There are several steps to the successful completion of the Ph.D. By mid-term of the second semester of study, each student should have acquired a dissertation director. This is the professor who will provide advice regarding course selection, help choose the appropriate professors to serve on the doctoral qualifying examination and the dissertation committees (these committees will not normally be identical), and oversee the selection of a dissertation topic and the completion of the work itself.
Students in Continental European history must pass their foreign language examination before the end of the first semester; all other students are urged to pass their foreign language exam by the end of their third semester in the program. It should be noted, especially for students planning major fields in Continental European history, that merely passing the foreign language examination is not necessarily equivalent to demonstrating the kind of mastery necessary to conduct primary research in European archives. Additional language study may be required by dissertation directors, even after a student passes his or her foreign language examination.
All students must complete a "Doctoral Program Planning Form" by the end of their first full year of studies.
Although every student schedules his or her Doctoral Qualifying Examination (DQE) individually (depending, of course, on the schedules of the participating faculty members), all successful applicants for research fellowships must complete their examinations by the beginning of the semester in which their fellowships begin. All other students are urged to take their examinations "with all deliberate speed"; students commonly schedule them following their fourth full semester of classes.
Upon passing the DQE, students must complete the "Doctoral Dissertation Outline" form available in the history department. Students are expected to stay in close contact with their dissertation directors while researching and writing their dissertations. Once a student begins producing chapters, the student and his or her director must decide whether to ask other members of the dissertation committee to read chapters as they are written or wait until an entire draft is completed. The dissertation committee consists of the director and two other faculty members (in rare cases, and with the permission of the dissertation director and the director of graduate studies, a faculty member from another department or institution can be appointed to the dissertation committee). Prior to the defense, students must allow the full committee at least three months to read the entire dissertation in its final form and format. The date of the dissertation defense (scheduled by the student in consultation with the committee) must be posted in the Graduate School no later than a month prior to the actual defense. The defense cannot be scheduled until there is a consensus among committee members that the dissertation is ready to be defended. A 2-1 vote is required for approval of the dissertation. The committee may require revisions to the dissertation before it is submitted to the graduate school. After successfully defending the dissertation and completing the revisions, the student is responsible for presenting two copies to the graduate school and three copies to the history department. The department will bind all three copies; one will be returned to the student.