Criminal Justice Ph.D. Degree Program

Program of Study

To satisfy requirements for the Ph.D. degree, students must:

  1. Complete 60 credits of coursework with a B (3.0) grade point average;
  2. Complete required core courses: CRJ 507 (Theories of Crime), CRJ 540 (Theoretical Foundations of Criminal Justice) and CRJ 701 (Research/Analytical Writing Seminar);
  3. Pass comprehensive examinations, as described below;
  4. Pass or waive the required courses in the support sequence: Statistical Techniques in CRJ II (CRJ 687) and Research Design in CRJ II (CRJ 688);
  5. Complete research tool requirements in a specialized area of research methodology;
  6. Present and successfully defend a dissertation prospectus;
  7. Present and successfully defend a dissertation;
  8. Comply with the University's statute of limitations requirement by completing all program requirements within eight calendar years of the date of initial registration.

The Course of Study

Each student shall be assigned a faculty advisor at the beginning of his or her program; the advisor will help the student identify interests, select coursework that will develop those interests, and locate appropriate professional opportunities in research and teaching. Consistent with individual interests and preparation, and with the assistance of the academic advisor and other faculty as appropriate, students select programs of coursework and other experiences that provide them with broad training as well as more specialized background in areas of individual research interest.

Students will be involved in organized research as early in their program as preparation permits. Research may be conducted in a variety of modes and settings: through independent study with faculty, collaborative work with faculty and/or other students, and paid research assistantships. Students are expected to identify and develop a substantive area of research expertise, as well as the methodological skills necessary to conduct original research, and demonstrate that expertise in the comprehensive examination (see below). This preparation culminates in the identification and development of major research problem, on which the student conducts original research to be reported in the doctoral dissertation.

Comprehensive Examinations

The doctoral comprehensive examination provides students with the opportunity to practice and be assessed on important skills: development of a research knowledge base, exercise of critical synthesis and writing skills, execution of an independent research project, and presentation and defense of individual work.

A faculty committee selected by the student shall administer each comprehensive examination. The committee shall be comprised of at least three faculty members eligible to teach graduate classes. The chair and at least one other committee member shall be voting members of the School of Criminal Justice faculty. A record of the committee's composition shall be filed with the Dean's Office when the committee is constituted. The committee must be formed not later than the beginning of the student's fifth semester of enrollment following admission to the doctoral program.

The committee must approve the subject of the student's examination. Thereafter, a written description of the examination subject shall be distributed to the faculty.

The committee shall determine how to assess the student's proficiency, and will conduct the assessment. All examinations shall include:

  1. Completion of a research project, involving a written report that in the committee's view is suitable for publication in an academic journal; and
  2. An oral presentation and defense of both.

The committee will report annually to the faculty regarding the student's progress on the examination.

The committee will report to the Dean regarding its assessment of the student's performance on the comprehensive exam. The committee must deem the student's performance to be acceptable on each part of the exam for the student to pass the comprehensive exam.

In the event an examining committee reports that a student has performed unsuccessfully on a comprehensive exam, or in the event that the student has disbanded his or her committee, the student may petition the Student Performance Committee to be allowed to form a new committee. The Student Performance Committee's recommendation shall be considered by the faculty. Not more than one petition to form a new examining committee will be entertained.

Support Sequence

Most students enroll in Statistics I (CRJ 681) and Research Design I (CRJ 682) in the first year, which are prerequisites for two required courses, Statistics II (CRJ 687) and Research Design II (CRJ 688). A student whose prior coursework is substantively similar to the prerequisites may seek approval from the instructors of those courses for a waiver.

Research Tool Requirement

1. Students must submit a proposal to the Student Performance Committee specifying the area of research methodology in which they will demonstrate competence, and the manner in which such competence will be demonstrated. The proposal must include a statement explaining why the selected area is appropriate to the student's anticipated research in criminal justice.

2. The area of research methodology must be appropriate to academic study in criminal justice. Illustrative areas that may satisfy the research tool requirement include statistical analysis, legal research, foreign language proficiency, historical research, computer utilization, survey design, techniques of field observation, and clinical research techniques. (This listing is not intended to be exhaustive.)

3. A level of proficiency in research that is appropriate to the Ph.D. degree must be evidenced in order to demonstrate competence in an area of research methodology. Such competence may be evidenced:

  1. By completing successfully an approved course (no course credits may be applied toward the Ph.D. degree if completion of the course is used in satisfaction of the tool requirement);
  2. By demonstrating proficiency in a foreign language under procedures and criteria approved by the Student Performance Committee. This normally will involve an examination administered by a foreign language department at the University (e.g., the Departments of French, Hispanic and Italian Studies, Germanic Languages and Literature);
  3. Upon the certification of two members of the faculty that the student has satisfactorily completed an approved research tool proposal.


Prospectus and Dissertation

1. Prospectus and dissertation committee: Each student's dissertation work is overseen by a five-member committee, and supervised by one member as chair. At least three members of the committee, including the chair, must be School of Criminal Justice faculty. The student and committee chair will consult about membership on the committee; the dean must approve the committee composition after members have agreed to serve. The student is expected to work with the members of his/her committee in the initial development and written articulation of the prospectus and the dissertation.

2. The prospectus: The presentation and defense of a dissertation prospectus is a formal step toward Ph.D. candidacy. The written prospectus should detail the research methods and techniques to be used in conducting the dissertation topic. It also should address the relevance of the dissertation topic to the field of criminal justice, describe the conceptual and research content in which the proposed study is located, specify the originality or uniqueness of the proposal, and review, in bibliographic form, the research and other literature relevant to the topic.

3. The dissertation: The dissertation is the culmination of the program of advanced study leading to a doctoral degree. It is expected that the dissertation report, in accepted scholarly style, investigates a problem of significance, and makes a unique contribution to the field of study. It must demonstrate independent research and analysis, scholarly reporting, and a high degree of scholarly competence.

Statute of Limitations

All requirements for the Ph.D. degree must be completed within eight calendar years of the date of initial registration in the program.

Concentration in Information Technology

The information technology graduate curriculum provided by the School of Criminal Justice builds on the School's outstanding reputation as a center of high-level quantitative research in criminal justice.  The curriculum is designed to extend and expand the statistical and methodological expertise learned in the traditional sequence of the School's methods and statistical courses.

The 15-credit Ph.D. Concentration requires:

(1) Ist 523 (Fundamentals of IT) or Inf 523 (Fundamentals of IT)
(2) Crj 692 (Data Utilization in Criminal Justice)
(3) Crj 693 (Geographic Information Systems in Criminal Justice)
(4) Crj 695 (Responsible Use of CRJ Information)
(5) Crj 694 (Spatial Data Analysis in CRJ) or Crj 690 (Statistical Techniques in CRJ Research III)

Please note: This program offers an internship, field experience, study abroad component, or clinical experience in the course listing as an option to fulfill course requirements. Students who have previously been convicted of a felony are advised that their prior criminal history may impede their ability to complete the requirements of certain academic programs and/or to meet licensure requirements for certain professions. If you have concerns about this matter please contact the Dean’s Office of your intended academic program.