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College of Arts and Letters | Michigan State University

Degree Requirements

The M.A. Program

Earning the M.A. requires at least 30 semester term credits at the 400 level or higher. Students must do work in each of the following areas of philosophy: History, Value Theory, Epistemology and Metaphysics, and Logic and Philosophy of Science. A minimum of 16 credits must be taken at the 800 level, including the PHL 800 Proseminar for all first semester students and a minimum of 3 seminars. Students also must pass a logic requirement. The grade point average in course work must be at least 3.0. Courses in which the student has earned less than a 3.0 will not count towards the degree, and more than 6 credits below a 3.0 are grounds for dismissal.

Master's degree students may choose to write a thesis (Plan A), in which case they may elect to take 4 to 8 of their required credits as Thesis Research (899). The thesis must be defended orally in a public examination conducted by the student's M.A. committee, which is composed of at least three faculty members.

Alternatively, students may choose to take all 30 semester credits as course work (Plan B), in which case they are required in their last term to present publicly an example of their philosophical work. They will be questioned by an M.A. committee composed of three faculty members. In either case, they must work closely with their M.A. examining committee and usually they will complete the degree by the end of the second year. The degree should be completed in two years in order to be eligible for a third year of financial assistance.

The Ph.D. Program

Earning the Ph.D. requires completion of a minimum of 24 credits at the 400 level or higher, determined by the student's guidance committee. This includes PHL 801 Teaching Philosophy, a seminar requirement, and a distribution requirement. Part of the distribution requirement is a Minor Field requirement that may be interdisciplinary. Course work usually must be completed by the end of the fourth semester. A 3.0 minimum grade point average must be maintained, with no more than 6 credits falling below a 3.0. Grades below 3.0 will not count towards the degree. Students must demonstrate competence in at least one foreign language in which there is a substantial philosophical literature. Those for whom English is not the native language may use their own language for this requirement if it possesses a substantial philosophical literature.

Doctoral students must work closely with their guidance committee to formulate their plan of study. This includes an annual evaluation by the full guidance committee made up of four faculty members and a meeting with the guidance committee chair each semester to discuss the annual evaluation, progress toward the degree, and professional development. The guidance committee will administer the comprehensive examination by the end of the sixth semester.

The purpose of the comprehensive examination is twofold. First, it ensures that doctoral students have mastered the necessary background material in philosophy to begin their own specialized dissertation research. Second, it provides doctoral students with close supervision and advice in the early stages of their dissertation project. To accomplish these related purposes, the comprehensive examination is divided into three steps: 1) the guidance committee determines the format and topic of a paper or written examination over the area in which the student has chosen to write the dissertation -- the format may be, for example, one or more papers or a take-home exam with multiple questions; 2) if the guidance committee approves the paper or the student passes the written exam, then the student will propose a bibliography and prospectus for the dissertation; 3) if the guidance committee approves the bibliography and prospectus, the guidance committee will meet with the student, offer advice on the dissertation, and in consultation with the student set the timetable for writing the dissertation.

Finally, each student must write a dissertation and defend it orally to the satisfaction of the guidance committee.

The comprehensive examination and all course work must be completed by the end of the eighth semester; all requirements for the degree must be completed within sixteen semesters of the time a student first enrolls as a doctoral candidate. Students should consult the MSU Graduate Programs bulletin for University regulations.