PhD 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 across the country 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.

Admission

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.

    • READING SURVEY SEMINARS called “Problems in XXX History,” designed to orient students for teaching undergraduate surveys and introduce historical and historiographical themes, trends, and questions.  At least one seminar will be offered each year in early and modern Europe, early and modern America, and some aspect of world or global history

    • SEQUENCE SEMINARS (paired reading plus research) one semester of focused reading and historiography followed by a semester of research, yielding an original article.  These are to be taken as a linked pair, not separately, and will be taught by the same instructor or by two collaborators sharing the seminar from the start.  Content is intended to be expansive, flexible, accessible to non-specialists but more focused than content in Reading Survey Seminars.

    • WILD CARD SEMINARS (reading or research) offering thematic or specialized content.  These are ad hoc offerings growing out of student demand or faculty initiative.  At least one will be offered each year in some area of history.

    • HISTORY 590s (three types):

    1. Linked 590, in which a student audits a 300- or 400-level course, does extra reading, writes reviews or papers as required by faculty

    2. Field Prep 590in which students pursue directed readings for field preparations, meeting and writing reviews or papers as required by faculty

    3. Research 590, in which students wishing to write an original research paper in a field not offered in regular seminars may do so under supervision of a faculty mentor.  May be linked with a lecture course.  This augments but does not replace the required research seminars.

    4. All History 590 registrations must be reviewed in light of the student’s Plan of Study by the Graduate Committee

     

Doctoral students usually enroll in two and 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.

Language Requirement

Proficiency will be demonstrated as needed in consultation with the major professor and the Director of Graduate Education.

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

The plan of study is intended to help each student map out his or her course selections and reading preparation in the first few years of the doctoral program,  Each doctoral candidate selects a Major Research Concentration, a Major Reading Field, and one Minor Outside Field.  With approval of advisors students define their fields and reading lists within the following guidelines:

 

  • MAJOR RESEARCH CONCENTRATION (dissertation specialty):  supports scholarship in your major research area and is prepared by seminar work (Hist 611, sequence seminars, wild card seminars, and/or directed 590s—see below for definitions).  Examples include but are not limited to early modern England, Native American, Civil War/Reconstruction, modern Japan, colonial Latin America, thematic specialties (gender, science/medicine), transnational fields.  The Major Research Concentration is examined by your Major Professor (dissertation advisor).

  • MAJOR READING FIELD (broad survey fields): supports your primary teaching competence and is prepared by a combination of Reading Survey Seminars (see below), other courses, independent reading and special 590s.  Students may choose

    • Early Modern Europe

    • Modern Europe

    • Colonial and early United States

    • Modern United States

    • World or global history (on request may define as East Asia, South Asia, Africa, Latin America, Middle East)

These fields are examined by relevant faculty (NOT the student’s major professor) and will be defined in part by a battery of questions compiled by the faculty for the purpose.

 

  • MINOR OUTSIDE FIELD (teaching emphasis):  intended to encourage breadth of perspective and teaching competence and prepared through Reading Survey Seminars, 590s, and independent reading.  Minor fields are defined by the student and examining faculty and may be taken outside the department with permission.

Detailed Course Definitions

  • READING SURVEY SEMINARS called “Problems in XXX History,” designed to orient students for teaching undergraduate surveys and introduce historical and historiographical themes, trends, and questions.  At least one seminar will be offered each year in early and modern Europe, early and modern America, and some aspect of world or global history

  • SEQUENCE SEMINARS (paired reading plus research) one semester of focused reading and historiography followed by a semester of research, yielding an original article.  These are to be taken as a linked pair, not separately, and will be taught by the same instructor or by two collaborators sharing the seminar from the start.  Content is intended to be expansive, flexible, accessible to non-specialists but more focused than content in Reading Survey Seminars.

  • WILD CARD SEMINARS (reading or research) offering thematic or specialized content.  These are ad hoc offerings growing out of student demand or faculty initiative.  At least one will be offered each year in some area of history.

  • HISTORY 590s (three types):

  1. Linked 590, in which a student audits a 300- or 400-level course, does extra reading, writes reviews or papers as required by faculty

  2. Field Prep 590, in which students pursue directed readings for field preparations, meeting and writing reviews or papers as required by faculty

  3. Research 590, in which students wishing to write an original research paper in a field not offered in regular seminars may do so under supervision of a faculty mentor.  May be linked with a lecture course.  This augments but does not replace the required research seminars.

  4. All History 590 registrations must be reviewed in light of the student’s Plan of Study by the Graduate Committee

 

Suggested Program Maps

PhD Candidates, 4 year program map

 

Required for PhD:  90 hours total including Hist 610-611, at least 1 more research seminar, at least 3 more reading seminars (survey, wild card, or sequence).

 

Goal for year 1:  introduce the history profession

Goal for year 2:  field differentiation, professional identity, original research paper

Goal for year 3:  demonstrate competency (prelims), launch dissertation, maybe teach survey

Goal for year 4:  write dissertation and/or teach survey

 

 

Year 1

      6 courses

Hist 610

Reading Survey Seminar

Linked 590 OR

500-level course or Wild Card

Hist 611

Reading Survey Seminar

Linked 590 OR

500-level course or Wild Card

 

Year 2

      6 courses

Second year writing seminar

OR

Reading Survey Seminar OR

590 OR other 500-600-level

Reading Seminar

OR

Reading Survey Seminar

590 OR other 500-600-level

Early prelims?

Year 3

      699s

Prelims

Prospectus

Dissertation

Teach?

Year 4

      699s

Dissertation

Teach?

Dissertation

Teach?

 

 

PhD Candidates, Fast Track 5 year map

 

Goal for year 1:  introduce the history profession

Goal for year 2:  field differentiation, professional identity, original research paper

Goal for year 3:  further content development, demonstrate competency (prelims)

Goal for year 4:  launch dissertation, maybe teach survey

Goal for year 5:  write dissertation and/or teach survey

 

Year 1

      6 courses

Hist 610

Reading Survey Seminar

Linked 590 OR

500-level course

Hist 611

Reading Survey Seminar

Linked 590 OR

500-level course

Year 2

      6 courses

Second Year Writing Seminar

OR

Reading Survey Seminar OR

590 OR other 500-600-level

Reading Seminar

OR

Reading Survey Seminar

590 OR other 500-600-level

Year 3

      Courses or 699s

 

Additional courses as needed

Prelims?

Additional courses as needed

Prelims

Prospectus?

Year 4

      699s

Prospectus

Teach?

Dissertation

Teach?

Year 5

      699s

Dissertation

Teach?

Dissertation

Teach?

These maps reflect minimum requirements.  Students may elect to take additional courses after having met their requirements in order to take advantage of subject offerings or optional training courses that were not available during the standard two-year course rotation. 

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 (your prelims examining committee).

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 usually comprise written exams in each of your three fields plus a final oral exam.  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 parts of the exam  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.

Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907 (765) 494-4600

© 2017 Purdue University | An equal access/equal opportunity university | Copyright Complaints | Maintained by CLA

If you have trouble accessing this page because of a disability, please contact the College of Liberal Arts Webmaster.

Some content on this site may require the use of a special plug-in or application. Please visit our plug-ins page for links to download these applications.