:

During the last semester as a senior, an undergraduate may enroll in a limited amount of coursework at the 400 and 500 levels and request that it be reserved for graduate credit. Students should speak with their advisors for more information.

USC – UCLA Cross-Enrollment

This form is for USC graduate students who are interested in taking a graduate course at UCLA. View the USC-UCLA Cross Enrollment Rules 2018

Minimum Total Stipends for USC Graduate Students

Revised minimum stipend for graduate students has been announced for AY 2022.  View the memo of April 6, 2022: <Minimum Stipend Memo 4-6-2022> that supersedes the previous memo of November 11, 2021.

The Provost has approved increases to the USC minimum total stipend for graduate students for AY 2022.  Learn about the details in the November 2021 memo. View the memo: Minimum Stipend Memo 11-11-2021