PhD Requirements

The Department of Cognitive Science’s PhD requirements consist of coursework, teaching experience, and research papers. View the Degree Checklist.

Please note that the Computational Cognitive Science Track requirements differ somewhat from the program requirements outlined below.

The general Cognitive Science PhD requirements are designed to meet the following goals:


Students become expert in their primary area of research interest and are prepared so that they will be competitive for academic positions in one of the traditional disciplines. Students take several advanced courses that the student, in conjunction with his/her advisory committee, determines to be important for achieving expertise in a chosen research area and marketplace competitiveness.


Students develop the ability to understand, appreciate and critically evaluate work in the various sub-disciplines of cognitive science by taking a selection of courses, two each in the areas of cognitive psychology/neuropsychology, computation and linguistics and one each in philosophy and cognitive neuroscience. Students may place out of breadth courses based on undergraduate coursework and (for certain courses) based on examination. It is not uncommon for a student to place out of two breadth requirements.

  • Cognitive Neuroscience, one course
  • Philosophy, one course in philosophy of mind/language/science
  • Cognitive Psychology/Neuropsychology, two courses
    • AS.200.657 Advanced Statistical Methods (previously AS.200.314; to be completed early in the program, preferably the first semester)
    • AS.050.639 Cognitive Development, or
      AS.050.315 Cognitive Neuropsychology of Visual Perception, or
      an approved courses/seminar on a topic outside the area of language
  • Computation, two courses
    • AS.050.672 Foundations of Neural Network Theory
    • AS.050.671 Bayesian Inference, or
      AS.050.660 Computational Psycholinguistics, or
      the equivalent, e.g., computational linguistics, or
      a programming course such as C++, Java, etc.
  • Linguistics, two courses
    • AS.050.670 Mathematical Models of Language
    • AS.050.617 Semantics I, or
      AS.050.620 Syntax I, or
      AS.050.625 Phonology I


Students learn to integrate theory and method across sub-disciplines through specially designed integrative courses and regular seminars involving the entire department.

  • AS.050.626 Foundations of Cognitive Science
  • AS.050.860 Professional Seminar in Cognitive Science, or
    AS.050.850 Departmental Seminar, or
    other department-wide seminar explicitly offered in lieu of either of the above.

Research Ethics

  • AS.360.625 Responsible Conduct of Research (encouraged to complete in first year)

TA Assignments

  • AS.050.849 Teaching Practicum, 5 semesters. Students register for each term they are assigned to an instructor as a TA. Each instructor has a distinct Teaching Practicum section. Students are not typically expected to TA in their first semester or in the last two semesters of residency (5th year).

Research Papers and Dissertation

Emphasis is placed on producing two research papers prior to writing a dissertation. These two research papers are typically presented at conferences and often lead to separate journal publications. Students are encouraged to incorporate the two research papers into their dissertation.


  • Nov. 1 (2nd year): First Research Paper*^, completion of which marks achievement of an MA within the PhD program
  • May 1 (3rd year): Second Research Paper*^, completion of which signals readiness to discuss a career path with an adviser
  • May 1 (4th year): Dissertation Proposal detailing a significant research project and the methods to be used
  • Aug. 1 (5th year): Graduate Board Oral Exam defending a PhD dissertation that presents an original contribution to some areas of cognitive science in a format approaching publication standards.

*Together, the first two research papers must involve research employing two of the methods enumerated above, supervised by two appropriate faculty members.

^To request a project deadline extension, submit a written request to your advisor(s) and the Director of Graduate Studies. The request should include a proposed new deadline and a narrative explanation of the reasons for the extension and the goals for the new deadline (e.g. what the student will accomplish by the proposed new deadline). This request will become a part of your departmental file.