The Doctorate of Philosophy is a research degree. Preparation for the Comprehensive Examination is largely a process of self-education requiring a maximum of independence and a minimum of course work in residence beyond the M.A. degree. Doctoral students in history must demonstrate scholarly ability, competence in research, and effective use of the English language.
- 695K Historiography in the first year
- 6 semesters of full-time study beyond B.A.
- 36 units of course work in major field
- 9 to 12 units of course work in minor field
- One 695 or 696 course each semester
- Qualifying Review and Plan of Study
- Written/Oral Comprehensive examination
- Reading knowledge of 2 second languages
- Dissertation Prospectus Approval
- Final examination and Dissertation Defense
- Complete and approved Dissertation
Residence and Credit Requirements
The Ph.D. degree requires the equivalent of at least six semesters of full-time graduate study beyond the B.A. Thirty-six units of course work must be in your major field. You must complete nine to twelve units of course work in the minor field (as recommended by your Major Advisor and DGS): nine units if all are at least 600-level, twelve if not, depending on the field. At least half of the units in your major and minor fields must be in regularly graded courses. (A, B, C, D, E)
During their first year of study all graduate students must take History 695K, the department’s course in historiography/ methodology. This course CANNOT count as part of the 36 units required in the fields listed above OR as part of the 9 to 12 units of coursework in the minor field.
During the terms in which you are doing course work, you will be expected to take at least one 695 or 696 course each semester. Two 696 seminars must be completed before you complete coursework, preferably in your major field. Only in unusual circumstances may this requirement be waived by the DGS and the Department Head.
During your first year in the program you must fill out a form listing all potentially transferable courses. List the specific courses to be transferred on your Ph.D. Plan of Study (see below), made out in conjunction with your committee.
Ph.D. Major and Minor Fields
- Early European History
- Modern European History
- Latin American History
- United States History
- Middle Eastern Histories
- All of the Above
- Asian History
- Comparative Women’s History
- World/Comparative History
- Interdisciplinary Minor
You may also choose a minor in another department as proposed and approved by your Major Advisor and the DGS. See Appendix for descriptions of the various major and minor fields in the Department.
All students must take History 695K during their first year in the program. This course will NOT count in either your major or minor field but will be counted in your total units.
A reading knowledge of two second languages is required, except in United States History, where one language is required. The requirement must be completed BEFORE the written/oral comprehensive examination. For details regarding the language requirement, see LANGUAGE REQUIREMEMNTS AND TESTS.
Competence in statistics can be demonstrated when appropriate and approved by faculty advisors through 6 units of study, such as Political Science 582, 681, 682, with a grade of B or above.
Select an ad-hoc Advisory Committee no later than your second semester of residency for the purpose of conducting a Ph.D. Qualifying Review. This committee will consist of your Major Advisor plus at least two other faculty members, one from your major field and one from your minor field. It is best to convene a full committee of five if possible, three from the major field and two from the minor field. This review, which normally will last one hour or less, is intended to assist you in planning your course of study in both the major and minor fields, including language preparation and a tentative timetable for scheduling your comprehensive examinations.
Doctoral Plan of Study and GradPath
In the second semester in residence, each candidate must submit a plan of study to the Graduate College for approval. The Plan of Study must be approved by the student’s committee, the Major Advisor, and the DGS. It includes courses to be transferred, courses taken at the U of A, and courses to be taken to fulfill program requirements. The Plan of Study can be completed through the Graduate College's GradPath Program. GradPath is an audit process that allows students to submit their forms almost completely online through UAccess Student. To find out more, additional information can be found at GradPath. A list of program deadlines are available via the graduate college at Important Degree Dates and Deadlines or through the Graduate Program Coordinator.
During the semester when you plan to take the written and oral comprehensive examination, you should give full time to review. You should enroll for Supplemental Registration units.
Written/Oral Comprehensive Examination (also known as Prelims)
- The comprehensive examination tests a student’s readiness to teach and to undertake dissertation research. You will be required to demonstrate broad empirical knowledge of your major field, familiarity with significant trends in historiography, and the capacity to participate in the intellectual debates regarding interpretation and analysis that are central to your areas of interest. The minor field is usually considered a second teaching field, but it may also be a supporting field for the dissertation. For the minor field, because programs of study may be more specialized and because students are not expected to have read as widely as in their major fields, students should consult their individual committees for advice regarding preparation and reading.
- Each student must select a Ph.D. exam committee of at least five faculty members, chaired normally by a senior professor. Choose a mix of senior and junior faculty. Well-constructed committees offer strong academic direction and stability. Apart from the Major Advisor, two members must represent your major field and two your minor field. You must form this Committee by the end of your third semester in residence.
- Each student must pass a written examination in one of the major fields. The examining committee for the major will be composed of your major professor and at least two others you select in consultation with your major professor and the DGS.
- Each student must also pass a written examination in a minor field. The examining committee will be composed of two professors in the minor field.
- The written exams for both fields will ordinarily be completed within a three week period. Some fields have shorter exam periods. Students will get their questions from the Graduate Coordinator and submit the answers to the Graduate Coordinator, who will distribute them to examining faculty.
- Each student who successfully completes the written examinations in a major and a minor field must then pass an oral examination in both fields. The oral examining committee will be conducted by the student’s Ph.D. examining committee, to include three faculty in the major and two in the minor. Normally the oral examination committee will be the same as the written examination committee.
- The oral examination must be held within 6 months after successful completion of the written examination and no later than three months prior to the defense of the dissertation. The oral examination will be scheduled no earlier than two weeks, after the completion of the written examination. The oral examination paperwork must be submitted to the Graduate College no later than seven working days before the exam date.
- If a student fails any portion of the written exams, it is up to the committee whether the student may retake all or part of the exam.
- Consult the Graduate College Catalog for additional information regarding University policy and the conduct of the Comprehensive examination.
Committee Appointment (Advancement to Candidacy)
A student who has passed the written and oral comprehensive examination and has satisfied language requirements should submit the “Committee Appointment” (Advancement to Candidacy) form for the doctoral degree to the Graduate College no later than six months before the defense. Approval of the advancement is required for you to be eligible for certain grants and fellowships offered by the University and other funding sources.
Dissertation Committee and Prospectus
By the time of Advancement to Candidacy you will constitute a dissertation committee composed of your major advisor and two other faculty members. Committee members who are not U of A faculty or who have been retired from the U of A for more than one year may be added to the required three U of A faculty members. If appropriate, you may select someone who did not participate on the examining committee. Arrangements between students and their thesis or dissertation advisors are strictly voluntary. In no case will a faculty member be assigned to work with a student; faculty members may, at any time, accept students with whom they wish to work. The student must decide upon a research topic acceptable to the faculty.
Within six months of the oral comprehensive examination, and no later, you must submit a written prospectus of your dissertation and meet formally with your committee to have the prospectus of your dissertation approved. Approval of a dissertation prospectus also is required by some University units and other agencies that fund doctoral research. The nature and scope of the prospectus will be worked out in consultation with your committee. Candidates must be able to develop a proposal of sufficient academic merit and on a topic to satisfy their committee. Generally, the prospectus is no longer than 15 pages and provides a working title, an introduction to the topic, and a research plan, including the identification of archives, libraries, and collections in which you hope to work. Some faculty may require a tentative chapter outline and/or a literature review.
Final Examination for the Doctorate
The final examination for the doctorate is primarily an oral defense of the dissertation, though additional questions related to your course of study may be asked. The committee is composed of three examiners, normally the members of your dissertation committee, who have been formally nominated by the Department of History. According to the rules of the Graduate College, the examination is open to the public for the first half hour, and the time and place for the examination are announced in the University newsletter, as well as on the University master calendar. The final examination will begin with a public lecture by the candidate, followed by the defense of the dissertation which is closed. While there is no minimum time required for the final examination, it may not last longer than three hours.
All dissertation committee members are expected to attend the defense. Attendance may be via a conference call. If a committee has only three members, all must approve the dissertation; on committees with four or five members, a dissertation can pass with one dissenting vote. To maximize the chances of the dissertation being approved, you should furnish all committee members with regular progress reports and interim draft chapters while researching and writing the dissertation, furnish the final draft well before the defense, and communicate with all committee members beforehand to be sure the dissertation is ready to defend.
Timing of dissertation defense: Student and committee must keep in mind the Graduate College deadlines for defense and for filing. Because of the difficulty of coordinating faculty research schedule, students should plan for the defense to take place during the regular academic sessions; only in extraordinary circumstances should a summer defense be scheduled. Presentation of final pre-defense draft of dissertation to committee should take place no later than SIX WEEKS before anticipated date of defense; students should be aware that further revisions may be required by the committee after the defense. The Graduate College policy allows up to a year for such revisions before filing of the final approved manuscript of the dissertation. The Graduate College has formal guidelines that must be followed for microfilm publication and archival filing of the dissertation. Guidelines can be downloaded from the Graduate College website.
You must provide the Department of History with a bound copy of your dissertation prior to receiving your degree.
Links Updated: January 2018