Doctoral Program

First awarded by the University of Maryland in 1937, the doctorate in History is conferred for superior achievement in historical research, writing, and interpretation. The degree 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's website.

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.

General Requirements

General program requirements are as follows:

  1. course work in the major and minor fields
  2. language exams if required by field
  3. comprehensive examinations
  4. dissertation prospectus
  5. advancement to candidacy
  6. the dissertation

Course Requirements

All doctoral students entering with a bachelor's degree (or equivalent) must take, at a minimum, the following courses:

  1. Contemporary Theory (HIST 601; 3 credits; waived if the student has taken a similar course at the University of Maryland or elsewhere)
  2. Major Field General Seminar(s) (HIST 608; 3-9 credits)
    • 608A-B (United States)
    • 608C (Modern Europe)
    • 608D (Middle East)
    • 608E (Women's and Gender History)
    • 606F (Science and Technology)
    • 608G-I (Latin America)
    • 608J-K (East Asia)
    • equivalent seminars in other historical fields
  3. Readings courses in the major field (HIST 6XX and 7XX; 9 credits)
  4. Readings courses in the minor field (HIST 6XX and 7XX; 9 credits; waived for students opting to satisfy minor field requirement via examination)
  5. Research seminars (HIST 8XX; 6 credits)
  6. Dissertation Research (HIST 898/899; 12 credits)

Special Notes

  1. Courses completed during previous postbaccalaureate 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 (2) 600-800 level courses in the major field, one of which should be with the major advisor.

  2. 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.

  3. Up to nine (9) credit hours of major and minor field readings courses may be taken at the 400 level.

  4. HIST 708/709 (Directed Independent Reading for Comprehensive Examinations) does not count towards the nine-credit readings seminar requirement.

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 (9) credit hours of course work. 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 US 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 course work, 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 and Language Examinations

Language requirements must be fulfilled before a student is admitted to candidacy.

Language requirements by field within History:

United States

No foreign language requirements for M.A. or Ph.D.  If 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

For MA: For admission, applicants will be evaluated on their language abilities, and preference will be given to applicants with Spanish and/or Portuguese.

For Ph.D.: Spanish and Portuguese. For admission, applicants will be evaluated on their language abilities, and preference will be given to applicants with 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 use of indigenous languages or documents produced by ethnic minorities. In such cases students must be proficient in those languages.

Global Interaction and Exchange

For the Ph.D.: 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 MA: No language required for admission. MA students are expected to acquire at least intermediate-level facility in at least one major Middle East Language (Arabic, Persian, or Turkish) to obtain the degree.

For Ph.D.: 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 MA: No language requirements, but students who would like to obtain a Ph.D. must work toward the Ph.D. language requirements.

For Ph.D.: 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 MA: No language requirement, but students interested in the Ph.D. should work on acquiring Latin, French, and German.

For Ph.D.: 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 field, students may have to know an additional national/regional language like Spanish or Italian.

Early Modern Europe

For MA: No language requirement, but students interested in the Ph.D. should work on the necessary languages for their fields.

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

Modern Europe

For MA: No language requirements, but students interested in the Ph.D. should work on the language of the country or region in which they are interested.

For Ph.D.: 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 MA: No language requirements, but students interested in the Ph.D. should work on their Russian.

For Ph.D.: For admission, 3 years of Russian or the equivalent. All Ph.D. students must demonstrate proficiency in Russian plus either French or German. Depending on area of interest, the adviser may require an additional language.

Jewish

For MA: No language requirement, but students interested in the Ph.D. should work on Hebrew and other necessary languages in their fields.

For Ph.D.: 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 M.A.: No Chinese required for admission, but MA students are encouraged to learn Chinese if they wish to go on to the Ph.D.
For Ph.D.: 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 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 are given every October and April at the same time as the M.A. and Ph.D. Comprehensive Examinations. Language 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 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 re-examination. 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 Director of Graduate Studies will notify the student in writing about the results, which will then be inserted into the student’s records.

Examinations

Comprehensive Examinations

The comprehensive or qualifying examinations ("comps" or "quals") are a standard feature of historical training in the United States and overseas. 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.

Comprehensive examinations include the following:

  1. a major field examination, divided into a four-hour general field examination and a three-hour special field examination, both administered in written format
  2. a two-hour oral examination in the major and special fields
  3. an optional four-hour minor field examination, administered in written format

For the major, special, and minor field examinations, 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.  The US field has a unique examination committee structure, described in the following section.

All written examinations are administered twice a year, in October and April. Oral examinations follow within two weeks of passing both major field examinations.

Major field examinations will be graded pass, pass with distinction, or fail. Minor field, language, and special skill examinations will be graded pass or fail.

When a student receives a pass or pass with distinction and the endorsement to continue on in the PhD 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 MA degree.

In some instances, the examination committee may recommend that a PhD student taking comprehensive examinations be given a pass at the MA 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.

The format, content, and length of the reading lists for the general and special field examinations will vary by major field. As of Fall 2008, the Latin American field is the only PhD field to use standardized lists for the general field examination. In all other fields, students develop their general field reading lists in consultation with the members of the examination committee. In all fields, the reading list for the special field examination is developed by the examinee in close collaboration with the advisor and other members of the examination committee. The list should advance the student's historiographic knowledge in themes closely related to the intended dissertation topic.

Each student should consult his/her advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies for additional guidelines on the expectations for and the grading of all examinations.

Comprehensive Examinations: U.S. Field

In the US field, a single committee of four faculty members is responsible for a student's general field examination, special field examination, and oral examination. The student's advisor is a member of the committee, along with three other faculty members selected such that the committee as a whole includes at least one member from each of the three chronological periods (i.e., early America, 19th century, 20th century) and at least two in the student's special field. The student's advisor may not serve as committee chair.

The General Field Examination will consist of three sections. Within each section, the examinee will be asked to answer one of three questions. The General Field examination is based on a general field reading list developed by the student in collaboration/consultation with her/his advisor and the other three members of the examination committee. The list will show chronological balance across the span of early American and United States history as well as thematic breadth. To accomplish this goal, the general field list will include approximately 250 books (or the equivalent in articles and essays).

The Special Field Examination will consist of either: two sections of three questions each, with students choosing one from each section; or a single section of five questions, with students choosing two to answer. The Examining Committee will advise the student which of the two formats will be used on the special field examination.

The general and special field reading lists must be compiled and approved by the examination committee no later than the date of the Department Commencement ceremonies in the semester prior to the standard October or April comprehensive examinations dates. An electronic copy of the approved reading lists must be posted to the Portfolio section of the student's MEGS record. After posting the lists, limited changes may be made solely by mutual agreement of the student and his/her advisor.

The solicitation of questions and preparation of the examination is the overall responsibility of the chair of the Examining Committee. All committee members participate in evaluating each examination. For a student to pass an examination, three members of the committee must vote favorably.

Petition for Re-Examination

In the case of failure of a minor field examination, a language examination, or of one or more parts of the major field examination (general, special, and oral), the student may petition the Graduate Committee to take the examination a second time. If the petition is approved, the student must retake the examination when it is next offered. In the case of the major field examination, the student needs to take again only the part or parts of the exam that he/she failed. A student may petition only once to retake all or part of a major or minor field examination.

Doctoral Candidacy and the Dissertation

Dissertation Prospectus

The dissertation prospectus, which is developed by the student in collaboration with her/his advisor and other members of the prospectus committee, is a substantial written précis of the proposed dissertation research, its relevance, the sources and methods to be used, the relevant bibliography, and the plan of completion. The prospectus is defended orally before the members of the prospectus committee, which is composed of the advisor and at least two other members of the Graduate Faculty. The advisor chairs the defense.

Once approved, the prospectus must be posted to the student's electronic record.

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

Advancement to Candidacy

A doctoral student will seek advancement to candidacy when all degree requirements (i.e., course work, comprehensive examinations, demonstrated competence in languages or special skills, 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.

The Dissertation

The dissertation constitutes the most significant part of the doctoral program. It is expected to be a distinct contribution to historical knowledge and interpretation. The dissertation is typically the basis for one or more peer-reviewed academic publications, including journal articles and a scholarly monograph. All doctoral students will devote significant time and thought to the selection of a dissertation topic, research, and writing. Most students will spend several months away from the University conducting field research. In some instances, field research may last a year or longer. Writing may take an additional year.

All dissertation research, including oral history research, must be conducted in accordance with University rules as well as professional and legal standards. In some instances, dissertators might be required to submit the dissertation prospectus or other materials to the Institutional Review Board of the University of Maryland or another institution. In Spring 2006, the campus IRB issued a finding that oral history does not enjoy a blanket exclusion from IRB review. It is, therefore, essential that all research projects involving oral history and other forms of research that fall under human subjects research protocols be cleared by the IRB.

Once a full draft of the dissertation has received preliminary approval of the candidate's advisor, the doctoral candidate will defend the dissertation in an open oral examination, normally lasting not longer than two hours. The defense must include a public presentation by the doctoral candidate on the main aspects of the dissertation research and analysis as well as a formal examination of the candidate by the Dissertation Examination Committee, consisting of five members of the Graduate Faculty and chaired by the candidate's advisor.

The Dissertation Examination Committee will normally include the three Graduate Faculty members from the prospectus committee, another member of the Graduate Faculty, and a tenured Full Member of the Graduate Faculty from outside the Department, acting in the capacity of the Dean's Representative. University rules allow for faculty from outside the University as well as Adjunct and Special members of the Graduate Faculty to sit on Dissertation Examination Committees, subject to approval of the Dean of the Graduate School.

The Committee will determine whether the dissertation is satisfactory at the time of defense or if revisions must be undertaken before the dissertation will be accepted. Attendance at the final discussion and vote shall be limited to the members of the Dissertation Examining Committee. The dissertation cannot be submitted to the Graduate School until four of the five members of the Dissertation Examining Committee have agreed that the dissertation is satisfactory.

Announcements of the date, time, and location of the oral defense, as well as the candidate's name and the dissertation title, shall be disseminated five working days in advance to all faculty and graduate students in the Department. Graduate School rules stipulate that "mass-distribution methods, such as e-mail, a faculty/student newsletter, or individual announcements are acceptable. Merely posting a paper notice on a corridor bulletin board will not constitute a sufficient announcement."

Additional rules governing the composition and duties of the Dissertation Examination Committee as well as the submission of the approved dissertation can be found in the online Graduate School Catalog.

Advising and Advisory Committee

Each student admitted to the PhD 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 DGS will appoint one for them. The faculty advisor will be responsible for advising the student on all aspects of her/his academic program, for approving the student's course of study each semester, for monitoring her/his 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 advisory, dissertation prospectus, and Dissertation Examination committees. The advisor will also represent the student to the Graduate Committee, as appropriate.

The advisory committee, to be constituted no later than the spring semester of the first year of study, consists of the student's advisor and two faculty members in appropriate fields. At the conclusion of the first year of study, all students will make available to the advisory committee a transcript of coursework and major written work completed during the first year. The Director of Graduate Studies will provide the advisory committee with additional relevant information, such as teaching assistantship evaluations. Upon review of the appropriate materials, the advisory committee will then recommend to the Graduate Committee continuation, modification, or, as appropriate, termination of the student's program.

After the first year of study, the advisory committee may convene to discuss progress-to-degree. The advisor has primary responsible for determining the need for an advisory committee review, but a student has the right to request formal review.

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 or of the composition of the advisory committee must be recorded in the student's electronic file.

Registration, Time-to-Degree, and Progress-to-Degree

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-of-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-of-Absence policies is published online in the Graduate Catalog.

Time-to-Degree

Whether a full- or part-time student, all students admitted to the doctoral program must

  1. advance to candidacy within five (5) years from initial enrollment in the PhD program, and

  2. complete all degree requirements within nine (9) years of entering the program.

Progress-to-Degree

All students in the doctoral program will be expected to demonstrate steady progress towards 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.

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

In order to meet progress-to-degree expectations:

  1. Doctoral students will receive written guidelines on progress-to-degree expectations and recommended plans of study at the start of their studies.
  2. Doctoral students will be expected to work closely with the advisor and other faculty in the development of a plan of study that is consistent with progress-to-degree requirements.
  3. Reading lists for comprehensive examinations will be available well in advance of the examination date.
  4. Special fields will be selected from the standard list of Fields of Study, as defined by the faculty in the major fields, and should be considered as a field relevant to the topic of the dissertation prospectus. In the case of non-standard special fields, the Graduate Committee must be consulted.
  5. 800-level seminar work should be undertaken in a manner consistent with progress-to-degree requirements, including seminar research and writing that helps a student advance toward timely defense of the prospectus defense.
  6. Faculty and/or the History Graduate Students Association may, at their discretion, organize colloquia and workgroups to support post-comps students in the development of the dissertation prospectus and the dissertation.
  7. The Director of Graduate Studies will coordinate periodic review of each student's progress-to-degree as well as the overall progress-to-degree by degree cohort.

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.

Progress-to-Degree: Students with Continuous Funding

Students who receive continuous support in the form of assistantships, fellowships, and/or awards administered through the Department of History are expected to follow a rigorous standard of progress-to-degree. This schedule includes the following:

1) sitting for the comprehensive examinations in the fourth semester but no later than the fifth semester of full-time study for students entering with a masters in history or a related discipline or no later than the sixth semester of full-time study for students entering with a bachelor of arts

and

2) defending the dissertation prospectus within nine (9) months of formal notification of passing the comprehensive examinations.

It is expected that students on continuous funding who seek support for dissertation research and writing make "good-faith efforts" to seek major external fellowships, scholarships, and awards.

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.