For completion of the PhD degree, competence in theory, in research methodology and in quantitative techniques is expected, as well as competence in the general field of criminology and criminal justice and in some specialization area within criminology or criminal justice selected by the student with Department approval. The necessary course work is determined on the basis of the student's previous preparation, needs, and interests. The determination of courses which must be made up is determined upon admission into the program. Courses which are needed to prepare the PhD student for his/her comprehensive examinations should be selected on the basis of advice given by the student's faculty advisor. If students admitted to the doctoral program have not completed the equivalent of CCJS 600 (Criminal Justice), CCJS 610 (Research Methods in Criminal Justice and Criminology), and CCJS 651 (Seminar in Criminology), they will be required to complete these courses. All doctoral students must complete CCJS 710 (Advanced Criminal Justice and Criminological Research Methods), and an advanced course in statistics. (See below for list of courses that may be approved to satisfy this requirement). CCJS 710 and the advanced statistics course must be completed with a grade of "B" or better. The candidate is required to pass PhD comprehensive examinations, acquire at least 12 hours of PhD research credits (CCJS 899), and prepare and defend a doctoral dissertation under guidance of his/her PhD dissertation committee.

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Time Limit

The University requires that a student must be admitted to candidacy within five years after admission to the doctoral program. In addition, the student must be admitted to candidacy at least one academic year before the date on which the degree is to be conferred.

The student must complete the entire program for the degree, including the dissertation and final examination, within a four-year period after admission to candidacy. One extension of time, either for admission to candidacy or for completion of requirements for the doctoral degree, may be granted at the discretion of the Department. Beyond that one extension, admission to the program terminates, at which point a student must reapply to the program. For further details, please consult the Graduate School policy manual.

Residence Requirement

The University requires a minimum of three years of graduate study and research for the Doctorate degree. Of the three years, the equivalent of at least one full-time year must be spent at the University of Maryland.

Registration Requirement

All graduate students making any demand upon the academic or support services of the University, whether taking courses, using University libraries, laboratories, computer facilities, office space, housing, or consulting with faculty advisors, taking comprehensive or oral examinations, must register for the number of graduate units which will, in the judgment of the faculty advisor, accurately reflect the student's involvement in graduate study and use of University resources.  In no case will registration be for less than one credit.

Doctoral students who have been advanced to candidacy must register each semester, excluding summer sessions, until the degree is awarded. These students must register every semester for 899, Doctoral Dissertation Research. 899 will carry 6 credit hours and will be covered by a flat candidacy tuition.

Failure to comply with the requirement for maintaining continuous registration may be taken as evidence that the student has terminated the doctoral program. A new application for admission, with the consequent reevaluation of the student's performance, will be required of a student wishing to resume a graduate program, whose admission has been terminated under this regulation.

Transfer of Credit

The courses submitted for transfer credit must meet the following criteria: 1) they must have received graduate credit from a regionally accredited institution where earned; 2) they must not have been used to meet the requirements for any degree previously earned; 3) the Department must certify that the courses are appropriate to the degree program of the student; and 4) the student must have earned a "B" or better in the course offered for transfer credit.

PhD Comprehensive Examination


  • Simpson       1/2016
  • Xie                6/2016
  • Porter           1/2017
  • Lynch            6/2017
  • Dugan           1/2018

The PhD comprehensive examinations are an integral part of the PhD degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice. They represent the part of the program that requires students to demonstrate their understanding of the central issues facing the discipline. It also requires students to have formed their own positions on these issues, and to demonstrate they have the ability to articulate and defend these positions. As such they place an emphasis not only on what people know but also on how they can use what they know, and if they have developed an understanding of how what we know can be transformed through research, theory development, and action. The student is expected to demonstrate in the examinations their reasoned perspective on the literature in our field and their ability to integrate that literature to describe future developments.

There are two comprehensive examinations -- theory and general. The theory examination includes the history of criminological theory, meanings of and trends in theory development, contemporary theories of crime and criminal behavior, research testing these theories, and applications of these theories to types of crime (e.g., drugs, violence, white collar) and groups of special interest (e.g., women, minorities, juveniles, and victims). The general examination coves the administration of justice. The theory of and research on law enforcement, adjudication, and corrections are the focus of this examination. The theory and general examinations are given on the last Friday before classes in January and the last Friday in June each year. They are each six hours in length. Copies of past examinations are available from the Graduate Program Coordinator.

Preparation for the theory and general comprehensive is facilitated by taking required and recommended courses. These are not required of all students but are offered as guides to kinds of materials that should be covered during the preparation. It must be understood that completion of these courses is not all that needs to be done to prepare for comprehensives. In addition to satisfactory performance in course work, the students must develop their own positions and organize the literature in a way that leads them to be able to "profess" the discipline.

For the theory examination, students should consider taking CCJS651, CCJS654, CCJS691, and courses on special crime types or groups of interest. For the general examination, students should consider CCJS600, CCJS653, CCJS660, CCJS670, CCJS680, and CCJS711.

Comprehensive examinations will be graded by all tenure track faculty with full-time appointments in the Department. Each grader will grade each question "pass" or "fail," with a recommendation for-or-against "pass with distinction." The Chair, or his or her designee, will tabulate scores by student in a matrix by de-identified graders, and circulate the matrix to the faculty. Each student will be allowed to review the matrix for their own examination, but not for other students. All examinations with 75% of total possible score will pass; those with less than 75% will fail unless the faculty decides to pass the examination under procedures specified below:

  • For each failed examination in which at least two (2) graders have given the examination a score of three (3) or higher, the Chair will convene a meeting in which the faculty can discuss the examination and decide whether to change the grades in order to pass the examination;
  • Once a student fails a comprehensive examination, they have the right to take the examination a second time, only if they have complied with the following procedures:
  • Selected a comprehensive study advisor from among the faculty
  • Developed a plan for studying for the examination, which may include reading, attending relevant graduate classes or comprehensive study sessions, and taking written practice examinations under time deadlines for feedback by faculty
  • Obtained written certification in a letter from the advisor to the Chair certifying that a reasonable study plan has been completed. 

A student who fails a comprehensive a second time shall be terminated from the doctoral program. All examinations must be word-processed. Students who elect to handwrite their answers must leave the answers with the examiner at the end of the examination, then return to the Department on the next business day to key in the exact text they have handwritten during the examination. The text will be proofread by staff; any variation between the two versions will be taken as a case of academic dishonesty.

For more details about Department of Criminologyand Criminal Justice's Department PhD Comprehensive Examinations, click here.

Admission to Candidacy

After satisfactory completion of the comprehensive examinations, the student should apply for admission to candidacy. A student must be admitted to candidacy for the doctorate within five years.

It is the responsibility of the student to submit an application for admission to candidacy. Applications are made in duplicate and submitted to the Department's Graduate Office for further action and transmission to the Graduate School. Application forms may be obtained from the Department's Graduate Office or from the Graduate School.

The student has four years from the date of admission to candidacy to complete the degree requirements.

Dissertation Requirements

The Graduate School discusses the requirements regarding the dissertation in the following areas:

  1. The dissertation must be approved by the department or program committee.
  2. Directions for the preparation and submission of the dissertation is found in the Graduate Student Academic   Handbook. This may be purchased at the University Book Store.
  3. During the preparation of the dissertation, all candidates for any doctoral degree must register for the prescribed number of semester hours of Doctoral Dissertation Research (CCJS 899). At any one registration, the candidate may register for one to eight hours of credit as deemed appropriate by the student's advisor, providing the accumulation of credits eventually equals the 12 dissertation credit required. Ordinarily the student receives the grade of satisfactory until such time as the dissertation is finished. 

Dissertation Proposals

Dissertation proposals should be approved by the unanimous vote of the student's doctoral dissertation committee. If the student's dissertation involves research with human subjects, approval of the Department's and University's Human Subjects Committees must be obtained. Advisors are aware of the appropriate procedures. Once the dissertation proposal is approved, a copy must be filed in the student's Department file.

Dissertation Committees

The dissertation advisor is ordinarily chairperson of the dissertation committee, but does not have to be the sole member of the committee on whom the student relies for advice and guidance. Whomever the student uses as principal mentor, however, she/he would be well advised to keep the dissertation advisor constantly advised on the progress she/he is making. The dissertation advisor is responsible for the composition of the Dissertation Committee.

According to Graduate School requirements, the committee shall consist of a minimum of five voting members, all of whom hold the doctoral degree. At least one of the five must hold an appointment in a department or graduate program external to the one in which the student is seeking the degree. A minimum of three members of the committee must be regular (and not associate) members of the graduate faculty of the University of Maryland. If the "outside" member is a regular member of the graduate faculty, this member is usually designated as the representative of the Dean of the Graduate School. This member sees that the examination is conducted according to established procedures. Any disagreement over the examination procedures is referred to the Dean's representative for a decision. One or more members of the committee may be persons from other institutions who hold the doctorate and are distinguished scholars in the field of the dissertation.

The Department requires that at least three members of the dissertation committee, including the dissertation chairperson, be from the Department faculty. The chairperson of a PhD comprehensive committee should be a regular member of the graduate faculty of the University and not an associate member. It is possible, in exceptional circumstances, for the dissertation chairperson to be an associate member of the graduate faculty. However, approval of the Graduate School Dean must be obtained. Also, this would not change the Graduate School requirement that at least three members of the committee be regular members of the graduate faculty. The minimum size of a dissertation committee is five members but it is possible to have six or more members.

In the semester that the candidate anticipates submitting copies of the dissertation to her/his dissertation committee, the advisor sends to the Graduate School a "Request for Appointment of Doctoral Examining Committee" form listing the names of the desired committee members, together with an abstract or summary of the dissertation. This form must be submitted to the Graduate School by the date specified in Important Dates. The candidate is responsible for seeing to it that the advisor has completed the form. The Graduate School Dean then sends to the advisor a form approving the committee for the oral defense and listing any incomplete grades.

Oral Defense

Complete copies of the draft dissertation must be distributed to each member of the committee at least 10 working days before the defense. The time and place of the defense are established by the dissertation committee chairperson. All defenses must be announced to the Department at least one week prior to the defense.

All final oral dissertation defenses are open to the faculty and graduate students of the Department. After the examination, the committee deliberates and votes in private. Two or more negative votes constitutes a failure. The candidate may only present himself/herself for final oral defense of her/his dissertation twice.

Dissertation Approval

After the dissertation is approved by the examination committee, the committee members sign the form sent by the Graduate School stating that the dissertation is completed.  This form is returned by the chairperson of the committee to the Dean of the Graduate School no later that the appropriate date listed in Important Dates if the student is to graduate in the semester in which the oral defense is conducted.  The candidate must submit to the Graduate School the original typed manuscript and one quality copy of the dissertation. The advisor must sign both copies to the Graduate School prior to the deadline.  Finally, the candidate must submit the finalized dissertation through ProQuest Information and Learning Services as well as an Electronic Publication Form

Application for Diploma

The candidate must submit the application for diploma to the Registrar's Office. The student must meet the deadline specified in Important Dates. The student must be registered for at least one credit in the semester he/she plans to graduate.

Statistics Requirement

The Department offers a variety of advanced statistics courses, all of which satisfy the requirements for the elective advanced statistics course. In addition, the following courses which might be approved for PhD students to meet this requirement:

  • ECON 626 Empirical Microeconomics
  • ECON 771 Advanced Labor Economics: Theory and Evidence
  • EDMS 657 Factor Analysis
  • EDMS 722 Structural Equation Analysis
  • SOC 630 Population and Society
  • SOC 653 Family Demography: Families and Social Change
  • SOC 709A Social Network Analysis
  • SURV 625 Applied Sampling
  • SURV 632 Social and Cognitive Foundations of Survey Measurement
  • SURV 701 Analysis of Complex Sample Data
  • SURV 722 Randomized and Non-Randomized Research Design

Courses on this list do not automatically serve as replacements for the advanced statistics elective - the student's advisor must approve the substitution prior to enrollment in the class. Students must file a Advanced Statistics Elective form with the Graduate Secretary signed by their advisor. In addition, many of the classes are upper level courses in the home department and therefore have prerequisites which may include permission of the instructor. It is the student's responsibility to obtain the necessary permission. Finally, this list is not comprehensive. PhD students can petition the faculty asking that another course on campus be allowed to substitute for the required advanced statistics elective. A successful petition should be signed by the student's advisor and the Department's Director of Graduate Studies. The petition should include a syllabus and a justification for how this course fits into the person's course of study. A decision will be made on the basis of course rigor and fit.

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