Department of Consumer and Design Sciences

Graduate Programs

Ph.D. in Consumer and Design Sciences

The Ph.D. in Consumer and Design Sciences, a research-based degree, requires 60 semester hours of graduate level course work beyond the B.S. degree. It also requires a Written Preliminary Examination, an Oral Preliminary Examination defined as the CADS Dissertation Proposal defense; and a Final Oral Examination defined as the Dissertation Defense. The doctorate is focused on the generation of new knowledge through innovative exploration of theory, development of creative perspectives, and application of new technologies.
Teaching and/or research assistantships are awarded on a competitive basis, based upon program needs, student qualifications, and funding availability.

Ph.D. Program Overview

The following list suggests topical areas for advanced study in Consumer and Design Sciences:

  • Consumer Behavior
  • Interior Design
  • Functional and Creative Apparel/Product Design
  • Design Management
  • Retail Management and Marketing
  • Product Development
  • Sustainability
  • Creativity
  • Forecasting and Trend Analysis
  • Emerging Technologies
  • Multicultural and Global Markets

The list of CADS graduate faculty provides descriptors of each individual’s key subject matter areas.

Beyond basic requirements, each student’s program is tailored to his or her own educational objectives and goals through the selection of courses and research topic. Although coursework is taken primarily within CADS, courses from other departments may be identified as appropriate. All selections are made in communication with and approved by each student’s Major Professor and Graduate Advisory Committee. CADS courses carrying graduate credit include regularly scheduled courses and customizable courses that may be taken by a single or small group of students. A list of possible external supporting courses has been identified by CADS graduate faculty, but others may be suggested by a student.

CADS Ph.D. Program Overview

Graduate School Requirements for the Ph.D.
Students must successfully complete a total of at least 60 semester credit hours beyond the bachelor’s degree. These must meet the following criteria::

  • at least 30 semester credit hours must be at or above the 6000 level and graded (i.e., not S-U) course work;
  • the other 30 or more hours may incorporate ungraded course work, including the dissertation;
  • at least 21 of the 60 credit hours must be completed at Auburn University; and
  • up to 30 credit hours of master’s course work (including no more than four semester hours of thesis research and completion) may be counted in the 60-hour minimum. Application of master’s course work to the doctoral degree must be approved by the student’s Graduate Advisory Committee and the dean of the Graduate School.

  • Graduate students must maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher to remain in the Graduate School. Doctoral students must pass comprehensive written and follow-up oral examinations to proceed to doctoral candidacy and subsequent completion of the dissertation.

    At the end of each spring semester, CADS is required by the Graduate School to report each doctoral student’s progress toward degree completion. The CADS progress form used by major professors for this purpose and available to students as a planning guide is the Doctoral Student Term-to-Term Progress toward Degree Completion. It is laid out to cover a three-year period.

    Related links to the Graduate School website include the following:

    Doctoral Degree Information
    Academic Progress & Grades
    Doctoral Studies Checklist

    CADS Course Requirements

    • CADS 7040 Protocol for Graduate Study (1) (Fall semester)
    • CADS 7050 Research Methods in Consumer and Design Sciences (3) (Spring semester)
    • CADS 7060 Survey of Consumer and Design Sciences Research (3) (Fall semester)

    Two of the following four theory courses:

    • CADS 7100 Environmental Design Theories and Applications (3)
    • CADS 7200 Aesthetics Theory and Consumer and Design Sciences (3) Pr./CR CADS 7050
    • CADS 7530 Sustainability Theory and Applications (3) Pr. CADS 7050
    • CADS 7670 Social Psychological Theories in Clothing Behavior (3) Pr./CR CADS 7050
    • CADS 7690 Consumer Theory in Apparel and Interiors (3) Pr. CADS 7050
    • CADS 8100 Apparel and Interiors Branding (3) Pr. CADS 7050

    Two statistics courses (6-7 total hours): Selected from a list of choices in consultation with student’s Major Professor or GPO
    20-25 credit hours in CADS graduate courses (or equivalents from the master’s degree); courses outside the Department may be approved for some of these hours.
    CADS 8990 Research and Dissertation: (10)

    Master’s Thesis
    Students who completed a non-thesis master’s degree must develop and submit a manuscript to a research journal prior to the general doctoral exam. The content may be initiated through a research project begun in one of the student’s courses.

Customized Program
Courses taken beyond the CADS specific requirements should be taken to support the student’s post-graduate goals and fill in gaps in experience or knowledge identified by the student and Graduate Program Officer (first) and ultimately by the Major Professor.

Graduate Advisory Committee
Each doctoral student’s Graduate Advisory Committee must be composed of four faculty – a major professor and three other graduate faculty (see http://bulletin.auburn.edu/thegraduateschool/doctoraldegrees/). Three of the members must be Level 2 graduate faculty; the fourth can be Level 1. Any CADS Level 2 graduate faculty can be a major professor for doctoral students; it’s a good idea to identify more than one possible person in case the first person you ask is too busy or does not feel that her/his expertise links to your interests. CADS Level 1 faculty can serve as a co-major professor with a Level 2 faculty. The CADS graduate faculty list indicates level status.

The GAC is led by the major professor who succeeds the GPO as advisor. During the first term, students will hear about most or all of the graduate faculty’s interest areas in CADS 7060. You are strongly encouraged to schedule meetings with those faculty whose focal areas of research or creative work could link to your interests and goals.

Once you have decided whom you would like to have as your major professor, you ask that professor if he/she is willing. When you have identified your major professor, complete the Declaration of Major Professor form (available here and in the CADS Office.) Following this, you will begin to talk with him/her about identifying committee members. Because of the mandated four members, you may want one to be from another department, but typically, no more than one member is external.

Choosing the committee members may not occur until the student and major professor have had some time to discuss the student’s research interests. The committee must be identified prior to the student being able to complete the Plan of Study. It is students’ responsibility to ask the faculty in person if they will serve on his/her committee.

Plan of Study
The plan of study is each student’s list of courses completed and to be completed to comply with Graduate School and CADS requirements. It is filled out in the CADS Plan of Study Template .

Content of the plan of study should be decided with the major professor. Sometimes committee members will suggest courses. The plan of study must be approved by all committee members. To receive committee approval, the completed plan of study template should be saved in a PDF file and then shared with the committee by the major professor for the committee to sign if they approve it. The approved plan of study should be submitted to the Graduate Program Officer for departmental records. You are strongly encouraged to file your plan of study by the beginning of your third semester. It must be completed prior to your General Written Exam or one semester prior to the semester in which you graduate, whichever earlier (http://bulletin.auburn.edu/thegraduateschool/doctoraldegrees/).

Once completed and filed with the Graduate Program Officer, the plan of study can be revised if needed; revisions must be approved by your committee by submitting a new Plan of Study Template. The approved revised plan of study should be submitted to the Graduate Program Officer for departmental records.

After completion of course work and prior to proceeding with the formal dissertation proposal and research, students must pass a General Doctoral Examination composed sequentially of written and oral components. The purpose of the examination is to assess the student’s understanding of existing knowledge in his/her area of study and to evaluate the student’s readiness for proceeding to developing a dissertation proposal, executing the approved research, and completing the written dissertation. The focus will be relatively broad but not necessarily reflective of every course taken in the POS.

The general examination is scheduled in consultation with the MP and GAC. It is given in two steps, and each step is developed by and executed under the supervision of the MP and guidance of the GAC. The first component is written and is designed to probe the student’s broad comprehension and application of established knowledge in his/her field of focus. The written component can be completed over a maximum period of two weeks. The oral component follows the submission of the written portion. It must be scheduled to take place two to three weeks following the date that the written exam is submitted.

No Graduate School forms are needed to schedule the written segment. The oral examination must be scheduled by submitting the Application for Auburn University General Oral Examination Form to the Graduate School no later than one week before the oral examination. The written examination will be graded by the time of the oral examination, but results will not be communicated until the oral examination is finished. Passage of the general doctoral examination (written and oral components) must be documented by a unanimous, affirmative vote of the GAC following the oral examination, as noted on the form, which must then be submitted to the Graduate School. Upon passage of the general examination, the student is considered a doctoral candidate and may proceed with full development and presentation of the dissertation research proposal.

If the student fails the general examination, the GAC can recommend termination of the student’s doctoral program or re-examination, which must be accomplished no later than the end of the semester following the initial administration of the examination. Upon the GAC’s recommendation, approval of the GPO, Department Head, and Graduate School dean is required for a student to re-take the examination. If the student fails the Examination on the second trial, he/she is dropped from the doctoral program.

At least one term must lapse between passing the General Examination and completing the Final Examination (final defense of the dissertation). Candidates have a maximum of four additional years after passing the General Examination in which to complete all additional degree requirements. Candidates must pass a final oral defense of the dissertation to complete the Ph.D. requirements.

GAC members will discuss appropriate topical coverage for the exam and identify each member’s contribution. They may ask a non-member with whom the student has had an important course to submit a question. Following this, the MP will provide guidance to the student on the breadth of content to review in preparation for the examination. The student may also meet with each GAC member to discuss their section of the exam.

The written examination is administered as a take-home exam over a maximum period of two weeks. Five to seven in-depth and potentially multi-part questions are given to the student at the beginning of the period. Questions are distributed by the MP to the student. Each of the questions is to be answered as a unique paper (including cited references) not to exceed ten pages, followed by pages for the list of cited references. The paper must not show any plagiarism, self or otherwise. No wording (i.e. sentence or paragraph) from any previous work, including class papers, publications, or any proposal development, should be used. The work must be only the result of the student’s effort; no editor may be used. The student should not share exam questions or response papers with anyone prior to submission to the GAC. The GAC will decide whether the papers will be evaluated individually or by all members.

The oral examination will follow up on the content addressed in the written examination. Upon completion of the written segment, the student may want to review any areas in which he/she felt less confident in addressing. Feedback will not be given by the MP or GAC prior to the oral examination.

A dissertation is the written record of an original research project undertaken by a doctoral student under the supervision of the MP and guidance of the GAC. It is composed of a description of the significance of the topic, what is already known relevant to the subject (literature survey), specification of research objectives and/or hypotheses and how they will be examined, what was found in conducting the research (data analysis and interpretation), and how the study may be applied and contributes to the knowledge base for future research. Students are encouraged to identify the focus or topic of their dissertation early in the graduate program and begin to review relevant literature after they have identified their MP. After passing the general examination (written and oral components), the student can proceed with developing and defending the proposal for dissertation research.

Click here for an overview of and specific Graduate School guidelines for the dissertation process, output, and submission.

Dissertation Proposal
The student works directly with the MP to develop a research plan that is presented in a proposal to the GAC for formal approval prior to execution and completion. The Proposal typically consists of the first three chapters of the dissertation.

In any term that the student is actively working with the MP on developing the proposal and completing the dissertation, the Department requires that he/she must register for at least two hours of CADS 8990. To be reported as a full-time student when working full-time on the dissertation, the student can register for GRAD8@@0; to do so, a form must be filed with the Graduate School no later than 12 days prior to the beginning of the semester.

The MP determines when the Proposal is ready for GAC review. The student is responsible for contacting GAC members to identify days and times of availability for a two hour meeting, as well as to reserve a room for the meeting. Two weeks in advance of the meeting, the student provides committee members with proposal copies in digital and/or printed form (according to the wishes of individual members).

Dissertation Proposal Meeting and Progression to Research Execution
In the proposal meeting, the student gives a PowerPoint presentation summarizing the proposal. All graduate students and non-GAC faculty can be invited to the meeting, but are excused following the presentation. At this point, the GAC will query the student about any aspect of the proposal, with the goal of making sure that the planned research is well conceived and with the perspective of helping the student avoid pitfalls in execution. Members will likely have suggestions or edits for the proposal writing. Upon conclusion of the question and answer period, the student may be asked to temporarily leave the room while the GAC discusses approval of the proposed research.

Possible Sources of Financial Support for Dissertation Research
Aside from students who pursue research allied with their major professor’s funded research, there may be opportunities to apply for support from Graduate School funds and/or from professional organizations. E.g., the International Textile and Apparel Association (ITAA) sponsors competitive applications for a limited range of awards.

Dissertation Completion
The student works with the MP during the execution of the dissertation research and composition of an acceptable draft of the full dissertation. The MP will indicate when the draft can be given to the GAC for preliminary approval. As with the proposal, two weeks should be allowed for members to review. Once the GAC has given preliminary approval of the draft, a copy is submitted to the Graduate School with the Doctoral Dissertation First Submission Approval Form must be completed for delivery to a University Reader for his/her review. If the University Reader approves the draft, the candidate can proceed with scheduling the Final Examination using a form sent by the Graduate School. Note that the University Reader may suggest changes that should be made prior to the Final Examination. If this is the case, the final dissertation draft sent to GAC members should incorporate or address the University Reader’s comments.

Once the University Reader has reported approval of the draft to the Graduate School, and the student has addressed any requested changes, the student may apply for the Final Examination, which must be done at least one week prior to the final oral defense. At the Final Examination/oral defense, the student will first present the dissertation research. This portion of the Final Examination is open to attendance by faculty and graduate students. Only the GAC and University Reader are permitted for the remainder of the defense when committee members and the University Reader may ask the candidate about his/her research efforts and other relevant questions. Final passage requires unanimous approval of all Committee members and the University Reader.

In case of failure to pass the Final Examination, the candidate may be allowed one re-examination upon approval of the GAC and the Dean of the Graduate School.

Additional PhD program information:
For More Information Contact:

Dr. Wi-Suk Kwon
Graduate Program Officer