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College of Arts & Sciences
Linguistics Program


Ph.D. Qualifying Process

Successful completion of the Ph.D. Qualifying Process is required in order to earn doctoral candidacy status in the Program. The process typically takes place during the student’s third and fourth semesters.

Objective of the Ph.D. Qualifying Process 

The main objective of the Ph.D. Qualifying Process is to ensure that the student is adequately prepared to write a dissertation to complete the Ph.D. degree requirements. Being prepared means the following: Students must demonstrate satisfactory performance in at least two core courses and at least two courses in the student’s proposed primary area of specialization; and students must demonstrate adequate background preparation for their proposed dissertation topic (including a basic understanding of the relevant literature, appropriate research methods, etc.).

Requirements

  • Students must have completed at least two core courses (at least one of which must be at the 700-level or above) with no less than a B+ average and at least two courses in their primary field of specialization (at least one of which must be at the 700-level or above) with no less than a B+ average.
  • Students must not have received less than a B on any of these four requisite courses.
  • Students must have completed at least 18 hours of coursework and must have no less than a 3.0 overall GPA.

Who Undergoes the Qualifying Process?

  • Students who are newly admitted to the PhD program or who are concurrently admitted to the M.A. and Ph.D. programs will typically undergo the Qualifying Process in their second year of admission.
  • Students with an M.A. from our Program can undergo the Qualifying Process in their first year of admission to the Ph.D. program.
  • Students admitted to the Ph.D. program with an M.A. from elsewhere can only undergo the Qualifying Process after having completed the four requisite courses described above (i.e., at least two core courses and at least two courses in the primary area) at USC.

Any exceptions to these requirements must be approved by the Linguistics Program Director. 

Procedure

  • Students submit Application for Doctoral Candidacy Status form to the Program Director by November 1 of their third semester in the PhD program.
  • The linguistics faculty reviews all applications according to the following criteria:
    1. a satisfactory GPA in the program
    2. evidence of research potential (through M.A. thesis work, conference presentations, or publications)
    3. an acceptable plan of study/research, and
    4. other indications of potential for success in the doctoral program.
  • The Director of the Linguistics Program notifies all applicants of the initial review of their applications by December 15.
  • As a final step in the application process, students will submit a Qualifying Paper to the Chair of the Candidacy Committee no later than January 15.
  • The Linguistics Program recommends to the Graduate School students whose application for doctoral candidacy status is successful and whose Qualifying Paper is given a ‘Pass’.

 In the event of an unsuccessful application, the student will be put on probation, and be required to maintain a 3.5 GPA in their fourth semester. At the end of the second year, following review of the Qualifying Paper and the student’s performance in coursework during the probationary period, faculty in the student’s proposed primary area of specialization will meet to make a recommendation to the Program Director about the student’s future in the program. The Program Director will factor this recommendation and the student’s GPA into a decision about whether the student should be admitted to candidacy and allowed to continue in the program.

The Qualifying Paper

The final step towards the completion of the Qualifying Process is the submission of a Qualifying Paper, to be submitted to the Chair of the Candidacy Committee no later than January 15.

This paper must provide evidence of excellent to superior ability to make and support relevant linguistic claims and demonstrate that the student is qualified to continue his/her study toward a PhD in her/his concentration. The paper must present an analysis of some linguistic problem and must not be co-authored. Examples of papers that may be appropriate for submission include sections of an MA thesis or enhanced seminar paper, or term paper from a linguistics course, revised and reformatted as necessary.

The single-authored paper

  • must present a linguistic analysis developed during graduate coursework at USC
  • must be in the student’s special field or on a topic closely related to her or his dissertation plans
  • should be no longer than 8,000 words.

The Qualifying Paper is not meant to be a totally new paper developed exclusively for this requirement.

The Qualifying Paper will be evaluated on:

  • Knowledge of prior research in the field
  • Familiarity with appropriate methods of data collection and analysis
  • Sophistication of analysis
  • Clarity of communication
  • Overall assessment of the contribution to the field

Though the paper will be made available to all core faculty members for review and comment, the applicant’s Qualifying Paper will be evaluated by the Qualifying Paper Committee, using the scale below:

A+

97 and above

C+

77-79

A

93-96

C

73-76

A-

90-92

C-

70-72

B+

87-89

D+

67-69

B

83-86

D

63-66

B-

80-82

D-

60-62

 

 

F

59 or below

The paper must receive no less than a ‘B’ average in order to satisfy the Qualifying Paper requirement. The Program Director will notify students of the results of the Qualifying Paper evaluation no later than February 15.

If the Qualifying Paper receives an average grade of ‘B’ or better, the Qualifying Paper Committee will make a recommendation to the Program Director regarding admission to candidacy, and the Program Director will then make a recommendation to the Graduate School.

If the Qualifying Paper receives less than a ‘B’ average, the student will be given the opportunity to revise and resubmit the paper to the Chair of the Candidacy Committee no later than May 15. Students will be notified of the resubmission results no later than June 15. If the resubmitted Qualifying Paper receives an average grade of ‘B’ or better, the Qualifying Paper Committee will make a recommendation to the Program Director regarding admission to candidacy, and the Program Director will then make a recommendation to the Graduate School. If the paper receives less than a ‘B’ average on the second submission, the student will not advance to Candidacy and will be asked to leave the program at the end of the second year.