Texas Tech University

Ph.D. Comprehensive Examinations

The Graduate School requires a set of comprehensive examinations (qualifying 
examinations in the parlance of the Graduate School) before writing the dissertation. The economics comprehensive examinations are broken down into two parts: the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination and the Third-Year Research Paper. 

A. The Ph.D. Qualifying Exam 

The Ph.D. Qualifying Exam covers the following core courses: Microeconomics I (ECO 5312); Microeconomics II (ECO 6312); Macroeconomics I (ECO 5311); and Macroeconomics II (ECO 6322). Students must take the Ph.D. Qualifying Exam at the end of the spring semester of their first year in the program.

 The examination comprises of two five-hour sessions separated by two or three days (i.e. a Friday and a Tuesday or a Thursday and a Monday). The “micro session” will test the following courses: ECO 5312 and ECO 6312, and the “macro session” will test ECO 5311 and ECO 6322. Students must take both sessions together the first time. If a student fails one or both sessions, they may be permitted to repeat the session(s) they failed once, i.e., they don't have to repeat the session that they passed in their first attempt.  

The Department of Economics requires a Ph.D. student who does not pass all or part of the qualifying exam to repeat it prior the start of the fall semester of their second year in the program. Please note that the Ph.D. Qualifying Exam requires a synthesis and application of knowledge acquired during the doctoral degree; consequently, satisfactory performance in coursework does not necessarily guarantee successful performance in the qualifying exam. 

B. The Third-Year Research Paper 

Paper Requirements

• The third-year research paper must present original research by the author. Literature surveys are very useful, but they do not constitute original research. Therefore, any paper that is exclusively or predominantly a review of existing research literature does not meet the requirement of the third-year research paper.

• The third-year paper must be single-authored. The paper should be 12–20 pages, (excluding appendices and exhibits) in 11-point font, double-spaced, with one-inch margins. 

• The paper should state the research questions, position the research in the existing literature, outline the models and/or methods used in the research, and show and explain the results. It should have a clear potential to become a polished piece of research — the underlying question should have importance, as determined by the faculty member advising and evaluating the paper. 

• The Third Year Paper defense brings together the candidate, the advisor, and the Graduate Committee to discuss the proposed paper in person. It is a detailed presentation and discussion of the research questions and the work. The end result of the defense is a common understanding of what needs to be done, the approximate timing and any contingencies. 

• The paper will not necessarily turn into the dissertation, and the advisor consulted on the paper will not necessarily be on the student's dissertation committee. However, a satisfactory paper should have the potential to become a chapter of the student's future dissertation, or a standalone paper.

• Students may submit a course paper for the purposes of this requirement. However, there should be substantial progress in the third-year paper over and above what is in the course paper. This means that a paper submitted for a third-year spring course in general cannot be used also as a third-year paper.

• Students are expected to follow the norms of academic integrity. Violations of academic integrity include (but are not limited to) plagiarism, falsifying data or results of analysis, unauthorized collaboration and others. Texas Tech University and the Department of Economics take violations of academic integrity very seriously. Any violation will lead to disciplinary action up to and including dismissal from the program.

Timeline and Procedures

• The third-year research paper must be submitted and presented within the first three years in the program. 

• Students identify one faculty member to serve as their third-year paper advisor and inform the Director of Graduate Studies in their 4th semester. Students will work with the advisor to develop the project. The advisor will assess the project when it is ready. 

• Students defend the third-year paper by the end of their 3rd year (end of 6th long semester). The exact date of the defense will be determined early in the spring semester of every year. 

• After a student fulfills the requirements of the third-year paper, the Director of Graduate Studies will request the Graduate School to admit the student into the candidacy of the Ph.D. Degree.

• Students who have not submitted or presented the paper by this time, or who submit and present an unsatisfactory paper, will be placed on probation for one semester, and failure to comply with the requirement subsequently will result in the termination of doctoral studies. 

Ph.D. Candidacy

The Director of Graduate Studies in the department will recommend to the Dean of the Graduate School that a student be admitted to candidacy for the degree of Ph.D. in economics after he/she fulfills the following requirements:

a. Pass the Ph.D. Qualifying Exam.

b. Pass all requirements for the Third-Year Research Paper, including the defense at the end of the 6th semester.

 c. Obtain approval from the Director of Graduate Studies to start taking ECO 8000 credit hours. Note that this approval will only be granted when the student submits evidence that he/she has made significant effort towards his/her dissertation research. As an example of this “significant effort” is a letter from the student's dissertation chairperson stating (broadly) the dissertation topic and the potential dissertation committee members.

 Note: Until a student is recommended to the Dean of the Graduate School to be admitted to candidacy, the student will continue to register for elective graduate courses (not ECO 8000) in the Economics Department, even if the student has already completed the minimum requirement of 60 graduate credit hours. Graduate students should be aware that according to Graduate School policy “Students who have begun thesis or dissertation research must register for 6000 
or 8000 courses, respectively, in each regular semester and at least once each summer until all degree requirements have been completed” (see 2023-2024 Undergraduate and Graduate Catalogue, P.432).