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The School of History and Philosophy offers a wide range of advanced courses in the major areas within the field leading to the M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy degrees. Students are offered a curriculum that is not dominated by one school of thought or method. The range of specializations represented by the faculty exposes students to a variety of aspects of philosophy and, at the same time, permits them to concentrate on their own particular area of interest. Graduate-level courses in such allied fields as the natural and social sciences, the arts, linguistics, and law offer supplements to the philosophy curriculum.

Graduate courses in philosophy may be used as a minor in programs leading to the Master of Arts or Master of Science in Education degrees. Students who do not plan to continue work in philosophy beyond the master’s degree level are encouraged to elect a graduate minor or to combine philosophy with another subject in a 40-credit hour double major.

All graduate students in philosophy are expected to have some supervised experience in teaching, either through regular teaching assistantships or through special assignments.


Admission to the philosophy graduate program requires the following:

  1. An online application form needs to be completed.
  2. Official transcripts of each school attended to be sent to the School of History and Philosophy.
  3. A sample of written work, e.g., a term paper written for an undergraduate or graduate class.
  4. Three letters of recommendation from individuals familiar with the student’s work should be requested by the applicant to be sent to the program's director of graduate studies.
  5. Graduate Record Examination verbal and quantitative scores are not required to be submitted to the program. TOEFL scores of at least 550 (paper score) or 220 (computer score) are required for all foreign students. These scores should be sent directly to the School of History and Philosophy. Scores for the Test of Spoken English are strongly recommended for foreign students applying for teaching assistantships.
Applicants for Graduate School and Morris Fellowships should send these applications to the School of History and Philosophy by February 1 of the academic year preceding that for which application is made. While there is no guarantee that admission to the M.A. or the Ph.D. program will come with a program graduate assistantship, graduate assistantships are offered to as many M.A. and Ph.D. students as are available.

Entry into the Ph.D. in Philosophy Program

There are multiple pathways by which a student may enter the Philosophy Ph.D. program. A common one is by completion of a M.A. degree in Philosophy at an accredited institution, but a M.A. in Philosophy is not required for entry into the Ph.D. program. It is possible to be admitted into the Philosophy Ph.D. program with a B.A. in Philosophy or with a B.A. or B.S. in another field. Regardless of pathway, each applicant’s materials are carefully and holistically reviewed by the Graduate Committee.

Accelerated Entry

A student enrolled in the M.A. in Philosophy program may, after one semester in residence, petition the program’s faculty for accelerated entry into the Ph.D. in Philosophy program. Petitions are reviewed by the Graduate Committee.

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Philosophy

The M.A. in Philosophy is for students who wish to pursue advanced study in Philosophy, but who are not yet prepared to pursue the Ph.D. Valuable for its own sake, the M.A. is also good preparation for students who wish to continue on to a Ph.D. in Philosophy. In order to earn the M.A. in Philosophy, the student must fulfill the following requirements:

  1. Complete 30 credit hours of course work in philosophy or allied fields, six of which may be credited toward preparation of a thesis. Fifty percent of the course work must be at the 500 level or above. An overall grade point average of 3.0 or above is required for the M.A. degree.
  2. Fulfillment of a research writing requirement:
    1. Presentation of an acceptable thesis, 40-60 pages in length (approximately), to be written under the direction of a faculty member of the program, in addition to consultation with the thesis committee during the writing process. Six thesis credit hours is the maximum number of hours that can count for credit for the Master’s in Philosophy degree. A preliminary draft stating the thesis title, describing the problem to be investigated, the method to be used, the outline of the study, and a preliminary bibliography must be prepared in advance for the thesis advisor. Instructions that specify the proper form for these documents are to be obtained from the SIU Graduate School.
    2. With a minimum of three members of the graduate faculty, a student will sit for an oral defense and oral comprehensive examination covering the thesis and the student’s graduate course work. Before the oral defense and examination can be scheduled, it is required that all members of the thesis committee agree that the student’s thesis is formally adequate: proper formatting, polished writing, and complete citations. Only members of the thesis committee may vote and make recommendations concerning acceptance of the thesis and examination. A student will be recommended for the degree only if the members of the committee, with at most one exception not to include the committee chair, judge both the thesis and the performance at the oral examination to be satisfactory. In cases where a committee of more than three has been approved, the requirement of not more than one negative vote will still apply.
    3. In general, this requirement should be met no later than the end of one’s second year of residence.

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Philosophy

The Ph.D. degree in Philosophy is designed to prepare students for college teaching and for research in their area of specialization. In order to earn the Ph.D. in Philosophy degree the student must fulfill the following requirements:

  1. Completion of 30 credit hours of course work, not including course work for a M.A. in Philosophy and not including the minimum 24 credit hours for the dissertation.
  2. Each doctoral candidate must take a preliminary examination after they have accumulated between 24 to 30 credit hours and before they begin work on the dissertation. Note that students who have current incompletes may not take this examination; students are expected to make up incomplete grades within one month of completion of the course in which the incomplete was assigned. In addition, students who have less than a 3.5 grade point average are not permitted to take this examination. A requirement of the Philosophy program’s standard for satisfactory progress in the Ph.D. program is a grade point average of 3.5 or above.
    The preliminary examination consists of the submission of two highly polished papers. These are near publishable quality article-length papers (approximately 6,000-12,000 words in length including references), and should be prepared accordingly (i.e., formatting, grammar, footnotes, etc.). It is advisable to work with a member of the Philosophy Faculty in preparing a paper, especially if it is based on a paper written for the faculty member’s course. Students are also encouraged to take the Research Seminar to assist in the preparation of their papers. The preliminary examination papers will be read by the entire voting membership of the Philosophy Faculty. The readers will meet as a committee and make a determination of pass or fail for each student’s pair of submitted papers. In the case of a failing grade, the student will not be permitted to advance to candidacy for the Doctorate of Philosophy in Philosophy.
    Students are encouraged to consider their likely field of research for their dissertation as well as desired fields of teaching specialization when choosing topics for their preliminary examination papers.
  3. Fulfillment of a research tool requirement, such as, for example:
    1. By demonstrating reading competence in one language other than English, such as, for example, by having a B.A. in Spanish.
    2. By completing graduate-level courses in a research-related area, such as Psychology, Statistics, History, Africana Studies, Sociology, Political Science, etc.
    3. By doing archival work in Special Collections under the supervision of a faculty member.
    4. Note that these are provided as examples, and are not intended as an exhaustive list. There are other acceptable ways of fulfilling the research tool requirement. Students should consult their advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies about the course work that they plan to take for their research tool. Approval from the Director of Graduate Studies is required.
    Note that there should be alignment between one’s research tool and one’s dissertation project; one’s research tool should support and help facilitate one’s research. Fulfillment of these requirements does not necessarily count toward the completion of the required 30 credit hours of Ph.D. course work.
  4. Admission to Candidacy – After 30 credit hours of Ph.D. course work have been completed, the research tool obtained, and the preliminary examination passed, the Director of Graduate Studies must file an Admit to Candidacy form with the Graduate School. This form is to be filed at least six months before the expected date of graduation. The student is responsible for seeing whether this form has, in fact, been filed. The student must have obtained the agreement of a faculty member to serve as dissertation director.
  5. Dissertation
    1. The dissertation director is responsible for selecting a dissertation committee in consultation with the student. The committee shall consist of five graduate faculty members, at least one of whom shall be from a graduate program outside the student’s academic unit. The program allows for the possibility of faculty from other institutions to serve on the student’s committee. Once the dissertation director has been chosen and the committee formed, any subsequent changes to the dissertation directorship position must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. The appropriate change form must be sent to the Dean of the Graduate School for approval.

    2. In preparation for the writing of the dissertation, the candidate must have a prospectus review. The Director of the dissertation is responsible, in consultation with the candidate, for determining what appropriate background reading is necessary for beginning the dissertation and for the initial formulation of the project. The candidate will proceed to generate a prospectus explaining their project and defending its contemporary significance in their field of research. A prospectus should be approximately 10-20 pages in length; it should also include a proposed outline for the dissertation and a working bibliography. The Director of the dissertation will appoint a committee (four professors from the program and one professor from outside the program) that will convene for the review of the prospectus. The review will help the candidate in the final formulation of the project before proceeding with the writing of the dissertation. The committee members will fill out a comment sheet for the candidate.

    3. While working on the dissertation, the student must register for the course numbered PHIL 600. The student is to devote at least one academic year of full-time work to complete the dissertation and will register for 24 credit hours of dissertation credit (students may sign up for from 1 to 16 hours of PHIL 600 per semester). For example, the student wishing to complete the dissertation in one year may register for 12 credit hours of dissertation credit for each of two terms. Students who have registered for 24 credit hours of dissertation credit and have not completed the doctoral dissertation are subject to the continuing enrollment requirement course number PHIL 601. Students are required to complete 24 credit hours of PHIL 600. The student may take only six of these 600-level credit hours prior to formal admission to candidacy, and only six of these credit hours will count towards the residency requirement.

    4. Students who have completed all but the dissertation requirements, but who have previously enrolled for the minimum number of research, thesis, or dissertation credit hours required of the degree, must enroll every semester for at least one credit hour until all degree requirements have been completed (Summer sessions exempt). Whether in residence or not, students are required to enroll in Continuing Enrollment (PHIL 601 - 1 credit hour per semester) if not otherwise enrolled. Concurrent registration in any other course is not acceptable. See the Graduate Catalog for more specific details, under the heading GENERAL REGULATIONS AND PROCEDURES.

    5. The candidate will do the required research and write the dissertation. There is no set length for a dissertation, but 150 to 250 pages is the average length of a philosophy dissertation.

    6. The candidate and the dissertation director should work together until the document is ready to receive critical input from the committee. When the dissertation director indicates that the dissertation is ready for defense, it shall be required of the dissertation director to submit to each committee member a copy of the dissertation for the members’ examination. This must be delivered at least two months in advance of the anticipated and tentative date of the defense. The committee must then decide whether the dissertation is acceptable for defense.

    7. The candidate shall conduct an oral defense of the dissertation and related topics in the field before the dissertation committee. The oral defense is open to the public. Only the committee members vote or make recommendations concerning the acceptance of the dissertation and final examination. At the discretion of the dissertation director, guests may be permitted to ask questions of the candidate after the committee members have conducted the examination. A student will be recommended for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Philosophy only if the members of the committee judge both the dissertation and the performance at the final oral examination to be satisfactory. One dissenting vote is permitted.