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This archived information is dated to the 2011-12 academic year only and may no longer be current.

For currently applicable policies and information, see the current Stanford Bulletin.

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology

There are no specific course requirements for admission to the doctoral program. However, an applicant should have research experience as an undergraduate, as well as the equivalent of an undergraduate major in Psychology. The major focus of the doctoral program is on research training, and admission is highly selective.

Applicants for admission must submit their scores on the general Graduate Record Examination as part of the application. GRE subject scores are recommended.

General University requirements for the Ph.D. are described in the "Graduate Degrees" section of this bulletin.

In addition to fulfilling Stanford University requirements for the degree, the following departmental requirements are stipulated.

First-Year Course Requirements—During the first year of graduate study, the student must take PSYCH 207, Proseminar for First-Year Ph.D. Graduate Students, at least one approved graduate statistics course, and at least two core courses from the following list:

Students in each area may be required to take up to two additional non-core graduate courses in their area of specialization.

The student is expected to spend at least half of the time in research from the beginning of the first year of graduate study to the completion of the Ph.D., taking no more than 10 units of course work each quarter. At the end of the first year of graduate study, the student must file with the department a written report of the first-year research activities.

Second Year Course Requirements—By the end of the second year of graduate study, the student should complete the core courses listed above and take a second approved graduate course in statistics.

Third-Year and Beyond—Students are expected to form a research committee, which must include the dissertation reading committee, before the initiation of the dissertation research. The research committee includes the dissertation adviser and consists of at least three faculty members, at least two of whom should have primary appointments in the Psychology department. For University guidelines for the composition of the dissertation reading committee, see the "Graduate Degrees" section of this bulletin.

The research committee should meet no later than the last day of classes of Spring Quarter of the third year, and determines the timeline for further development of the dissertation research project. Subsequent meetings are triggered by the completion of one of two documents: a dissertation proposal (DP) or a conceptual analysis of the dissertation area (CADA). The timing and sequencing of the DP and CADA are developed by the student in consultation with the committee. As a general guide, one of the two preliminary elements (CADA or DP) should be completed by the end of the third Summer Quarter and the second should be completed by the end of the fourth Spring Quarter. Students are free to alter the membership of the committee at any time during the process, subject to consultation with the adviser.

The DP should be a description of the proposed research. The CADA provides a framework for the research topic of the dissertation, addresses the central issues within the specialty area, and reviews the pertinent literature.

Advanced Course or Minor Requirements—The candidate must complete 12 units of advanced graduate course work or a Ph.D. minor in another department. If a student waives the minor requirement in favor of the 12 advanced units, the student must fulfill the advanced course requirement by taking (a) non-core graduate courses required by a particular area, or (b) graduate-level courses in other departments comparable in quality to Psychology's graduate courses. If there is any question about comparability, the student should consult the adviser, student services, and, in some cases, the graduate program committee chair before taking the course.

Orals—The candidate must pass the University oral examination, which also serves as a dissertation defense. A committee is formed to review the oral examination, including the dissertation reading committee, an additional faculty member, and one oral examination committee chair from outside the Psychology department. The oral examination consists of a 40-45-minute presentation to the department of the completed dissertation research. Parents and friends are welcome to attend. Following the presentation, the student and the committee convene for a discussion of the dissertation and the presentation.

Dissertation Requirements—The candidate must complete a dissertation satisfactory to the dissertation reading committee prior to the oral examination. Minor revisions to formatting may be made after the oral examination.

Ph.D. candidacy expires five years after admission to candidacy at the end of the second year of study. Reapplication requires department reexamination.


First-Year Evaluation—It is the department's policy to evaluate the progress of each graduate student at the end of the first year of graduate study. As part of the procedure, each student is required to file with the department a report of the first-year research activities.

Students should discuss this report and the evaluation procedures with their adviser as early as possible in their first year. If the student fulfills the academic promise displayed upon entrance, he or she is invited to continue working towards the doctorate.

The first-year evaluation is primarily based on three factors:

  1. quality of research carried out in the first year
  2. performance in courses (especially required courses)
  3. recommendations of the adviser (including a commitment on the part of that adviser to continue in that role).

Second-Year and Beyond Evaluation—A similar evaluation is conducted at the end of each year of graduate training involving the same criteria as the first year; however, the student is not required to submit a paper. Students who are not making satisfactory progress may be dropped from the program.


As indicated by the requirements described above, a student concentrates in any one of several areas within Psychology. Regardless of area, however, the training program places emphasis on the development of research competence, and students are encouraged to develop those skills and attitudes that are appropriate to a career of continuing research productivity.

Two kinds of experience are necessary for this purpose. One is the learning of substantial amounts of technical information. A number of courses and seminars are provided to assist in this learning, and a student is expected to work out a program, with his or her adviser, to attain this knowledge in the most stimulating and economical fashion.

A second aspect of training is one that cannot be gained from the courses or seminars. This is firsthand knowledge of, and practical experience with, the methods of psychological investigation and study. These methods include ways of behaving with the subjects being studied. Students are provided with whatever opportunities they need to reach those levels of competence representative of doctoral standing. Continuing research programs, sponsored by members of the faculty, offer direct opportunities for experience in fields represented by the faculty's many research interests.

Each student achieves competence in unique ways and at different rates. Each student and adviser share in planning a program leading to the objectives discussed. The student is expected to spend half of his or her time on research and takes no more than 10 units of course work per quarter. For further information please contact the student services office and the department graduate guide.


The department views experience in supervised teaching as an integral part of its graduate program. Regardless of the source of financial support, all students serve as teaching assistants for at least five Psychology courses during their graduate study. Of the courses, two must be PSYCH 1, Introduction to Psychology, or PSYCH 10, 252 or 253, Statistical Methods. Students are discouraged from participating in teaching during the first year of graduate study. Students typically progress from closely supervised teaching to more independent work. Some students may be invited to offer a supervised, but essentially independent, seminar during their final year of graduate study.


The Psychology Colloquium meets on most Wednesday afternoons at 3:45 p.m. Speakers from Stanford and other institutions present topics of current interest. Graduate students are expected to attend. Additional announcements may be found at

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