Time and Registration Requirements

A candidate is ordinarily expected to devote three or more academic years to graduate study.  In no case is the degree awarded to one who has spent less than two full academic years of graduate work. 

Work of fragmentary character scattered over a long period of years, or work completed many years before the student becomes a candidate for the degree, is subject to special review by the University Graduate and Research Committee.  The extent to which such work may be credited towards fulfillment of the time requirements will be decided by the committee.

All post-baccalaureate work toward the doctorate must be completed within ten years.  A student beginning doctoral course-work after an elapsed period of at least one semester after the Master’s has been conferred is granted seven years in which to complete the doctoral program.

Doctoral students whose graduate study is carried out entirely at Lehigh University must register for a minimum of 72 credits beyond the Bachelor’s degree.  Students who have earned a Master’s degree at another institution must register for a minimum of 48 credits.  The proportion of these credits that are to be allocated to courses, research, or dissertation are determined by the individual departments.  Transfer credits used for a Master’s degree cannot be counted toward the Ph.D. degree.  With the exception of those participating in approved dual-degree programs, Lehigh doctoral students may not transfer credits from another accredited college or university to a Lehigh University doctoral program.   The exception, however, applies to students enrolled in approved dual-degree doctoral programs involving external institutions, who may transfer up to 25% of their total required doctoral program dissertation / research credits to Lehigh for work that was performed at the external partner institution.  Approval of such programs is required by the Dean of the relevant Lehigh College.  Audit credits do not count in satisfaction of Ph.D. requirements.

Full-time students working toward the doctorate normally register for a minimum of nine credit hours per semester.  If the minimum degree registration requirement of 72 or 48 credits is attained prior to formal admission to candidacy (see Admission to Candidacy, p. 26-27), continued registration of at least three credits per semester is necessary.  Such registration does not automatically grant full-time student status, however. Full-time student status must be confirmed on the graduate full-time certification form.

Students seeking to receive both a master’s degree and a doctoral degree must complete a minimum of 72 graduate credits at Lehigh and must meet all requirements of both degrees.

After admission to doctoral candidacy, a student must maintain candidacy by registering for at least one credit twice each calendar year.  After completion of the minimum registration requirement, plus any additional requirements of the student’s department or program, registration is permitted for “Maintenance of Candidacy.”  The tuition charge is for one credit hour.  Full-time status again must be certified.

Grade Requirements

Please refer to Academic Standards and Grades & Minimum Academic Standards, for further information.

Concentrated Learning Requirement

Each Ph.D. candidate must satisfy Lehigh’s concentrated learning requirement.  The concentrated learning requirement is intended to ensure that doctoral students spend a period of concentrated study and intellectual association with other scholars.  Either two semesters of full-time graduate study or 18 credit hours (may be course or research credit) of Lehigh graduate study within a fifteen month period (either on or off campus) must be completed.  Individual departments may impose additional stipulations, and candidates should check with their advisers to be certain that they have satisfied their concentrated learning requirements.

Language Requirements

Language requirements for the Ph.D. are the option of, and in the jurisdiction of, the candidate’s department.  Since proficiency in a language is not a University requirement, each department decides which languages, if any, constitute part of the doctoral program.  However, students whose native language is not English must demonstrate proficiency.

Qualifying Examinations

Many departments require students who wish to enroll in doctoral programs to pass qualifying examinations.  Since these examinations vary among departments, students should ask their advisors or Departmental Chairpersons for more detailed information.  If a qualifying examination is not used, students should find out how and when eligibility to pursue doctoral studies is determined.  For those departments in which a qualifying exam is required all decisions regarding format of the test, required performance to pass, and procedures for students who fail are left to the discretion of the departmental chair.

Doctoral Committee

The doctoral committee is a special committee formed to guide the student through the doctoral program.  The committee is responsible for assisting the student in formulating a course of study, satisfying specific departmental requirements, submitting a suitable dissertation proposal, overseeing progress in research, and evaluating the completed dissertation. 

The process of appointing doctoral committee members varies across departments; however, the minimum number of committee members is four.  Of these, three, including the committee chair, are to be voting Lehigh faculty members.  With the written approval of the dean of the college, one of the three aforementioned faculty members, each of whom must have a doctoral degree, may be drawn from categories that include departmentally approved adjunct, professors of practice, university lecturers, and courtesy faculty appointees.  This latter member may not serve as the committee chair.  The fourth required member must be from outside the student’s department.  Committees may include additional members who possess the requisite expertise and experience.  Committee members must be approved by the University’s Graduate and Research Committee; such approval may be delegated to the department or program sponsoring the degree.

Admission to Candidacy

Candidates for the doctorate are accepted into all departments in the College. A department may limit the number of candidates accepted in any year.  In exceptional cases new students may be admitted to candidacy immediately upon registration as a graduate student.  Ordinarily, however, they are required to spend at least one semester in residence before they are accepted as candidates.

A doctoral student should apply for candidacy in a timely fashion after completion of the Master’s degree or its equivalent and after successful completion of the qualifying process as specified by the major department.  The prospective Ph.D. candidate must submit to the doctoral committee a written program proposal that includes a discussion of the proposed dissertation research.  The program should be planned to lead to a general mastery of the major field and to a significant grasp of any minor that may be added.  Upon receiving approval of the proposal, the candidate submits the proposal, signed by the committee members, as well as the Application to Candidacy Form to the Office of Graduate Studies and Research.  If admission to candidacy must be approved by the start of a particular semester all required application materials must be received in the Office of Graduate Studies & Research at least two weeks prior to the start of that semester.  The Associate Dean will advise the student in writing of their admission to candidacy. 

If the additional registration required to reach the degree credit hour minimum is 3 credits or more, the student must register for at least 3 credits until only 2 or 1 credit(s) remain.  When less than 3 credits remain the student then applies for Maintenance of Candidacy two times per year.

If the dissertation research involves human or animal subjects, University procedures must be followed.

General Examinations

The general examination for the doctorate is designed to test both the student’s capacity and his or her proficiency in the field of study.  The examination is not necessarily confined to the content of courses that have been taken at Lehigh University or elsewhere.  The examination is held, no later than seven months prior to the time when the degree is to be conferred.  The student’s doctoral committee is in charge of the examination, which may be both written and oral.

If a student fails the general examination, a second examination may be scheduled not earlier than five months after the first.  If the results of the second examination are unsatisfactory, no further examination is set and the candidate is judged to have failed.

Dissertation and Defense

Ph.D. candidates are required to write a dissertation prepared under the direction of a Lehigh University professor.  The dissertation must address a topic related to the candidate’s specialty in the major subject, show the results of original research, provide evidence of high scholarship, and make a significant contribution to knowledge in the field.

Upon approval of the advising professor and one other member of the student’s special committee, the dissertation draft is submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies and Research in the RCEAS Dean’s Office for adherence to format guidelines at least six weeks before the degree is to be conferred.  The exact deadline is published in the university academic calendar.  The dissertation must be prepared following the rules outlined in Thesis and Dissertation Guidelines.  Upon return of the draft, the student should distribute copies of the draft to the members of the doctoral committee for review and for suggestions for revision.

The candidate then schedules an oral dissertation defense before the doctoral committee, additional faculty members, and the general public.  The date of the examination must be announced to the public at least one week in advance.  At the end of the defense, members of the student’s doctoral committee e-sign the Report on the Doctoral Dissertation Examination form (via DocuSign) voting “passed” or “not passed”.  Passing the defense requires signatures from a majority of the student’s committee.  After the dissertation has been defended and revised accordingly, the student must go to the university’s online dissertation submission website:  www.etdadmin.com/lehigh. There the student will create a login ID and password and submit their written dissertation online.  A formatting guide and submission guide with simple instructions can be found under the “Campus Resources” link on the site.

Should the student have any questions regarding the submission process they may contact the ProQuest Help team that is available through the site or contact the Office of Graduate Studies and Research at 610-758-6310.  Once the student has completed all steps in the submission process and submitted their work, the Office of Graduate Studies and Research will be notified electronically that the work is ready for review.  If revisions are needed the student will be notified electronically to log back into the system and make the necessary changes.  If the work is suitable for publishing the student will again be notified electronically that their work has been accepted.  Along with the online submission there are some items that must be completed and turned in to the Office of Graduate Studies and Research.  A list of these items along with any associated links can be found on the college website at https://engineering.lehigh.edu/degree-completion-information.


Lehigh accepts no restriction on the right to publish and disseminate dissertations developed as part of a sponsored or non-sponsored project.  All dissertations must be fully accessible to the Graduate and Research Committee, to the student’s dissertation committee, and to other faculty.  If you have any questions regarding the Dissertation submission process please contact the College Graduate Manager.  A checklist of procedures and deadlines is provided in Table 6 below.

1 Concentrated Learning requirement: either two semesters of consecutive full-time graduate study (9 credits per semester, spring and fall) or 18 credit hours of graduate study within a fifteen-month period must be completed.  Individual departments may impose additional requirements.  Candidates should check with their advisors to be certain that they have satisfied their residency requirements.

Admission to Candidacy:

A. Approval of composition of special committee (at least 4 members, with one being from outside the department or program).

B. Completed Application for Candidacy packet (found here).

C. One original copy of the research proposal with committee approval collected via DocuSign form found here.

3 Language requirements as specified by the department.
4 General Examination must be passed 7 months prior to graduation.
5 Payment of minimum tuition fee equivalent to 72 credit hours beyond the Baccalaureate or 48 credit hours beyond the Master’s degree (obtained from another university or in a different field at Lehigh).
6 Application for degree.  Complete online application on or before date specified in academic calendar.  Re-application is required if student misses expected graduation date.
7 Dissertation first draft must be approved by the advisor and one other committee member.  Submit to the Office of Graduate Studies & Research by the relevant deadline.  Refer to the Academic calendar for the exact date.
8 Final dissertation defense examination.  Public announcement one week prior to defense.
9 Submission of final dissertation using the online submission system.  Submission of other relevant paperwork to the Office of Graduate Studies & Research.  Check final submission date in the University academic calendar.
10 Check with the Bursar’s Office, Bookstore, Library and Parking Services for any outstanding balances.  Be sure to clear any balances due to the university to ensure clearance for graduation.

Table 6: Steps to receiving the Ph.D. degree

Thesis and Dissertation Guidelines

The thesis or dissertation must conform to the following: 
Complete Proquest publishing guidelines may also be found here: 

1) All straight text is to be double spaced on one side of paper.  Double-sided is not acceptable.  Quotations, if more than a few lines in length, should be indented from margins and single spaced.  Footnotes, tabulations, formulas, etc. should likewise be single spaced.

2) It is recommended that SI (Système International) units (kg m s) be used throughout.  If, however, your discipline uses a different set of units as a standard, use those.

3) A left-hand margin of at least 1-1/2 inches shall be allowed for binding.  The other margins shall be at least one inch wide.  Margins on illustrations, tables, graphs, etc., shall conform to the above.  Page numbers should be at the center bottom without violating the 1-inch margin.  Figure numbers and titles should be placed at the bottom of the page.   

4) Illustrations, tables, graphs, etc., shall be consecutively numbered, so that they may be readily referred to in the context.  Figures and tables placed sidewise (landscape orientation) on the page must be outward facing (facing to the right).  Page numbers shall remain at the bottom, center of the page (as if portrait oriented).  Only the major coordinate rulings should appear on graphs.

5) A Table of Contents, giving at least the chapter headings, with page numbers, must be prefaced to the thesis or dissertation.  If the thesis or dissertation contains a significant number of tables, figures, etc. they shall be listed as List of Figures or List of Tables.  This list will normally follow the list of chapter headings.  Check to be sure that the titles on the actual figures, etc., agree with those listed.

6) An abstract is to be prepared which will summarize the main findings and conclusions of the thesis or dissertation.  As much as possible, the abstract should contain information, not merely an outline of the work done.

7) Each thesis or dissertation must have a “vita” or appendix giving a short biography of the candidate.  This shall include the place and date of birth, names of parents, institutions attended, degrees (with dates) and honors, titles, or publications, teaching or professional experience, and other pertinent information.  The vita must be the last page of the document. 

8) Samples of the title page and signature sheet for the thesis and dissertation appear following the end of this section.

9) The material of the complete thesis or dissertation shall be arranged and numbered as follows:

  • the title page (which is page i but is not numbered)
  • copyright page (which is page ii)
  • blank certificate of approval (iii)
  • acknowledgments (if any)
  • the table of contents
  • list of tables (if any)
  • list of figures (if any)
  • list of illustrations (if any)

NOTE: Roman numeral pagination ends here

  • an abstract (arabic numeral 1)

NOTE: Arabic numeral pagination starts with the abstract at page 1 and is continued in consecutive order to the last page of the thesis or dissertation.

  • the main text of the thesis or dissertation including footnotes, tables and figures
  • list of references cited
  • any appendices
  • the “vita” or brief  biography (last page)

10)    The PDF uploaded online is limited to a file size of 100MB and supplementary files are limited to 10MB.

11)   No source or object computer program is to be incorporated into the thesis or dissertation.  Instead, these should be included in an appendix or submitted through the online submission system as a supplemental file.  Proper credit should be given for use made of other programs.

12)  The pages of the entire thesis or dissertation, including illustrations, tables, graphs, appendices, and references, shall be numbered as indicated in item 9 above.  It is important that every page (except the title page, as noted above) be numbered. 

13)  There are several referencing styles that can be used in listing books, articles, reports, unpublished materials, and public documents, etc. in your set of references.  Please consult with your advisor on the appropriate style used in your department.  It is important that you maintain consistency with one style throughout your thesis or dissertation.  The following list highlights manuals that are excellent guides to referencing styles:

Dodd, J.S. (Ed.) (1986).  The ACS style guide: A manual for authors and editors.  Washington, DC: American Chemical Society.

Turabian, K.L. (1987).  A manual for writers of term papers, theses, and dissertations. (5th ed.).  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

University of Chicago Press. (1982). The Chicago manual of style.  Chicago, IL.