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S.J.D. Degree Requirements for Students Entering in and After Fall 2016

Each S.J.D. candidate will be appointed a faculty advisor who will supervise the candidate, organize an S.J.D. Candidacy Committee, and serve as a member of the S.J.D. Candidacy Committee.

S.J.D. candidates are required to be physically resident at Penn State Law, on the University Park campus, for two   academic years (excluding summer session).  While resident the student must maintain full-time student status.

During the required two academic years of residency, the candidate should expect to do the following: conduct research on, or off site from, Penn State Law, as required by the candidate’s research proposal; prepare a candidacy paper; and, complete annually a Self-Evaluation report that explains progress toward completion of the degree requirements. In addition, the following are course requirements for all S.J.D. candidates:

  • During the first Fall semester, enroll in Research Methods Seminar (SJD 902) 2 - credits.  This seminar introduces S.J.D. candidates to social science and legal research methodologies and provides them an opportunity to present their work to faculty and others.

  • First academic year, during Fall or Spring semester, S.J.D. candidates that are not holders of an LL.M. degree from Penn State Law, or another ABA-accredited American law school, must enroll in, and pass, LL.M. Legal Analysis, Writing and Research (LLM 901) 2 – credits. The course will be taken on a pass-fail basis.

  • During the required two academic years of residency at Penn State Law, S.J.D. candidates will register for SJD 904 (SJD Candidacy) and must enroll in and pass two law school courses of at least 3-credits each that are related to their field of S.J.D. research and are recommended and approved by their lead supervisor.

Note: S.J.D. students do not receive a calculated GPA and are not included in the class rank process.

Within two academic years in residence, and no later than the end of the Spring semester of the second year, the Candidacy Committee will conduct a progress evaluation of the candidate including a review of the candidate’s: (1) candidacy paper; and (2) oral presentation of the candidacy paper. The candidacy paper must include a detailed bibliography, an outline, and first chapter of the dissertation. The purpose of the evaluation is to determine whether the candidate has demonstrated reasonable progress toward the completion of the degree requirements. S.J.D. candidates must present and pass their candidacy paper during the second year of residency, and no later than that the end of the spring semester of their second year.

A candidate is eligible to remain in the S.J.D. program after two full-time academic years only if the Candidacy Committee concludes that the candidate’s work as of the Progress Evaluation shows reasonable progress towards completion of the requirements for the degree. The Candidacy Committee will assess the candidate’s progress by evaluating the quality and originality of the thesis and argument presented orally and in the candidacy paper, the depth and breadth of research, the adequacy and sophistication of research methodology, and the strength of writing.

A candidate who is unable to complete these tasks within two academic years of full-time residency may apply to the Penn State Law Associate Dean for an extension of time for good cause. Candidates not approved for an extension by the Associate Dean shall be dismissed from the program.

Upon completion of the Candidacy Examination the student must submit the S.J.D. Candidacy/Dissertation Form to the Law School Registrar.

The Dissertation

Students who have passed their candidacy and who opt to continue to be in residence during their third year and any subsequent years in the program will register for SJD 900 (SJD Dissertation). Students not in residence will register for SJD 903 (SJD Dissertation).

Candidates who are deemed eligible to remain in the program based on the Progress Evaluation must, within two to three calendar years after the required semesters of residency, complete a dissertation of a quality which the Dissertation Committee deems suitable for publication by a leading academic press and defend the dissertation orally before the Dissertation Committee. Penn State Law does not guarantee, facilitate or bear responsibility for the publication of the dissertation either as a book/monograph or law review article(s).  A candidate who is unable to complete a dissertation within two to three calendar years following the Progress Evaluation may apply to the Penn State Law Associate Dean for an extension of time for good cause.

Upon completion of the Dissertation Defense the student must submit the S.J.D. Candidacy/Dissertation Form to the Law School Registrar.  The passed Dissertation Defense document will include the following permission statement completed and signed by the student:

I hereby certify that I have obtained the necessary permission for copyrighted material included in my dissertation and choose that the document be placed in the Penn State Law eLibrary archives with the following status:

Open Access – Allows free worldwide access to the entire work beginning immediately after degree conferral.  Appropriate for the majority of dissertation submissions in fulfilling the requirement for making the work available to the public.


Restricted Access for a Period of 2 Years – At the end of the two-year period status will change to Open Access.  Intended for use by authors in cases of where prior public release of the work may compromise its acceptance for publication.

The Law School will assist candidates in their professional and career development throughout the process.

Research Services

University Libraries offers free courses on different tools for conducting research. For more information, visit the classes offered page of the University Libraries website.

S.J.D. Course Grading

The following courses are graded with an ‘R’ (Research) for successful progress or completion: SJD 902 Research Methods Seminar, SJD 903 SJD Dissertation and SJD 904 SJD Candidacy.  No GPA is calculated for these courses.  The ‘R’ (Research) grade remains on the student transcript as the final evaluation of the course. If the faculty advisor determines that the candidate is not maintaining successful progress toward degree completion, an ‘F’ (Failure) may be assigned.

Semester of Graduation

An S.J.D. student intending to graduate must notify the Law School Registrar. The following deadline dates are important to meet for the semester of graduation.  If these deadlines are not met the student will need to graduate a subsequent semester.

Fall Graduation – December 15

Spring Graduation – April 15 (the only semester that includes a formal graduation ceremony)

Summer Graduation – August 1