All but dissertation

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"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 and 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 US academia.[6][7]

The term ABD has no equivalent meaning in PhD programs outside of the US, in particular those without a requirement for a formal candidacy examination (e.g., Australia). According to the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Higher Degree by Research Course Regulations, graduate students enrolled in a PhD program who have not completed a dissertation or other requirements are simply referred to as "PhD candidates" prior to completing any mandatory PhD coursework or examinations.[8]

Even in the US, candidacy and ABD are not always synonymous. For example, in the Stanford PhD program in computer science, a student may declare candidacy after settling on a permanent advisor and completing a number of breadth area requirements, but must pass a further qualifying exam, testing knowledge in greater depth, before being considered ABD.[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. ^ Novotney, Amy (1 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.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Technology (QUT), Queensland University of. "Study a PhD". QUT. Retrieved 13 November 2022.
  9. ^ "PhD Requirements | Stanford Computer Science". Computer Science Department, Stanford University. Retrieved 18 January 2022.