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Doctoral Degree FAQ

Questions that are frequently asked by Ph.D. students

What is a Supervisory Committee?

SUPERVISORY COMMITTEE: Your Supervisory Committee Members are the Professors you choose to administer the Ph.D. written exam questions and the General Exam.

You are not considered a doctoral student UNTIL you set up your supervisory committee. You should establish your Supervisory Committee as early as possible during your first year of Ph.D. study. Students need to choose a minimum of three professors to serve on their Supervisory Committee. When your Supervisory Committee is officially set up the Graduate School will appoint a GSR.

What is a GSR?

The GSR or Graduate School Representative is chosen for you by the Graduate School and he/she is a non-voting member of your Supervisory Committee. The GSR acts as the impartial party at your General and Final Exam. The GSR must be present at your General and Final in order for these exams to be considered official through the Graduate School. It is the responsibility of the student to introduce him/herself to the GSR once the Graduate School appoints one for you. Ph.D. students need to maintain communication with the GSR in order to establish the time and date of the General and the Final Exam.

What are the Written Exams for the Ph.D.?

Written Exams: These are DEPARTMENTAL WRITTEN EXAMS that don't need to be scheduled through the Grad School; your GSR has nothing to do with these exams. Written Exams are normally taken between weeks 2 and 8 of final quarter of course work.

Establish the dates on which you wish to have your exams, run these dates by your committee members, and then inform the Graduate Assistant of these dates. The questions to be administered for these written exams will be provided to the Graduate Assistant by the Supervisory Committee members. The Graduate Assistant will then provide them to you via e-mail or in person. You should work on a written exam question for no more than 8 hours. You will have 24 hours to pick up the exam and return it to the Graduate Assistant.

Remember that you must:

  1. Include the QUESTION on the first page of your Essay Answer.
  2. Make copies of the question and answer to distribute to your committee members.
  3. Attach a GRADE SHEET which the Graduate Assistant will have prepared for you to include with the copy of your exam destined for your examiner.
  4. Make a copy of the exam/answer for your files (to be kept in the advising office).
  5. Attach the COMMENT and FEEDBACK sheet provided for you to the copies of the essay answer you will provide for the rest of your Supervisory Committee members. The committee members will be encouraged to comment on these forms so that you may have some immediate feedback.* The principle examiner (the person grading your exam, whomever came up with your field/written question) will return the grade sheet signed and dated to the Graduate Assistant no later than two weeks after you take the exam. The rest of the committee members won't grade your exam but they will have a copy for their own information. YOU must provide this copy to them.

What is the GENERAL EXAM?

This is also known as the ORAL EXAM and an OFFICIAL REQUEST for the General Exam must be placed through the Graduate School. Please see your Graduate Assistant to schedule the time, date and place of this exam at least 3 weeks before you plan to take it. Students are not considered Ph.D. candidates UNTIL THIS EXAM IS SCHEDULED. Students should decide on a General Exam date around the time the second written exam is taken.

You will FIRST need to contact your supervisory committee members to find a date and time that works for both of you. Then go to Sabrina Tatta with the date/time and she will request that the GENERAL exam be set officially through the GRAD SCHOOL.

All members of your SUPERVISORY COMMITTEE need to sign a request for the General Exam. Although not ALL members have to be present at the General (minimum of 4 must be present; including the GSR) all members must sign the request form to show that they are aware of when and where the exam is taking place, and your GSR must be present. Members of the committee may also confirm their knowledge of the exam via e-mail or by fax if necessary.* Filing for the General Exam sets off a procedure whereby the Grad School checks your TRANSCRIPT is checked to ensure that you have met the minimum requirements in addition to your dissertation credits.


The Reading Committee is the official group of professors who you will ask to read your dissertation. The reading committee, which includes a MINIMUM of three people chosen from the Supervisory Committee, should be established when you have successfully passed the General Exam. Once the readers have been chosen the Graduate Assistant must be informed so a formal request can be made through the Grad School to have the Reading Committee drawn up. You should start taking Fr 800 dissertation credits once the General Exam has been taken. You need a minimum of 27 dissertation credits in order to earn a Ph.D. Remember you need to be registered the quarter you take ANY exam.

What is the FINAL EXAM?

The Final Exam is the defense of the dissertation. The Final needs to be scheduled through the GRAD SCHOOL. In conjunction with your Reading Committee Chair and members, choose a date, time and place that all agree to for the Final. Schedule the final online on "MyGrad". Always inform the Graduate Program Coordinator (Geoffrey Turnovsky for French and Susan Gaylard for Italian) and the department Advisor (Sabrina Tatta) that you have scheduled your final.

The Warrant: The Graduate School will prepare a WARRANT (a document) when you request the Final Exam be scheduled. The Chairman of your Supervisory Committee will bring the Warrant to the Final. After the defense of your dissertation, all members of your Supervisory Committee will sign the Warrant. After the Final, the signed warrant will be taken BY YOU, the student, to the Graduate Advisor, Sabrina Tatta, no later than the last day of the quarter the degree is to be conferred. You'll have a maximum of 60 days in which to submit your dissertation to the Grad School.

Please follow the Graduate School dissertation directions found on the UW Graduate School's web page under Thesis and Dissertation.