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Ph.D. Program: a quick guide to your first year

philosophy department

What should you do before school starts?

Look over the courses offered. You can find these in the “Course Information and Schedule” under “Academics and Courses” on your Agora Portal. Graduate courses are those that are Level 500 or above. Classes that meet three times a week are 50 minutes, classes that meet two times a week are 75 minutes, and courses that meet once a week are generally 100 minutes.

Look over the Master’s Comprehensives Reading List to see which areas you will need to spend more time mastering. Think about which courses might help you supplement any areas you are less strong in.

Turn in your advising sheet and website info sheet to RoseMarie DeLeo. You will find these documents in the attachments. This is how you will be assigned an academic advisor in the department and how your info page will be created on the department website.

Register for three classes at least two weeks before classes start to insure that your funding and financial aid are processed quickly. (see “Selecting Courses” in the Procedures and Regulations section of this handbook and “Registering for Courses” in the main body of the Handbook)

Register for Teaching Seminar. Register for this along with your three regular courses. Note: This is a required course for first year Ph.D. students.

Come to campus as soon as posible to get your new Eagle One ID card (Instructions)

Stop by the Philosophy department, located on the third floor of the north wing of Stokes Hall. Check in with RoseMarie, and she will show you your cubicle, the department mailboxes, and how to use the photocopiers.

What will you be doing your first year in the department?

  • Take six courses, three each semester
  • Take the Teaching Seminar
  • Act as a Research Assistant for 1-2 Professors (up to 20 hours per week.) See Research Assistant Section of the Handbook.
  • Study for and take the Masters Comprehensive Exam. See XXX

Who should you talk to if you have any questions? Don’t hesitate to ask even the most basic questions. There are several people who you can get in touch with as you get ready for your first year.

RoseMarie DeLeo can usually answer questions about registering for classes or any technical problems. Even if she can’t answer your question, she usually knows who can.

The Graduate Student Director: Father Gary Gurtler can also answer questions about courses, requirements, exams, or the program in general.

Your Fellow Students: If you want to talk to your fellow PhD students about living in Boston, advice for choosing courses, or even coffee shop recommendations, they are all happy to help. Amelia and Vince have volunteered to be new student liaisons. You can email them with questions, and they can also direct you to other students who might share your philosophical interests or have experience that might be valuable to you.

Amelia Wirts:
Vince DeVendra:

Requirements for the Ph.D. are as follows: one year of full-time residence; course work (cf. below under Course Work); proficiency in logic; proficiency in two foreign languages; preliminary comprehensive examination; doctoral comprehensive examination; dissertation; and oral defense of the dissertation. Doctoral students are generally admitted with financial aid in the form of Research Assistantships and Teaching Fellowships. Research assistants and teaching fellows receive remission of tuition for required courses. Doctoral students are expected to pursue the degree on a full-time basis and to maintain satisfactory progress towards the completion of the degree. For the academic year 2013-2014, stipends for research assistants are $18,500 and stipends for teaching assistants average $19,500.


Course Work

The total course work required for the Ph.D. is 16 courses (48 credits). Students entering the program with an M.A. in philosophy may be given credit for up to six courses (18 credits) toward this requirement, but must take a minimum of ten courses (30 credits) in the program. Students entering the program without an M.A. earn an M.A. on their way to the Ph.D.



In each graduate course, in which a student is registered for graduate credit, the student will receive one of the following grades at the end of the semester: A, A-, B+, B, B-, C, F, W, J, U, P, or I. The high passing grade of A is awarded for superior work. The passing grade of B is awarded for work that clearly is satisfactory at the graduate level. The low passing grade of C is awarded for work that is minimally acceptable at the graduate level. The failing grade of F is awarded for work that is unsatisfactory.

Students will be evaluated as making excellent, good, satisfactory, or poor progress toward completion of the degree. Any student who accumulates two or more Incompletes for course work will automatically be regarded as making poor progress toward the degree. Any student who accumulates two or more grades of C will also be regarded as making poor progress toward the degree. Any such student must meet immediately with the Director of the Graduate Program. Students judged to be making poor progress will be given specific directions for what they must accomplish in the next year in order to continue in the program beyond the following year. Students can be removed from the program after being evaluated as having made poor academic progress for two years. See Evaluation Policies & Procedures for Graduate Students.

A student who has not completed the research or written work for a course taken in the fall or spring semester or is absent from the course examination in either semester, may, with adequate reason at the discretion of the instructor, receive a temporary grade of Incomplete (I). All such I grades will automatically be changed to F on March 1 for the fall, August 1 for the spring, and October 1 for the summer.

A J grade is recorded when the grade is deferred. A faculty member may only assign a grade of J for courses that continue beyond the normal semester period. Such courses may include Internship, Dissertation Direction, and Student Teaching.

A U grade is recorded for ungraded courses such as doctoral continuation.

Graduate students who withdraw from a course after the drop/add period (first seven days of the semester) will have a “W” recorded in the grade column of their academic record.


Research Assistantship

Research Assistants are responsible for a total of up to 20 hours per week of service to faculty members of the department of philosophy. This responsibility begins on the first day of classes for the academic year, and ends on the last day of classes for that same academic year. Students are exempt from working over the Christmas, Spring and Easter breaks, unless by agreement with a particular faculty member his/her hours are redistributed from the expected amount during the semester so as to extend into a break period. The required 20 hours are usually divided among two and sometimes four faculty members (the specific assignments may change from the fall semester to the spring semester). Each such faculty member will have been informed by the graduate studies director or of her/his allotted hours; the student should work out a specific schedule which of them, to the degree that this is possible. Each student is to maintain a careful record of time committed each week, to each faculty member. On a monthly basis, faculty members should sign this record, whereupon the student will deliver it to the Director of Graduate Studies. Every sort of required activity should be recorded, whether it be research in the library, organizational support, or mandatory attendance at the faculty member's courses (i.e., attendance at courses the student is not already taking for credit as part of his/her own program of studies).


Seminar in Teaching

To provide Ph.D. students with the requisite pedagogical instruction and supervision, the department requires first-year and second-year Ph.D. students who are or will become teaching fellows to participate for four semesters in a series of training seminars. This course should be taken during the academic year before the first year of teaching and during the first year of teaching (i.e., generally the first two years of the program). These seminars deal with such issues as preparation of syllabi and exam schedules, fundamentals of the art of teaching, grading, and advising. Each student presents a sample syllabus which is then discussed by the group. The Seminar in Teaching meets six times a semester, generally on Monday afternoons. The Seminar does not count toward the doctoral requirement of 16 courses (48 credits).


Proficiency in Logic

The Ph.D. student must demonstrate proficiency in logic by taking PL 577 Introduction to Symbolic Logic with a grade of “B” or better, or by attaining a score of 80% or better on the Logic Proficiency Examination, or by showing evidence of comparable prior course work. PL 577 may count towards the requirement of 16 courses. (See Attachment 2)


Language Proficiency

The Ph.D. student must demonstrate proficiency in two foreign languages, Latin, Greek, French, or German. Proficiency may be demonstrated by receiving a grade of “B” or better in two semesters of the language at the elementary college level or one semester at the intermediate college level, in the 12-week summer language class for graduate students at Boston College, or by passing the department’s own language examination. The requirement of the first language should be fulfilled before a graduate student begins his or her third year of study at Boston College. Both language requirements must be fulfilled before a student takes the Doctoral Comprehensive Examination. With department approval, a language that is central to the candidate’s thesis may be substituted for one of the other languages. For further information on the language exam, please consult Prof. Peter Kreeft.


Preliminary Comprehensive Examination 

The Preliminary Comprehensive Examination is the same as the M.A. Comprehensive Examination. Ph.D. students are expected to take this examination at the end of their first year in the program. Students sign up for the examination by completing the Master’s Comprehensive Examination Selection Sheet on line, print out and submit to RoseMarie DeLeo. A failed examination may be retaken once and once only.

For those students without an M.A. degree, after you have fulfilled all the requirements for the Master’s degree, you must apply to the Graduate School and Student Services for your Master’s degree to be registered with the University.


Teaching Fellowship

Teaching Fellows are responsible for teaching one unit of Philosophy of the Person I in the Fall semester and Philosophy of the Person II in the Spring semester. The course description is currently as follows:

This course introduces students to philosophical reflection and to its history through the presentation and discussion of the writings of major thinkers from ancient, medieval, modern, and contemporary periods. The course is designed to show how fundamental and enduring questions about the universe and about human beings recur in different historical contexts and from a range of approaches and methods. Emphasis is given to ethical themes, such as the nature of the human person, the foundation of human rights and corresponding responsibilities, and problems of social justice.


Doctoral Comprehensive Examination 

The Doctoral Comprehensive Examination is a two-hour oral examination. Students are responsible for selecting a professor to direct their dissertation and working with him/her to set up doctoral comprehensives. The dissertation direct will guide you in developing a dissertation proposal. A student also works with his/her director to choose two major philosophers and one systematic problem, and to select and work with one professor on each of these parts. The two-hour exam will be divided evenly between defending the proposal and answering questions on the authors and problem. In general, the professor you worked with in each area will ask you questions in that area, while all may ask questions about the proposal. It is the responsibility of the student to secure the cooperation of four faculty examiners and to negotiate with them the terms of reference for the examination. A Ph.D. student must complete all course requirements, and demonstrate proficiency in two languages and in logic, before taking the Doctoral Comprehensive Examination. It is the responsibility of the student to ask the Registrar to send a final transcript of grades to the department, to complete the Selections form, and to submit  it for department approval, together with a suggested date and time for the examination. Ph.D. Students are expected to take the Doctoral Comprehensive Examination (Attachment 3) by November of their fourth year (third year, for students entering the program with the M.A. in hand). A failed examination may be retaken once and once only.



The Ph.D. student is expected to complete a dissertation which embodies original and independent research and which demonstrates advanced scholarly achievement. The research must be carried out and the dissertation written under the direction of a tenure track faculty from the Philosophy Department. The student’s dissertation proposal constitutes part of the Doctoral Comprehensive Examination. The manuscript of the dissertation must be prepared according to a recognized manual of style (e.g., the MLA).


Dissertation Defense

The Ph.D. student is expected to defend the dissertation in a public oral examination. This examination must be held during the academic year (September to April). Prior to the examination the dissertation must be approved by the supervisor and by a second reader. The chair of the department serves ex officio as third reader. It is the responsibility of the student to comply with the regulations of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and with the requirements of the University Registrar, to provide the department with an abstract of the dissertation and a copy of the dissertation for distribution to faculty and graduate students no later than thirty days before the defense. After the defense, two copies of the dissertation (the original plus one copy) are to be turned in to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, along with the required forms. One copy of the dissertation should be left with the department.


Time Limit

All requirements for the doctorate must be completed within eight consecutive years from the beginning of doctoral studies. Extensions beyond this limit may be made only with departmental recommendation and the approval of the Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Note: Graduate School of Arts and Sciences site links to academic university or school policies and procedures.


Placement of Graduates *

* Please note: These files are Adobe Acrobat® (PDF) formatted files. To view them you will need the free Adobe Acrobat file reader.