University of Hawai‘i at Manoa

The Ph.D. program of the Department of Geography at the University of Hawai‘i, Manoa (UHM), provides training for students seeking to advance their understanding of the concepts and methodologies applied by professional geographers. Our graduate students are employed in education, government service and industry, and the department prides itself on the standard of excellence it maintains and the demand for its graduate students both locally and abroad.

Students are encouraged to develop their own fields of specialization drawing on resources of the department and those of the university community in general, but the department expertise does concentrate in several specific fields. Students are advised to consult Faculty Profiles that can be viewed at and the List of Recent Graduate Degrees Awarded at to familiarize themselves with the range of opportunities the department has to offer. Early consultation with faculty and graduate students of the department is desirable.

1	Objectives of the Doctoral Program in Geography..........2
2	Requirements for the Ph.D. Degree........................2
3	Graduate Advising........................................6
4	Annual Review of Graduate Student Progress...............7
5	Time Limits..............................................7
6	Guide to Progress through the Ph.D. Program..............8


The Ph.D. is an advanced degree and graduating students are expected to be able to perform according to the standards of professionals in the field. The academic objectives of the degree are rigorous and students are expected to develop the following during their course of study:


The following requirements will apply to all incoming students as of Fall 2006. Students already in residence may choose, in consultation with their advisory committees, to be governed by the requirements below or by the requirements in force during the academic year in which they entered the Ph.D. program.

Responsibility for familiarization with and adherence to departmental and university regulations rests with the student. Please consult the UHM Graduate Division Homepage ( If you have any questions concerning the interpretation of specific requirements please consult the Chair of the Graduate Field of Study (hereafter Graduate Chair).

A. Departmental Colloquia
Attendance and participation in the Geography Department's colloquium series is required by all Ph.D. students in residence.

B. Coursework
Each student is required to complete a minimum of three semesters of full-time work, or the equivalent in credits at the UHM for part-time students. Graduate Division defines each 8 credit hours completed, as a classified graduate student, as equivalent to one full-time semester. Students must consult with their advisors before registering for courses each semester and should maintain a Synopsis of Program which summarizes their coursework and should aim to complete their program in a timely fashion. Upon completion of coursework, including any pre-program deficiencies, a final Synopsis of Program must be submitted to the Graduate Chair for final approval.

i. Pre-Program Deficiencies

Incoming students will meet with the Graduate Chair to review the student's previous record and determine whether any significant gaps exist in basic geographical knowledge. This will apply especially, but not exclusively, to those whose undergraduate degrees are in other disciplines and who did not take undergraduate geography courses. Faculty require students to have basic cartographic, and quantitative course skills. Additionally, students must obtain a basic knowledge in both human and physical geography during their degree program. Courses identified as pre-program deficiencies may be taken as credit / no credit (with credit being defined as grade of C (2.0) or better) or for grade (A-F). Students receiving a B (3.0) or better in coursework taken to remove a pre-program deficiency may apply this towards fulfillment of their Research Skill requirement if approved by the student's advisory committee.

ii. The Core Program

This program consists of two related courses designed to introduce students to the world of professional geography and to the faculty of the department. These courses are best taken during the first fall semester in residence, although it is recognized that this is not always possible. These courses are required of all incoming doctoral students. GEOG 692 and GEOG 695 may be waived if previously taken during a student's MA program at UHM. GEOG 695 may be waived by petition to the Graduate Chair if a similar course was taken at a previous institution a course syllabus must be submitted to the Graduate Chair. Also, students must obtain a B (3.0) grade or better to satisfy the core requirement.

GEOG 692, Faculty Seminar Series (1 credit)
This course introduces students to the profession of geography and particularly the sub-disciplines of the UHM faculty via seminar-style presentations by individual faculty members. Faculty will generally assign readings of their own work and present their research. Students will be expected to participate in class discussions and to complete short papers during the semester. This course will be offered in the fall and will run concurrently with GEOG 695.

GEOG 695, Concepts and Theories of Geography (3 credits)
This seminar course provides students with an introduction to the major concepts and theories of modern geography. The aim is to provide students with a basic understanding of the various epistemological and methodological approaches to the study of geography, and the major intellectual debates within the field since its inception as a university discipline in the late nineteenth century. The course will run concurrently with GEOG 692 in the fall semester.

iii. The Specialization

A minimum of 15 credits in graduate courses in a field of specialization approved by the student's graduate committee is required of all Ph.D. students. Course work taken at the M.A./M.S. level, either at UHM or elsewhere, may be used in partial fulfillment of this requirement with the approval of the advisory committee. Students, in consultation with their advisor, should devise a program of courses that together constitute a coherent specialization. Faculty currently supervise students in the following areas:

These specialization credits must:

iv. Research Skills

A minimum of six credits of coursework in research methods or techniques approved by the student's graduate committee is required. Students must take one course in research techniques appropriate to their field of specialization which may include statistics, cartography, remote sensing, GIS, quantitative or qualitative methods, computer applications, field methods, experimental methods, laboratory techniques or bibliographic techniques.

The student's dissertation committee may also require competency in a foreign language in addition to the research skills requirement if a foreign language is essential to the student's dissertation research. Competency, in a language other than English, may be demonstrated by passing the foreign language proficiency examination administered by their respective language departments. In some cases, individuals can also be certified competent in their language by a qualified instructor or examiner. The department will also accept the completion of the second semester of 300-level language instruction with a grade of B (3.0) or better.

C. Written and Oral Comprehensive Examinations.

Comprehensive examinations are required of all doctoral students in Geography. Comprehensives assess whether the student has attained an adequate level of geographical knowledge to continue with dissertation research, and are taken after the student has completed their coursework requirements. The exam will consist of questions directly related to the student's field of specialization, but may also test a general understanding of the history of geographic thought, the nature of critical inquiry and research methodologies appropriate to the student's field.

Each student will begin the comprehensive examinations with the development of a bibliography. The bibliography will be generated by the student in consultation with each committee member and constitutes the core knowledge upon which the written and oral examination will be based.

Written Exam

The doctoral committee will determine the format and content of the written exam. Each committee member may ask a question or a series of questions that require no more than four hours to complete. The exams will take no more than five consecutive workdays for a five member advisory committee.

Oral Exam

The oral exam will be a maximum of three hours in length. The advisory committee will determine the format and content of the exam. Students will be asked to clarify and elaborate on written exam answers, and may also be asked other questions on their field of specialization, and general questions on philosophy or methodology in the natural or social sciences.

D. The Dissertation.

The dissertation must demonstrate the student's ability to formulate a research problem, to assemble and analyze relevant data, to draw appropriate conclusions, and to express findings clearly and concisely. It should be of publishable quality as judged by the advisory committee. In practice the dissertation varies considerably in length and style, and students are advised to review the collection of departmental dissertations to obtain guidance. All students must present one copy of their dissertation to the department for binding and placement in the reading room. Students should refer to the Graduate Division guidelines for further information on format and deadlines for dissertation submission. Students can obtain a current copy of the UHM Graduate Division Style and Policy Manual for Theses and Dissertations at the following website


A. The Role of the Advisor

All incoming graduate students will be assigned an interim advisor based on information provided by the student at the time of application. It is recognized that this information may not always be an accurate reflection of the student's interest which can change during the first few semesters. The function of the interim advisor is, therefore, to direct and guide the student's program of courses and research until a permanent advisor and advisory committee is appointed. This typically occurs by the end of the second semester. In many cases the interim advisor will become the permanent advisor, but students should always try to identify faculty with interests most closely related to their thesis [sic.] topic. One of the most common problems experienced by graduate students is an inappropriate choice of advisor.

The advisor is chair of the student's dissertation committee and is primarily responsible for directing the dissertation research, scheduling all formal meeting of the dissertation committee, and communicating decisions fo the dissertation committee to the student, geography faculty, Graduate Chair, and Graduate Division as appropriate. The advisor must be a full member of the Graduate Faculty, and have a tenure-based appointment in the Geography Department. Additionally, the advisor is usually the faculty member with the greatest expertise on the student's dissertation topic. The advisor will work most closely with the student on research proposal development and completion of the research.

Please note that advisory services are provided to assist students, but doctoral students are ultimately responsible for both understanding and following the rules and procedures set out by the department and the Gradaute Division.

B. Role of the Ph.D. Advisory Committee

Doctoral advisory committees consit of five or more members of the Graduate Faculty. At least three members must be from the Department of Geography, UHM. The outside member of the committee must be a full member of the regular UHM graduate faculty and can not be a member of the graduate faculty in the student's field of study or specialization. The student, inconsultation with the interim advisor, proposes an advisory committee to the Gradaute Chair, and if approved, the Graduate Chair will seek approval of the committee from the Associate Dean of the Graduate Division. The advisory committee should consist of the the best-qualified faculty to guide and evaluate the proposed dissertation research. The committee should be selected as early as possible (ideally by March 1 for students entering the program during in [sic] the previous fall semester). It is possible to change the composition of the committee if required (e.g., if a copmmittee member is on sabbatical) but any changes must be approved by the Graduate Chair.

The advisory committee will meet with the student to review progress, typically when the student and advisor decide that the student is ready to begin dissertation research. At this point the committee will review the Synopsis of Program and discuss the dissertation proposal. The committee must approve the proposal in order for the student to advance through the program, and this can often require multiple revisions. Once approved there should be regular consultation between teh committee and student concerning progress in the dissertatoin research. The committee approves the final dissertation and it is strongly recommended that students maintain communication with their committee and inform them of any significant deviations from their approved proposal.


In the spring semester, the progress of all graduate students will be reviewed (except those students on leave of absence or those that have had a recent "degree check" completed by the Graduate Chair). The "Spring Review" requires students to consult with their advisors who will report to the Gradaute Chair. The report will consist of an up to date Synopsis of Program together with a brief statement by the advisor. This insures that students are progressing satisfactorily and is a useful tool for recognizing and solving problems. The Graduate Chair may require further action in problematic cases and the file may be referred to the Gradaute Program Committee (GPC) which can place the student on departmental probation if the student's performance is deficient. Students should refer to the Guide to Progress below for further details on the ideal path of progress through teh doctoral program.


It is in the interest of all parties to have graduate programs completed with reasonable dispatch to make the most efficient use of university, faculty and student resources. Graduate students should be aware of various university and departmental policies that have been instituted to ensure that students maintain a reasonable rate of progress in completing degree requirements.

The doctoral program should take between 48-60 months to complete including coursework, fieldwork, and the writing of the dissertation. In practice, time taken will vary according to the prior experience of the student and the nature of the dissertation research project. The Graduate Division requires students to complete all requirements within seven years of entering the program. Candidates who fail to complete all requirements within the specified time are subject to academic action, including being placed on probation or dismissal. Reinstatement for a limited period of time is only possible upon approval of the Dean of the Graduate Division. Recommendation for approval will be made by the Graduate Chair only if the student submits an acceptable degree plan and time line for completion of all requirements endorsed by their advisor. Failure to comply with this plan will usually result in the student being dropped from the program. Students pursuing graduate degrees who are not on an approved leave of absence must maintain continuous registration during the academic year. Students failing to meet this requirement are considered to have voluntarily withdrawn from the program and must petition for re-admission should they wish to return. Please note - international students must be registered as full-time students during their degree program. This typically requires registration in at least 8 credits of coursework, or registration in GEOG 800.


A. The Preliminary Conference [First semester]
Students meet with their interim advisor and the Graduate Chair as soon as possible upon their entrance into the program. A broad outline of the program will be discussed, and specific courses will be suggested.
Forms: Geography Department's Preliminary Graduate Chair Assessment Form.

B. Appointment of the Advisor [Second semester]
The permanent advisor, who may or may not be the same person as the interim advisor, should be selected by the second or third semester of residence.

C. Advancement to Candidacy [Second/Third semester]
Students are advanced to candidacy when they have resolved any pre-program deficiencies, and if required, satisfactorily completed the first foreign language requirement.
Forms: Graduate Division's Doctorate-Student Progress Form I: Advancement to Candidacy

D. Appointment of the Advisory Committee [Third semester]
The student, in consultation with their permanent advisor, should select an advisory committee. The committee should be selected to support the student's field of specialization and intended dissertation research. The committee must contain at least three members from the geography graduate faculty and at least five members overall.
Forms: Geography Department's Proposed Ph.D. Committee Form

E. Comprehensive Exams and Approval of the Dissertation Topic [Fourth /Fifth semester]
The exams are scheduled as soon as degree candidates have completed their preparation for mastery in their field of specialization. They consist of written and oral portions. Students who fail the comprehensive examination may repeat it once. A student who fails the second examination is dropped from both the graduate program and the Graduate Division.

Subsequent to the comprehensive examinations, the student prepares a formal dissertation proposal for approval by his or her committee. Doctoral students in Geography are required to orally present their proposal before the departmental community.
Forms: Geography Department's Synopsis of Doctoral Program Form; and Graduate Division's Doctorate-Student Progress Form II: Advancement to the Dissertation Stage.

F. The Dissertation [Fifth through Eighth semesters]
The dissertation is the capstone of the Ph.D. degree and is a demonstration of the student's ability to make a significant independent contribution to knowledge. Students normally register for GEOG 800 (Dissertation Research) while collecting data and writing the dissertation. Students can only register in GEOG 800 after the Graduate Chair approves the candidates Synopsis of Doctoral Program form, and Graduate Division's Form II

G. The Defense [Eighth semester]
The formal defense may be held after the advisory committee has read a draft of the dissertation and given preliminary approval. The event must be publicly advertised according to Graduate Division guidelines and must be approved by the Graduate Chair. Departmental faculty and graduate students must receive an invitation that is distinct from any other public notice.

H. Final Approval [Eighth semester]
After all required revisions to the dissertation have been completed, committee members sign the signatory page in the dissertation and sign Form III, which is countersigned by the Graduate Chair when the student submits an unbound copy of the dissertation for the department library.
Forms: Graduate Division's Doctorate-Student Progress Form III: Final Examination and Approval of the Dissertation.

NB This text should be in concordance with the August 2006 revision of the program statement, and reformated as html for use on this website. Consider this web-version "unofficial" and refer to the official (blue) hardcopy for things that matter. (McG 8Jul09)