Graduate Student Regulations
- Graduate Seminars
- Written Evaluations
- Independent Study
- Faculty Advisor
- Year-End Review
- Taking Classes P/N
- Distribution Requirements
- Logic Requirement
- Skills Requirement
- Colloquium Series and Other Events
- Annual Reports: Third-years and Above
- Research 590
- Dissertation Prospectus and Qualifying Examination
- Dissertation Research Seminar
- Dissertation Length and Time to Defense
- Ph.D. Oral Exams
- Supervision and Evaluation of Student Teaching
- Typical Ph.D. Program
- Masters Degree
- Non-Philosophy Students with a Concentration in Philosophy
- Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual Harassment
Each student is required to take 12 graduate seminars in the Philosophy Department; and 6 additional courses at the 300- or 400-level. Students with an M.A. in Philosophy are required to take 6 elective graduate seminars in the Philosophy Department; and 6 additional courses at the 300- or 400-level. Students cannot enroll in a course for which they serve as TA.
In addition to assigning the normal grades to graduate students (A, B, etc.), instructors must assign to each graduate student in each class one of the following marks:
J: Superb work
K: Excellent work, with some minor deficiencies
L: Significant strengths clearly outweigh weaknesses or omissions
M: Satisfactory: a rough balance of strengths and weaknesses
N: Significant deficiencies clearly outweigh strengths
O: Far below graduate-level work
It is expected that most marks awarded in the Department will be L, M, or N. Students who receive a large number of marks of N or worse each year will receive special scrutiny. A student who receives no marks lower than M is definitely making satisfactory progress in the Ph.D. program.
These marks must be assigned for work done in both 300- and 400-level classes and be accompanied by written evaluations (see below).
In addition to a grade (A, B …) and mark (J, K), students are entitled to a written evaluation of their course work from each instructor. These should be a paragraph of 100 words or more, and should identify both strengths and weaknesses in the student’s work (if there are any). These evaluations will be given to students soon after the completion of their course work, and a copy will be placed in the student’s file.
Any requests for an incomplete must be submitted in writing, on a form provided by the department, and must include an assurance that the incomplete requested does not exceed the limits specified in the paragraph below. The instructor may then approve or disapprove the request. If she or he approves, the student will then pass the request on to the Director of Graduate Studies for final approval or disapproval. No incomplete may be taken without the written approval of both the course instructor and the Director of Graduate Studies. The completed form will then remain a permanent part of the student's record. Except in unusual and unforeseen circumstances, requests for incompletes should not be put off to the very end of the term but should be anticipated and submitted in good time. In an emergency, if the Director of Graduate Studies is out of town, approval can be requested from the Chair.
No more than one incomplete will be permitted at any given time.
In exceptional circumstances a student may, with the prior permission of the course instructor, petition the Graduate Advisory Committee for an incomplete that would exceed that limit.
All incomplete papers must be submitted by September 15th of each year. The paper will be graded by October 15th. If the deadline is not met, or the student does not receive a passing grade, there will be no TA support for the Winter Quarter.
First year students are not allowed to take independent study except in order to satisfy a logic or language requirement (that is, Philosophy 250 or 350) or to meet some extraordinary need. (Philosophy 250 figures in the logic requirement, 350 in the language requirement.) Second-year students are normally allowed to take one independent study, provided that they can demonstrate a need to do so; they are not normally allowed more than one. All requests to take independent study during the first and second year, for reasons not having to do with the logic or language requirements (that is, Philosophy 250 or 350), must be approved by the Graduate Advisory Committee. Petitions from first year students must show why they should be allowed to take independent study at all. Petitions from second year students must state that the material to be studied through independent study is not available in any scheduled classes. Independent studies taken during the third year do not count towards the 6 elective graduate seminars that students must take on a P/N basis.
All first- and second-year students will be assigned by the Chair to a faculty advisor. (The role of advisor will be distributed widely among members of the Department.) The responsibilities of the advisor are (A) to discuss with students any personal difficulties that are affecting their work, (B) to contact students several times a year, in order to discuss any academic problems they may be having, (C) to offer advice about course selection in order to make sure that students can satisfy all course requirements by the end of their second year, (D) to present the student’s point of view at the annual meeting at which student progress is monitored, and (E) to advise the student regarding the writing of petitions and appeals addressed to the Department.
The Department meets at the end of each academic year to review the progress of first- and second-year students, and any other students reported to it by the committee assigned to monitor the progress of students beyond their second year. The Director of Graduate Studies will meet with first- and second-year students to report the faculty’s evaluation of their overall performance in the program.
All first- and second-year students are required to take two two-quarter courses taught by a tenured or tenure-track member of the Philosophy Department, one during their first year (Philosophy 401, Proseminar), the other during their second year (Philosophy 402, Proseminar). Philosophy 401 is limited to first-year students. Philosophy 402 is mandatory for second-year graduate students, but the first quarter is open as a regular graduate seminar to students in other years. (These courses will be offered every year.)
The topic of these courses will be of wide interest; it will not be a seminar confined to the current research of the instructor. (Examples: theories of truth, theories of political obligation, Plato’s late dialogues, Kant’s ethics, Heidegger’s Being and Time.) The topics are selected by the instructor in consultation with the Chair and the Graduate Student Affairs Committee. The committee will insure that there is adequate variation in topics from one year to another.
For all students in Philosophy 401 and second-year students in Philosophy 402, the major research assignment of the course will be a long paper (up to 8,000 words) submitted at the end of the second term; the topic for the paper will be chosen at the end of the first term. Other students taking Philosophy 402 will ordinarily be expected to submit a seminar-length paper at the end of the first term. During the second term, there will be no collective class meetings, but students will meet individually and regularly with the instructor and will submit several drafts of their work. First drafts are normally due no later than the middle of the term. Pro-seminar instructors will return drafts and meet with students to discuss them no later than one week after their submission. The proseminar instructor will set a due date for final drafts that allows sufficient time for them to be graded by a committee (and, if necessary, by a third reader) and for students to know the results several days prior to the annual review held at the end of the academic year. The normal length of a proseminar paper is between 6,000 and 7,000 words, with 8,000 words as the upper limit.
Letter grades (A, B, etc.) and marks (J, K, etc.) for the proseminar sequence are the sole responsibility of the instructor, and are based on the paper, class participation, and any other factors that are normally relevant to the evaluation of students. However, the proseminar paper itself is evaluated by a two-person committee (anonymous to students) selected by the instructor in consultation with the Chair. The committee is confined to the grades of Pass or Fail. If the committee disagrees about the grades to be assigned, and cannot resolve their disagreement, the Chair and instructor will select another member of the Department to make the final determination. In the Department’s annual review, the quality of this paper will receive special attention, as an important component of a student’s overall record. Students who do not receive a passing grade may be asked to revise and improve the paper or to write a new and superior paper on a topic acceptable to the Department. Continuation in the program may depend on the quality of the revised paper. Except in rare instances, students will be retained in the program at least until their second-year review.
All proseminar papers shall receive written evaluations from the members of the committee that grades them. (These may take the form of comments written in the margins or at the end of the paper.)
Proseminars may be used to satisfy the Department’s distribution requirements, if the topic of the seminar falls within the scope of one of them. (When it is unclear whether a proseminar topic qualifies for one of the distribution requirements, the Graduate Advisory Committee shall be asked to make this determination.) Proseminars cannot be used to satisfy a distribution requirement if the grade received is C or lower.
Second Year Students. Students will be permitted to take one philosophy graduate seminar on a P/N basis during their second year (see the Graduate School Bulletin for regulations regarding the P/N option). In this course, a student will be assigned a P/N grade on the basis of completing all required course-work except for any research paper that might otherwise be due.
NB: This arrangement may only be entered into with the prior agreement of the faculty person teaching the course (who may not agree); and the course may not be one that is being used to fulfill program requirements (i.e. the proseminars, the courses in Ancient, Modern and Contemporary philosophy, or the logic courses).
Third Year Students. All elective philosophy graduate seminars taken in the third year and the Dissertation Research Seminar will be taken P/N. No major written work will be required of third-year students enrolled in those classes. At the beginning of each term, faculty should indicate to third-year students what they will be expected to do in order to receive a passing grade. Exception: to satisfy the logic or any of the distribution requirements a course must receive a grade of B minus or better, and cannot be taken P/N. To satisfy the 12 required graduate seminars in the Philosophy Department, a course cannot be taken P/N.
Students must take at least one Philosophy Department course, at the 300- or 400-level, in each of the following areas:
Contemporary Philosophy Category A: moral or political philosophy
Contemporary Philosophy Category B: metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, or philosophy of science.
The Graduate Advisory Committee will consider granting exceptions, and will determine, in borderline cases, whether a course falls into one of the above categories. A course that covers topics from both categories (A and B) can only be counted as satisfying one of the requirements. Elective courses taken at the 400-level to satisfy the distribution requirements count towards the 12 required graduate seminars in the Philosophy Department. In normal cases, these requirements are to be completed before a student is admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D.
The logic requirement for graduate students can be fulfilled in several ways.
(1) Standardly, students attend lectures for PHIL 250, and enroll with the instructor of the class in an independent study. Graduate students are expected to undertake additional work so that their coursework is at the 300- or 400- level.
The remaining means of fulfilling the logic requirement are listed below; however, these are to be understood as /potential/ means of fulfilling the requirement. Whether or not coursework falling under the following rubrics does fulfill the requirement is at the discretion of the logic advisor.
(2) Coursework at another institution deemed equivalent to or exceeding that described in (1).
(3) Coursework at another institution deemed equivalent to part of that described in (1), plus completion of some portion of that described in (1).
(4) A 300- or 400-level class in formal logic taught at Northwestern. However, no course used to fulfill the logic requirement may also be used to fulfill a part of the language requirement.
All students must demonstrate competence in at least one secondary skill or area that pertains to their primary philosophical training. In many cases, a skill will be adequate preparation in a language other than English, or a passing grade in an advanced logic course (one beyond the 200-level). In other cases, it may be some work in another discipline (e.g. linguistics, cognitive science, mathematics, etc.), or a philosophical field complementary to their principal specialization.
By the end of the first year, students should (in consultation with one or more members of the Philosophy faculty) declare to the DGS what his or her proposed competence (or competences) will be, and the DGS will arrange a course of study (or an equivalent) that will demonstrate the needed level of training. In normal cases, it is expected that the student will achieve this goal before being admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D.
This requirement supersedes the language requirement that was in force through 2008. It will be mandatory for students who enter the Ph.D. program in 2009 or thereafter. Students admitted in or before 2008 or may choose between satisfying this skills requirement or the old language requirement.
All graduate students are required to attend the department's colloquium series regularly as well as other events organized by the department as a part of their professional training. Attendance and participation in those events is taken into consideration in the evaluation of students' performance in the program at the annual review meeting in June.
Students beyond their second year are required to write a statement (250 words or more) about the progress they have made towards preparing and writing a dissertation, and outlining the work that remains. Faculty members who have served for one or more terms as dissertation advisors should write a statement (100 words or more) about the progress that has been made, and should indicate how often they have met with the student over the course of the academic year. These statements should be submitted by June 1 to the Director of Graduate Studies, who will appoint a small committee to monitor the progress of these students. Before the annual meeting, the committee will report to the Department any cases in which insufficient progress has been made. The Department will discuss these students at the end of the academic year, and propose remedies. In extreme cases, students may lose their funding, if, after due warning, their progress does not improve.
To provide early guidance in the search for a dissertation topic, third-year registration for 590 Research will be treated as the choice of a temporary advisor. Students may register under a faculty member's name only after consulting with him or her and obtaining his or her signature on the registration form. At the minimum, a student will meet with his or her advisor at the start of the term and again at the end to discuss the student’s progress.
This is meant to be a temporary advising system. Students may work with different professors in different terms, and once the dissertation topic comes into sharper focus, they will go on to form their permanent dissertation committees. There is no assumption that a temporary advisor will supervise a student's dissertation or serve on the student's dissertation committee.
During their third year, students enroll in Philosophy 590 (Research) for one unit of credit during each of three terms. In each term, they also enroll in two elective graduate seminars, which are taken on a pass/no pass basis (with the exception of a course that satisfies the logic or the distribution requirements); and they participate in a dissertation research seminar (described below). The oral qualifying exam must be completed during the Fall quarter of the fourth year of residence, no later than the last week of October.
Students should use their work in 590 to find a dissertation topic and to prepare a dissertation prospectus (described below). In order to be admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D., they must take and pass an oral qualifying examination based on the dissertation prospectus. To provide early guidance in the search for a dissertation topic, third-year registration for 590 Research will be treated as the choice of a temporary advisor. Students may register under a faculty member's name only after consulting with him or her and obtaining his or her signature on the registration form. At the minimum, a student will meet with his or her advisor at the start of the term and again at the end to discuss the student’s progress. This is meant to be a temporary advising system. Students may work with different professors in different terms, and when the dissertation topic comes into sharper focus, they will go on to form their permanent dissertation committees. There is no assumption that a temporary advisor will supervise a student's dissertation or serve on the student's dissertation committee.
Third year advisors will assist students with the preparation of a dissertation prospectus. Students are expected to pursue the following activities throughout the year: wide consultation with department faculty, and in particular regular consultation with potential members of the dissertation committee; a reading program structured towards achieving competence in the dissertation area; a presentation at the dissertation research seminar; discussion of a dissertation prospectus with faculty. Students have the option of presenting papers and/or chapter drafts on the dissertation topic to the oral examining committee in conjunction with the prospectus.
During their third year all graduate students are expected to work closely with their potential advisors preparing the dissertation prospectus. After passing the oral qualifying examination, students may choose to study abroad in consultation with their advisors. A petition to study abroad before passing the qualifying examination would be granted only if there are special circumstances. Petitions to study abroad before passing the oral qualifying exam will be examined by the GSA committee. As part of his or her petition the student must outline a research plan along the lines of the dissertation prospectus and the plan must be approved by the dissertation advisor.
The dissertation prospectus should lay out the topic and plan for the dissertation work. It is not a philosophy paper, but rather a thesis plan that (a) articulates an interesting philosophical problem in a way that (b) displays the student's knowledge of the problem's place in the corresponding philosophical field as well as the leading attempts to resolve it and (c) gives as clear an indication as the student can give at this early stage of how he or she intends to organize the thesis, and of what he or she expects her contribution to be, that is, of what he or she can add to the existing literature. The prospectus should give an overview of the chapters that are planned for the dissertation, and the contents of each chapter. The length of the prospectus should be around 5000 words. In addition, it must contain a bibliography (normally at least 25 works). Students should work closely with their advisors in preparing the prospectus. The oral qualifying exam will involve a discussion of the dissertation prospectus. It should convince the dissertation committee that the student is ready to write a dissertation and that the thesis plan described in the prospectus is feasible.
All third- and fourth-year graduate students are required to present a paper at the DRS. The DRS meets once during the winter quarter of each year for every student in the third- year class, and once during the spring quarter of each year for every student in the fourth- year class. The format is colloquium-style, with a thirty to fifty minute presentation of a paper on some specific topic related to the dissertation project (or prospective project, in the case of third-year students) and an hour of audience questions. During each quarter, the time and place of the DRS will remain constant. All third- and fourth-year students are expected to attend all DRS meetings for both classes, as are members of the student's dissertation committee (or prospective members, in the case of third-year students). Other students and faculty are also welcome.
The length of a dissertation is expected to be between 150 and 250 pages (40,000 – 80,000 words). Students must allow at least three weeks between the submission of the final draft of a dissertation and the oral defense. Exceptions in both cases require the approval of all members of the dissertation committee.
All members of the Department – both faculty and graduate students – are welcome at and encouraged to attend Ph.D. oral exams. Whenever possible, faculty and graduate students should receive notification of the time and place of Ph.D. oral exams at least one week before they take place. Notification is the responsibility of the chair of the dissertation committee. In addition, students should circulate an abstract of the dissertation (500-1000 words) to all faculty and other graduate students at least one week before their oral exams.
1. Evaluation of TAs
A. Whenever a student teaches a course or serves as a TA for a course, the DGS will arrange that someone visit at least one session, for purposes of giving the student feedback about teaching. During students’ first year of teaching, they will be visited by a more advanced graduate student (or, if they prefer, a faculty member). Thereafter, the normal arrangement will be that the faculty member whom the student is assisting visits the class, discusses the student’s performance, and writes a brief evaluation, which will be placed in the student’s file. But when appropriate, the student’s classes can instead (or in addition) be visited by some other faculty member. Letters that evaluate a student’s performance shall always be written by faculty members, not fellow students.
B. When the student enters the job market, a faculty member will write a letter in which the student’s qualifications as a teacher are described. That letter will draw upon the evaluations that have been placed in the student’s file, and will become part of the dossier that is sent to potential employers. The DGS will, after consulting with student, select the faculty member who will write such a letter, and will distribute this task among the faculty. The selection should be made near the beginning of the student’s fourth year.
2. Preparation of TAs
A. Students are strongly advised to visit a TA session at some point before they begin teaching. Normally this will be during their first year in the program, when they are not yet TAs. Students are also advised to avail themselves of the guidance of the Searle Center staff.
B. The DGS should organize a training session for new TAs. It will meet very close to the beginning of the academic year. Those who lead it should include one faculty member (selected by the DGS, in consultation with students) and at least one advanced graduate student who has considerable experience as a teacher (selected in the same way). Among the topics that might be discussed are these: grading, plagiarism, techniques for stimulating discussion, the division of labor among faculty and TAs, alternative models for how to lead a discussion.
C. During their first quarter of teaching, students may request that they be paired with a more experienced TA, who will help with any problems that arise in the course.
3. Communication between faculty and TAs
A. It is recommended that faculty members meet with their TAs before the latter hold their first session, and offer guidance about what they are expected to accomplish in the classroom. A policy should be adopted about whether extensions of deadlines are permissible, who is to make these decisions, the resolution of grade disputes, and so on.
B. Faculty members are advised to give their TAs guidelines for grading exams and papers, to insure uniformity and fairness. Faculty should also indicate their expectations regarding the way exam questions should be answered, and the criteria or models to be used in the assignment of grades to exams and papers.
4. TA Workload
A. The Department endorses a guideline that we should not expect more than 6000 words of formal writing per student per quarter. This guideline is expected to be in conformity with University regulations, and where they conflict, the University rules take priority. The instructor is encouraged to maintain open communication with the TAs, e.g., by soliciting their feedback on their workload.
All incoming students, regardless of graduate work in philosophy done elsewhere, are required to fulfill the first two years of the Department's course requirements (18 course credits) in accordance with the schedule laid out in the bulletin.
In the third year, all students, except those who enter with an M.A. in Philosophy, are required to take 3 units each quarter in the Philosophy Department: 1 unit of 590 (Research) and two graduate seminars. The two graduate seminars are taken on a pass/fail basis (except for a course that satisfies the logic or any of the distribution requirements). In addition, they will participate in the Dissertation Research Seminar. In the third year, students with an M.A. in Philosophy are required to take 3 units of 590 (Research) each quarter and the Dissertation Research Seminar.
|Year I||3 Course Units||3 Course Units||3 Course Units|
|Year II||3 Course Units||3 Course Units||3 Course Units|
|Year III||590 (1 Unit) +||590 (1 Unit) +||590 (1 Unit) +|
|2 P/N Seminars||2 P/N Seminars||2 P/N Seminars|
|(non-credit course: Dissertation Research Seminar)|
At this point a student will have completed the department’s course requirements, skills and logic requirements and is expected to qualify.
After the fifth year, students who are still receiving funding from the university will register for TGS 500. Students in their sixth year and above who are NOT receiving funding from the university will register for TGS 512 each quarter until degree completion.
A Masters Degree in Philosophy will be awarded to students who have: (A) completed two years of course work, (B) passed both proseminars, (C) received passing grades in courses that satisfy the Department’s distribution requirements, (D) satisfied the Department’s logic requirement, (E) made up all incomplete grades. A student who has satisfied all of these requirements except (B), having passed the first-year seminar but not the second, may receive a Masters Degree upon successful revision of the proseminar paper or the writing of a new and superior paper (on a topic appropriate to the proseminar and acceptable to the Department).
Students who declare Philosophy as their secondary department will be required to take 6 courses in the Philosophy Department at the 300- or 400-level, of which at least three should be at the 400-level.
At the end of their third year their performance in the program will be evaluated at the Department’s annual graduate student review meeting. On the basis of the grades and written evaluations provided by the instructors of the classes in which the student has enrolled, the department will determine whether the student’s performance was satisfactory. In case of a negative evaluation, students may be asked to revise and improve one of the papers they submitted for the classes in which their performance was not entirely satisfactory or to write a new and superior paper on a topic acceptable to the department. The paper will be evaluated by a two-person committee (anonymous to students) on a pass/fail basis. If the student fails, the department can recommend to the student’s primary program or home department that the student be given a second chance to revise the paper, or can recommend that the student’s relationship with the Philosophy Department be terminated.
The Philosophy Department affirms the Northwestern University Policy on Discrimination and Harassment and the Policy on Sexual Harassment. A core part of these policies is repeated here verbatim:
Policy on Discrimination and Harassment
"Northwestern University does not discriminate or permit discrimination by any member of its community against any individual on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, parental status, marital status, age, disability, citizenship, or veteran status in matter of admissions, employment, housing, or services or in the educational programs or activities it operates.
Harassment, whether verbal, physical, or visual, that is based on any of these characteristics is a form of discrimination. This includes harassing conduct affecting tangible job benefits, interfering unreasonably with an individual's academic or work performance, or creating what a reasonable person would perceive is an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment.
While Northwestern University is committed to the principles of free inquiry and free expression, discrimination and harassment identified in this policy are neither legally protected expression nor the proper exercise of academic freedom."
Policy on Sexual Harassment
“It is the policy of Northwestern University that no member of the Northwestern community - students, faculty, administrators, or staff - may sexually harass any other member of the community. Sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute harassment when any of the following occurs:
Submission to such conduct is made or threatened to be made, either explicitly or implicitly, a term or condition of an individual's employment or education; or
Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used or threatened to be used as the basis for academic or employment decisions affecting that individual; or
Such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual's academic or professional performance or creating what a reasonable person would perceive is an intimidating, hostile, or offensive employment, educational, or living environment.”