Formal Requirements

Requirements for the Ph.D.

 To obtain the Doctor of Philosophy degree, a Behavioral Neuroscience student must have completed the Master’s Degree, Qualifying Exam and a total of at least 24 research credits (830: 701; 702) and 48 course credits. Each of these are described in detail below.


Program Deadlines

 * Master’s Committee formed and proposal defended: End of 3rd semester

* Master’s Thesis successfully defended: End of 5th semester

* Qualifying Exam completed: End of 7th semester.


If a student enters the program with an acceptable Masters from another institution, then the deadline for completion of the Qualifying Examination is the end of the 5th semester.

The Master's Thesis

 1. Master’s Proposal

 A Master’s Thesis Committee must be formed, whose membership must be approved by the Area Coordinator, Vice Chair for Graduate Studies and Department Chair. The format for the Master’s proposal is flexible, to be determined by the student and his or her advisor. A written proposal is approved in advance by the committee. Discussion and approval of the proposal takes the form of the student’s meeting with the committee as a whole; and if needed, with members individually.


2. Written Master’s Thesis

 Since an important goal of the Master’s process is a research publication, a publication-quality paper will fulfill the written requirement. (Granting of the Master’s Degree will be independent of whether the paper is accepted for publication.) This will be a full-length research paper written in the appropriate style of a high-quality peer-reviewed journal. The style will be that of the journal to which the paper is submitted, and need not adhere to the APA style, since our area publishes in a variety of journals. Two restrictions apply: 1) if the paper is submitted in a reduced format, such as a brief communication or a Nature report, then a separate, full-length paper would still be required for the Master’s Thesis; and 2) the format must be consistent with the requirements of the Graduate School (see “Style Guide for Thesis and Dissertation Preparation, April, 2004). The latter concerns certain clerical details, rather than content or length, and states that style is to be determined by the student and advisor. In case of a discrepancy between Graduate School and journal requirements, two versions of the same document can be generated.


3. Oral Defense of the Master’s Thesis

 The format resembles that which the student will encounter later, in defending the Doctoral Dissertation. The student will make a 30- to 45-minute presentation, open to anyone interested, followed by a closed session with the Master’s Thesis Committee.



The Qualifying Examination


1. The Qualifying Examination Committee

 The committee will be composed by the advisor and the student, and is normally chaired by the advisor. One member may come from outside the membership of the Psychology Graduate Faculty, where this reflects the interdisciplinary character of the student’s program. Committee membership must be approved by the Area Coordinator, Vice Chair for Graduate Studies, and the Department Chair.


2. The Qualifying Examination

 The qualifying examination evaluates the student’s ability to integrate his or her specialty with broader interests in psychology. Each of the 3 committee members other than the advisor will submit 1 or 2 topics (and a reading list), i.e., a total of 3 to 6 topics. These will be presented to the student within 2 weeks of the committee’s formation or of its initial meeting. Before receiving the topic/s, it is the student’s responsibility to discuss with each committee member potential topics that integrate the student’s specialty with concepts from some selected core of behavioral neuroscience, in order to identify the topic/s and reading list.

 At the end of 3 months’ (maximum) preparation for all topics, the student will take a closed book, sit-down exam consisting of three questions (each committee member submits to the advisor one question related to the reading list). The advisor will administer the exam by presenting the student with one question per day for 3 consecutive days. A maximum of 4 hours will be allowed to answer each question. The Area Coordinator will monitor the student’s progress to ensure completion of the exam on schedule.


3. Grading the Qualifying Examination

 Each committee member will grade the student’s responses to all questions on the examination. One week will be provided for grading. If the student fails the exam, the retake (a different exam) will be taken within one month after notification of the failing grade.


4. Schedule for Initiating the Qualifying Examination Process

 The Qualifying process, including the approval of a committee, should be initiated as soon as possible after defending the Master’s thesis, and should be completed by the end of the 7th semester. Students admitted with a Master’s degree will complete the process no later than the end of the 5th semester.



The Doctoral Dissertation

1. The Doctoral Dissertation is expected to be an original empirical study, representing an independent research effort on the part of the student.

2. All research that involves experimental animals must be submitted to and approved by the Rutgers Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) prior to the collection of any data.

3. A formal proposal for the dissertation research must be presented to and approved by the student’s committee. A formal meeting of the dissertation committee is required for approval of the proposal, and all members of the committee must approve a written proposal.

4. Procedures and Regulations governing the Doctoral Dissertation:

  1. Ph.D. Dissertation Committee
    1. Complete the Dissertation Committee Form. This form may be obtained from the Graduate Administrator of the Psychology Department. The completion of the form includes the concurrence and signature (to indicate that concurrence) of the Area Coordinator. You will be notified of the approval of your Committee by the Graduate Director. The form is then filed in the Office of the Vice Chair for Graduate Studies.
    2. The Committee consists of four members: A chairperson who must be a member of the Graduate Faculty and two persons who may be either members or associate members of the Graduate Faculty. If less than two members of the committee are Psychology Department faculty, the chair must write a memo explaining why departmental faculty are not appropriate, and why selected committee members are appropriate. The fourth member of the Committee must be an "outside" member, defined as: a member or associate member of the Graduate Faculty in a program other than Psychology, or a qualified person from outside Rutgers University. In this case, approval must be obtained from the Graduate Director. Your Committee Chairperson must furnish a paragraph describing the qualification of the outside member, along with a vita and mailing address of the individual.
  2. Final Examination
    1. It is your responsibility to make sure you have completed the Area course requirements and that you have 48 course credits and 24 research credits for the Ph.D. degree.
    2. The date for the final defense must be cleared with the Behavioral Neuroscience Area Coordinator. Since dissertation orals are public, the Graduate Psychology Office must be notified at least 2 weeks before the scheduled orals (date, time, place, and title of dissertation) so that notices can be sent to faculty and students.
    3. Normally, the final draft of the Doctoral Dissertation is prepared by the student with the guidance of his/her advisor and then submitted to the remaining doctoral committee members at least three weeks prior to the date of the final defense. Students are allowed one retake of the doctoral defense. The Graduate School allows one dissenting vote on the doctoral defense.
    4. A booklet entitled "Thesis Form: Style Guide for Thesis Preparation" is available from the Graduate Administrator of the Psychology Department. You are also required to submit an abstract not exceeding 350 words.
    5. Obtain candidacy application from the Graduate School office (on which results of the Qualifying Examination were recorded). Submit to the Chairperson of your Committee. The Chairperson will record the results by signing Part II, A or B. It is then your responsibility to have it signed properly by your Committee.
    6. Return to the Graduate Administrator for processing prior to obtaining the Graduate Director's signature. Completed forms must be filed with the Graduate School office no later than three weeks before commencement (no later than announced deadlines for October and January).
    7. Two copies of the dissertation are required--one copy (original on 100% cotton paper) to the Graduate School, and one copy to the Psychology Department. Five copies of the title page are requested, plus three copies of the Abstract. It is necessary to bring the dissertation (along with the candidacy form) to the Graduate Psychology Office for approval before submitting it to the Graduate School.