A minimum of 24 graduate units at USC is required for the doctoral degree.
Each student must take at least 44 substantive units in preventive medicine (health), sociology (population) and the spatial sciences (place) at USC during the first three years. Students must complete two laboratory rotations (4 units total) as well as a set of core courses that cover topics in biostatistics, demography, epidemiology and spatial sciences, the specifics of which are provided in the Spatial Sciences Institute's handbook for graduate students. Additional course requirements vary according to specialty area and/or dissertation topic.
During the first and second year, students work on either a refereed journal article, book chapter or a research report of comparable scope and quality. A research project done at USC is required of all students (by the conclusion of the summer following the student's second year), regardless of prior graduate work.
The student's ability to master graduate-level course material is first evaluated after completion of no more than 24 units, and not later than the third semester of graduate work at USC. The final screening procedure is the successful completion of a second-year project requirement. This evaluation is based on the student's performance in courses taken and on an evaluation of the student's research competence as reflected in the first- and second-year research projects. The projects are evaluated by a committee of three faculty, including the student's primary adviser.
Additionally, students are evaluated each year based on adviser input, course work and research progress.
In preparation for the qualifying examination, each student assembles a five-person guidance committee to direct the student's program of studies and evaluate research competence. The committee must include at least one member from the lists of eligible faculty in Demography, Preventive Medicine and Spatial Sciences listed in the each of the contributing fields specified in the Spatial Sciences Institute's handbook for graduate students. The committee continues to serve until after the qualifying examination has been passed, the dissertation topic approved, and the student admitted to candidacy for the PhD. At that time the student assembles a dissertation committee of four or more members (usually consisting of members of the guidance committee, one of whom must be a faculty member from outside the three contributing departments), who advise on and evaluate the dissertation.
The qualifying examination evaluates the student's ability to conduct independent scholarship and research. The student is evaluated based on oral and written presentation of two elements: a written review paper or written exam and the dissertation proposal. The qualifying examination is planned, administered and evaluated by the student's guidance committee. It should be taken no later than during the sixth semester.
A student is expected to engage in research activity throughout his or her graduate career, leading up to and culminating in the Ph.D. dissertation. The dissertation is based on an original investigation, usually involving empirical data.
Defense of the Dissertation
The student's doctoral dissertation is defended at either a defense oral, based on an approved preliminary copy of the dissertation, or a final oral, based on the final version of the dissertation.
Each student has a major adviser who is usually in the specialty area. The guidance committee should be formed at least one semester before the student takes the qualifying examination. Advisement concerning graduate school requirements may also be sought from the Spatial Sciences staff student adviser and the faculty member serving as director of graduate studies.