GGHS PhD Student Handbook

What To Expect in Your First Year

If you are a Graduate Assistant, you will work with (usually) two faculty as a Research Assistant. The Graduate Program Director will address questions or concerns that arise in navigating your first year in the GGHS Program (of course, you should also feel free to talk to any of the Program faculty). By the end of the first year, you will select a faculty to serve as your Dissertation Committee Chair. Your Committee Chair will become your primary academic advisor as soon as you choose one. We recommend you schedule a meeting with any of the faculty whose research is of interest during the first semester.

Your Assistantship Supervisor is the person to whom you report in your capacity as a Graduate Assistant. This is not an advisory relationship per se, although your Supervisor can also be your Committee Chair, and will be your primary advisor in that capacity. See the Graduate Assistant section for more details.

Your course schedule is available through WISER.   

The GGHS Program is designed on a cohort model.  Students who come in together spend their first year taking the Program’s core courses together, and learning together.  This means that as a general rule, all your first-year courses are required, and will be taken with your cohort.  You will register for these courses yourself through WISER.  Check out the department course schedule for course numbers. 

 In the Fall semester register for: 

  • Global Governance
  • Human Security
  • Theories of International Relations
  • Doctoral Colloquium.

In the spring semester register for:

  • Conflict Resolution Theory
  • International Organization
  • Elective
  • Doctoral Colloquium.

Details on GGHS Program requirements can be found here.

Advanced Standing

“Advanced Standing” is the credit you can receive toward the requirements of the PhD program if you have a Masters degree in a cognate field.  With advanced standing you can have up to 12 credits of the required 68 waived.  This does not waive any required courses – you still need to take the core, track, and methods courses.  In practice, this means that you do not need to take the 4 courses of non-track electives listed in the program requirements.

You can apply for advanced standing by filling out this form.

Taking the Qualifying Exam

The purpose of the exam is to assess: 1) your grasp of some of the core concepts, themes, theories, and critical issues associated with Global Governance and Human Security, and 2) your ability to apply them to issues of the day and to make a coherent and cogent argument. The exam takes place over 5 days and is take-home and open-book. 

Your goal in this examination is to demonstrate a thorough, critical understanding of the fields covered in the core courses in the Global Governance and Human Security doctoral program. Both a thorough understanding (the ability to discuss research and theorizing relevant to a particular question) and a critical understanding (the ability to identify and weigh the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches and of specific research studies) are essential. Demonstrating only one or the other – for example, by providing only an extensive, accurate, but uncritical bibliographic essay or by providing only an insightful commentary on some of the main arguments in the field without relating them to the work of specific authors or to the details of actual research – is insufficient.

Please see Qualifying Exam Guidance Document

Please note: Students must have submitted GGHS Dissertation Tracking Form A (Dissertation Committee Form) listing committee chair prior to writing the examination.  

Dissertation Tracking Forms and Instructions

What To Expect in Your Second Year

In your second year you will take a mix of required and elective courses. You are expected to register for courses yourself, and should contact staff only for courses that require registration permission, or if particular obstacles to registration arise. Of the five electives you are expected to take over the course of the year one is a methods course and four are “track” courses (see below).

You are responsible for finding elective courses on your own. These courses should be designed to develop the knowledge and skills you will need for your dissertation proposal and writing. For example, if you are interested in conducting onsite interviews but have no experience doing so, you should consider taking a class in field research methods; if you are hoping to have an environmental scientist on your dissertation committee, the second year is the time to take courses in the School of Environmental Science. Some courses students have taken in the past can be found here: List of Second Year Courses Options

Required Courses

You will take Doctoral Research Group both semesters, Gender and Human Security (usually in the Fall semester) and Doctoral Research Design (both semesters). Doctoral Research Groups and Doctoral Research Design are oriented toward designing your dissertation research project and drafting your dissertation proposal. 

GGHS Tracks 

The degree is designed around tracks, and you should consult with your Dissertation Chair about the appropriate mix of courses within one of the following tracks:

  • Conflict Resolution
  • Environment
  • Gender, Human Rights, and Human Development
  • Global Political Economy
  • Global Health
  • Self-designed tracks 

Elective Courses Outside UMass Boston

There are a number of options available to you. If you would like to take a course at another university, please contact the Graduate Program Director the semester prior to the course start. The course must provide unique content NOT available through UMass Boston coursework and be approved in advance. The Graduate Program Director will provide guidance on the process. Note that courses taken outside of UMass Boston are not covered by Graduate Assistantship tuition and fee waivers.

Choosing a Dissertation Committee

Dissertation committees normally consist of a Chair and three additional members (a fifth member may be added if there is a specific need for the extra member). All members of the committee must hold terminal degrees (normally a PhD), and must be active researchers in a field relevant to the dissertation topic. All additions and changes to committees must be accompanied by a new or adjusted Dissertation Tracking Form A, and kept on file in the CRHSGG Department office. Form A should be filled out as soon as you have chosen a chair, even if you have not chosen any other members of your committee. 

Students should choose a dissertation committee chair in their second semester in the program, and must have chosen one prior to taking the first qualifying exam.  The committee chair is the person you will be working most closely with in preparing your dissertation, and should be a person who can provide substantive and methodological assistance to your dissertation project, and one with whom you work well.

Of the other members of the committee, at least one must be affiliated with the GGHS program, and at least one must be from outside UMass Boston.  For members of the committee from outside UMass Boston, a current CV must be included with Form A.  In all cases prospective committee members must explicitly indicate their willingness to serve, either by signing Form A or by sending an email in lieu of signing.

Taking Your Second Qualifying Exam with Dissertation Committee

A student’s committee for the second qualifying examination shall consist of the Chair and at least two other members of the Dissertation Committee as identified on GGHS Dissertation Tracking Form A. If possible, all four members should be included.

The examination will normally be given no earlier than the student’s fourth semester in the program. Students are expected to prepare a 20-25 page dissertation proposal, including abstract, that identifies the substantive focus and analytic approach of the dissertation, and relevant existing literatures.

The oral examination shall be scheduled for two hours, and shall include the student, the committee members, and any other observers agreed to by both the student and the committee chair. Only committee members shall have a vote. During the oral examination, the Committee may examine the student on both the content of the proposal specifically, and on the relationship between the proposed research and the fields of global governance and human security more generally. All members of the examination committee must tentatively approve the proposal before the oral examination is scheduled, and agree that it is time for this examination to be held.

All members of the Committee must approve the proposal for the student to pass the examination and proceed to Candidacy. The concerns of committee members who vote “Approve with reservations” must be addressed prior to the student proceeding to candidacy. One or more votes “do not approve” constitute a failure of the second qualifying examination. Students may retake the examination once, after substantially revising the proposal. Students who fail the exam a second time may not continue in the GGHS program.

Your Third Year and Beyond

In your third year you must/should register for the required 10 required Dissertation Research credits (GGHS 899). These 10 credits can be distributed across the fall and spring semester as you choose. If you are on a Graduate Assistantship it is imperative that you register for these credits in your third year. If you do not, you will have to pay for them out of pocket. 

Most third year students have completed all necessary course credits. However students on an assistantship can choose to take a small number of additional courses, using their tuition remission.  

Beyond Your Third Year

When you have completed all the required credits for the PhD, but are still writing your dissertation, you must remain in “full-time status” at UMass Boston by registering for, and paying, the “Program Fee.” You will not be allowed to graduate without paying it for the semester between you candidacy and your graduation.

Doctoral students must complete and defend their dissertation within 8 years of entering the program. (Student may petition for an extension in extenuating circumstances, but extensions cannot be guaranteed.)

The Dissertation

GGHS Dissertation Guidelines

Best Practices for Dissertation Advisors and Advisees. The completion and defense of a dissertation is the culmination of a doctoral degree. Dissertation formats vary across disciplines and countries. Typically, GGHS dissertations follow one of two formats common in North American and many international universities:

  • A single authored monograph (sometimes called “book-style”) dissertation project: This format often consists of a 5-8 chapter, single authored manuscript of 50,000 to 80,000 words. This is the most common format in the GGHS program. The chapters typically include an introduction, research objectives, a critical literature review, discussion of theoretical and conceptual foundations and frameworks used, methods, results/findings, interpretation, discussion and conclusions.
  • A “Trio of published and publishable articles” dissertation project. In this case, two articles must have received final acceptance for publication in a peer-reviewed scholarly venue. The third paper must be judged by the dissertation committee to be ready for submission to a peer reviewed journal. While individual papers should be stand alone publications, taken together they should also embody a recognizable, unifying theme and research project.
    • Doctoral students must consult with their doctoral advisor and doctoral committee members about venues before submission. Such publication venues should be included in the Web of Science Journal Citation Reports. All three published and publishable papers must make original empirical, theoretical, and/or methodological contributions.
    • Typically, the “full dissertation” for defense should include the three published and publishable papers, as well as an introductory paper/chapter and a conclusion which explicitly discuss the overall research project and its contributions to knowledge and research. A critical review of the literature must also be included. This might be an additional stand alone paper/chapter, or it might be included within the other parts of the dissertation.
    • Typically, papers in the dissertation are single authored. If any portion is to be co-authored (typically first authored), this would require specific authorization and agreement from all members of the dissertation committee.

In either format, the dissertation should constitute a coherent, explicitly related set of chapters and papers. Further, consistent with UMass Boston rules and widely shared professional norms, a dissertation is deemed to complete the requirements for a doctorate only by members of the candidate’s dissertation committee and following a public defense and an oral examination (see below). The judgment/assessment of external article or book publishers or peer reviewers do not and cannot replace the assessment of the doctoral committee.

These dissertation format guidelines are program requirements, applying to all GGHS doctoral candidates who defend their dissertation proposals after 1 December, 2017.

Finally, doctoral students should understand that the choice of dissertation format has very significant implications for post-doctoral job, career and publishing opportunities.  As such, the choice of format must be stipulated in the dissertation proposal and approved when the proposal is defended by the candidate and approved by the doctoral committee.

Completing the Dissertation, Scheduling a Defense & Graduating

Completing the Dissertation: Doctoral students should be working closely with their committee chair and members of their committee as they draft and complete the dissertation.  In cooperation with their committee chair, students should plan their dissertation completion and defense about 3-4 months in advance.  They should not expect to be able to defend immediately upon finishing a complete draft of the dissertation.

According to UMass Boston procedures and expectations, doctoral committee members should review a full draft of the dissertation prior to a defense being scheduled. All committee members should have read the complete dissertation and agreed that the student is ready to schedule a defense prior to the defense being scheduled.

  • Committee members should have at least one month to review a full draft of the dissertation, in order to give feedback to doctoral students and in order to be able to assess whether a student is ready to move toward a defense.
  • Committee members may or may not want to review a revised draft before agreeing to schedule a defense. If they want to see revisions, they should have at least 3 weeks to review a revised draft of the dissertation before the defense.

Once all committee members agree that a defense date should be scheduled, Doctoral students should coordinate scheduling with their committee chair, all members of their committee, and the GGHS departmental staff (Kelly Ward) to schedule a time that works for all, in a room that can accommodate the defense. All members of the committee must participate in the defense, but some members may participate virtually (via Skype or other options).

The Defense:  Doctoral defenses are usually scheduled to take 2.5 hours. The dissertation defense consists of two components, a public lecture and an oral examination. The oral examination will normally be scheduled immediately after the public lecture. 

  • The lecture is open to the university community and the broader public. The candidate should expect to present the dissertation research in a talk of roughly half an hour, with another half hour reserved for questions from the audience and answers from the candidate. Committee members may ask questions at this stage, but they will likely reserve their questions for the subsequent oral examination.
  • The oral examination will include only the candidate and the committee members, as well as any other participants that both the candidate and all the committee members agree to invite. The audience attending the public lecture is asked to leave before the oral examination begins.

At the end of the oral examination, the candidate is asked to leave the room to allow the committee members some time to deliberate and discuss the oral examination and the dissertation.  The candidate and any remaining audience members are then asked to return to the room for the committee’s decision. 

The student can pass the final oral examination only with the unanimous approval of the members of the committee. If, at the final examination, two members cast negative votes, the candidate will be informed that he or she has not passed the examination. If there is only one negative vote, the degree will be held up pending satisfactory resolution of the objections by the student and the dissenting member of the committee. Final program approval is represented by the signature of the graduate program director.

The dissertation committee generally requires some revision of the dissertation following the oral examination. Required revisions can range from minor changes to the substantial. The candidate must complete these revisions to the committee’s satisfaction before depositing the dissertation with the Office of Graduate Studies (OSG).

The OGS format editor will then review the dissertation for format and will indicate any necessary further revisions. Once these are made and the format editor has approved them, the final submission of the dissertation to OGS can take place. University rules about the formatting of the dissertation, and dates and deadlines for submission, can be found here.

Graduation:  All doctoral students MUST meet UMass Boston deadlines for applying to graduate

Doctoral degrees are awarded in May, August and December.  Note that for May graduation the dissertation must be defended, revised, had the revisions approved by the committee chair, and be deposited with the Office of Graduate Studies by April 20 for format editing review. For an August graduation the equivalent date is August 1 and for December graduation the equivalent date is December 1 (this is what the Graduate School means by “initial submission’).

Dissertations must follow a required format. There are OGS format editors who review your dissertation and guide you through the process of meeting the standards. Details of the requirements and deadlines for each step are described here:  

Note that these requirements include a hard deadline for submission of the final version.

Working as a Graduate Assistant

Students on Graduate Assistantships will normally be funded through the assistantship for three years, subject to satisfactory progress toward the PhD degree. Graduate assistantships pay stipends over a nine-month period beginning in September; they do not pay stipends over the summer. They include a waiver of tuition costs up to a maximum of 12 credits per semester.*  Students on regular graduate assistantships should therefore be able to complete their required coursework without having to pay any tuition out-of-pocket.

Graduate assistantships formally require 18 hours of work per week during the semester for the assistantship supervisor to whom the student is assigned (note that the assistantship supervisor is a different role from a dissertation committee chair; they may be the same person, but often will not be).  Students are assigned to be either research assistants (RAs) or teaching assistants (TAs).

Graduate assistants will normally be assigned as an RA in their first year in the doctoral program.  In the second year they will normally be assigned half as a TA (for 9 hours per week) and half as an RA.  TA assignments will generally be for undergraduate courses in cognate fields to GGHS, such as political science, women’s and gender studies, communication, etc., and orientation will be provided before TA duties begin.

In the third year graduate assistants will normally be assigned as RAs unless they request an assignment as a TA (adding to your teaching portfolio and experience can be useful if you are considering a career in academia), subject to Department and University needs.  Students on assistantship are expected to remain in residence in the Boston area for at least one semester of their third year even if they are assigned as an RA, and performing RA duties when not in residence the other semester is subject to agreement by the RA supervisor (TAs, of course, need to be in residence in the Boston area).

PhD students in their third year of assistantship funding who seek to be non-resident at UMass Boston for less than half of the academic year should discuss options with their doctoral advisor, the GGHS graduate program director and the CRHSGG department chair.  Students will need to submit a written request, describing their plans for the third year to their advisor, the GPD and the department chair.  Importantly, such students should either have defended their dissertation research proposal before being non-resident or outline a credible plan for the defense of their proposal in the early fall semester of their third year.

* The tuition waiver may not be applied to undergraduate courses, courses offered by Continuing and Professional Studies (CAPS), or off-campus courses. 

Applying for Departmental Conference and Research Funding

The department funds graduate student travel through two mechanisms.

  1. Funding travel to present papers at conferences. 
  2. Funding seed grants for research

See the Student Grant section on the resource tab of our website.

Professional Development Grants through the GSA found here.

Professional Development Grants through the McCormack School Dean’s Office Student Success (DOSS) initiative found here

List of helpful forms

Degree Requirement Tracking Form

Qualifying Exam Advice

List of Second Year Courses Options

Advanced Standing Form

PhD progression and dissertation stages/forms  

You can use this useful Degree Requirement Tracking Form to help you through the process.

  • Students are responsible for their own progress toward the PhD degree.  While faculty, particularly a student’s committee chair and the GPD, will assist when possible in administering the required paperwork, it is ultimately the student’s responsibility to understand the sequence of requirements toward the degree, and to ensure that the various forms are filled out in that sequence.
  • It is the students responsibility to fill out these forms and obtain the proper signatures for each stage
  • There are 7 sequential dissertation tracking forms, covering the process from identification of a Committee Chair in the student’s first year to the final dissertation defense.  Forms A & B require action at the Department level only, while stage 1 - 5  require signature by the Dean of Graduate Studies
  • The form for each step must be signed by the GPD (and, where necessary, the Dean of Graduate Studies) before student/candidate can proceed to the next step.
  • Hard copies of all forms must be kept in the student dissertation files housed in department main office. .  This will provide both the student and the program faculty with a concrete record of progress through the program.


PROPOSAL DEFENSE FORMS: (GGHS doctoral students must complete all three of these forms (Stage 1, 2 and 3) in conjunction with their dissertation proposal defense)