Ph.D. in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences
Our Ph.D. program develops scientists who are grounded in the scientific method, and who possess a broad knowledge in the speech, language, and hearing sciences.
The Ph.D. in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences (SLHS) is a three-year program of full-time study at UConn’s Storrs campus. All curricula have a solid scientific base, with course content and clinical practicum experiences presented from both theoretical and experimental perspectives.
We encourage prospective students to visit our faculty directory and contact the faculty member whose research interest most closely matches their research interests.
Many of our Ph.D. students participate in interdisciplinary training programs.
- The UConn Neurobiology of Language program offers a graduate certificate earned through coursework that spans psychological sciences; speech, language, and hearing sciences; and linguistics.
- Science of Learning and the Art of Communication (SLAC) is a National Science Foundation-funded training program that offers funding for highly qualified applicants.
Prospective doctoral candidates interested in either of these programs should express their interest in their applications.
Most students intending to pursue a Ph.D. in SLHS with a focus on speech-language pathology (SLP) have already completed a master's degree in SLP or a related field. Students intending to focus on audiology will typically have a bachelor’s degree in SLHS and/or an Au.D. Students without a master's degree or with a degree in a different field may take additional coursework which provides the necessary background.
Students who wish to pursue clinical certification in speech-language pathology or audiology must apply separately to either the MA or Au.D. program. Admission to the Ph.D. program does not guarantee admission to a clinical program and vice versa.
The program consists of graduate courses designed to provide foundational knowledge in the important issues of normal and disordered speech, language, and hearing. In addition, students take electives appropriate to their chosen concentration, and train in advanced methods necessary for research in this field.
The foundations requirement consists of three courses (nine credits) on normal and disordered speech, language, and hearing. At least two of these courses must be from the SLHS graduate curriculum. Courses completed as part of an MA or Au.D. degree may fulfill this requirement with the approval of the student’s advisory committee.
The electives requirement consists of at least three courses (nine credits) related to the chosen concentration. Students select their electives in consultation with their primary advisor. Elective courses may come from such programs as anthropology, cognitive science, computer science, linguistics, neurosciences, and psychological sciences, as well as the Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences.
We encourage students to consider completing a Graduate Certificate in Cognitive Science and/or a Graduate Certificate in Quantitative Research Methods, both of which fulfill the electives requirement. Additional elective options include coursework pertaining to advanced research methods, for example eye tracking, evoked response potential (ERP), neuroimaging, or neural modeling. With prior approval of the primary advisor, an elective requirement may be fulfilled through attendance at an advanced workshop—for example, those provided by The Martinos Center, Starkey, or Bangor University.
The tools requirement consists of:
- A grant writing class (three credits).
- Three courses (nine credits) in research design, statistics, or computer programming. Courses are available in the educational psychology, psychological sciences, and statistics departments. Each department has a recommended three-course sequence.
Each doctoral student is expected to register for SLHS 6319 and to be involved in research activity every semester, the status of which will be reviewed each semester by the student's advisory committee.
In order to obtain experience in different research methodologies, each student will be required to complete at least one laboratory rotation lasting a minimum of one semester. During the rotation, students will enroll in SLHS 6319 (Research Practicum) with that lab director. The laboratory rotation must be approved by the student’s advisor. At the end of the laboratory rotation, it is expected that the student will have completed or contributed to the completion of a project as described below.
Students are expected to engage in research throughout their graduate training, beginning in the first semester. Research involves experiment design, data collection and analysis, preparation of a potentially publishable manuscript, and an oral presentation of the research findings. Students will be encouraged to submit their projects for presentation at professional meetings and to submit them to an appropriate journal for publication.
The total number of credits taken by a student will vary. However, the Graduate School requires a minimum of 30 credits of content coursework beyond the bachelor’s degree or at least 15 credits of content coursework beyond the master’s degree in the same or a closely-related field of study (excluding any required related area). Students should complete a plan of study, signed by the student and advisory committee members, and reviewed by the SLHS Ph.D. Committee. Students submit the plan of study to the Graduate School for approval prior to the end of the student's first year of study.
Each student will have an advisory committee made up of the major advisor and at least two associate advisors. During the admission process, students select a major advisor based upon their area of interest. The faculty member must agree to mentor the student. Students also select a minimum of two associate advisors in consultation with the major advisor before filing a plan of study and before the beginning of the second year in the program. The major advisor and at least one associate advisor must be full-time faculty members with a primary appointment as graduate faculty in the SLHS department. Exceptions to this policy may be made by a majority vote of the graduate faculty in SLHS.
Role of the Committee
- Plan the student's academic program consistent with the student's educational goals and the departmental guidelines.
- Approve all plan of study changes.
- Determine the format of the student's General Examination and make a final decision on exam outcome, taking into account additional faculty members’ comments that are part of the examining committee.
- Review the student’s progress annually. The major advisor will provide written feedback to the student based on this evaluation.
- The major advisor will present progress reports to the faculty.
Requesting a Change of Advisors
As a student’s interests become focused on a particular specialization, it may be appropriate for the student to request a change of advisors. Students must obtain the written consent of the dean of the Graduate School before any changes can be made to the membership of an advisory committee. Forms for change of advisor can be obtained from the Graduate School.
Students may take the general exam when they complete 75% of the courses on their approved plan of study. Students ordinarily pass the exam within four years of the beginning of doctoral study, or within three years if the student entered with a master's or Au.D. degree in the same field.
There are two formats for the general exam: traditional and alternate. The student’s advisory committee decides the format of the exam, and the student schedules the exam in conjunction with their primary advisor.
The traditional format consists of a monitored written portion followed by an oral defense where students can clarify their written answers. Students typically complete the written portion within a one-week period. The exam covers each student’s specialization in-depth, the student’s area of concentration as it relates to their plan of study, research methods, and related or supporting areas of study.
The exam committee includes at least one faculty member representing each of the major areas addressed in the exam. A minimum of five faculty members, including all members of the student’s advisory committee, must participate in the exam. The oral portion of the general exam is scheduled after the student completes the written portion. The purpose of the oral exam is to explore areas of weakness from the written questions. All examiners are invited to submit questions and to evaluate answers, but only the advisory committee is responsible for deciding whether the student has passed the exam.
The alternate format for the general exam consists of written and oral components.
For the written component, students complete a scholarly review of one or more issues related to their area of research under the direction of their major advisor. Each student’s advisory committee must approve the topic of their review paper. This integrative paper should be in a form and quality that can be submitted for publication.
For the oral component of the exam, students present their review paper, including implications for a potential dissertation topic, to the advisory committee, SLHS faculty, and others as determined by the advisory committee. A minimum of five faculty members must be in attendance for the oral presentation. The advisory committee is responsible for making the final decision on whether the student has passed the exam.
Students are required to engage in some form of classroom teaching during their doctoral program. This may include being the instructor of record for one course; serving as a teaching assistant (TA) for two courses and preparing a course syllabus for one of the courses; or another teaching experience as determined by the student’s advisory committee.
Students must complete all work within a period of eight years from the start of the program; or, within a period of seven years from the start of the program if the student entered with a master’s degree in the same or a closely-related field. Failure to complete the work within the periods specified or failure to maintain continuous registration will require reevaluation of the student’s entire program and may result in a notice of termination.
When there is substantial evidence that a student has made regular and consistent progress toward completion of degree requirements, they may be eligible for a one-time extension of no longer than two years. For this to be considered, the student’s major advisor must sign a detailed recommendation to extend the terminal date, and it must be submitted in a timely manner to the dean of the Graduate School.
A student's advisory committee may also serve as their dissertation committee. Any changes in the advisory committee must have the written consent of the dean of the Graduate School.
The dissertation committee:
- Guides the student through all stages of the dissertation.
- Gives final approval of the dissertation prospectus and final dissertation manuscript.
A minimum of five members of the faculty, including all members of the candidate's advisory committee, will participate in the final examination unless approval for fewer faculty has been secured in advance from the dean of the Graduate School.
All doctoral students are required to prepare a dissertation prospectus before beginning their dissertation research. This prospectus takes the format of the Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (NRSA F31). Eligible students are encouraged to submit their prospectus as a fellowship grant. Normally, students complete this by the end of their third year in the program.
After a student writes their prospectus, they should schedule a prospectus presentation and defense. Students should post the announcement for the presentation and defense no later than two weeks prior to the scheduled time. They must also file two copies of the prospectus with the departmental staff and pass the general exam prior to the prospectus presentation.
The presentation is chaired the candidate's major advisor. Forty minutes are allotted for students to present their prospectus, followed by questions from the advisory committee. After the committee has completed its questions and comments, students will solicit further questions and comments from other faculty and graduate students. A minimum of five faculty members must be in attendance for the oral presentation.
After a student has addressed all questions, their advisory committee will meet to discuss the suggestions, comments, and criticisms offered during the prospectus presentation. All interested faculty are invited to remain for this discussion.
There are four possible outcomes of this meeting:
- The student is told to proceed.
- The student is advised to make certain minor modifications and then proceed.
- The student is advised to make major modifications.
- In this case, the advisory committee re-convene after the student informs the major advisor that the modifications have been completed.
- The major advisor then calls a meeting of the advisory committee, at which time the student presents the revised prospectus.
- All interested faculty are invited to attend.
- The advisory committee then votes on whether or not the student should proceed with the proposed project or select another topic.
- The student is advised to select another topic and present another prospectus, in which case they must follow the entire sequence of events again.
When the dissertation proposal has been completed and signed by the student and the members of the advisory committee, the proposal is then submitted to the department head, who appoints reviewers to evaluate the student’s proposal. The evaluation may take the form of a reading of the proposal or attendance at an oral presentation and discussion of the proposal.
Dissertation proposals are reviewed with the following questions in mind:
- Is the proposal well-written, well-organized, and well-argued?
- Does the proposal describe a project of appropriate scope?
- Does the student demonstrate mastery of the method of investigation?
- Does the student show awareness of relevant research by others?
- Does the student consider how the proposed investigation, if successful, will contribute to knowledge?
If the results of the review are favorable, the department head will sign the proposal. A copy of the signed approval form and dissertation proposal must be sent to the Graduate School after completion of the review process.
Dissertation Preparation and Final Oral Defense
Upon the approval of their plan of study, passing the general exam, and approval of their dissertation proposal, a student officially becomes a Ph.D. candidate.
Next, candidates are required to prepare a dissertation representing a significant contribution to ongoing research in their field. The advisory committee supervises this process to ensure the dissertation meets all standards prescribed by the committee and by the Graduate School in areas such as literary style and organization. Students may obtain additional specifications from the Graduate School website. It is each student’s responsibility to be certain that the dissertation conforms to the required specifications.
Students must publicly announce the oral defense of their dissertation on the UConn events calendar at least two weeks prior to the date of the defense. At this time, students should file an electronic tentative approval of the dissertation and an electronic working copy of the entire dissertation with the Graduate School (or with UConn Health, if appropriate). A minimum of five members of the faculty, including all members of the candidate’s advisory committee, must participate in the final examination unless written approval for a lesser number has been secured in advance from the dean of the Graduate School.
The advisory committee makes the final decision on whether a candidate has passed, conditionally passed, or failed the exam, taking into account the opinions of other participating faculty members and experts. The vote of the advisory committee must be unanimous. Following the exam, the major advisor communicates the results to the student and verifies that the official report has been completed and signed for submission to the Graduate School (or to UConn Health, if appropriate).
The abstract and dissertation must be dated as of the calendar year in which all requirements for the degree are completed. The Graduate School requires that students submit their dissertations electronically through OpenCommons@UConn, a University repository for public access. They must also submit the Dissertation Submission Checklist to the Graduate School once it has been signed by a Homer D. Babbidge Library designated staff member, together with an approval page signed by all members of the advisory committee. Once a dissertation is bound, it becomes the property of the Homer D. Babbidge Library. No restrictions that limit or delay the accessibility, use, or distribution of the results of a doctoral student’s research are acceptable if such delays are inconsistent with an embargo period requested by the student or if they interfere with the timely completion of a student’s academic program.