PhD Program
Architecture and

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Page updated:
February 19, 2014

Program Structure


The curriculum for each option is broken into three stages consisting of core courses, electives, and the dissertation. All options require 96 hours of graduate work, 64 of which must be earned while in residence. These are grouped in the following three stages. Stage 1 is the master’s degree (awarded at UIUC or elsewhere) from which up to 24 hours of coursework may be credited towards the doctoral degree. Stage 2 consists of 32 hours of required and elective courses and culminates with the passing of the preliminary exam. Of the courses in this phase, at least 8 hours must be earned outside of Landscape and Architecture, and no more than 12 hours may be taken at the 400 level. The final stage is dissertation work which consists of a minimum of 32 hours.

Each student’s curriculum is tailored to his/her individual needs and is determined in close consultation with and under the approval of the primary faculty advisor. Within their area of concentration, students will identify a major area of study and an outside field of study.

All students are required to enroll in the PhD colloquium during the fall of their first and second years of course work.

Stage One

Each option begins with methodology course(s) that introduce the research methods of that discipline. Additional core courses provide a foundation in the basic issues, theories, concepts, and methods of the different options.

Typically, Social and Cultural Factors students will take courses on behavioral/design research approaches, a course on cultural issues in design, an appropriate quantitative and/or qualitative methods course, and a course on historical and contemporary cultural landscapes.

History and Theory students will typically take courses in the history of cultural landscapes, buildings, and cities, as well as more specialized history offerings dependant upon their program goals. Theory-oriented courses include specific seminars in theories of architectural, landscape, or urban design, as well as the philosophies of history.

Technology and Environment students will generally take courses in physical and environmental systems, structures, sustainability, natural resources, and materials science.

Students are encouraged to complete the following prerequisites prior to beginning the program, but in most cases the requirement can be met during the first two years of graduate study.

Stage Two

Each student will choose elective courses in consultation with the primary advisor, to develop breadth of knowledge within the field, depth of knowledge in the specific area of dissertation research, and an area of specialization in an outside field. A minimum of 8 hours of coursework must be from departments other than the home department. The University of Illinois offers a broad range of resources that make the elective options strong and numerous. The program faculty has identified potential elective courses from a variety of University departments including Geography, Psychology, Educational Psychology, Sociology, History, Art History, Anthropology, Linguistics, Philosophy, Theatre, Leisure Studies, Material Science, Computer Science, Urban and Regional Planning, and Agricultural, Civil, Electrical and Mechanical Engineering. This is just a partial list; courses from additional units may be added as necessary and contingent on the approval of the student’s advisor.

Major and Minor Fields

The major field is defined as knowledge within the field from which the dissertation research emerges. The purpose of the minor field requirement is to insure the correlation of knowledge and methods of inquiry from one field relating to but outside of the major area of concentration. Outside fields should be selected that will broaden knowledge, expand methodological skills, and provide new insights for the major field of study. The subject must be in a field outside the home department A proposed outside minor will not duplicate or substantially overlap the major field or work performed to fulfill requirements for language or research methods.

Stage Two is completed when all course and language requirements have been met, a dissertation proposal has been accepted, and a preliminary examination passed.

Foreign languages are required for all students in the History/Theory option and may be required for some Social and Cultural Factors students.

The language should be a language in which the student will do primary research. This choice must be approved by the primary advisor. Some language requirements may be fulfilled by taking the University approved courses that are designed to demonstrate graduate-level competence. They must be passed with a grade of “B” or better.

Preliminary Exams

The Preliminary Examination tests the student’s competence in the theoretical and methodological subjects of the student’s chosen areas of concentration (major and minor fields). The purpose of this examination is to appraise the ability to synthesize facts, techniques, and ideas as evidence of the ability to pursue independent investigation. The preliminary examination consists of a written exam followed by a comprehensive oral examination with the preliminary examination committee.

Doctoral Candidacy

Once the preliminary exam has been passed and has been recognized by the Graduate College as such, the student is called a "Ph.D. Candidate.”

Stage Three: Dissertation Work

The Doctor of Philosophy degree is the highest academic degree granted by American universities. It is awarded to those who have demonstrated mastery of the field and successfully completed and defended a dissertation. The degree is a clear recognition that the student has the ability to complete a substantial piece of research work, to formally present the results of this work, and to appreciate its significance in the general field. The dissertation embodies the results of original and independent research, and should represent a meaningful contribution to the field.