PhD Program

The PhD program in the Department of History takes up to six years to complete and requires full-time academic residency until the attainment of candidacy.

Program Overview

The History PhD program has the following requirements:

  1. Course requirements
  2. Comprehensive examinations
  3. Language requirement
  4. Dissertation

PhD students must complete five courses as follows:

  • The Doctoral Research Seminar (3 credits). The research seminar introduces students to the problems, materials, and research methods in history; candidates must demonstrate their ability to use documents and other sources, and to write and defend a primary-source research paper.
  • Area and thematic courses (9 credits). The purpose of the readings courses is to introduce students to the main historiographical problems and secondary literature in their fields of specialization. Readings and topics courses require written work from students as evidence of their growing mastery of secondary literature.
  • Historiography course. Students who have completed graduate-level Historiography history courses may apply for an exemption from this course requirement.
  • With the permission of the Graduate Advisor, students may take up to 3 credits of graduate coursework from outside the History Department. Language courses may not be substituted for graduate readings courses.
  • Teaching Preparation and Professional Development.  PhD students are required to take the Teaching and Professional Development Workshop Series in their first two years of their program. The objectives include course design, lecture fundamentals, paper presentation, and how to publish. These workshops are designed to prepare doctoral students to teach an undergraduate course in years 3 or 4.

Additionally, graduate students are expected to attend different colloquia scheduled throughout the academic year.

Students must complete written and oral comprehensive exams in two fields: one based on an area and period and the other thematic. The major fields that will be examined are based off the student’s research and the department’s research clusters. The examinations test the candidate's mastery of the factual knowledge, central historiographical issues and theoretical concepts of the field.

The PhD Field Examination Committee is comprised of four field examiners. One of the four examiners will be the research supervisor. Students must complete all of their coursework requirements before writing their comprehensive examinations.

Before receiving the PhD degree, candidates must demonstrate an adequate reading ability in a language other than English. Students who require a foreign language (or languages) for their dissertation research must take the language exam in that language. In cases where the dissertation research involves only English-language sources, students may take the exam in French or another language.

The department holds language exams twice a year (usually in November and April) in which candidates must successfully translate a passage from the language they have chosen into English, with the aid of a dictionary, but without the assistance of a laptop computer.

Exemption from the language exam may be granted under certain circumstances. Several departments at the university offer courses to help students acquire a reading knowledge of a foreign language, such as French, German, or Russian. Students who have successfully completed such a course at the third-year level or above, with at least a B (72%) average, can apply for exemption from the History Department's exam by submitting evidence of completion of the course to the graduate secretary.

The doctoral dissertation must be an original contribution to historical knowledge, based upon primary sources. The PhD candidate is strongly advised to select a dissertation topic and research supervisor as early as possible, and to begin work on the dissertation within one of the research seminars.

Progress Review

All PhD students must meet both the Faculty of Graduate Studies and the History Department’s regulations:

  • Faculty of Graduate Studies: The progress of all students working for the PhD degree is reviewed in the spring of each year, and the Executive Committee of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, after consultation with the student’s committee and the department concerned, may require any candidate to withdraw if the candidate’s work is deemed unsatisfactory.
  • History Department: Twice a year, in January and April, the department reviews each candidate’s progress. Reviews are undertaken by the Graduate Advisor, who gathers the opinions of department members teaching graduate courses. Please note that while the Faculty of Graduate Studies minimum for passing a graduate course at the doctoral level is 68%, the History Department requires a minimum average of 76% (B+) in required coursework. Candidates whose average falls below 76% will normally be asked to withdraw from the program.
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