History Ph.D. Degree Requirements

Doctoral students in history are required to fulfill several preliminary requirements (including coursework, research, foreign language competence, and comprehensive examinations) before researching, writing, and defending a doctoral dissertation. Students are admitted to the program with a designated advisor who oversees each student's course of study with oversight from the department's Graduate Committee.

To advance to formal Ph.D. candidacy, doctoral students must fulfill the following requirements:

I. Coursework Credits

  • Students must complete 15 credits past the M.A. (total of 45 credits). Students may transfer up to thirty (30) credits at the discretion of the Graduate Committee. A student may take up to nine credits outside the History Department and have them count towards his or her degree. Students entering with a M.A. may take no more than three (3) credits outside the History Department.
  • All students must take a 400 or 500 level research seminar.
  • Students are required to write an M.A. thesis. If accepted directly into the Ph.D. program with only a B.A., students may instead submit two research papers written while enrolled in UM's history graduate program. These papers must be approved by a committee of three faculty members.

II. Foreign Language

Students must demonstrate competence in foreign languages. Students in U.S. history will be required to demonstrate competence in one foreign language. Students in other areas will be required to demonstrate competence in two foreign languages. Passage of 102 at UM or the equivalent course elsewhere will demonstrate competence. Students may also satisfy the requirement by taking the ETS exam and scoring above the 45th percentile. These requirements are a minimum. At their discretion, advisors may require a higher degree of competence or additional languages.

III. Comprehensive Exams

  1. Ph.D. comprehensive exams consist of written and oral exams in three fields. Students will consult with their advisors to determine what three fields will best serve their research needs and teaching goals. The exams are intended to test students’ knowledge of each field and evaluate their abilities of historical interpretation and synthesis. Students are expected to master the literature in their fields and be aware of important historiographical trends.
  2. The examining professor will determine the specific requirements for each field, but the department recommends reading lists of approximately 100 books and articles.
  3. In order to qualify to take the comprehensive exams, students must complete all required coursework with a minimum 3.5 grade point average and meet the foreign language requirement.
  4. Students entering the Ph.D. program with an M.A. degree typically take comprehensive exams in their second year of study. Students entering with only a B.A. degree typically take the exams in their third year of study.
  5. Students first take separate written exams in each of the three fields. The examining professor will determine the requirements for the written exam, but recommended forms of assessment include a time-restricted essay exam, historiographical essay(s), and/or course syllabus. The oral exams are given the week following the written exams and are administered all together by the same professors who administered the written exams.
  6. In consultation with their advisors, students are encouraged, during their first and second years of study, to seek out faculty willing to serve as their examiners. No two fields may be taken with the same examiner. Normally, the student's advisor serves as the chair of the examining committee.
  7. Students receive a grade of pass or fail on the comprehensive exams. All professors on the committee must agree that the student has passed. Students are informed orally, at the end of the oral examination, of the examining committee's evaluation of their performance. Students who fail to pass their exams may take them a second time. Failure on the second attempt will mean termination from the program. If the examining committee agrees that the student's performance on the oral and written exams is outstanding and meritorious, the committee may award a "distinguished pass."

IV. Dissertation Proposal and Dissertation Committee

Students are required to submit a proposal for a dissertation project, which must be approved by the student's dissertation committee. In consultation with their advisors, students choose members of their dissertation committee and gain the consent of each faculty member concerned. Normally, committees are composed of five faculty members, and the student's advisor serves as the chair of the committee. At least three members of the committee must be members of the History Department. One member of the committee must come from outside the History Department. Students should consult with all members of their dissertation committee while constructing the dissertation proposal.

The student and the dissertation committee will convene a Dissertation Proposal Hearing where faculty members assess the strength of the dissertation proposal. Dissertation proposals will be assessed on a pass or fail basis. All members of the committee must agree that the student has passed. Students are informed orally, at the end of the proposal hearing, of the dissertation committee's evaluation of their dissertation proposal.

Students are required to hold their Dissertation Proposal Hearing no later than 1 year prior to the intended date of the oral defense of the dissertation. To schedule your Dissertation Proposal Hearing, please fill out the PhD Dissertation Proposal Hearing Scheduling Form and submit a copy to the History Department Office and to the Director of Graduate Studies.

Upon completion of the above requirements (I – IV), Ph.D. students officially advance to Ph.D. candidacy or "ABD" (All But Dissertation) status. The following requirements remain:

V. Doctoral Dissertation

Students are required to write a doctoral dissertation that is an original contribution to scholarship. It must be presented in acceptable literary form. It must be of a quality that all or a substantial part of it would merit eventual publication. Normally, students will complete at least fifteen (15) credits of thesis work.

VI. Dissertation Defense

The final stage will be an oral defense of the dissertation. The student must provide the members of his or her dissertation committee with completed copies of the dissertation three weeks before the defense. Oral examinations are open to the public and guests may ask questions on recognition by the chair. Dissertations will be assessed on a pass or fail basis. All members of the committee must agree that the student has passed. Students are informed orally, at the end of the defense, of the dissertation committee's evaluation of their dissertation.

To schedule your dissertation defense, please fill out the MA Thesis/PhD Dissertation Defense Scheduling Form and submit a copy to the History Department Office and to the Director of Graduate Studies.