The curriculum of a DDes student is highly customized according to their respective research topics. It is geared towards completion in three years, but students are able to extend their studies beyond that if needed. DDes students are required to spend four of their six semesters in residence at Harvard GSD. The following is a sequential overview of coursework and exams in a typical course of studies.

First Year

During the first year students take 32 credits of coursework to gain fundamental knowledge of their fields, and acquire the skills pertinent to their thesis topics. Each student enrolls into one required course (4 credits) and three electives (12 credits) each semester. No more than 8 credits may be from independent study and no more than 8 credits from non-GSD courses. DDes students are required to have their course selection approved by their advisors prior to registration. When choosing electives students work with their advisors to construct an appropriate sequence of courses. DDes students may enroll in any non-studio course at the GSD, at any Harvard graduate school, and also at MIT through cross-registration.

Required Courses for students entering Fall 2018:

ADV 9503: Preparation of Doctoral Literature Review (Fall)
Independent study with primary advisor
All DDes first year students are required to submit a preliminary literature review to the primary advisor and to the program office by the beginning of the spring semester.

ADV 9691- Discourses and Research Methods (Spring)
Instructor: TBD
All DDes first year students are required to submit a draft prospectus to the primary advisor.

During the fall semester, the program will offer three workshops to build research related skills.

Workshop 1: Literature Search and Review – Mechanics

Workshops 2: DDes research presentations

Workshops 3: DDes research presentations

New for students entering Fall 2018:
End of First Year Progress Review: A draft literature review and draft prospectus must be submitted and must meet minimum expectations. An official warning will be issued if insufficient progress has been made.

Second Year

The general examination (GE) marks the end of two semesters of course work during which the student acquires the core knowledge in his/her chosen research field. The GE is ideally taken at the end of the second semester, but no later than at the end of the third semester. The beginning of the second year usually involves the prospectus exam as the second part of the general examination. In preparation for the exam the DDes student authors and coordinates a thesis proposal that outlines specific issues and steps to be addressed through doctoral research. The proposal is evaluated based on originality, contribution to the field, and feasibility. The thesis committee is formed after the prospectus exam, directing and guiding the DDes candidate in the research and the preparation of the thesis (equivalent of 16 credits of thesis research each semester). DDes candidates hold regular meetings with the committee until the completion of their degree.

After passing the general exam, DDes candidates can apply for up to two semesters of leave of absence but must be in residence for at least two additional semesters, including their last semester. During their second year, DDes candidates have the opportunity to work as Teaching Fellows (TF). TFs gain teaching experience by typically supporting larger courses offered by any of the three departments at the GSD. Compensation for work as TF is normally integrated into the GSD’s financial aid package.

Required Thesis Preparation course:

ADV 9504 Thesis in Satisfaction of the Degree Doctor of Design
Independent Study with primary advisor

Students may take up to 4 additional units of elective courses each semester in the second year.

New for students entering Fall 2018:
End of Second Year Progress Review: All students must have passed the general exam or dismissal proceedings will be initiated.

Third Year

In the third year the thesis research is completed and the dissertation is written. The work must be defended in a public defense, and it must be accepted unanimously by the thesis committee. When needed, studies can be extended beyond the third year.

Thesis Preparation course:

ADV 9506 Thesis Extension in Satisfaction of the Degree Doctor of Design
Independent Study with primary advisor

Students may take up to 4 additional units of elective courses each semester in the third year.