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History Ph.D.

First awarded by the University of Maryland in 1937, the doctorate in history is conferred for superior achievement in historical research, writing and interpretation.

Ph.D. Program Overview

The Ph.D. is an essential component in the training of professional historians. The most significant requirement of the Ph.D. degree program is the dissertation, an original and noteworthy contribution to historical knowledge. In anticipation of dissertation research, students spend several years mastering bibliographical tools, research and writing methods, and general, special and minor fields of study.

Admission to the Ph.D. program is offered to highly qualified applicants holding at least a bachelor's degree, normally in history or a related discipline. Application and admissions procedures are described on the department graduate admissions page.

The length of time required to complete the doctoral degree varies by field of study and student. Students admitted with a bachelor's degree might expect to complete the program in five to six years of full-time study. Students entering with a Master of Arts degree might expect to complete the program in four to five years of full-time study. The degree must be completed in nine years.  Students typically take two years of course work, prepare for and take language exams (if required for their field) and comprehensive exams, and then work on the dissertation.

 

Program Requirements and Policies

General Program Requirements

  • Course work in the major and minor fields
  • Language examinations if required by field
  • Comprehensive examinations
  • Dissertation prospectus
  • Advancement to candidacy
  • The dissertation

Each of these program requirements must be met before the Ph.D. can be conferred.

 

Course Requirements

All doctoral students entering with a bachelor's degree (or equivalent) must take, at a minimum, the following courses (total 30 credits, not including 12 credits of “Dissertation Research”):

  • Contemporary Theory (HIST 601; 3 credits)
  • Major Field General Seminar (HIST 608; 3 credits)
  • Readings courses in the major field (HIST 6XX and 7XX; 9 credits)
  • Readings courses in the minor field (HIST 6XX and 7XX; 9 credits)
  • Research seminars (HIST 8XX; 6 credits)
  • Dissertation Research (HIST 898/899; 12 credits)

Special Notes:

  • Courses completed during previous post-baccalaureate degree programs and/or at other institutions may be considered to satisfy course requirements. However, students entering the doctoral program with a master's degree or equivalent in history or a related discipline must take a minimum of two  600-800 level courses in the major field, one of which should be with the major advisor.
  • Requests for course requirement waivers, equivalency and credit transfers should be directed to the director of graduate studies. A request must include the course syllabus and transcripts showing the final grade. The endorsement of the advisor is typically sought.
  • Up to nine credit hours of major and minor field readings courses may be taken at the 400 level. Students seeking to take a 400 level course for graduate credit should consult the instructor of record to discuss course expectations before registering.
  • HIST 708/709: “Directed Independent Reading for Comprehensive Examinations” does not count toward the nine-credit readings seminar requirement.
  • Students in the U.S. and Latin America fields are expected to take two major field seminars (HIST 608)–in this case, one of these 608s will be counted toward the “Readings courses in the major field” requirement.
  • Students must complete the entire program for the doctoral degree, including the dissertation and final examination, during a four-year period after admission to candidacy, but no later than nine years after admission to the doctoral program. Students must be advanced to candidacy within five years of admission to the doctoral program. 

Fields of Study

Doctoral students should choose one of the following as their “major field” of study:

  • Europe
  • Global Interaction and Exchange
  • Jewish History (Classical Antiquity to the Present)
  • Latin America
  • Middle East
  • Technology, Science, and Environment
  • United States

Learn more about fields of study and faculty work produced in each field by visiting the research fields page.

The Minor Field

All doctoral students are required to complete a minor field of study outside the major field of study. This requirement is typically met through nine credit hours of coursework. However, a student may opt to satisfy the requirement by written examination.

A minor field is usually a field of history outside the student's major field of concentration. For example, a student in the U.S. field may select a minor field in Latin American history; a student in the Women & Gender field may select a minor field in European history. The minor field may be a standard national-chronological field (e.g., 19th-century United States; Imperial Russia; Postcolonial India), or it may be a cross-cultural, cross-regional thematic field (e.g., the Atlantic in the era of the slave trade; gender and Islam). Or, it might be taken in a department or program outside of History (e.g., Women's Studies, English, Government & Politics, Classics and Comparative Literature).

For students opting to satisfy the minor field requirement via coursework, all courses must be approved by the student's advisor and must, to the satisfaction of the advisor and the Graduate Committee, form a coherent field of historical inquiry distinct from the general field. Courses taken at the master's level may count towards fulfillment of the minor field requirements, subject to the approval of the advisor and, in the case of courses taken at outside institutions, of the director of graduate studies.

Language Requirements

Language requirements must be fulfilled before a student is admitted to candidacy. While no M.A. degree requires language examinations, students will often have to learn one or more foreign languages in their field of study to successfully complete their research. They will also need to learn these languages if they wish to continue on towards a Ph.D. When applying for either program, preference will be given to students with prior experience with languages in their fields of study.

Language requirements differ across the varying fields within history.

United States

No foreign language requirements for the Ph.D. If a student’s dissertation topic requires research in foreign language materials, the advisor will decide if the student needs to show proficiency by taking an examination in the language in question.

Latin America

Spanish and Portuguese. For admission, applicants will be evaluated on their language abilities, and preference will be given to applicants with a strong command of Spanish and/or Portuguese. All Ph.D. students must show proficiency by examination in both languages by the time they are admitted to candidacy. Exceptions to one of those languages (typically Portuguese) if the student’s dissertation requires the use of indigenous languages or documents produced by ethnic minorities. In such cases, students must be proficient in those languages.

Global Interaction and Exchange

One language (in addition to English). Depending on the field, the adviser may determine that the student needs to show proficiency in an additional language.

Middle East

For admission, students must have proficiency at the advanced intermediate level in at least one major Middle Eastern language (Arabic, Persian or Turkish). All Ph.D. students must acquire advanced proficiency in their chosen language either by course work or exam by the time they are admitted to candidacy. In addition, students must demonstrate proficiency in one European language by the time of their comprehensive exams.

Ancient Mediterranean

For admission, students should present knowledge of classical Greek and Latin at the intermediate level and reading knowledge of either French or German. Knowledge of classical Greek, Latin, French and German is required for the Ph.D. Other language skills, eg. Italian, Spanish, Modern Greek or Hebrew, may prove to be necessary for dissertation research but are not formal program requirements. Students satisfy the requirement in Latin and Greek in one of two ways: either by completing three upper level or graduate courses (400-600 level) in each language and obtaining at least a B in all courses and an A- or better in at least two of the courses; or by passing a departmental sight translation exam. This exam consists of translating (with the help of a dictionary) three passages of three sentences each (roughly one-fourth to one-third OCT page) selected from prose authors of average difficulty. Students show proficiency in French and German through the regular departmental language exams.

Medieval Europe

For admission, proficiency in either Latin, French or German and familiarity with a second of those languages. All Ph.D. students must demonstrate proficiency in Latin, French and German. They can satisfy the Latin requirement in one of two ways: either by taking three upper level or graduate courses (400-600 level) and obtaining at least a B in all courses and an A- or better in at least two of the courses; or by passing a departmental sight translation exam. This exam consists of translating (with the help of a dictionary) three passages of three sentences each (roughly one-fourth to one-third OCT page) selected from medieval prose authors of average difficulty. Students show proficiency in French and German through the regular departmental language exams. Depending on the field, students may have to know an additional national/regional language like Spanish or Italian.

Early Modern Europe

For admission, proficiency in one foreign language related to the field. All Ph.D. students must demonstrate proficiency in two foreign languages. Depending on the field, students may also have to know Latin.

Modern Europe

For admission, students must know the language of the country or region in which they are interested. All Ph.D. students must demonstrate proficiency in the language of the country/region in which they are interested plus another European language.

Russia/Soviet Union

For admission, three years of Russian or the equivalent. All Ph.D. students must demonstrate proficiency in Russian plus either French or German. Depending on the area of interest, the adviser may require an additional language.

Jewish

For admission, advanced intermediate-level proficiency in modern Hebrew. All Ph.D. students must demonstrate proficiency in modern Hebrew and one other language necessary for their fields. The advisor may require other languages as necessary.

Chinese History

For admission, students must have had at least two years of university-level Chinese language courses. All Ph.D. students must acquire advanced proficiency in Chinese since they will be using Chinese documents for their dissertations.  Before admission to candidacy students must pass a Chinese language exam in which they will translate about 30 lines of modern, scholarly Chinese into English. As with all departmental language exams, students will be able to use a dictionary, and they will have four hours to complete the translation.

Language Examinations

Except as specified for Latin and ancient Greek, the typical language proficiency examination includes a summary and translation of a passage from a work of modern scholarship in the student’s field. The director of graduate studies appoints a faculty member, typically the student’s advisor, to coordinate the exam and select an excerpt from a published work of historical scholarship in the student’s field. Students write a 200-300 word summary of this five-to-seven page excerpt from the scholarly literature in their fields, and then they do a direct translation of an indicated 30-line passage within that excerpt. The direct translation must be accurate and rendered in idiomatic English. Students have four hours to complete the exam, and they may use a language dictionary that they themselves provide.

Language exams can be taken at any time before candidacy. The exams are read by two members of the faculty: typically, the student’s advisor, who chooses the passage and serves as chair of the exam committee, and one other member of the faculty chosen by the D\director of graduate studies in consultation with the advisor. Faculty from outside the department who have the necessary expertise are eligible to serve as evaluators. The two possible grades are pass and fail. If the two readers do not agree, the director of graduate studies will appoint a third faculty member to read the exam. Students who do not pass on the first attempt may retake the examination without prior approval. After a second failure, the student must petition for reexamination. The chair of the language exam committee will notify the director of graduate studies about the results of the exam within one week after the exam, and the graduate coordinator will notify the student in writing about the results, which will then be inserted into the student’s records. All students should normally pass their language examinations during their third year of the program, though given the complexity of the language requirements in different fields of study, the department recognizes the need to exercise some flexibility in the timing of this requirement.

Comprehensive Examinations

Comprehensive examinations (comps) are a standard feature of historical training in the United States. The examinations require the examinee to demonstrate mastery of historical scholarship and historiography in a major field, including specialized mastery of the authors, themes, works and topics most relevant to the intended dissertation topic. All students register for HIST 708/709: “Directed Independent Reading for Comprehensive Examinations” for two semesters, once in the semester prior to the one in which they are scheduled to take the examinations (normally the fifth semester of the student’s program) and the second in the same semester as their examinations (normally the sixth semester of the student’s program). As noted above, these courses do not count towards the nine-credit readings seminar requirement.

Comprehensive examinations include the following:

  • A special field examination in the form of an essay. Students prepare an essay of 4,000 to \5,000 words in length, 16-20 pages, double-spaced in a 12-point font. The special field is a subfield of the major field in which the dissertation is centered.
  • A take-home major field examination administered in written format. Students have 48 hours to complete the exam, which should be 5,000to 6,000 words, 20-24 pages, double-spaced in a 12-point font in length.
  • A two-hour oral examination by the examination committee, including coverage of both the take-home major field exam and the essay that comprises the special field exam.

Timeline: The comprehensive examinations are administered during the first half of the student’s sixth semester in the program. The special field essay has to be submitted to the graduate coordinator before the student takes the major field examination. The oral examination follows within two weeks of passing the major field examination and the special field essay. Students entering the program with an M.A. in history might be expected to complete their comprehensive examinations during their fifth semester in the program. (Also see the “Combined Timeline for Comprehensive Examinations and the Prospectus” at the end of this document.)

Reading Lists: The format, content and length of the reading lists for the comprehensive examinations vary by field but the list should normally be in the range of200 to 250 books. Of these, about two-thirds should be in the major field and one-third in the special field. In all fields, students develop their reading lists in consultation with their advisors and other members of the examination committee. The reading list must be compiled and approved by the examination committee by the end of their second-year summer (after the student’s fourth semester in the program). For students coming in with an M.A. in history who would like to take their examinations during their fifth semester in the program, the list must be ready by the end of the student’s third semester. After approval, limited changes may be made solely by mutual agreement of the student and his/her advisor.

The examination committee: The examination committee consists of three or four members of the Graduate Faculty, typically all members of the history faculty. The director of graduate studies designates the committee members and chair, in consultation with the major advisor and the student. The committee chair shall not be the student's advisor. All committee members contribute questions to the written and oral examinations. Most or all of these same committee members are normally also on the student’s dissertation committee but the composition of the examination and prospectus committees do not need to be the same.

Grading: Comprehensive examinations will be graded pass, pass with distinction or fail.

Combined Timeline for Comprehensive Exams and Prospectus

  • Both the initial version of the prospectus and the special field essay are due before the major field take-home examination during the first half of the sixth semester of the student's program.
  • The major field take-home examination should be completed also during the first half of the sixth semester of the student's program after the initial version of the prospectus and the special field essay are submitted.
  • The two-hour oral examination on both the take-home major field exam and the essay that comprises the special field exam follows within two weeks of passing the major field examination and the special field exam. This oral exam can take place during the second half of the sixth semester of the student’s program.
  • The one-hour oral examination based on the initial version of the prospectus also takes place during the second half of the sixth semester of the student’s program but only after successful completion of the two-hour oral examination (#3 above).
  • The final version of the prospectus as approved by the advisor is due on the first day of the academic semester that immediately follows the comprehensive examinations, which is normally the seventh semester of the student’s program.

Prospectus & Candidacy

Dissertation Prospectus

The dissertation prospectus is a written précis of the proposed dissertation research, its significance, the sources and methods to be used, the relevant bibliography including primary source materials and the plan of completion. It is intended to form the substance of grant proposals students will write in order to apply for both internal and external grants and fellowships. Each field of study has its own expectations for the length of the prospectus, but normally these should be concise documents not to exceed 10-12 pages in length, followed by a bibliography. In all fields, the prospectus is developed by the student in close collaboration with the advisor and other members of the examination committee.

The preparation of the prospectus includes the following stages:

  • An initial version of the prospectus.
  • A one-hour oral examination based on that initial version.
  • A final version incorporating any revisions suggested by members of the dissertation committee and approved by the advisor submitted to the graduate coordinator.

Timeline: The initial draft version of the prospectus should be submitted to the graduate coordinator during the first half of the student’s sixth semester before the student takes the major field examination, normally at the same time as the special field essay. The one-hour oral examination of the prospectus based on the initial version is scheduled during the second half of the student’s sixth semester in the program following satisfactory completion of the comprehensive examinations. The final version of the prospectus as approved by the advisor is due on the first day of the academic semester that immediately follows the comprehensive examination. (Also see the “Combined Timeline for Comprehensive Examinations and the Prospectus” at the end of this document.)

The relationship between the prospectus and the special field Essay: The special field essay normally covers the historiography of the entire subfield within the major field in which the dissertation is anchored, while the prospectus is more narrowly concerned with the specific research topic of the dissertation.

The examination committee: The prospectus oral examination committee consists of the advisor and at least two other members of the Graduate Faculty, who are normally also members of the student’s dissertation committee. The advisor chairs the examination. All committee members contribute questions to the oral examination and make suggestions for revisions. Upon passing the oral examination, the student will complete any revisions requested (as determined by the advisor and the committee) and submit the final prospectus approved by the advisor to the graduate program coordinator.

M.A. “Along the Way”

When a student receives a pass or pass with distinction and the endorsement to continue on in the Ph.D. program, the student has the option to request that the Master of Arts degree be conferred "along the way," subject to fulfillment of the standard requirements of the M.A. degree.

In some instances, the examination committee may recommend that a Ph.D. student taking comprehensive examinations be given a pass at the M.A. level, sufficient for the conferral of a terminal master's degree. Such a recommendation will be made with the expectation that the student not continue on towards doctoral candidacy.

Petition for Reexamination

In the case of failure of a language examination taken for the second time or one or more components of the comprehensive examinations and the prospectus preparation process (special field essay, take-home major field examination, two-hour oral examination and prospectus oral examination), the student may petition the director of graduate studies to take the whole examination or the relevant component(s) a second time. If the petition is approved, the student may retake the examination as soon as possible. A student may petition only once to retake all or part of the comprehensive examinations and the prospectus preparation process.

Successful completion of the prospectus is typically the last step before application for advancement to candidacy.

Advancement to Candidacy

A doctoral student advances to candidacy when all degree requirements (i.e., course work, demonstrated competence in languages or special skills, comprehensive examinations and the dissertation prospectus) have been satisfied, with the exception of the dissertation.

Formal admission to candidacy (sometimes known as "All but Dissertation" or "ABD" status) is granted by the dean of the Graduate School. The application is routed through the director of graduate studies.

Advising & Committees

Each student admitted to the Ph.D. program will choose an advisor who is a member of the Graduate Faculty and whose intellectual interests are compatible with the student's plan of study. All graduate students are required to choose an advisor by November 1 of their first semester. If they do not choose an advisor by that date, the director of graduate studies will appoint one for them. The faculty advisor will be responsible for advising the student on all aspects of their academic program, for approving the student's course of study each semester, for monitoring their progress through the program,and for notifying the student of the nature and timing of examinations and other evaluative procedures. The advisor, in consultation with the student and the director of graduate studies, will be responsible for constituting the Comprehensive Examination and Dissertation Examination committees. The advisor will also represent the student to the Graduate Committee, as appropriate.

At the conclusion of the first year of study, all students will make available to their advisor a transcript of coursework and major written work completed during the first year. Upon review of the appropriate materials, the advisor will then recommend to the director of graduate studies continuation, modification or, as appropriate, termination of the student's program. All recommendations for termination require discussion and approval of the Graduate Committee.

Students may change advisors. The director of graduate studies and the new faculty advisor shall approve changes in advisors before a student advances to candidacy. After advancement to candidacy, changes shall be approved only by petition to the Graduate Committee. A change of advisor must be recorded in the student's electronic file.

Registration and Degree Progress

Continuous Registration

All graduate students must register for courses and pay associated tuition and fees each semester, not including summer and winter sessions, until the degree is awarded.

Pre-candidacy doctoral students who will be away from the university for up to one year may request a waiver of continuous registration and its associated tuition and fees. Waivers shall be granted only if the student is making satisfactory progress toward the degree and can complete all the degree requirements within the required time limits. Interruptions in continuous registration cannot be used to justify an extension to time-to-degree requirements.

Once advanced to candidacy, a student is no longer eligible for Waivers of Continuous Registration. Doctoral candidates must maintain continuous registration in HIST 899: “Doctoral Dissertation Research” until the degree is awarded.

The Graduate School makes available an official leave absence for childbearing, adoption, illness and dependent care. The dean of the Graduate School must approve the leave. The time-to-degree clock is suspended during an approved leave of absence.

Additional information on continuous registration and leave absence policies is published online in the Graduate Catalog.

Time-to-Degree

All students admitted to the doctoral program are expected to

  • advance to candidacy within three years from initial enrollment in the Ph.D. program, and
  • complete all degree requirements within six years of entering the program.

Progress-to-Degree

All students in the doctoral program will be expected to demonstrate steady progress toward the completion of degree requirements. At a minimum, the Graduate School requires students to maintain a B average in all graduate courses. However, the Department of History expects a higher level of performance, with the great majority of a student’s grades at the level of an A- or above.

Students in major fields that require lengthy language or special skill acquisition might be granted a one-year extension to progress-to-degree expectations. Additional extensions will require the approval of the Graduate Committee.

In order to meet progress-to-degree expectations:

  • 800-level research seminar work should normally be completed by the end of the fourth semester in the program.
  • The major field reading list must be compiled and approved by the examination committee by the end of the summer after the student’s fourth semester in the program.
  • Students should complete their comprehensive examinations by the end of their sixth semester in the program. Students coming in with an M.A. in history should normally complete their comprehensive examinations by the end of their fifth semester in the program.
  • Each student will be expected to submit a copy of the final dissertation prospectus approved by the advisor to the graduate program coordinator at the beginning of their seventh academic semester in the program.
  • All students should normally pass their language examinations during the third year of their program.
  • The director of graduate studies will review fully each student's progress-to-degree as well as the overall progress-to-degree by degree cohort at least once a year.

Failure to make satisfactory progress-to-degree or to maintain the expected grade point average may result in the suspension or loss of departmental funding, the denial of a petition for extensions, and in extreme cases, a recommendation for dismissal.

NOTE: The above guidelines on continuous registration, time-to-degree and progress-to-degree guidelines are for students matriculating in fall 2018 or thereafter. Students entering the graduate program in prior semesters are subject to guidelines at time of matriculation.

Extensions and Waivers

The Graduate Committee will consider petitions for waivers to departmental guidelines. Petitions for waivers to Graduate School requirements must be submitted to the dean of the Graduate School, using the appropriate form. In most instances, the petitioning student will be required to provide a rationale for the waiver request, and, as appropriate, a convincing plan of study. The advice of the student's advisor may be sought. The advisor will be required to endorse any waiver request that involves extensions to overall time-to-degree as well as the major benchmarks of progress-to-degree.

All petitions should be directed to the director of graduate studies. The director of graduate studies, and in some cases the dean of the Graduate School, will notify the student of their disposition of petitions for extensions.

 

Sample Program of Study

Introduction

The program of study often varies by field and many factors may extend or reorder the sequence and length of the program of study.

The following program of study assumes that the doctoral student will be assigned a teaching assistantship in the second, third and fourth years of study. Students coming in with an M.A. in history will be expected to complete the program in five or five and a half years.

Foreign language study is not incorporated into this program.

 

 First Year (Departmental Fellowship)

Fall 

  • Major Field General Seminar (608) or Contemporary Theory (HIST 601)
  • Major Field Readings Seminar
  • Minor Field Course

Spring 

  • Major Field General Seminar (608) or Contemporary Theory (HIST 601)
  • Major Field Readings Seminar
  • Research Seminar OR Minor Field Course

Summer

  • Exploratory Research

Second Year (Teaching Assistantship)

Fall

  • 2 courses out of the following three categories:
  • Research Seminar 
  • Major Field Readings Seminar
  • Minor Field Course

Spring

  • 2 courses out of the following three categories:
  • Research Seminar
  • Major Field Readings Seminar
  • Minor Field Course

Summer

  • Reading for Comprehensive Examinations
  • Initial Prospectus Preparation

Third Year (Teaching Assistantship)

Fall

  • HIST 708: Readings for Comprehensives”
  • Prospectus Preparation 
  • Grant Applications

Spring

  • HIST 709: “Readings for Comprehensive Examinations”
  • Comprehensive Examinations
  • Prospectus Oral Examination 
  • Advancement to Candidacy

Summer

  • Final Version of Prospectus
  • Dissertation Research

Fourth Year (Teaching Assistantship)

Fall

  • Dissertation Research (HIST 899)
  • Grant Applications

Spring

  • Dissertation Research (HIST 899)

Summer

  • Dissertation Research

Fifth Year (Departmental or External Fellowship)

Fall

  • Dissertation Research
  • Grant Applications 

Spring & Summer

  • Dissertation Writing

Sixth Year  (Departmental or External Fellowship)

Fall

  • Dissertation Writing
  • Job applications 

Spring & Summer

  • Dissertation Writing
  • Job applications
  • Graduation

Graduate Placement

Learn more about the career and life paths of our Ph.D. alumni.

 

 

Graduate Placement

Contact Us

Jodi Hall

Graduate Coordinator, History

2131 Francis Scott Key Hall
College Park MD, 20742

(301) 405-4268