Application Requirements: SJD Procedural Guidelines
Scientiae Juridicae Doctor (SJD) is the most advanced degree awarded by Golden Gate University School of Law. The SJD is primarily for aspiring legal academics, from the United States and abroad, who wish to pursue sustained independent study, research, and writing. Candidates are expected ultimately to produce a dissertation that will constitute a substantial and valuable contribution to legal scholarship. Moreover, graduates of the program are expected to contribute to the furtherance of knowledge and understanding of law and legal institutions through their scholarship and other academic work.
This document provides general information regarding (1) the qualifications and application process for admission to the SJD degree program offered by Golden Gate University School of Law (the "Program") and (2) the procedural steps, standards, and performance expectations applicable to students in the Program. These Guidelines may be revised from time to time and any such revisions will apply, as of their effective dates, to all students in the Program.
Applicants for admission to the Program must have an LLM in law degree judged by the Program's Admissions Committee to be equivalent to an LLM in law degree earned at Golden Gate University School of Law. Each applicant should submit the completed application form and the application fee, along with complete academic transcripts from all graduate and undergraduate institutions attended by the applicant, a writing sample (preferably an original legal research paper written entirely by the applicant), and a detailed statement of the applicant's proposed area of legal research and writing.
Because the language of instruction in the Program is English, English language proficiency is required of all applicants. Therefore, any applicant whose native language is not English must meet the current TOEFL requirement established by the Program's Admissions Committee and published on the Program's website. For applicants whose English language proficiency is otherwise clearly demonstrated, the TOEFL requirement may be waived at the discretion of the Program Director in consultation with the Admissions Committee. Program costs and financial requirements are also published on the Program's website.
Application & Admission
Applications for admission to the Program should be submitted to the SJD Program Admissions Committee. The Admissions Committee meets regularly and considers applications as they are received. With very rare exception, however, students admitted to the Program will begin their studies in the fall semester of the academic year, which begins in August. It is recommended, therefore, that completed applications be submitted not later than March 31, so that the applicant can be notified of the Admissions Committee's decision in time to make any arrangements that might be necessary.
Admission to the Program is not a guarantee that the admitted student will earn the SJD degree. Some admitted students never obtain the degree. Success requires hard work and total commitment on the part of the student. An admitted student who fails to demonstrate satisfactory progress at any stage of the Program can be administratively withdrawn from the Program.
Basic Programmatic Steps
After admission, completion of the Program requires six essential steps:
- Submission of an approved study plan for the first year, including course work and reading lists;
- Constitution of the Dissertation Committee;
- Completion of the first year of study, including at least eight units of credit;
- Successful completion of an oral examination in the field outlined in the study plan;
- Submission and acceptance of the doctoral dissertation;
- Successful oral defense of the doctoral dissertation, and deposit of four copies of the final dissertation with the Graduate Law Programs Office
STEP 1: submission of an approved study plan for the first year
The study plan represents the student's academic itinerary for the period of time (typically the first year of study) leading to the oral examination, and should lay a foundation for later work on the dissertation. An acceptable study plan should be built around the candidate's specific field(s) of study and should include a combination of courses, readings, and other academic work. The study plan should specify course work carrying a minimum of eight units of credit.
Each admitted student must submit a draft of her or his initial study plan to the Program Director in August of the first year of study, and should discuss with the Director the desirability of pursuing specific courses, selected readings, interdisciplinary study, skills enhancement, and other academic projects in her or his specific field(s) of study. Based on this consultation, the student shall finalize the initial study plan, and have it approved by the Director. The study plan may be subject to revision after constitution of the Dissertation Committee as described below.
STEP 2: Constitution of dissertation committee
In the course of developing her or his study plan, each student should also discuss with the Director the composition of her or his Dissertation Committee. Thereafter, the Director shall appoint a suitable Dissertation Committee in consultation with the Associate Dean for Graduate Programs. The Dissertation Committee (the "Committee") will normally include three members, who should be selected with a view to the field(s) that the candidate intends to pursue.
Committee members may be selected from the Golden Gate University School of Law (the Law School) faculty, from other departments of the University, or from other universities. Normally, at least two Committee members will be full-time members of the Law School faculty. In appropriate cases however, the Committee may include other academics, judges and/or other professionals appropriate to student's chosen area of study. Students studying interdisciplinary fields may be assigned Committee members who are specialists in those fields.
STEP 3: completion of residency: coursework and research plan
The first year of SJD study (typically the fall and spring semesters of an academic year) is designed to prepare students in the field(s) of study that will form the bases for their dissertations. During this year, each student must complete eight required units of coursework, chosen in consultation with the Director and including the SJD Research Seminar. During the same period, the student shall also (1) prepare a detailed research plan including a comprehensive bibliography, an introduction, and the first chapter of his or her dissertation, and (2) secure Committee approval of such plan and materials. The Committee should be assessing the student during this time.
It is essential that all SJD students consult regularly with the members of their Committees during the course of their first year of study. The frequency of meetings with Committee members during the first year will vary. Typically, however, students should meet with the members of their Committees every two to three weeks. Some members may prefer to meet less often; others may prefer to meet in small groups rather than individually. In any event, students should keep their Committee members informed of their progress and engage with them substantively regarding the readings and coursework specified in the study plan.
STEP 4: oral exam
In order to advance from resident status to candidate status, each student must successfully complete an oral examination. The oral examination affords the Committee an opportunity to further assess the student, and to provide additional input and direction. Each student and her or his Committee will agree on a target month for completion of the oral examination at the time the student develops his or her study plan. The Committee will normally conduct the oral examination by the end of the student's second semester in the Program.
In order to pass the oral examination and advance to candidacy, a student should be able to:
- Succinctly and clearly describe the topic chosen for the dissertation;
- Provide a convincing explanation of why the topic is worthy of study;
- State the central thesis being proposed in the dissertation;
- Describe in detail the contemplated organization of the dissertation; and
- Explain the strategy for conducting the necessary research, including means of obtaining the remaining source materials.
If a student's research plan and materials are not satisfactory to the Committee, the oral examination may be postponed at the discretion of the Director in consultation with the Committee. The student will be required to register for Additional Residency during any such extension. An oral examination that has been postponed must take place no later than the 19th month from the beginning of SJD study (for most candidates, this would mean March of the second year).
If the student is not ready for the oral examination by the 19th month from the beginning of SJD study, she or he will be administratively withdrawn from the Program, except in extraordinary circumstances as determined by the Director. In order to avoid this situation, the student should work closely with the Committee during the first year to develop her or his topic and research plan and materials properly.
Upon successful completion of the oral examination, the student shall be advanced to candidacy.
STEP 5: completion of the Dissertation
Within 36 months of successful completion of the oral examination and advancement to candidacy, each student is expected to complete and submit her or his dissertation. The period for completion of the dissertation will be influenced by a number of factors, including whether field research is involved. Each dissertation must be an entirely original work representing a sustained and substantial scholarly effort and must be suitable for publication. Commissioned studies, committee reports, and writings of joint authorship will not be accepted in fulfilment of the dissertation requirement.
Each candidate should be registered for "SJD Candidacy" during every semester of this period. A student registered for SJD Candidacy may enroll in Law School courses, but such courses will not be counted toward satisfaction of the requirements for any degree other than the SJD. Thus, an SJD candidate who wants to earn, for example, a second LLM degree during the course of his or her SJD studies must pay tuition at the prevailing rate for courses to be counted toward satisfaction of the requirements for such second LLM degree. Moreover, an SJD student may pursue an additional degree while in the SJD Program only if she or he has obtained the written approval of the Director.
It is essential that candidates consult regularly with the members of their Committees during the writing of the dissertation. The purpose of these consultations is to maximize the prospect that that the candidate's research and writing will lead to an acceptable dissertation. The first of these meetings should take place within a month after completion of the oral examination. It is the candidate's responsibility to arrange this meeting. In this preliminary discussion, the candidate is expected to describe the general themes and direction of the dissertation.
Following the preliminary discussion, candidates should remain in regular contact (at least once every two months) with the members of their Committees. Each candidate should prepare a detailed dissertation outline at an early stage, and submit to her or his Committee members draft chapters as they are written. Committee members usually find it easier to review and comment on individual draft chapters of a dissertation, rather than receiving very large portions of the dissertation all at once. This will also help to ensure that the candidate does not go astray in her or his work. In some instances, candidates who have not submitted drafts chapters as works in progress have instead submitted what they considered to be completed dissertations. This has sometimes resulted in rejection or a very substantial reworking of the product.
Candidates are advised to keep the Program Director appraised of their meetings with their Committee members. If a candidate finds that, despite reasonable efforts, he or she is not receiving adequate supervision from his or her Committee, the problem should be brought to the attention of the Program Director, who will notify the Associate Dean for Graduate Programs.
All non-resident candidates must also stay in regular contact with the members of their Committees concerning the progress of their dissertations. Moreover, non-resident candidates are strongly encouraged to return to GGU at least once a year for in-person consultations with their Committees. If, in the opinion of a candidate's Committee, that candidate is not maintaining adequate contact, the Director may require the candidate to submit periodic written progress reports and/or actual dissertation chapters.
The candidate's public defense of her or his dissertation can be scheduled only after the majority of the candidate's Committee members agree that the dissertation is of good quality and satisfies the Program standard of publishability. Candidates who fail to meet periodically with their Committees, or to submit required progress reports, or to make satisfactory progress, or to pay all fees each year, or who otherwise violate Program requirements may be administratively withdrawn from the Program.
Dissertation length is typically between 200 and 300 double-spaced, typed pages. Length is in part a function of the subject chosen and should be discussed with the Program Director. Experience has shown that longer dissertations can suffer from a lack of focus and are often, in large part, merely a recording of the background literature in the field. The manuscript should have a margin of 1½ or 1¾ inches on the left side of the page to allow for reader comments and to permit binding. At a minimum, the candidate's name, the dissertation title, the supervisor's names, and the date of submission should be included on every draft. Pages should be numbered cumulatively from the beginning of the dissertation, rather than by chapter.
As the dissertation nears final form, Acknowledgement and Dedication pages, as well as an abstract of the work should be included. If a student is in any doubt regarding how to properly structure the final work, she or he should review copies of previously completed dissertations (available in the Law Library) and seek guidance from the Program Director.
Requests for Extension of the Deadline for Completion
Candidates are expected to complete their dissertations within 36 months after passing their oral examinations. Extensions of this 36 month deadline will be granted only in cases of special need. Only in exceptional circumstances will extensions be granted beyond 48 months from the completion of the oral exam. To apply for an extension, candidates must submit a written request to the Director. The request should explain why an extension is necessary and should advise the Director of the expected completion date. Receipt of this request will initiate the Director's review, the results of which will be reported to the candidate soon thereafter.
public defense of the dissertation
The final step toward completion of the Program is the candidate's successful, public defense of her or his dissertation before a panel that will usually consist of the candidate's Committee. The panel's decision will be announced at the end of the defense session or soon thereafter. When a candidate has successfully completed the dissertation defense and any necessary corrections of the dissertation are made, the candidate shall submit four unbound copies of the dissertation, printed on acid-free paper, to the Graduate Law Programs Office for distribution as appropriate, and for deposit with the School of Law Library. The Library will arrange for permanent binding.