PhD in Education and Jewish Studies

Steps to the Ph.D. in Education & Jewish Studies

This document was developed by program faculty and revised in 2014.

This document outlines the steps to complete a Ph.D. in Education and Jewish Studies at NYU. Note that there will be variation depending on your area of research, previous coursework, etc., and completing a doctorate is more than simply fulfilling a checklist in sequence. However, the steps are meant to provide as much detailed guidance as possible for the major milestones en route to degree completion.

An important companion to this set of guidelines is the Steinhardt Doctoral Student Handbook, available online here. It includes regulations as well as forms that need to be submitted as you complete these various steps to the degree (NOTE: We recommend you keep copies of all forms you submit, for your records). Also, more detail on some of the topics covered in this document can be found in the Steinhardt Doctoral Studies Proposal and Dissertation - Policies and Guidelines.

Step 1: Coursework

When:  Students in our program do 2-3 years of coursework, depending on what credits and/or degrees they have completed previously and what areas of study still need to be completed (e.g., students entering with a rabbinical degree normally waive 21 of the 24 required credits in Judaic studies). Prior to your matriculation, you should speak to your adviser and complete a form from the Office of Admissions stipulating how many credits you are required to take (this form must be signed by your adviser and a copy must be provided to the Assistant Director of the Education and Jewish Studies program for our records). Additionally, you should register for desired courses and methods courses as soon as registration opens, since some courses fill quickly.

Who:  One suggestion: speak to faculty and advanced students and find out about courses/professors that they recommend. You can also take courses from professors who might eventually be on your dissertation committee; think of your coursework as an opportunity to get to know NYU faculty well.

What:  Make sure you keep track of your courses in the Education and Jewish Studies Ph.D. Degree Checklist, linked here, so that you are certain to adhere to the degree requirements outlined by Steinhardt, the Skirball department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, and the Education and Jewish Studies program re: foundations, research methodology, departmental seminar, specialization, cognate courses, etc. Each of these required residency components is described in some detail in the Steinhardt Doctoral Student Handbook, which ought to be consulted in order to clarify any confusion about what courses count for what aspects of your degree (your adviser will also assist you in this regard). In addition to the common core of Ph.D. requirements in Steinhardt, students in the program are required to take several semesters of coursework in the Education and Jewish Studies program specifically. This will be explained more thoroughly in advisement. Finally, students take a number of electives in Jewish studies in the Skirball department, which will also be explained further in advisement.

Tip:  Independent studies can be very helpful in terms of doing reading in an area that interests you where there may not be a course available. They are also a good way to build relationships with potential dissertation advisers. Just be aware that an independent study takes a significant amount of volunteer faculty time, so you should be careful to choose your faculty sponsor wisely. Please make sure to fill out a form with the HMSS administrative aide to give your independent study a relevant title.

Step 2: Admission to Candidacy

When:  Students who have completed three semesters of coursework with a minimum doctoral grade point average of 3.0 and who have passed the candidacy paper (described below) are admitted to doctoral candidacy and are eligible to continue toward the dissertation stage. (There are, of course, forms to be filled out and signed by your adviser indicating that you are admitted to candidacy; see the Steinhardt Doctoral Student Handbook.)  NOTE: You must be admitted to candidacy before being eligible to defend your dissertation proposal.  Therefore, it is most advisable to complete admission to candidacy before embarking on the dissertation proposal.  You might consider launching the candidacy paper project in the summer/fall following your first year of studies so that you submit the paper at the end of your third semester.

What:  The candidacy paper is an analytic paper, 30-40 pages in length, on a topic related to the field of Jewish education.  The paper must reflect the student’s competence in his or her areas of specialization in both education and Jewish studies in terms of content knowledge, knowledge of research tools, devising research questions, marshalling evidence, and developing an argument.  In any case, the paper must make a substantive argument about a particular issue(s) (e.g., a literature review that makes a clear case for the need for additional research to be done in a certain area).  The paper may be on a topic related to the student’s eventual dissertation topic or it may be on a separate topic altogether.  For the sake of expediency, however, it is often recommended that students focus on a topic related to their dissertation.

The paper will be one of the following types, as negotiated with the faculty adviser.

  • Empirical study (e.g. pilot study)
  • Conceptual Paper (i.e., paper based on theory)
  • Review of literature on a specific topic

The candidacy paper may be based on a project that a student begins in a course, but if so, it should be substantially revised and expanded upon.  In addition, while the student may seek guidance from his or her adviser while the project is being formulated, it is expected that the candidacy paper will be completed mostly by the student on his or her own.  Part of the intention of the exercise is to demonstrate the student’s capacity for independent large-scale research.

The candidacy paper will be reviewed by the student’s adviser and at least one other faculty member from the program in Education and Jewish Studies, a Steinhardt faculty member in the student’s specialized area, and/or a Skirball faculty member in the student’s specialized area.  The panel must consist of two faculty members that are external to the student's dissertation committee.  They can come from inside or outside of the student's program or department.  The candidacy paper may result in a pass, deferred pass with conditions, or a fail.  If the paper results in a pass, the student is admitted to candidacy.  If the paper results in a deferred pass, the student will be notified of what is required in order to have the conditions removed.  If the paper results in a fail, matriculation is suspended and the student must request permission to rewrite the paper.  Second opportunities must be completed within the ensuing academic term.  If the student passes the second paper, doctoral status is restored; if the student fails the second paper, matriculation in the doctoral program is terminated.

Step 3: Dissertation Proposal

When:  After you have been admitted to candidacy, you are eligible to defend your dissertation proposal.  Therefore, it is recommended that students take the required dissertation proposal seminar in their 4th semester of coursework, meaning, after their candidacy paper is underway or completed. 

Who:  Most students take the required dissertation proposal seminar in the Department of Applied Statistics, Social Science, and Humanities, which normally is offered in the spring semester, though you are also able to take the seminar in the department of your area of specialization. 

At this point students seek out and select a dissertation adviser and dissertation committee members. How to pick an adviser? Meet with different professors and get a sense of whether they are interested in your topic and supportive of it; it often helps to send a short description of the proposed topic ahead of the meeting. You should consider whether the professor seems to have the time to work with you, as well.  In any event, you should consult with your Education and Jewish Studies adviser prior to inviting a faculty member to sponsor your dissertation. 

NOTE: The dissertation adviser becomes the student’s overall academic adviser after the adviser is appointed (i.e., you will no longer have an Education and Jewish Studies program adviser).

Your dissertation adviser will guide you as you write your proposal and then throughout the dissertation writing process. The two dissertation committee members will need to meet to approve your proposal prior to it being defended, and they will later attend your dissertation defense.  You might (or might not) meet with them for guidance as your work on your dissertation.  This will be determined in consultation with your dissertation adviser.

The dissertation adviser must come from the Education and Jewish Studies program or the department/program of specialization most closely related to the student’s dissertation work, e.g., Humanities and Social Sciences, Teaching and Learning, Administration, Leadership and Technology, Applied Psychology, the Skirball department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, etc.  Further regulations about the appointment of the dissertation committee can be found on the Doctoral Studies website.

What:  The proposal itself is usually at least 25 pages but not more than 40 pages in length. There will be a committee meeting attended by you, your dissertation adviser, and the two additional members of the committee, in order to determine whether the proposal is ready for a hearing.  Once your committee feels that the proposal is far enough along to pass the review, then there will be a dissertation proposal review hearing attended by you, your dissertation adviser, and two outside readers (usually to be determined by your dissertation adviser).  Sometimes one or both of the additional dissertation committee members attend the proposal review, as well. There may be some revision to the proposal necessary after the review, but it is highly unusual to fail a proposal review.  Once again, once you pass the review, there will be paperwork to fill out. 

NOTE: You cannot submit UCAIHS (IRB) forms for review until after you have passed the dissertation proposal review.

Tip: It's a good idea to look closely at several proposals that have already passed in order to get a sense of expected format and structure. Nancy Hall has a collection of current proposals in her office. You can make an appointment to come to her office and read them there.

Any time you drop below full time, you need to submit a Full Time Equivalency Form to defer loans, as part of a TA or GAship, if you have a student visa, or to secure loans. You can read more about this process on the Registration Policies website. And you can access the form here.

Additionally, you must register for a one-credit dissertation research or writing "class" every semester that you're researching/writing your dissertation. In order to register for this repeatable course, HMSS-GE 3004, you must obtain a permission code from the HMSS department.  It is recommended to reserve 6 credits from your total number of required credits to be used for researching/writing.  You will use at least one per semester until you graduate.

Step 3.5 UCAIHS (IRB) Proposal

When:  You should attend a UCAIHS (University Committee on Activities Involving Human Subjects) orientation at some point during your coursework.  You are also required to take an online tutorial and pass an online test to certify that you are ready to submit an IRB application. Note that it may take a few months to get your IRB proposal approved, since UCAIHS may have some questions/revisions the first time you submit it. Figure this into your timeline.

Who: Your dissertation adviser must review and sign this form before it is submitted.

What:  All students who create a study involving human subjects must submit an application to UCAIHS and have it approved prior to data collection. The form is available on the Research with Human Subjects UCAIHS website.

Tip:  Rather than reinventing the wheel, it is helpful to request a sample application from a colleague whose application has passed and adapt it for your project. This also makes it more likely that the UCAIHS will approve the language of your consent form, etc.

Note that all IRB proposals have to first be approved by the Steinhardt Dean's offices on the 5th floor of Pless Hall before being submitted to the UCAIHS.

Step 4: Dissertation Fieldwork or Research

When:  After your dissertation proposal is approved and you have permission from UCAIHS to begin your research, your fieldwork begins. Members of our program have been spending approximately one academic year on their fieldwork or research. Students doing, for example, history or philosophy might not do fieldwork, though they will obviously do other sorts of research. However, the exact scope of the project will be determined by your dissertation committee.

Who:  During this time, you will probably be meeting with your dissertation adviser every few months, just to make sure that you're on track.  The timeline will be established by you and your dissertation adviser.

Tip:  Don't forget to register for the one credit (HMSS-GE 3004) each semester while you're doing your research.  

Step 5: Data Analysis

When:  After your research is done, or while you are collecting data.

Who:  Your dissertation proposal might roughly suggest how you are going to analyze your data. Your dissertation adviser should be able to guide you onthis.

What:  Depending on what kind of research you're doing, you will probably use data analysis software such as atlas.ti to analyze your data. Your adviser will probably help you with this.

Step 6: Write Up

When:  After your research is done or, sometimes, while you’re doing your fieldwork. Whatever makes sense for you and your adviser.

Who:  Again, your adviser will likely read drafts of your chapters from time to time. You may share drafts with others, including a presentation to the students in the EJS seminar, who can help you formulate your ideas.

Step 7: Dissertation Defense

When/What:  All of this culminates in a dissertation defense. Similar to the proposal, your adviser won't schedule the defense unless he/she thinks that you will pass. The defense lasts two hours. The three members of your committee and two outside readers attend. Please note that attendance at the final oral exam is restricted to the candidate and members of the final oral commission. Other members of the University community may attend as observers with the permission of the Dissertation Committee Chairperson, however, The Office of Research must be notified in advance. .

Pay attention to the filing deadlines; each semester there are specific deadlines to finish that semester that can be found online, e.g., end of January to graduate in May. You must file several months before the end of the semester in order to have the dissertation accepted for that semester.

Tip:  Again, note that if you want to graduate in May you must file your dissertation some time in January; the exact deadline can be found online. If you would like certain faculty members to be the outside readers at your dissertation defense (possibly the faculty who came to your proposal review) you should instruct your chair to recommend these outside readers.


Name ____________________________________ Year of Matriculation ______________

Course # | Term/Year Credits

I. Steinhardt Required Courses

  • Foundations of Education (6 credits)
  • Research Electives in Education(15 credits min.)
    • Dissertation Work (3-6 credits max. of the 15 Research Electives credits)
  • Specialized Research in Education (3 credits)
  • Specialization Departmental Seminar (3 credits)
  • Cognate Study (6 credits)
  • Dissertation Proposal Seminar(3 credits)

II. Jewish Education Specialization Courses

  • The History of Jewish Education -- The Modern Period EJST-GE 2003 (3 credits)
  • The History of Jewish Education Over the Ages HBRJD-GA 1518 (3 credits)
  • Seminar in Education and Jewish Studies I and II EJST-GE 2010-1 (6 credits)
  • Repetition of the Seminar in Education and Jewish Studies until defense of the dissertation proposal (NOTE: up to 3 credits can be counted toward Research Electives in Education, above) 
  • Specialization Electives in Education (6 credits min.)

III. Skirball Judaic Studies Courses

  • Electives (21 credits)