Steps to a Ph.D.

There are several steps to the successful completion of the Ph.D. These steps are highlighted and explained in detail below.

Identify Dissertation Director

During the first semester of study, each student should identify a dissertation director, who also will serve as chair of the DQE committee.

Enroll in Dissertation Seminar

During the second semester, the student will enroll in HIST 8660 (Dissertation Seminar) which will establish their research field, which will be identified as the field providing the largest appropriate historiographical context for their dissertation research. (Certain students may benefit if they are able to identify research fields geographically, Atlantic World, for instance, or British Empire.) The requirements for this field will be fulfilled when the dissertation seminar is completed and the Graduate Committee approves the field. Since the Dissertation Seminar is a graded 3 credit course, the dissertation director will assign appropriate work such as historiographical essays and/or a draft of a research proposal to help develop the research topic.

Foreign Language Exam

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.

Doctoral Program Planning Form

All students must complete a "Doctoral Program Planning Form" by the end of their first full year of studies. The Director of Graduate Studies can assist with this form.

Identify Teaching Field

During their first year, students should identify their teaching field which must be in a non-American or non-European field. (In very rare cases a student may petition to substitute a different fourth field, subject to approval by the graduate committee.) Competency in this teaching field will be certified by the following:

  • taking at least one (and if at all possible two) graduate course in African, Latin American, Asian, or Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) History

  • TA-ing for the appropriate survey

  • creating a syllabus for a survey of that course, complete with assignments, readings, and an annotated bibliography

  • creating and delivering an in-class lecture on a topic of their choosing, complete with powerpoint and appropriate handouts.

The requirements for this field will be fulfilled when the above steps are completed and the Graduate Committee approves the field (ideally by the end of the third year in the doctoral program).


Students are responsible for scheduling their own doctoral qualifying exams (DQES) in consultation with their dissertation director. It is strongly recommended to schedule them fourth full semester of classes and no later than the start of the fifth semester in the doctoral program.  Delays beyond this period may result in the loss of funding.  (NB: all successful applicants for University research fellowships must complete their examinations by the beginning of the semester in which their fellowships begin.)

Doctoral Dissertation Outline

Upon passing the DQE, students must complete the "Doctoral Dissertation OutlineThis form includes submission of the proposal for the dissertation research.  Once this form has been signed by all committee members and submitted to the Graduate School, the student advances to candidacy (that is, they are considered ABD--all but dissertation.) 

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).

Dissertation Defense

Prior to the defense, students must allow the full committee sufficient time to read the entire dissertation in its final form and format. (Sufficient time traditionally has been understood to mean three months, but the student and dissertation director can negotiate this requirement with the other committee members.)

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.