Doctorate Program Requirements

Note: Credit hour requirements listed below have not been updated from the quarter system to the semester system. We will update this information during Fall 2013. 

Doctoral students are required to complete the core course requirements outlined below. Students may seek permission not to take certain courses if they can demonstrate an achieved competence through previous work. Such petitions are considered by the director of graduate studies and other faculty members closely identified with the subject of the petition. Students petitioning out of required courses must take an equivalent number of graduate credits in other courses.

Required Courses

  • 15-041-715 Introduction to Graduate Geography. 4 graduate credit hours (All incoming graduate students are required to take this common course. Introduction to Graduate Geography emphasizes the kinds of problems studied by geographers, examines contributions to location theory and introduces the geographic literature.)
  • 15-041-716 Geographic Theory and Literature. 4 graduate credit hours. (Introduction to current ideas in urban-economic, and historical-cultural geography as reflected in the professional literature of the decade; settlement patterns, ethnicity, movements, networks, hierarchies, spatial decision making; perception, and institutional settings; seminar papers required.)
  • 15-041-578 History and Philosophy of Geography. 3 graduate credit hours.
  • 15-041-585 Geographic Methods: Quantitative Techniques. 3 graduate credit hours.
  • 15-041-586 Geographic Methods: Advanced Quantitative Techniques. 3 graduate credit hours.
  • 15-041-792 Geographic Methods: Geographic Models. 4 graduate credit hours. (Application of mathematical methods to relationships indicated by geographic theory. The construction and use of spatial models, especially multivariate, in current geographic literature.)
  • 15-041-797 Seminar in Graduate Research. 4 graduate credit hours (Research design; preparation of thesis or dissertation proposal.)
  • 15-041-784 Seminar: Location Theory. 4 graduate credit hours.
  • 15-041-704, Staff Seminar. 1 graduate credit hour. (A weekly forum for discussing research papers presented by visiting speakers, the faculty, graduate students and faculty from other departments. [3 graduate credits per year x 3 years probable residency = 9 credit hours.]
  • 15-041-579 Field Work and Research Methods. 3 graduate credit hours. (for Physical Geography concentration)
  • 15-041-xxx An elective Computer Technique class of 500 level. 3 graduate credit hours.

Total credit hours for required courses = 37 - 44 credit hours.

135 graduate credits past an acceptable BA/BS degree, or 90 graduate credits past an acceptable MA/MS degree.

Required Courses
Required Course No. Required Course Title
578 History and Philosophy of Geography
579 Fieldwork and Research Methods (for Physical Geography concentration)
585 Geographic Methods: Quantitative Techniques
586 Geographic Methods: Advanced Quantitative Techniques
715 Introduction to Graduate Geography
716 Geographic Theory and Literature
784 or 785 Seminar: Location Theory or Location Analysis
792 Geographic Models
797 Seminar: Graduate Research
xxx Elective computer techniques class
704, 705, 706 Staff Seminar (each quarter)
  • Five Elective Seminars and/or Approved Specialized Courses (500-level or above)(in addition to those above; however, 579 may be counted as one research seminar).
  • Minor
    • At least 12 graduate credit hours outside geography. (Minor program must be planned and approved.)
  • Language/technique skill
  • PhD Comprehensive Examinations
  • PhD Dissertation

Required Seminars

All PhD graduate students must complete at least five geography research seminars or approved specialized courses of 500 level or above (Geog. 579 Field Work and Research Methods may be used as one research seminar).

Minor Requirements

As one of the requirements for the PhD degree, candidates in the Department of Geography must develop an academic minor in a field other than geography. The minor should enable the candidate to understand his/her discipline better and should acquaint the candidate with the methods and philosophy of that discipline.

The minor program is planned through consultation with the candidate's adviser, who is also responsible for certifying its completion.

Correlative fields in which the PhD minor might be developed, and which complement the doctoral specializations of the Department of Geography, include regional economics, urban sociology, economic development, urban government, community planning, urban history, environmental chemistry, environmental biology, ecology, physical anthropology, geochemistry and structural geology. Other fields of study for the minor are also acceptable. Appropriate interdisciplinary courses may also be counted towards the minor for example, the year-long seminar, "Frontiers of Urban Research" (15-041-814, 815, 816). A mix of credits from more than one other department might be appropriate.

The PhD minor requirement is satisfied when the candidate has completed at least 12 credits of graduate work outside the Department of Geography, in conformity with the above guidelines, and has been awarded the grades of "A" or "B" for that work.

Language/Technique Requirement

As one of the requirements for the PhD degree, all students must demonstrate proficiency in English. Candidates in the Department of Geography are expected to acquire competence in the research tools appropriate to their endeavors as graduate students and to their future professional work. Often these are foreign languages or technique skills. The language and technique requirement is set by the student's dissertation adviser and the director of graduate studies.

PhD students can fulfill the language requirement by demonstrating their proficiency at reading one foreign language in which either a substantial geographical literature exists or which will be required for field work connected with the dissertation. (Students whose native language is not English may use English to satisfy the language requirement.)

Foreign Language proficiency can be shown in any one of four ways:

  • by taking the Graduate School Foreign Language Test administered by the Psychological Services Center, University of Cincinnati, and obtaining the following minimum score: French 460, Spanish 435 (Please note that the above standards apply only to the tests administered by the Psychological Services Center in the University of Cincinnati).
  • by satisfactorily completing the three-quarter sequence of German 15-010-897, 898, 899 (9 credits), or the graduate versions of the sequences in Spanish # 15-014-251, 252, 253 Composition and Conversation (9 credits), or French # 15-012-214, 215, 216 Intermediate Reading in French (9 credits) and obtaining a grade of "B" or above for the course(s).
  • by obtaining a certification of proficiency in French or Spanish from the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures.
  • by demonstrating to the satisfaction of the Department of Geography via course work and/or examination an equivalent proficiency in a language other than French, German, or Spanish.

Doctoral students may use a series of computer science courses (a total of 12 cr. hrs) at 300 level or above with a grade of "B" or better to fulfill the technique requirement. Courses proposed for satisfying the technique requirement must emphasize methodology, and they should tend toward universal applicability. The courses have to be approved by the student's dissertation adviser and the director of graduate studies. Doctoral candidates in geography must satisfy the language/technique requirement before submitting a dissertation proposal.

The PhD Examination

To be admitted to candidacy for the PhD degree in geography, graduate students must pass written comprehensive examinations set by the Department of Geography in each of the following areas:

  • Part A - History and Philosophy of Geography
  • Part B - Geographic Theory, Methods and Techniques
  • Part C - Urban, Economic, and Historical Geography or Physical Geography
  • Part D - Specialization selected by the candidate

The comprehensive examination may be taken during the fifth and sixth weeks of the autumn, winter, or spring quarters at times set by the department. It comprises four separate papers of three hours each on the topic areas named above. Normally, the examination sections are given sequentially over a period not exceeding one week.

Students wishing to attempt the comprehensive examination during a particular quarter must make this request in writing to the director of graduate studies during the first week of that quarter. Students are notified promptly of the exact time and place of the examination, as determined by the department. This letter of request should also contain:

  • a concise statement of the candidate's chosen specialization for Part D, together with an explanation of how this choice is related to his/her present and past research interests;
  • an annotated bibliography of the books and articles studied in relation to the stated specialization;
  • an account of any special competence or experience in any of the other areas covered by the comprehensive examination (Parts A, B and C); and
  • a very select bibliography of books and articles studied in relation to Parts A, B and C. Typically 15 to 20 citations for each part are listed.

The director of graduate studies may decline to arrange a comprehensive examination if the candidate's letter of request fails to indicate adequate preparation for the examination.

Questions for the comprehensive examination are composed, given and graded by the Department of Geography acting as a whole.

The area of specialization nominated by the candidate should be a sub-field of the discipline, neither so broad as to demand a lifetime of prior study nor so narrow as to constitute a dissertation topic. "Asia," in this example, would be too broad; "The Distribution of Chinese Religious Shrines in Penang, 1914-18," too narrow. "The Chinese in Southeast Asia," in this example, might approach the golden mean. Similarly, "Urban Geography" or "Political Ruddiness as a Factor in the Location of Canberra's Embassies" would be unacceptable, but not "Population Redistribution in the Contemporary American City," nor "Urbanization in the Developing World." Generally, a student should not elect to specialize in a particular culture region unless he or she has already done field work there, or reasonably expects to do so, and unless he or she has mastered any foreign language needed in the field.

Each part of the comprehensive examination is evaluated separately by the staff, and any part may pass if more than half the staff agrees. Any part which fails may be re-examined in a subsequent quarter. Re-examination is permitted only once, and second failure carries with it dismissal from the graduate program in geography. The faculty also reserves the privileges of reviewing a student's performance at the comprehensive examinations in total and demanding that a candidate distinguish himself/herself in one or more of the four parts.

Admission to Candidacy

To be admitted to candidacy for the PhD degree in geography, a student must:

  • complete all required courses and seminars,
  • satisfy the department's language/technique requirement,
  • pass written comprehensive examinations, and
  • submit, and have accepted by the faculty, an approved PhD dissertation proposal. Students must enter candidacy not more than five years after their admission into the PhD program.

PhD Dissertation

"Research is one of those highly complex and subtle activities that usually remain quite unformulated in the minds of those who practice them" (W.I.B. Beveridge: The Art of Scientific Investigation). The Department of Geography recognizes that research is a highly individual matter and is fully prepared to accept high quality work however produced. At the same time, it recognizes that "good methods can teach us to develop and use to better purpose the faculties with which nature has endowed us, while poor methods may prevent us from turning them to good account. Thus the genius of inventiveness, so precious in the sciences, may be diminished or even smothered by a poor method, while a good method may increase and develop it" (Claude Bernard, quoted in Beveridge, ibid).