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Ph.D. Frequently Asked Questions About:

The Director of Graduate Studies
The Mentor
The Advisory /Dissertation Committee
Core Courses
Minor Field and Independent Study (HIS 697)
Language Exam
The Qualifying Examination
The Dissertation
Final Oral Examination
Further Graduate School Requirements
Ground Rules for the Use of History Teaching Assistants


We want to ensure that students have ready access to faculty members and receive timely advice on how to best proceed through the program. To that end, we have devised an advising structure that consists of several, interrelated elements: the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS), the Mentor, and the Advisory/Dissertation Committee (ADC).

  • The Director of Graduate Studies. The DGS will be the student's first adviser within the Department. He or she will help each new student design a course of studies, answer questions about the program, and, until the selection of a mentor, be the contact person within the Department. Students are expected to set up a meeting with the DGS during each semester's advising period to plan a schedule of courses for the following semester.

  • The Mentor. All students are required to select a mentor after completing 9 hours of course work. The mentor should obviously have expertise in the student's major area of interest. The mentor will advise students on scholarly and professional matters, will chair the ADC, and serve as the student's main dissertation advisor. It is the student's responsibility to consult with a potential mentor and secure his or her agreement to act in that capacity.

  • The Advisory/Dissertation Committee (ADC). A student must have an ADC consisting of at least four members of the graduate faculty. Along with the DGS, the ADC will assist the student in the preparation of the plan of study, act as the examination committee for the student's qualifying exam, and guide the student through all stages of the dissertation. This Committee will be appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School upon the recommendation of the Head of the History Department and must be mutually acceptable to the student and all committee members.

    Of the ADC's four members, two, including the chair, must be members of the graduate faculty and no more than one may be an adjunct graduate faculty member. The chair of the ADC must be from the History Department, and it is required that at least one member be selected from the minor area of study. One member must be non-Americanist or non-History Department faculty. This requirement can be satisfied by either the minor field faculty committee selection or the fourth member faculty selection, or both.

    If at any time the ADC decreases in number to fewer than four members, the student must ensure that additional members of the graduate faculty are appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School to bring the number to at least four.

    The student should request the appointment of this committee as soon as possible after the first semester in the program and, in no case, can this request be made any later than upon the completion of 18 semester hours. Any subsequent changes in the ADC must be reported to the Graduate School for approval.

Core Courses

All students must complete the 15-hour core sequence consisting of the following courses:

  • Colloquium in American History (HIS 701-702). All students must complete the two-course colloquium sequence. The colloquia are designed to introduce students to major interpretive problems in American history and familiarize them with various methodological approaches used in the discipline.

  • Varieties of Teaching (HIS 714). Students must complete their Varieties of Teaching course in their two years of study. This course is designed to introduce students to college-level teaching with special attention to preparing syllabi and examinations, developing lecturing and discussion techniques, grading, and responding to student needs. In addition, all students will also be expected to participate in practice teaching exercises.

  • Graduate Colloquium in World History (716). Students are encouraged to complete the Graduate Colloquium in World History during their first year of study. This course is designed to introduce students to comparative or cross-cultural approaches to historical research and World History.
  • Ph.D. Reading Course (HIS 750). This course is intended to help prepare students for their qualifying examination and should be taken in the semester preceding the exam. Designed after consultation with the student's mentor, this course entails an intensive reading program covering the student's fields of competence. Graded on an S-U basis.

  • Ph.D. Dissertation Seminar (HIS 751). This course is intended to help students launch their dissertation projects and should be taken immediately after students have successfully completed their qualifying examination. Students will work with their mentor and their Doctoral Advisory/Dissertation Committee (ADC) to select a dissertation topic, assemble a research bibliography, write a preliminary survey of the literature, and design a research program. Though student will work independently much of the semester, they must also meet periodically with other members of the seminar, with their mentor, and with the members of their ADC.

Minor Fields and Independent Study (HIS 697)

  • Minor Fields. A major goal of our program is to view American history from transnational and transcultural perspectives. This wider perspective will be facilitated in two ways: first, through a selection of courses that are cross-national and integrative in format; and, second, through a close integration of the major and minor areas. As indicated in the program requirements, all students must choose two minor fields. All course work applied toward the minor must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies and listed on the student's Plan of Study.

    • Minor Field: The minor field must vary temporally, methodologically, or geographically from the major field. Students may select the minor field from either pre- or post-1865 U.S. History, one of twenty-four specific minor fields, or a self-defined minor field with the permission of their main advisor, minor field advisors, and the DGS.
    • Non-U.S. Minor Field: Students may select the non-U.S. minor field from the list of specificed minor fields or a self-defined minor field (with the permission of their main advisor, minor field advisors, and the DGS) that demonstrates geographical diversity from the major field. Students will complete two electives (6 credit hours) in their non-U.S. minor field.
  • Independent Study HIS 697, Directed Readings, allows students to explore particular topics not available in other courses (or not treated with enough specificity or in sufficient depth). Students can sign up for HIS 697 only with the instructor's prior agreement. They must complete the online registration form, as well as obtain the appropriate form from the History Department, have it completed and signed by the instructor, and return it to the History Department for their student file. The Graduate School completes the registration after it is approved by the dean of the Graduate School.

Language Requirement

All students are required to certify their proficiency in a foreign language by passing the language examination administered by the History Department. The examination tests the ability of students to translate historical prose. Students are asked to translate two pages in three hours; dictionaries are permitted. The Department strongly suggests that all students take the exam during their first or second semester in order to determine their level of proficiency; there is no penalty for re-taking the exam. The language exam is given every semester.

The Comprehensive Examination

When a student has removed any provisions or special condition which may have been attached to admission, completed a minimum of three-fourths of the course work contained in the program of study, passed the foreign language requirement, and received permission of the ADC he or she is eligible to take the Comprehensive Exam. Normally, this will occur after the student has completed 30 hours of course work. The comprehensive examination consists of both a written and oral component; the oral component should be scheduled within one month following the written exam.

The written part is prepared by the dissertation advisor with the assistance of the ADC. All students are strongly advised to meet with each member of their ADC in the semester preceding their qualifying exams (and in preparation for HIS 750) and draw up a reading list that will include all of the relevant material to be covered on the exam. Unanimous approval of the ADC is required for passing the comprehensive examination. If a student fails only one part of the written exam, he or she may be required to retake only that part. If a student fails either the written or oral exam (or both), he or she must retake the entire examination.

The Dissertation

Students will register for a minimum of 12 hours of dissertation credit (HIS 799) while researching and writing the dissertation. For a complete explanation of requirements affecting dissertation registration, see "Policy on Continuous Enrollment" in the Graduate School Bulletin.

The ADC, with such other professors as may be appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School, shall examine the dissertation; no dissertation shall be accepted unless it secures unanimous approval of the ADC. Students must submit the final, approved dissertation electronically via the Graduate School website by the deadline date specified in the Academic Calendar. In the final form, the dissertation must comply with the rules prescribed by the Graduate Studies Committee in the templates for preparing theses and dissertations. The Graduate School requires all approved student dissertation to be published with UMI Dissertation Publishing/ProQuest Information and Learning and also on NC DOCKS.

Final Oral Examination

The doctoral candidate who has successfully completed all other requirements for the degree will be scheduled by the chair of the ADC, in consultation with other members of the committee, to take a final oral examination. The Graduate School will publish the dissertation title, date, time and location of the oral examination at least two weeks beforehand. The exam will be open to all members of the university who may wish to attend. The final oral exam is administered by the ADC and is largely related to the dissertation field. Approval of the exam must be attested to by all members of the ADC and the results are reported in writing to the Dean of the Graduate School.

Further Graduate School Requirements

All students must read the Doctoral Degree Requirements (under "Academic Regulations") in the Graduate School Bulletin. The most important of these are:

  • Plan of Study. A plan of study for the doctoral degree must be completed, preferably at the end of the first semester or no later than the completion of 18 hours of course work. Student must use the official departmental form (which can be downloaded from the website or obtained from the Director of Graduate Studies).

  • After approval by the Department, the plan of study must be submitted to the Dean of the Graduate School for approval. The Dean reserves the right to refer any or all plans of study to the Graduate Studies Committee for review and recommendation.

    The majority of course work must be at the 600- and 700-level. No more than 15 hours of independent study may be included in the plan of study, exclusive of the dissertation.

    Copies of the approved plan of study must be filed in the student's permanent folder in the Graduate School, in the departmental files, with the chair and each member of the ADC, and with the student. Any subsequent changes in the plan of study must be reported to the Graduate School for approval.

  • Residence Requirement. The minimum residence requirement for all Ph.D. candidates is two consecutive full-time semesters (minimum of 6 hours per semester) of graduate work on this campus after admission to a doctoral program. The two sessions of summer school count as one semester. Undergraduate courses taken in support of a graduate program cannot count toward residence.

  • Time Limits. All requirements for the doctorate, including the dissertation, must be completed within seven academic years from the date of first enrollment for study following admission to the doctoral program Post-master's (or equivalent) credit that is applied to the student's doctoral program must be no more than seven years old when the degree requirements are completed. This means that all course work to be credited to the student's doctoral program must fall within a seven-year period of time beginning with the date of first enrollment following admission to the program. If credit to be transferred was earned before enrollment at this University, the seven-year period of time commences with the beginning date of the term in which the transfer credit was earned.

  • Transfer Credit. All transfer credit must be approved by the History Department and in no case exceed 18 hours of the total hours taken. For further important Graduate School regulations, be sure to read the "Transfer and Extension Credit" section of the Graduate School Catalog.

Ground Rules for the Use of History Teaching Assistants

The Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) will be responsible for the assignment of assistants and for general oversight of the use of Teaching Assistants (a.k.a. Graduate Instructional Assistants and Graduate Teaching Associates). All Instructors and Teaching Assistants will be required to observe the following ground rules to insure equity and consistency:

  • Lectures. Two-thirds of class time will consist of lectures delivered by the Instructor assigned to the course. A TA will be required to attend all lectures of the Instructor to whom he or she has been assigned.

  • Discussion Sections. One-third of class time will be devoted to small class discussions led by the TAs. Each TA will be assigned to a single Instructor and will conduct the discussion sections. Each section's discussion content should be weighted toward primary source material and interpretive issues, and the TAs should make every effort to elicit student participation in discussion.

  • Coordination Meetings. Each Instructor must convene his or her TAs at least once every two weeks in order to highlight course themes, ensure coordination between lectures and discussions, and iron out any problems that might arise. Teaching assistants will be required to attend all such meetings.

  • Grading. Based on guidelines set by the Instructor, the grading of examinations and quizzes will the responsibility of the TAs. Also, a TA's assessment of a student's discussion performance should be factored into the final grade in a manner determined by the Instructor. Determination of the final grade will be the responsibility of the Instructor.

  • Office Hours. Each TA must hold regular office hours each week and make themself available to students via e-mail. Office hours must be posted on the course syllabus.

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