Your Plan of Study

The Plan of Study makes clear the shared expectations of the student and adviser, draws on the insights of additional faculty members, includes agreed upon targets for successful completion of the Ph.D., and serves as a basis for encouraging and evaluating progress.

The Plan of Study outlines how the student intends to meet doctoral course requirements; describes the expected focus of the dissertation; identifies topics and strategies for writing the two literature synthesis papers; lays out a schedule for the completion of course work, literature synthesis papers, qualifying exam or qualifying paper, and dissertation proposal; and explains how the course work and other elements of doctoral training will support the student's long-term research and career aspirations.

Preparing Your Plan of Study

The first page should identify the document as a proposed Plan of Study and include your name, your adviser's name, the names of the other Plan of Study Committee members, and the dates the plan was prepared, Plan of Study Conference occurred, and Plan of Study Committee approved the plan.

Your completed Plan should contain the following elements:

  1. GOALS AFTER RECEIVING THE DEGREE. Briefly indicate the type of work you hope to do and the institutional setting in which you would prefer to do it. Identify the level of research or professional practice in which you hope to participate and the general methodology you expect to employ. Mention specific subjects and long-term research objectives.
  2. FOCUS OF PROPOSED DOCTORAL WORK. Briefly indicate the focus of your doctoral work and the way in which it will serve your long-term interests. This section describes your plans and their underlying logic and coherence; it is not a course list. Organize your remarks by:
    1. Area of specialization within planning and supporting areas or minor if any;
    2. Expected dissertation subject or area;
    3. Anticipated research design and methods.
  3. PREVIOUS PREPARATION. Indicate the extent to which previous work — academic or other — has already contributed to the achievement of the intentions explained above. This section should contain the prior degrees, courses, and/or work experiences that qualify you to undertake your plan.
  4. COURSEWORK FOR THE PH.D. List all the courses you propose to satisfy doctoral requirements, including courses you plan to take, those already taken at Illinois, and those you propose to transfer from another institution (if any). Your courses should prepare you to (a) do scholarly research in your chosen area of specialization, (b) undertake original dissertation research upon completion of the coursework, and (c) teach in a planning curriculum or in courses closely related to a planning curriculum. Plan your credit hours carefully to avoid taking unnecessary courses.

    Arrange your completed and intended coursework in the following sections according to their requirements:

    • Planning Theory
    • Research Methods
    • Research Design
    • Area of Specialization
    • Other
    Below this initial listing, re-list the courses by semester, including current and future semesters' courses. List the course number, title, instructor, and any grades already earned. List other courses you propose to take that are not to be credited toward Ph.D. requirements but are related to your program (e.g., language courses, make-up prerequisites, or computer skills courses).
  5. TEACHING SKILLS. Outline your plans for developing teaching skills. Ideally you should specify at least one course in which you could participate as a teaching assistant or provide guest lectures. You also may include coursework aimed at improving your teaching repertoire or skills.
  6. RESEARCH SKILLS. Ideally, you are able to outline a plan to obtain research experience and build research skills beyond what you will learn in your research design and methods courses. The preferred approach is to work closely with one or more faculty members as a research assistant on a formal research project. We realize this might not be an option for all students. Independent study courses provide another pathway.
  7. OTHER CONCURRENT ACTIVITY. If you expect to follow any related or unrelated professional commitments while enrolled in the doctoral program, or expect to interrupt your participation in the program before completing it, indicate those plans.
  8. PRE-PROPOSAL REQUIREMENTS. Briefly describe tentative plans for completing your two synthesis papers and your qualifying research paper or qualifying exam (e.g., during which semester, related to what course, and on what topic.).
  9. DISSERTATION. Briefly, describe any tentative plans you have for a dissertation project.

Plan of Study Conference

A Plan of Study conference should take place during the second semester. The student provides the committee the draft Plan and meets with the committee to present and discuss the contents. The committee will judge the Plan of Study by considering three primary questions:

  1. If this Plan is implemented, is there a high probability that the student will have mastered the chosen area of specialization and the appropriate theory and research methodology?
  2. Is the student qualified to complete the Plan with distinction?
  3. Are there sufficient departmental and university resources (e.g., course offerings) in the student's proposed area of specialization and supporting areas?

Three possible outcomes of the Plan of Study Conference are possible: (1) acceptance of the student's plan as presented, (2) acceptance of the student's plan as amended at the conference; or (3) rejection of the student's plan with or without recommendations for change. The Committee may specify key concepts it regards as part of the student's area(s) of specialization and for which the student will be responsible, whether or not those concepts are part of the student's formal coursework. The Committee may also develop a list of important books and articles in the area(s) of specialization for which the student is responsible. That list of concepts and literature may be refined and extended as the student proceeds through his or her program and approaches the preliminary exam.

After the Plan of Study has been approved by the Committee, the adviser files an electronic copy with the Ph.D. Program Director. Changes in the student's proposed coursework may be made on the recommendation of the adviser if they are minor in the judgment of the adviser because they do not significantly affect the definition of the student's area of specialization or supporting areas or the competences the students can be expected to develop. Changes the student proposes that in the judgment of the advisor are major, in that they affect substantially the content or level of study, may require a revised Plan followed by review and approval by the Plan of Study Committee. Any approved major program changes should be reported by the adviser to the Ph.D. Program Director in the form of an amendment to the original program prepared by the student, including a revised version of the course list and time schedule previously approved by the Plan of Study Committee.

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