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Program Requirements

Course Work
Historical Inquiry (History 501) is required of all PhD students and must be taken during the fall semester of the first year of doctoral study. The course offers an introduction to the theory and philosophy of history and is intended to acquaint students with various problems in historical analysis and understanding.

Core Courses. All doctoral students must take at least two of the following core seminars: History 502 and 503, “Core seminar in American history”; History 504 and 505, “Core seminar in European history”; History 507, “Core seminar in East Asian history”; History 506, “Core seminar in North and South Atlantic History”; and History 559 and 560, “Core seminar in Latin American and Caribbean History”.

Research Seminars. Students must take at least two 600-level research seminars.

Distribution requirement. All PhD students must fulfill a distribution requirement by taking at least one course (outside of the student’s major field) that covers an area outside the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

Incomplete grading policy.  The Department requires that doctoral students complete all courses that have received grades of Incomplete (I) before advancing to candidacy or receiving departmental research travel funding.

Language Requirement
All doctoral students must demonstrate a reading knowledge of at least one foreign language; in some fields two languages are required. Students are expected to take their major language exams before their third semester. All language examinations must be passed before a student can take his or her PhD Qualifying Examinations.

Qualifying Examinations
Before being admitted to candidacy, all doctoral students must successfully complete a series of oral and written examinations in three fields: a major field, a field of specialization within the major field, and a minor field. These examinations are usually taken during the third year of study.

The major field is the broadest level at which a student will carry out research and teach. The field of specialization normally reflects a choice as to the prospective area of dissertation research; it is, as the title suggests, more focused and specialized than the major field. The minor field is meant to complement the major field, typically by adding useful theoretical or methodological competencies or by supplementing the major field with knowledge of another geographical area or discipline. It may be selected from among the major fields the department offers (for instance, a student whose major field is Early Modern Europe might prepare a minor field in Modern Europe or the Atlantic World); from another department (for instance, English Literature or Art History); or from among the methodological specializations available in the department (for instance, world history, the history of medicine, women’s history, or urban history). However defined, the minor field should not substantially overlap with the major field or be an additional area of specialization within it. Students’ examination fields are to be approved in advance by their major advisers and by the Director of Graduate Studies, normally by the end of the student’s third semester in the program.

Dissertation Prospectus
All doctoral students who satisfactorily complete their oral examinations must prepare and defend a dissertation prospectus of ten to fifteen pages describing their proposed research, the archives they plan to visit, and placing the project within an historiographical framework. The prospectus is to be defended before the department within six months of the doctoral examinations.

The culmination of the PhD is the preparation and defense of the dissertation, a substantial work of original research. There are three stages to this process. First, a student must submit, normally by the end of the third year, a written prospectus to his or her Dissertation Committee.  The Committee must approve the prospectus before further work on the dissertation may take place. The second stage involves researching and writing the dissertation. Finally, the completed dissertation must be read and approved by the student’s committee, by an outside reader (who is not a member of the history department) and successfully defended. The dissertation defense consists of an oral examination conducted by the student’s dissertation committee.

2017 PhD Handbook

Handbook of Policies of the PhD Program