Ph.D. Student Navigation Guide

Welcome to the Ph.D. navigation guide for doctoral students in the Department of Instructional Systems and Workforce Development at Mississippi State University. We have compiled this page to serve as a guide in helping you navigate the different areas of the program to enhance your journey. Please review each aspect of it and bookmark this page to be referenced throughout your path to the Ph.D. It contains information and links applicable to each aspect you will encounter. While we endeavoured to ensure the guide is inclusive, if you find that you still have questions, please direct them to us in an email at or call us at 662.325.2281.

Click the title to expand the section.


The admissions requirements for a MSU graduate program are outlined in the following links:

Prerequisites for admission into the graduate program include all the general requirements of the Graduate School. In addition, scores from all sections of the GRE must be submitted. International students must obtain a minimum TOEFL score of 550 PBT (213 CBT or 79 iBT) or a minimum IELTS score of 6.5.

A complete admission packet consists of the following items:

  • Application to the graduate degree program.
  • Three letters of recommendation (must come from faculty and administrators who can comment about your scholarly ability)
  • Statement of purpose (a minimum of one-page single-spaced): In the statement, please make sure to address the following:
    • For Ph.D. degree:
      1. describe the purpose of applying for the Ph.D. degree in the program area
      2. identify your research interest
      3. discuss your career goals
  • Official scores from all sections of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE - less than 5 years old)
  • Official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended

Full Admission to any department graduate programs requires a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.75 or higher from a four-year accredited institution or a minimum graduate GPA of 3.00 or higher on previous graduate work from an accredited institution.

Provisional Admission. If a student does not fully meet the admission requirements of the program, it may be possible for that student to be admitted provisionally. If admitted provisionally, the student must attain a 3.00 GPA on the first 9 hours of graduate courses at Mississippi State University after admission to the program. Courses with an S grade, transfer credits, or credits earned while in Unclassified status cannot be used to satisfy this requirement. If a 3.00 GPA is not attained, the student shall be dismissed from the graduate program.

Contingent Admission. There are no contingent admissions. The admission packet must be complete and all admission requirements met before admission will be considered.

Applying For Domestic Deadline International Deadline
Summer first 5-week April 1 March 1
Summer second 5-week April 1 March 1
Summer 10-week April 1 March 1
Fall July 1 May 1
Spring November 1 September 1

The Departmental of Instructional Systems and Workforce Development requires that a student who has not been enrolled for three consecutive semesters must submit a readmission application that includes:

  • New GRE scores (if the GRE is older than five years)
  • Three letters of recommendation (if they are older than three years since the last application)
  • A revised statement of purpose that:
    1. describes the purpose of reapplying
    2. discusses the applicant's career goals
    3. explains how circumstances have changed making academic improvement a realistic goal
    4. identifies the applicant's research interest (Ph.D. students only)

Click the link below to view the department's admission requirements and deadlines. After reviewing, you can begin the application process via the Application link.

Once you have completed the admission process, the Graduate School will forward your information to the Department of Instructional Systems and Workforce Development for review. After review by the department admissions committee, College Dean, and Graduate Dean, you will be notified of the decision by an email from the Graduate School. If you have any further questions, you may contact the Graduate School and/or ISWD Department at the links below.

After your admission to the program, you will be assigned an advisor from our department. You will need to contact your advisor to schedule an appointment to complete your course schedule for the upcoming semester. The first link below directs you to our program curriculum sheet. The second link directs you to our faculty directory. Click on the faculty member's name to view a full profile including research interests.

Graduate assistantships are available to graduate students both in our department and in other departments at the University. The three types of assistantships are service, research and teaching. Assistantships offer students an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the field of study as well as earn a stipend. Please click on the following links to learn more about graduate assistantships and the application process. For opportunities in the ISWD Department, contact the department head.

Degree Requirements

Information concerning number of hours that can be shared between graduate hours and hours that can be transferred into a new program are outlined in the following link.

The following links discuss graduate committee membership, membership changes and details concerning who may serve on a graduate committee as well as all necessary forms for selecting your committee.

Students are required to complete a program of study with the aid of their advisor. The contents of a student's program of study are documented in the student's CAPP report, which can be accessed in myBanner. A signd CAPP report must be on file for all graduate students. Details concerning the CAPP report/program of study are included in the following link:

The student and his/her major advisor may use the following forms to design a program of study, that will then be keyed in the student's CAPP report. Page one consists of the degree requirement courses. Page two (continuation) contains courses that could not fit on the first page. Page three (attachment) contains courses that are accepted from previous graduate work.

The CAPP report will be used as the final program of study. The CAPP report should be approved and signed by the student, the major advisor, and all committee members.

It is recommended that our Ph.D. students complete a program of study/CAPP report after the second semester of enrollment. This provides a clear path of what courses remain to be taken in the program.

The policy concerning Ph.D. degree time limit is discussed in the following link as well as the necessary forms for time extensions.

Preliminary Examination

The department administers written preliminary examinations in October, March, and June. The exact deadlines are posted each semester on the ISWD website. You may also contact the graduate coodinator.

  • Completed examination application. The office associate in IED Room 100 distributes the application.
  • Approved Program of Study
  • Committee Request Form
  • 3.00 GPA on all courses attempted for graduate credit after admission to the degree program (i.e., program and non-program courses)
  • Course Requirements
    • The student must be within six hours of completing the coursework and must have completed all statistics and research courses.
    • The minor examination must be completed prior to taking the written preliminary examination.

The written preliminary examination is comprised of three examination periods:

Thursday Afternoon Friday Morning Friday Afternoon
1 p.m. - 5 p.m. 8 a.m. - Noon 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Part One: Research and statistics. (4 hours). The examination covers the 19 hours of research and statistics required in the degree. This examination is administered on Thursday, 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Part Two: Foundations AND postsecondary knowledge and approved technology major area. (4 hours). The portion of the examination includes questions in the foundations AND postsecondary requirements of the degree as well as one question on the approved technology major area of the degree. This examination is administered on Friday morning, 8 a.m. to noon.
Part Three: Technology major area. (4 hours). This portion of the examination includes two questions from the approved technology area of the degree. This examination is administered on Friday afternoon, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The examination is administered by faculty proctors and is held in one of the departmental computer labs in the Industrial Education Building. Students are provided the examination questions for the examination period, provided a flash drive for saving their responses, and provided specific instructions and procedures for taking the examination. Students are not permitted to use the Internet, email, or any resource materials during the examination. These procedures are shown at the link below.

Procedures for Students Taking Preliminary Examination

The student will request a study guide from each of his/her committee members. The study guide (not exam questions) will guide the student in specific areas of study. The application to take the examination cannot be completed until the student has received all study guides.

  • Prepare for the Examination Early. Begin studying for the preliminary examination when you enter the Ph.D. degree. Throughout your course work, save all course lectures and notes to use later for study materials while preparing for the preliminary examination. Build a notebook (paper or digital) that combines information and research articles that can be used as study materials.
  • Set Aside Time to Study. As the time approaches to take the exam, devote time each week for preparing for the examination.
  • Research Study Guide Topics. Spend time on the research needed to complete the examination questions. Refer to course notes and scholarly research articles and books related to the study guide topics.
  • Practice Answering a Question. Ask your major advisor to provide a practice question. Write your response in a timed setting. Review and rewrite your response. Ask your major advisor to critique using the examination rubric.
  • Form Study Groups. Find fellow Ph.D. students and form a study group to discuss ways to prepare for the examination.
  • Use the Rubric to Guide Quality of Response. Review the rubric and be sure you are addressing all components of the rubric in the answer. The components are Completeness, Knowledge, Organization, and Quality of Writing.
  • Practice Time Management During the Examination. Do not spend an excessive amount of time on one question and attempt to rush the others. Attempting to answer all questions will be essential in reaching the passing score and excelling on the examination.
  • Evaluate the Length of Answer. Over the years many students have asked about the number of pages expected. Although it seems a perplexing question, the answer is quite simple. Write enough pages to fully answer the question and show the committee mastery of the subject. Again, refer to the rubric as it describes the criterion for completeness, knowledge, organization, and quality of writing.
  • Document Response with Sources. Knowledge of examination question is best evidenced by use of sources/citations to support the knowledge presented in the question. Although in most scenarios you will not be expected to memorize the entirety of an APA reference, you will be expected to show concrete evidence and knowledge of your sources which may include the author(s), journal, and article where information or quote was taken. You will not be permitted to use the Internet, email, or any resources you may have collected.
  • Quality of Writing. Always remember that this is also a writing exam and students will be expected to use proper grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. Writing should be done in an academic form and not written as simply conversational. See the organization element on the grading rubric that clearly expects an introduction, body, and summary.
Rubric for Ph.D. Written Preliminary Examination

The oral preliminary examination will be give three to four weeks after the student passes the written preliminary examination. The students should contact his/her major professor concerning their oral preliminary examination. During the oral preliminary examination, graduate committee members will pose questions regarding your answers to the written preliminary examination. You may be asked to clarify, expand, or justify your answers.

See the link below for the oral preliminary examination rubric.

Dissertation Hours Requirements

A minimum of 20 hours of TKT 9000 Dissertation Research hours is required for the Ph.D. in ISWD. You may register for one credit hour or more per semester; however, the course requirements will reflect the number of credit hours in which you enroll.

According to departmental policy, a doctoral student should register for TKT 9000 Dissertation Research hours only after passing the preliminary examination (written and oral). After passing the preliminary examination, you must be continuously enrolled until submitting the final approved dissertation to the Library.

Continuous Enrollment Policy

Note: Although registration in TKT 9000 is not permitted during coursework, it is expected that the doctoral student will discuss potential dissertation research topics with his/her major adviser and committee during coursework and be prepared to register for TKT 9000 immediately after passing the preliminary examination.

TKT 9000 Dissertation Research Hours course sections are listed in the master schedule for each graduate faculty member in the department. You will register for your major adviser and/or dissertation director’s section. If the dissertation director is not your major adviser, register for the dissertation director’s section. Your dissertation director must be a faculty member in the Department of Instructional Systems and Workforce Development.

By the fifth day of class, you must complete the Learning Contract required for TKT 9000 and return to the instructor of the TKT 9000 section in which you enroll. You are entering into an agreement with your instructor on what you will achieve during the semester to earn the credit hours in which you enroll. You would expect to work at least 30 hours for one-credit hour, 60 hours for two-credit hours, and so forth. Be very specific and realistic in completing the learning contract. The instructor may revise the learning contract after reviewing your first draft.

The final grade for TKT 9000 is based on your completion of the tasks agreed upon on the final learning contract that was signed by both the student and the instructor. The grades assigned are “S” for Satisfactory and “U” for Unsatisfactory. The letter grade “I” for Incomplete is not permitted.

According to departmental policy, a doctoral student should register for TKT 9000 Dissertation Research hours only after passing the written and oral preliminary examinations. Although registration in TKT 9000 is not permitted during coursework, it is expected that the doctoral student will discuss potential dissertation research topics with his/her major adviser and committee during coursework.

The grades assigned for TKT 9000 are “S” for Satisfactory and “U” for Unsatisfactory. The letter grade “I” for Incomplete is not permitted.

According to department policy, a grade of "U" in TKT 9000 is considered unsatisfactory performance. After the first grade of “U”, the student will receive a warning letter. After the second grade of “U”, the student will receive a probation letter with requirements. After the third grade of “U”, the student will be recommended to the Graduate School for dismissal from the program.

Dissertation Writing Resources

American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication Manual of the American

Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, D.C.

Best, J.W., & Kanh, J.V.(2003). Research in education.

Boston, MA: SAGE Publishing Inc.

Bolker, J. (1998). Writing your dissertation in fifteen minutes: A guide to starting,

revising, and finishing your doctoral thesis. New York, NY: Owl Books.

Butin, D.W.(2010) The education dissertation: A guide for practitioner scholars.

Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Caldwell, S. (2012). Statistics unplugged (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Creswell, J.W. (2014). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed

methods (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Davis, G.B., Parker, C.A., & Straub, D.W. (2012). Writing the doctoral dissertation:

A systematic approach (3rd edition).

Fraenkel, J.F., Wallen, N.E., & Hyun, H.H. (2012). How to design and evaluate

research in Education. New York: McGraw Hill.

Gall, J.P., Gall, M.D., & Borg, W.R. (1999). Applying educational research: A practical

guide. New York: Longman.

Galvan, J.L. (2012). Writing literature reviews: A guide for students of the social and

behavioral sciences (5th ed.). Glendale, CA: Pyrczak Publishing.

Gay, L.R., Mills, G.E., & Airasian, P. (2012). Educational research: Competencies for

analysis and application. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

Office of Graduate School. Guidelines for Preparing Dissertations and Theses.

Mississippi State University.

Kranthwohl, D.R. & Smith, N.L. (2005). How to prepare a dissertation proposal:

Suggestions for students in education and the social and behavioral sciences.

Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.

Lawrence, L.A. (2012). The literature review: Six steps to success. Thousand Oaks,

CA: Corwin.

Locke, L.F., Spirduso, W.W., Silverman, S.J. (2013). Proposals that work: A guide for

planning dissertations and grant proposals. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE

Publications, Inc.

Ollhoff, J. (2011). How to write a literature review. Farmington, MN: Sparrow

Media Group, Inc.

Ridley, D. (2012). The literature review (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: SAGE.

Roberts, C.M. (2010). The dissertation journey: A practical and comprehensive guide

to planning, writing, and defending your dissertation. (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks,

CA: Corwin.

Wentz, E.A. (2013). How to design, write, and present a successful dissertation

proposal. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE publications, Inc.