Major requirements for the history Ph.D. include successful completion of course and language requirements, service as a teaching assistant in the department, passing the general qualifying examination, gaining approval for a dissertation proposal, and the research, writing, and defense of the dissertation. Details for all requirements and regulations can be found in the History Graduate Program Guide. A typical path to completion looks like this:
Students typically take three major courses each semester during years one and two, beginning with “The Historians Craft,” an introduction to the study of history required of all Ph.D. candidates. The remaining courses of the twelve required are chosen from departmental offerings, graduate courses in other departments, and occasionally directed readings. During the second semester all students take “Research, Writing, and Publication,” in which they write and refine an article-quality research paper. Students often use the summer to work on their language requirements or to conduct exploratory research.
All students take the required “Historical Profession” during the fall semester, which examines the values and skills of the profession and spends considerable time on pedagogical skills and strategies. This is also the first of four semesters students spend as teaching assistants. Students are also expected to complete a second major research paper during year two. Most students complete their course work during the second year, and begin preparing for general examinations and the dissertation proposal.
In consultation with the DGS and their primary advisor, students identify a committee of four professors, two or three of whom typically come from their major field, and develop reading lists with each. Preparation for the written and oral exams provides an intensive immersion in their fields and a foundation for subsequent teaching and research. Exams are typically taken during the first semester of the third year.
A formal dissertation proposal should be presented and approved shortly after the qualifying exams. Most students work on preliminary ideas and drafts during the second year and often conduct exploratory research during the summer after year two, frequently testing ideas in research papers. Students are also encouraged to use the dissertation proposal to apply for external fellowships to support research.
Dissertation Research, Writing, and Completion
After completion of course work, language requirements, qualifying exams, and the dissertation proposal, students embark on full time dissertation research and writing. Many travel extensively to conduct archival research “in the field,” while others make use of the extensive library and archival collections at Notre Dame. Students often present chapter drafts at academic conferences, and submit articles for publication. Students defend their dissertation before a committee of four faculty prior to graduation.