All policies and benchmarks to be reviewed yearly with current students (orientation or seminar meeting), and discussed one-on-one with new incoming students (Zizzi or Watson).

The program policies are organized into the following four sections:

  1. Overall graduate education policies
  2. PhD program benchmarks
  3. Comprehensive exams
  4. Probationary status

 1) Overall Graduate Education Policies

(based on guidelines in the WVU graduate catalog, available online)

 a) Credits should not exceed 12 in any semester. Any student wishing to take more than 12 credits in a given semester must have their advisor sign off on their STARform. (maximum of 16 credits at any time)

 b) Master’s degrees must be completed within 4 years, with no more than a two year lapse. Students who complete zero credits during a two year period must re-apply to the PhD program. Students failing to meet benchmarks will be placed on probation until benchmark is completed.

 c) PhD program is to be completed in 4-6 years by all full-time students, based on timeline and benchmarks outlined below for incoming Bachelor’s level students. Timelines for each benchmark for incoming students with a Master’s degree will be negotiated in their plans of study. Students failing to meet a benchmark will be placed on probation until the benchmark is completed. Consequences of probationary status are outlined below. Students can apply in writing once for an extension on each benchmark.

 d) Students must register for at least one credit in the semester in which they earn each degree (Master’s in SEP or Counseling, PhD in Kinesiology)

 e) Master’s thesis and plan of study committees require three faculty members (at least a total of two members with graduate faculty status), while dissertation committees require five (At least four of these members must have graduate faculty status); one person should be outside of the department of sport sciences. Master’s thesis committees need two graduate faculty members, dissertations need four. All plan of study committees should include a member of the Counseling faculty.

 f) Two weeks notice is required for announcing all thesis and dissertation proposals or defenses, including sending the document draft to committee members. All meetings should be announced publicly within the College via email.

 g) No proposal or defense meetings will be held the final two weeks of classes before exam week each semester. Meetings can be scheduled during or after final exam week (or over the summer), if approved by all committee members.

 2) PhD Program Benchmarks

Plan of Study

SEP students are required to have their POS meeting (and complete a signed document) by February 15th of their first year in the program. The POSdocument should include a brief statement of the student’s professional goals, and a detailed plan for when each student will complete all degrees and key benchmarks within the PhD program.

Research Benchmarks

(timeline indicated for incoming Bachelor’s students, unless otherwise noted)

  1. Submit first data-based article for publication to peer-reviewed journal (4th semester)
  2. Orally defend thesis research / study #1 (4th semester)
    This benchmark is not applicable for students entering with Master’s degree
  3. Submit second article for publication to peer-reviewed journal (literature review or data-based) OR present a data-based study at a national conference (published abstract or at least accepted for presentation) (6th semester)
  4. Complete comprehensive exams
    • Timeline dictated by student’s plan of study committee, typically no later than 7th semester for students entering with a BA/BS
  5. Propose dissertation research plan 
    • Timeline dictated by student’s plan of study committee, typically no later than 9th semester for students entering with a BA/BS
  6. Submit third data-based article for publication to a peer-reviewed journal  (final semester)
    • All article or abstract submissions must be first author, with quality evaluated by the student’s advisor
  7. Orally defend dissertation research (2nd and 3rd studies)  (final semester)

 3) The Comprehensive Exam/Qualifying Project Process (Eligibility and Administration)

To be eligible for Comprehensive Exams (Comps), students must:
  • Complete their Master’s degree
  • Complete all SEP coursework by previous Spring semester, including research and statistics core
  • Complete research benchmarks 1, 2, & 3
  • Students must orally defend the “essential readings” with their advisor prior to applying for comps (see below for details).

Comps Administration

  • Any student admitted to the program to start in August 2016 or beyond will complete a qualifying project in place of a comprehensive exam. Any student admitted prior to this date will have the option of choosing to complete either the comprehensive exam or qualifying project.
  • Comprehensive Exam
    • Apply in writing by April 15th in the year they want to complete comps
    • Comprehensive Exams will be administered once per year by the SEPfaculty, in the fall semester. The written portions of the exam will be completed by students on two separate days during the second week of classes. Oral defense of the written responses will be organized for a one hour meeting time approximately 3-6 weeks after the written exams.
    • Approximately one week prior to the oral defense, students will be provided with a copy of their written responses and the questions so they can review and prepare for oral defense
    • Grades on written exams may be adjusted after the oral defense. Each content area is graded on a scale from 1(fail) to 4 (excellent), and students must pass in each area to have successfully completed their examination process. Students must achieve a grade of 2.0 (acceptable) averaged across two faculty reviewers in each content area.
    • Under normal circumstances, students can expect to be notified, in writing, of the outcome of their examination process by October 15th of each year. Thus, when planning for a dissertation proposal, the earliest date students would be eligible to defend a dissertation prospectus in front of their committee would be November 1st (allowing two weeks for committee to review the document).
    • See below a more detailed overview of the comprehensive exam process.
  • Qualifying Project
    • Qualifying projects will be identified, approved by, overseen and adjudicated as publishable by the student’s advisor. The student’s committee may be involved in this process.
    • A Qualifying project will produce a high-quality manuscript that informs or leads to the student’s dissertation.
    • Projects must be designed to advance the literature, and not simply be a review of the literature.
    • Students will complete their Qualifying project at their own pace, and may defend this project at any time subsequent to approval by their advisor.
    • Qualifying projects will be adjudicated as publishable by the student’s advisor. Examples of publishable manuscripts may include, but are not limited to integrative literature reviews, systematic reviews, pilot studies).

Comprehensive Exam Content Areas

 A. Essential readings in sport psychology

 B. Applied sport psychology (performance enhancement and counseling athletes)

 C. Applied exercise psychology

 D. Research and Statistics

  • Students will be asked to review and evaluate two published research articles.
  • The articles can be quantitative (descriptive or experimental), or use qualitative or single-subject methodology.
  • Students will not be given an article in an area in which they have not taken coursework.


(August of each year, the week before school starts, 8:30-4:30 each day)

  • Day 1 – Applied sport psychology and Research Study #1
  • Day 2 – Applied exercise psychology and Research Study #2

Comps Preparation

Once students have been approved to complete comprehensive exams, study guides and sample cases/exercises will be provided to help with preparation.

  • Each faculty advisor is responsible for helping their student prepare for the exams.
  • Direct all questions regarding preparation first to faculty advisor and then to other faculty involved with the content area.

Essential Readings

Prior to applying for Comprehensive Exam or completing Qualifying Project, students will be asked to complete written summaries of a variety of essential readings chosen by their advisor (with help from SEP faculty), and to then be ready to discuss orally the key content from these readings.

  • Individual advisors will administer this process for each of their advisees, and requirements for each student will be negotiated in their plan of study.
  • To help standardize the process, many (but not all) readings will be selected from the textbook “Essential Readings in Sport Psychology” by Human Kinetics.
  • Students may earn independent research credits (SEP 697/797) while completing some of the research summaries/critiques associated with this requirement.

 4) Probationary status

(policies adopted from WVU graduate catalog, available online)

Conditions Leading to Probation

  • If a student earns a “C” in a course on their Plan of Study, they are on probation immediately. If they earn a second “C” in a course on their Plan of Study at any point in the program, they will be removed from the program and will need to apply for readmission.
  • Not meeting a benchmark.
    • If a student does not meet a benchmark in the specified semester on theirPOS, they are on probation until they meet it (regardless of circumstances)
    • Students can appeal in writing once for an extension of a milestone or exception to a previously stated rule, approval requires a majority vote ofSEP faculty
  • Unprofessional, unethical or illegal behavior (as determined by SEP faculty majority vote)

Consequences of Probationary Status

  • No applied work in SEP
  • No additional teaching (beyond GTA or Fellowship expectations)
  • 12 credit hour maximum course load
  • Regularly scheduled meetings with faculty advisor during the probationary period

Being Removed from Probationary Status

  • Students can be removed from probationary status by completing remediation as determined by the SEP faculty or by completing the necessary benchmark
  • All students on probation will receive a contract indicating the conditions (and timeline) necessary to be removed from probationary status