Virginia Tech®home

Program Milestones

To ensure that the student is making adequate progress toward degree completion, an evaluation is completed near the end of the spring semester for each academic year. This evaluation involves the review of courses taken, grades earned, progress toward degree milestones, and professional accomplishments. Professional accomplishments should be documented with full reference information and should follow APA style.

If the student fails to make satisfactory progress during the degree, permission to continue may be denied. In accordance with Graduate School policy, this denial decision is initiated by the Advisory Committee and involves a recommendation to the Graduate School. A grade of less than B in any course in the program of study is viewed as less than satisfactory unless the student can demonstrate a conceptual knowledge of the material through other means. Also, the Advisory Committee can request a conference with the student during the academic year.

Relevant Forms: Satisfactory Progress Form

After entering the EDRE program, the student is assigned a temporary advisor. The temporary advisor guides the student on matters of course selection, potential directions for research, and the identification of possible faculty members who can contribute to those research efforts. After completing one semester of coursework, the student formalizes his or her plan of study under the guidance of the advisor.

Relevant Forms: Change of Advisor or CommitteeCourse Justification RequestPhD/EdD Degree - Proposed Plan of Study, Request for Plan of Study Changes

Prior to the Qualifying Examination, and in consultation with his or her advisor, the student establishes an Advisory Committee that will help to guide his or her initial research efforts. The selection of committee members should be guided by each committee member's expertise and should be made jointly by the student and the advisor. The Advisory Committee consists of four members, must be chaired by an EDRE faculty member, and normally includes four EDRE faculty members (one for each of the four focus areas). In exceptional circumstances, however, one non-EDRE faculty member can be included as a fourth member of the Advisory Committee.

The Qualifying Examination normally occurs prior to the final five weeks of the second semester of coursework (i.e., prior to April for a student who has been admitted for the fall semester and prior to November for a student who has been admitted for the spring semester). The written component of the examination includes (a) a Statement of Intent and (b) a completed Plan of Study. The Statement of Intent should normally be two to four pages (double spaced) in length and address four major topics: (a) relevant educational, professional, and personal background; (b) current research interests; (c) expertise and specific skills sought through completion of the Ph.D. program in EDRE (i.e., area of focus, methodological and other expertise, specific training and skills resulting from coursework or other program experiences); and (d) career goals and, if relevant, long-term research goals, and the ways in which obtaining a Ph.D. in EDRE will contribute to the achievement of these goals. The oral component of the Qualifying Examination includes (a) a brief (i.e., ten-minute), informal presentation by the student that focuses on the four major topics addressed in the Statement of Intent; (b) discussion of the Statement of Intent, including committee members' questions or comments about its content; (c) the Advisory Committee Chair's presentation of the Plan of Study; and (d) discussion of the Plan of Study, including committee members' questions or comments about its content. After the completion of the Qualifying Examination, each committee member assesses the student's performance using the Qualifying Examination Evaluation Rubric.

Relevant Forms: Results of Qualifying ExaminationSample Statement of Intent

All EDRE students are expected to develop the research and other skills that are necessary to effectively design, conduct, and report research. The research apprenticeship is designed to help the student to develop these skills and to be prepared to design, conduct, and report her or his dissertation research. The apprenticeship is a guided research project that is completed as an independent study with an EDRE faculty member and culminates in a conference presentation and/or a manuscript that is submitted to a journal for publication. At the discretion of the advisor and with the agreement of other Advisory Committee members, it can also count as a required research methods course or as a course in the student's chosen focus area.

When the student has completed at least 80% of the coursework included in the approved plan of study (and most, if not all, of the required core research courses) and the advisor has certified the satisfactory completion of the research apprenticeship (if relevant), the student is eligible, with the consent of the advisor, to schedule the Preliminary Examination.

The Advisory Committee for the Preliminary Examination consists of four members, is chaired by an EDRE faculty member, and can include one non-EDRE faculty member, if needed. The selection of committee members should be guided by each committee member's' expertise and should be made jointly by the student and the advisor.

The Preliminary Examination provides the student with an opportunity to present a literature review, for a chosen research problem and research question(s), to the Advisory Committee. The student develops a document that consists of either (a) a brief introduction of several pages, a literature review, and a reference list or (b) a draft of the first two chapters of a traditional dissertation and a reference list. For either of these documents, the literature review should be no less than 25 pages in length. The student develops the document under the guidance of the Chair of the Advisory Committee, and the document must be distributed to committee members at least two weeks before the Preliminary Examination.

Following the Preliminary Examination, each committee member completes a Preliminary Exam Rubric to assess the student's performance.

Relevant Forms: Request to Admit Candidate to Preliminary Examination (Please note that this form must be submitted to the Office of Academic Programs in the School of Education at least three weeks prior to the date of the Preliminary Examination.)

When the student has completed the courses included in the plan of study and has passed the preliminary examination, he or she establishes a Dissertation Committee. Depending on the student's research interests, the composition of the Dissertation Committee may differ from that of the Advisory Committee. Like the Advisory Committee, the selection of dissertation committee members should be guided by each committee member's expertise, and such decisions should be made jointly by the student and her or his advisor.

The Dissertation Committee is chaired (or co-chaired) by a full-time EDRE faculty member and normally includes a minimum of two additional EDRE faculty members who have appropriate expertise. The fourth member of the committee can be a faculty member from another program or an administrator who has appropriate expertise and who has been approved by the Graduate School.

The Prospectus Examination, which occurs no fewer than three months after the Preliminary Examination has been passed, provides the student with an opportunity to present a formal dissertation proposal to the Dissertation Committee. The dissertation proposal normally consists of a draft of the first three chapters of a traditional dissertation, a reference list, and appendices. The student develops the dissertation proposal under the guidance of the Chair of the Dissertation Committee, and the document must be distributed to committee members at least two weeks prior to the Prospectus Examination. At the beginning of the Prospectus Examination, the student provides a brief oral presentation of the proposed dissertation research. Following the prospectus examination, each committee member completes a prospectus exam rubric to assess the student's performance.

As noted in the Final Examination section below, the dissertation is required to include an explicit methodological component as it relates to the findings, the implications of the findings, and/or the implications of the process of conducting the research. Dissertations can vary considerably, however, in the extent to which they focus on research methodology. More specifically, dissertations can range from those that are theoretical in natural and focus on one or more methodological issues to those that are empirical in nature and focus on a research problem in a specific content area. For an empirical dissertation, however, the findings and/or the process of conducting the research are required to have methodological implications that are discussed explicitly in the dissertation document.

Relevant Forms: Non-Virginia Tech Committee MemberRequest to Schedule Dissertation Prospectus Examination (Note that this form must be submitted to the Office of Academic Programs in the School of Education at least three weeks prior to the date of the Prospectus Examination.), Results of Dissertation Prospectus Examination

EDRE students must complete a minimum of 30 research/dissertation credit hours during their studies.


The final examination, administered by the Dissertation Committee, is taken no less than six months after the preliminary examination has been passed and no less than one semester after the prospectus examination has been passed. It serves as the culminating experience in the program, one in which the student presents and defends the dissertation research. The student conducts the dissertation research and writes the dissertation under the guidance of the Dissertation Committee. 

It should be noted that the dissertation is required to include an explicit methodological component as it relates to the findings, the implications of the findings, and/or the implications of the process of conducting the research. Dissertations can vary considerably, however, in the extent to which they focus on research methodology. More specifically, dissertations can range from those that are theoretical in natural and focus on one or more methodological issues to those that are empirical in nature and focus on a research problem in a specific content area. For an empirical dissertation, however, the findings and/or the process of conducting the research are required to have methodological implications that are discussed explicitly in the dissertation document.

The student must distribute a final draft of the dissertation to all committee members at least five weeks prior to the intended date of defense. This draft document is reviewed by committee members who then sign the Request to Admit Candidate to Final Doctoral Examination form, which indicates that the dissertation is ready to defend, three weeks prior to the Final Examination. The student must distribute the dissertation to be defended to the Dissertation Committee at least two weeks prior to the Final Examination. At the beginning of the Final Examination, the student gives a brief (i.e., ten- to twenty-minute) oral presentation of the dissertation research and then responds to questions that are posed by the Dissertation Committee members. Following the Final Examination, all committee members complete the EDRE final examination rubric to assess the student's performance. Please see the Graduate School’s website for information about upcoming commencement deadlines.

Relevant Forms: Application for Degree, Certification of Defending Student Status, Request to Admit Candidate to Final Doctoral Examination (Please note that this form must be submitted to the Office of Academic Programs in the School of Education at least three weeks prior to the date of the Final Examination.)

The student must be engaged in full-time study during two consecutive, regular academic year semesters on the Blacksburg campus.

Relevant Forms: Change of Campus