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University of Pittsburgh    
2023-2024 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  Jun 19, 2024
2023-2024 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog

History, PhD

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The graduate program in history is committed to training area specialists with a global perspective. Our students learn how to research, interpret and teach the histories and historiographies of particular places from comparative, cross-cultural, transnational and global perspectives. Close cooperation with the interdisciplinary programs in Latin American Studies, Russian and East European Studies, West European Studies, and Asian Studies, coordinated under the University Center for International Studies, strengthen the international orientation of the program, with graduate students from Europe, Asia, and Latin America joining American students pursuing a PhD degrees.

Requirements for the PhD

Prerequisite for admission is a Master of Arts in History or equivalent preparation (plus approval, for those previously enrolled in the department).  Students entering the program with an MA from another institution must pass a preliminary examination at the end of the first year in the program. They must complete 9 credits in order to sit for the one-hour oral examination.

The coursework and comprehensive exam portion of the PhD program should take no more than one years beyond the MA. Required doctoral coursework includes successful completion post-MA of two graduate courses in History and the completion of the department pedagogy program.

Breadth Requirement: Ph.D. students entering the program with a B.A. must fulfill the Breadth Require­ment by the end of their fifth year. This requirement is intended to help students think more broadly about their dissertation and intellectual trajectory as well as future career paths. It may be fulfilled as follows: a)  a second foreign language; b) two skill-based courses agreed-upon with their advisor including but not limited to statistics, digital humanities, oral history/ethnography, and computer programing; c) two courses agreed-upon with their advisor that will permit students to enhance their knowledge in an interdisciplinary area including Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies, Cultural Studies, or an area of the student’s design; or d) in consultation with the DGS and their advisor, 6 credit hours or the equivalent accrued from internships and/or courses designed to enhance students’ ability to utilize their professional skills in diverse career environments.

Comprehensive Exam:

For students entering with a BA, the comprehensive exam needs to take place by February 1 of their third year. At the end of their first year, students must meet with their advisor and the DGS to: a) constitute a comps committee consisting of three members, all of whom need to have Graduate Faculty status; and b) identify any coursework completed in their first year that could be included in the comps portfolio. At the end of their second year, students and their full comps committee will agree upon the contents of the comps portfolio that will form the basis of the oral exam.

Students will work with faculty members who are members of the Graduate Faculty to develop expertise in: a regional field (Asia, Europe, Latin America, or United States); and a transregional or global field defined by the student in consultation with their advisor(s). Students may fulfill this requirement in one of the following ways: a) a field in world or global history; b) a field in a transregional history such as Atlantic history or Eurasian history; or c) a thematic field with transregional scope such as gender or empire.

The portfolio will consist of: a) two to three historiographic essays in the regional field as well as a bibliography of 40-50 books; b) two to three historiographic essays in the transregional or global field as well as a bibliography of 30-40 books; and c) a teachable undergraduate course proposal that demonstrates students’ ability to translate their knowledge of the historiography and recent research trends in a given field into the composition of an undergraduate course.

Students complete the comprehensive exam through an oral examination, which will take place no later than February 1 of their third year. The oral examination will be a maximum of two hours in duration, and should focus on the portfolio. Students should be able to discuss the essays, the bibliographies, and the course proposal.

Dissertation overview: After having selected a suitable dissertation topic in consultation with their advisor, students will present a written overview to their Ph.D. committee describing the purpose, scope, and method of the proposed study and the sources upon which it will be based. A PhD committee is composed of at least four members, all of whom must be members of the Graduate Faculty. There must be three graduate faculty members from the candidate’s department and at least one graduate faculty member external to the candidate’s department. With the acceptance of this prospectus at the overview examination and the approval of the assistant dean of graduate studies, the student is formally admitted to candidacy for the PhD.

Dissertation defense: The doctoral thesis, directed and evaluated by the student’s Ph.D. committee, is expected to demonstrate the student’s capacity to carry out independent, original research. Only if the dissertation is judged to demonstrate such competence, after formal defense in a final oral examination, does the department recommend the awarding of a degree.

For further details regarding the graduate program in history and the specific exam requirements, please see the latest version of the Handbook of the Graduate Program in History, which can be downloaded from the History Department Website.

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