Ph.D. Degree Requirements
Doctoral training in history typically involves something of a programmed curriculum along with a great deal of independent reading and close mentoring by selected faculty. The process resembles an old-fashioned apprenticeship more than a modern undergraduate major. The most successful professional careers result from the happy intersection of talented students with generous and appropriate faculty mentors. The wide distribution of scholarly talent in the past generation has made it possible for new scholars to launch careers from all kinds of programs.
We encourage potential students to scrutinize the faculty roster and look for mentors whose teaching and publication interests seem compatible.
Applicants for admission to the Ph.D. program in history must hold a Bachelor's Degree in history or be able to demonstrate an academic interest in the discipline. Applicants with a B.A. only will be considered for the 5-year "fast-track" doctoral program unless they apply for the M.A. Degree only. Applicants with an M.A. in history or its equivalent will be considered for the 4-year doctoral program. Specifically, you must submit the following:
- A completed Purdue Graduate School on-line application form.
- Official copies of all transcripts of academic college level work. International students must supply official English translations of transcripts and copies of diplomas.
- Acceptable performance on the general Graduate Record Examination (GRE).
- The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores for International students whose native language is other than English.
- At least three letters of recommendation from persons who are familiar with the applicant’s academic and professional potential.
- An example of the applicant’s research and writing in history. This may be all or a portion of the M.A. thesis or a major term paper.
- A statement of purpose, indicating the area of history the candidate wishes to study and any preparations (e.g. language proficiency) relevant to his or her program. Doctoral candidates must identify a potential major professor.
Applicants who are completing their M.A. degree in history at Purdue University should send a letter requesting permission to enter the Ph.D. program, a new statement of purpose, and with three letters of recommendation to the Director of Graduate Education in History. This letter should indicate the Major Professor(s) with whom the student wishes to pursue the Ph.D. The DOH Graduate Committee will then review the student’s academic record and consult with the faculty members who served on the student’s M.A. Advisory Committee as well as potential possible Major Professor(s) to determine whether the applicant shall be admitted.
Applicant who hold a master’s degree in another discipline may be admitted if there is sufficient evidence of proficiency in history. In such a case, the Graduate Committee will assess the applicant’s total hours in history at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, the discipline in which the M.A. was earned, and the overall academic record of the student.
Although these designations are not binding, at the time of application for the Ph.D. you must indicate which professor(s) you hope will serve as your major professor.
Course and Seminar Requirements
A total of 90 semester hours of graduate coursework are required for the Ph.D. degree, 30 of which may be carried forward from a qualifying MA program and at least 30 of which must be earned in residence on the West Lafayette campus. Credit for M.A. work outside the discipline of history may be authorized by the DOGE and the Graduate Committee.
The small size of our program requires us to focus on a limited number of broadly defined course offerings and rely extensively on independent reading and directed research to complete any student's preparation for field exams and the dissertation project. All doctoral candidates take the Graduate Colloquium, at least 3 additional reading seminars, at least 1 additional research seminar, meet the 1st language requirement, and pass six other elective courses (total 12 courses or 36 hours, all with grades of B- or better) before taking prelims. After prelims, doctoral candidates must prepare and defend a dissertation prospectus, write and defend a dissertation. All candidates are expected to teach an appropriate survey course at least once, and all must accumulate 90 credit hours before they can receive their degree.
First year Graduate Colloquium (HIST 610 and HIST 611) introduces the discipline of history, its current trends and problems, and the fundamentals of research and writing. Comprises a "theory and perspectives" seminar (semester 1) and a "research practicum" (semester 2).
- Reading seminars in which two key aspects of the historians' craft are practiced--careful reading and critical discussion. In any given semester the reading seminars offered may deal with topics outside your particular major field; nevertheless, they will serve as valuable preparation for mastering the discipline of history.
- Research seminars in which you will craft an original piece of historical scholarship. Again, the subject of these seminars may not coincide with your dissertation interests, but the skills taught and tested are universal to the enterprise.
- Specialty courses: HIST 640, "Introduction to Global History," may be counted as a reading seminar; HIST 650, "Teaching the History Survey," may not be counted as a reading seminar.
- 500-level courses (dual-level undergraduate-graduate courses) on different topics that count toward your total 90 hour requirement but do not replace seminars.
- Independent directed readings (HIST 590), where you will work with faculty mentors to shape your subject fields. The course may be repeated for credit.
- Reading and research credits (HIST 699), which allow you to complete field preparations and your dissertation.
Doctoral students must enroll in at least one 600-level seminar each semester prior to taking their preliminary exams. Although the minimum grade in each course is a B-, you must maintain and cumulative GPA of 3.33 or better to remain in good standing.
Deviations from these guidelines may be approved by the DOH Graduate Committee in consultation with the student's Major Professor.
Doctoral students in history must demonstrate proficiency in at least one foreign language. Additional languages may be required by a student’s major professor. The basic language requirement may be met in one of the following ways:
- by passing a test of reading proficiency administered by DOH faculty
- by earning credit in the fourth semester course of a standard undergrad sequence of language instruction (equivalent to a Purdue 202 course) (either taken as an undergraduate OR later but not for graduate credit)
- graduate-level intensive language course(s) where available (500 or 600)
- test of reading proficiency offered by language departments where available
- off-campus language instruction programs (CIC institutes for example) as approved by major professor
- satisfying the language requirement in another accredited graduate program
For subsequent languages required by major professor, a test of reading proficiency will be administered by the major professor or his/her designee.
The basic language requirement must be met before any Ph.D. student may sit for prelims. Subsequent language proficiencies must be met before the dissertation advisory committee approves a dissertation prospectus.
Evaluation and Progress toward the Degree
Steady progress toward the degree is essential both for students and for the health of the program. Normally, full-time doctoral students will be judged as making good progress toward the degree if they:
- Earn grades of B- or better in the 1st year Graduate Colloquium.
- Maintain an average load of 9 credit hours (3 courses) per semester.
- Accumulate a GPA of 3.3 or better by the end of semester 3 in the program.
- Accumulate 36 credit hours of coursework with a GPA of 3.3 or better before taking prelims.
- Meet the 1st language requirement before taking prelims.
- Pass prelims by the end of semester 6 (ideal) and no later than the end of semester 7 (doctoral students admitted with an M.A. in hand should take prelims by the end of semester 4 and no later than the end of semester 5).
- Prepare and defend a dissertation prospectus within 8 months of passing prelims.
New "fast-track" doctoral students entering the program without an M.A. will undergo a special evaluation early in semester 3 of your program. Based on your performance in the Graduate Colloquium, first year courses, and other information in your academic records, the Graduate Committee will recommend that you be invited to continue in the Ph.D. program. Students not recommended for continuation will receive a master's degree when they have met the appropriate requirements.
Students with graduate staff appointments: You must make good progress toward the degree or your appointments may not be renewed. The Graduate Committee will review your records each spring to determine progress toward the degree. Students failing to make adequate progress may lose their staff appointments or they may be dropped from the program. If you are dropped for these reasons, however, you may petition the Graduate Committee to review your entire academic record to consider a probationary status.
Field Preparation and Plan of Study
Doctoral students must identify a major field of study that will comprise their primary teaching and research specialties as well as two minor fields, one of which must lie substantially outside the geographical/cultural framework of the major field. Doctoral students may specialize in aspects of the history of Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas (see Areas of Study). The exact character of major and minor fields will be determined by you in consultation with your faculty advisors and the DOGE. (A detailed guideline on field design and prelims currently is under construction in the Graduate Committee.)
During your first year, you should identify a major professor, sketch the general outlines of a major field, and identify the two other areas in which you will prepare minor fields. These decisions are not strictly binding until you schedule prelims; however, earlier decisions will facilitate everyone's progress through the program.
Plan of Study
By the end of the first year in the Ph.D. program each student should file a draft Plan of Study (POS) listing the courses he or she proposes to take and the Major Professor and two other faculty members who have agreed to serve on the Advisory Committee. (This Advisory Committee helps prepare the student and serves as the examining committee for the preliminary exams.)
A final POS must be filed before the first day of the semester in which students intend to take prelims, as determined by Graduate School deadlines. The Plan of Study is reviewed by the Director of Graduate Education and then submitted to the Graduate School for approval. Students—not the graduate secretary or the DOGE—are responsible for meeting any and all requirements of the department and the Graduate School that relate to their degree programs. The student and the chair of the Preliminary Examination committee are encouraged to consult the deadlines posted by the Graduate School and maintain a checklist of requirements for the Ph.D. degree. A final POS can be changed at any time to reflect the addition or deletion of committee members or coursework.
Instructions for filing an electronic plan of study are available in the History program's graduate office or click here.
The Preliminary Examination
The Preliminary Examination is designed to determine the Ph.D. student’s depth and breadth of professional preparation, including knowledge and interpretation of historical sources and literature, and ability to design courses in both major and minor fields. It should be taken near the end of coursework (semester 6 or 7 of graduate study--semester 4 or 5 for students entering with an M.A. in hand). Coursework alone does not constitute preparation for prelims. You must expect to do significant independent reading in preparation for your field exams.
Preliminary exams in history comprise 1) a written Major Field exam, 2) two written Minor Field exams, and 3) a final oral exam, all three to be graded by the Advisory Committee members named on the student’s Plan of Study. The exact nature of these exams is to be determined by the examining faculty in consultation with the student. These exams may be taken at any time, but all three exams must be completed inside a five week period of time.
At the conclusion of the oral segment of the Preliminary Examination, the committee will determine whether you passed, failed, or partially failed the exam. If you failed all or part of the exam, you may be re-examined as directed by the Advisory Committee in not less than three nor more than eight months' time. Students who do not pass the second examination will be dropped from the program.
For further details see Guidelines for Administering History Prelims.
Doctoral Dissertation, Prospectus, and Final Examination
After successful completion of the Preliminary Examination, you will be admitted to candidacy in the Ph.D. program by the Graduate School. You then will engage in the research and writing of a doctoral dissertation. You should prepare a Dissertation Prospectus to be presented to a doctoral examining committee (selected by you in consultation with your major professor). The prospectus shall include a discussion of the dissertation topic, the sources to be used, and any conceptual or methodological problems anticipated. Within 8 months of passing prelims you must defend the prospectus before the final doctoral examining committee; such defense may be open to other faculty members and graduate students.
Upon completion of the doctoral dissertation, you will then defend your dissertation at a final examination administered by the doctoral examining committee (4 persons required). This committee may contain one member not on the permanent DOH faculty, and may include members who participate via telephone or other remote technology. Normally, no student may take the oral examination in the absence of the major professor. The examination must be scheduled with the Graduate School at least two weeks in advance.
Length of Time Required and Allowed
The total elapsed time of a completed Ph.D. program at Purdue University from admission into the doctoral program to the completion of the Final Examination on the dissertation shall be no more than eight calendar years. Extensions of this limitation may be granted by the dean of the Graduate School and/or Graduate Council, upon recommendation and justification by the student’s Major Professor and the DOH Graduate Committee. Individuals seeking such extensions may be required to file new Plans of Study and/or retake preliminary exams.
PLEASE NOTE: Graduate students should also consult and conform to the Graduate School's regulations governing the Ph.D. requirements listed in the Graduate School Bulletin and the Manual for the Preparation of Graduate Theses in force at the time of their final examination.