All but dissertation

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"All but dissertation" (ABD) is a term identifying a stage in the process of obtaining a research doctorate most commonly used in the United States. In typical usage of the term, the ABD graduate student has completed the required preparatory coursework, passed the required preliminary, comprehensive, and doctoral qualifying examinations (or PhD candidacy examination). After the graduate student has successfully passed this examination stage, they are referred to as a PhD candidate. The informal ABD designation indicates that graduate student has met all program requirements except for writing of the dissertation (or thesis) and the final defense at the end of a PhD program.[1] Therefore, any formal usage of term “PhD ABD degree" is erroneous.[2] Some universities, including Columbia, Yale, and George Washington, may award a formal Master of Philosophy (MPhil) degree for these achievements.[3][4][5]


The use of ABD or the similar PhD(c) for PhD candidate (also PhD-c or PhDc) as a credential has been criticized as misleading as these terms are not widely understood outside of academia[6][7][8] or outside of the US. The term ABD has no equivalent meaning in PhD programs outside of the US that don't require a formal candidacy examination (e.g., Australia and New Zealand). According to the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Higher Degree by Research Course Regulations, graduate students simply enrolled in a PhD program, are referred to as "PhD candidates" prior to completing any mandatory PhD coursework or examinations.[9]


  1. ^ Schuman, Rebecca (1 August 2014). "ABD Company". Slate. Retrieved 14 May 2019.
  2. ^ Tippins, Steve (8 May 2019). "All But Dissertation (ABD): A Complete Guide". Beyond PhD Coaching. Retrieved 13 November 2022.
  3. ^ "Master of Philosophy". Columbia Business School. New York: Columbia University. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  4. ^ "Doctor of Philosophy Program". Yale School of Architecture. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  5. ^ "PhD Requirements". Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. Washington: George Washington University. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  6. ^ "The misuse of PhD(c)". Retrieved 13 November 2022.
  7. ^ Novotney, Amy (September 2016). "The Misuse of PhD(c): Why a Designation Used by Some Students Is Seen as Unethical". Monitor on Psychology. Vol. 47, no. 8. p. 36. Retrieved 14 May 2019.
  8. ^ Chinn, Peggy L. (29 June 2011). "How to List Your Credentials and Title When You Publish". ANS: Advances in Nursing Science Blog. Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins. Retrieved 27 August 2017.
  9. ^ Technology (QUT), Queensland University of. "Study a PhD". QUT. Retrieved 13 November 2022.