PhD in Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences

The Department of Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences offers a doctoral program that prepares scholars for research and academic leadership positions in speech, language, or hearing science. The doctoral degree program awards a PhD and is intended to help students become outstanding researchers. With the resources of Boston University and the surrounding area, doctoral students have the opportunity of taking courses in a wide variety of departments across Boston University (e.g., psychology, linguistics, graduate medical sciences, education, engineering, and neuroscience) and to benefit from other University offerings in the area. The program is designed to be individualized and to combine academic work with multiple research experiences.

Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate advanced research skills.
  • Provide an original and substantial contribution to the SLHS scientific base as well as the capacity for carrying out a sustained research program.
  • Establish a commitment to the values of the profession and to the pursuit of knowledge.

Degree Requirements

Coursework (32 credits)

The PhD requires a minimum of 48 credit hours in graduate-level coursework and dissertation research beyond the master’s degree or AuD. Twelve credit hours of coursework below the graduate level may be allowed with advisor approval. The core course requirements can include SH 906 as a mentored teaching experience, or another opportunity for the student to gain teaching experience can be arranged. Students entering post-baccalaureate, who are interested in speech-language studies and in obtaining clinical certification, are eligible for the combined MS-SLP/PhD program in speech-language pathology. Otherwise, an additional 32 credits, which translates to a supplemental year of study and the MS-SLHS/PhD degree, is available as a post-baccalaureate option.

Coursework requirements include:

  • Core courses (24 credits): individualized for each student in collaboration with the mentor
  • Research design (8 credits) (e.g., research methods, advanced statistics)

Research (18 credits)

The doctoral program requires completion of three different research projects. All degree requirements must be completed within five years of beginning the doctoral program. Each project should demonstrate increasing independence, integration, and innovation by the student. The projects are described below:

Directed Research (4 credits)

The initial project is designed to facilitate learning of lab techniques and analytical methods, and provide familiarity with the fundamental literature in the specific research area that the student is pursuing. With the research mentor, a suitable project is planned that includes discussion of crucial experimental design issues as well as focused training in the specific methodologies of the chosen content area. The project must include data analysis and interpretation of statistical results with application to models and follow-up studies. This project is extensively mentored and must be completed before the qualifying project begins.

Qualifying Project (2 credits)

The student will complete a project and write a substantial paper that meets the standards for peer-reviewed work in speech, language, and hearing sciences. Project options can include a systematic review; research in a lab outside of the mentor’s, a meta-analysis or other significant undertaking approved by the committee.

The topic, scope, and appropriate target journal will be agreed upon by the student and research mentor in consultation with at least two other faculty members who agree to be part of the qualifying project committee. A minimum of two members of the qualifying project committee must be from within the SLHS Department.

Written Proposal for Funding (2 credits)

A grant proposal (NIH F31 or other mechanism relevant to SLHS) is an important doctoral program requirement that is strongly recommended to be completed as part of the doctoral seminar, SH 810. Submission of the proposal will be determined by the faculty mentor who serves as the primary scientific advisor on all aspects of the work. The funding proposal is designed to provide pilot data to the dissertation prospectus but may address a different goal at the mentor’s discretion.

Dissertation Research (8 credits)

All doctoral candidates must submit an acceptable doctoral dissertation in accordance with all Boston University and Sargent College departmental procedures. A maximum of 8 credit hours may be applied toward the dissertation. Completion of this requirement includes:

  • Formulation of an original and important research question
  • Construction of a careful experimental design
  • Collection and analysis of reliable and valid data
  • Preparation of a written document that is acceptable to the committee members. Either the traditional format or a series of journal articles with an introduction and a summary section may be used to fulfill the dissertation requirement.
  • Delivering a seminar and passing a final oral defense

The dissertation committee shall consist of the research mentor plus a minimum of three other members selected by the student in consultation with the mentor. The first and second members of the committee must be doctoral faculty from the Department of Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences, including the mentor. The third and fourth members should typically be doctoral-level faculty members who have an interest, and expertise, in the proposed problem area. At least one member of the committee must be from outside of Boston University. The dissertation committee is responsible for the direction of the experimental work and final decision regarding the acceptability of the candidate’s proposal, dissertation, and oral defense.

Advising and Registration

All beginning doctoral students meet with their faculty research mentor to set customized goals for their doctoral program. The mentor and student develop the student’s plan of study, which details the coursework that must be successfully completed by the doctoral student prior to admission to candidacy for the degree. The expected time frame for completion of coursework is two years of full-time study for post-master’s students. Official PhD candidacy status is achieved following successful completion of the qualifying project. Advising of degree candidates is the responsibility of the research mentor, who customarily serves as the dissertation advisor.

Registration Requirements

  • Students must maintain continuous registration during their doctoral studies.
  • Specific credit amounts may vary but the minimum expectation is for the student to be registered for 0.5 credits with his/her dissertation advisor.

Residency Requirement

A minimum of one academic year of residency is required for the doctoral program in Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences. Residence is defined as full-time study via coursework and/or research activities, which can be achieved with registration for a minimum of 8–12 credit hours each semester (including dissertation credits) for two consecutive semesters. Full-time status can be demonstrated by either a combination of coursework and appointments to research and/or teaching assistantships (8 credits) or a full-time course load (12 or more credits). For the combined MS-SLP/PhD program, the first two years of the program (primarily clinical training) cannot be used to satisfy the residency requirement.

The student must be registered during each fall and spring semester while completing the requirements for the degree. To comply with this requirement, a doctoral candidate should become familiar with the University’s reduced tuition provisions for continuing students. Doctoral programs must be completed within five years of initial matriculation (seven years for post-baccalaureate entrants).

Grade Point Average Requirement

Candidates must achieve an overall grade point average of 3.0 or higher, with no more than 8 credits of C or C+ work accepted toward the degree. Matriculation in the doctoral program is contingent upon the maintenance of a minimum GPA of 3.0. A student whose GPA falls below 3.0 for more than one semester will be terminated from the program. This standard applies to all graduate students enrolled for more than 4 credits in a semester. The acceptability of C or C+ work in required courses is subject to SLHS doctoral faculty approval.

Application Deadline

January 1 is the recommended date for submission of all application materials for fall admission with optimal consideration for BU doctoral program funding.

General Doctoral Program Policies

Projects and Committees

The expectation is that all projects will be substantial and publishable. There must be different personnel on each of the committees to ensure that the student is getting a wide range of input. The PhD faculty will review committee rosters for all doctoral students.

Annual Progress Report

PhD students in SLHS are required to submit an annual report each academic year. This report includes a summary of courses completed, research progress, teaching experience, examinations passed, committee members and meetings held, and publications and presentations. The student and research mentor are required to meet with the SLHS doctoral faculty group to discuss the annual report. Students will receive regular feedback on their progress and should be proactive in setting goals for completing the doctoral degree.

Initial Evaluation

After completion of 24 credit hours toward the doctoral degree, students will be reviewed by the faculty. Such review shall be for the purpose of encouraging or discouraging continued participation in the doctoral program.