Degree Requirements

Allison Leach, NRESS Ph.D Student
Allison Leach, NRESS Ph.D. Student

The Ph.D. Guidance and Dissertation Committees must consist of at least five members. Three of the five members (including the chair) must be NRESS faculty, and committee members must be from more than one academic department.  Students are strongly encouraged to include at least one off-campus member. Off-campus committee members must hold a Ph.D. or terminal degree and be approved by the student's advisor, the NRESS Program, and the Graduate School Dean. Students should select their Guidance Committee in a timely manner, within one year for full-time students and two years for part-time students.

All students in the program will take NRES 997 Interdisciplinary Research, and one course in each of four core areas: Natural Sciences, Ethics/Policy/Law, Methods and Seminar. Any course used to satisfy the Natural Sciences, Ethics, and Methods core areas must be at least 3 credits. The Seminar course must be interactive and must be at least 1 credit. Independent study courses may not be used to satisfy core requirements. The Guidance Committee determines which courses on campus will satisfy these requirements.

A minimum of two semesters of registration in Doctoral Research (999) is required for Ph.D students. "All Doctoral candidates must register for Doctoral Research (999) each semester after advancement to candidacy until their degree is conferred, even if the minimum requirement (two semesters) has been met."

Students entering the program without a Master's degree are expected to complete a minimum of 36 credit hours. There is not a specific credit requirement for students who have completed a M.S. or M.A. degree. Final credit requirements are determined by the Guidance Committee and may include additional coursework necessary to enhance the student's selected field of study and/or correct any deficiencies in the student's previous program. Students may apply a maximum of 12 credits of independent study and/or seminar courses to their total course requirement.

Graduate level courses taken prior to admission may be transferred in to the program and applied to the total only if they were not taken while matriculated in another degree program. The Graduate School allows 12 credits from UNH or 8 credits from other institutions. A transfer of credits must be approved by the advisor, the Guidance Committee and the Graduate School. Please check the UNH Graduate School website for more information on the regulations governing transfer of credits and other regulations applicable to Ph.D. students.

Language proficiency may be required at the discretion of the student's advisor/committee. If so required, a student would need to show proficiency in one foreign language or one computer language.


Each student is required to pass three examinations, each of which has both a written and oral component. Additional preliminary examinations may be administered before the three required exams, as the committee deems necessary. Performance on such an exam would determine areas where the student may need additional coursework or could result in the student's removal from the program.

Comprehensive exam (sometimes referred to as the qualifying exam). The student must prepare an extensive written answer to one question from each committee member that covers the basic concepts and factual material deemed essential for the student’s program. Three weeks are allowed for completion of the exam during which time students are expected to work solely on their answers.  Answers are expected to be anywhere from 10 – 20 pages per question with extensive literature citations. Completed written answers are submitted to the advisor who then distributes copies to the other committee members for review.  Approximately 1 – 2 weeks are allowed for the committee to read the answers, after which time the student gives an oral presentation to the committee. Following the presentation, committee members will ask for clarification of the student’s answers, if necessary.  The committee may require a student to repeat part, or all, of the comprehensive exam if the student’s performance is deemed unsatisfactory. This exam should be taken within three years of initiation of graduate study in the program. 

Proposal exam.  The student must present a written summary of the proposed dissertation research topic to the committee and complete a public oral presentation of the proposed research. Proposals should include a detailed review of current literature in the research area and an outline of the proposed dissertation topic complete with data collection methods, statistical analyses, proposed final data format or any other items relating to the area of proposed research.  Items included will vary depending on the type of research proposed and the student’s advisor should provide assistance in this area. Total proposal length can vary from 15 to 50 pages. After the public oral presentation, the committee and student will meet in private to discuss additions and changes to the proposed research.  If there are substantial revisions required, the student may be asked to submit a revised version of the proposal to the entire committee or the committee may delegate final approval of the proposal to the committee chair.  The student notifies the Program Coordinator of his/her public presentation at least three weeks in advance by sending an email with the following information: Proposal title, brief synopsis of the research project, advisor, building, room number, date and time.  The Program Coordinator will create a flyer for posting and distribute the announcement to the NRESS and UNH community. 

A student may be required to take additional courses following either the comprehensive or proposal exam, or may be removed from the program following failure of any of the required exams.

Students advance to candidacy after successfully completing the comprehensive exam, proposal exam, and all coursework required by the program and the guidance committee as summarized on the Coursework Approval Form (CAF).  Students with a master’s degree must advance to candidacy within 4 years; students without a master’s degree have 5 years. These time limits are established by the Graduate School. 

Final exam.  After reaching candidacy, a student has three years to complete and defend the dissertation. If this deadline is not met, a waiver for an extension must be filed with the NRESS Program Office and the Graduate School or the student will be removed from the program. The student is expected to have a near-final draft of the written Ph.D. dissertation prior to the final exam. Once the draft is written, the student is required to complete an oral defense of the dissertation, which will include both a public presentation and examination by the student’s committee.  The student notifies the Program Coordinator of your public dissertation defense at least three weeks in advance by sending an email with the following information: Dissertation title, abstract, advisor, building, room number, date and time.  The Program Coordinator will post this information on the Graduate School Website, create a flyer for posting, and distribute the announcement to the NRESS and UNH community.