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University of Pittsburgh    
2017-2018 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  Jun 24, 2024
2017-2018 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog [Archived 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 and write an original research paper in order to sit for the one-hour oral examination.

The coursework and comprehensive exam portion of the Ph.D. program should take no more than two years beyond the M.A. Required doctoral coursework includes successful completion post-M.A. of three graduate seminars in History and the fulfillment of a second research tool.

Second Research Tool: Students must meet the requirement for a second research tool before before sitting for the PhD comprehensive examinations. The second research tool might consist of reading skills in another foreign language relevant for the student’s research, or specific research skills (statistics, information technology, etc.) acquired through coursework outside the History Department. Students select the most appropriate second research tool in consultation with their advisor. In case they choose the non-language option, students need to apply for permission through the Graduate Committee.

Comprehensive Exam: In consultation with their advisor, students form a comprehensive exam committee that consists of three examiners, all of whom need to have Graduate Faculty status. A meeting of the comps committee will take place no later than October 31 of the academic year in which the exam will take place (for spring exams) or February 28 of the previous academic year (for fall exams). At this meeting the student and the faculty members will confirm a) the lists for each of the fields and b) a plan of action to complete the student’s preparation for the exam.

Students will work with their examiners to prepare a written, historiographic essay and an annotated undergraduate course proposal. If they choose to write the essay on a thematic field (Atlantic History, Power and Inequality, Texts and Contexts, World History), the course proposal needs to be developed for a regional field (Asia, Europe, Latin America, and United States), and vice versa. In preparation for the specialized, dissertation-related field, students will prepare an annotated bibliography to be discussed during the oral examination.

Students complete the comprehensive exam through an oral examination, which will take place no later than April for a spring term and November for a fall term exam. The oral examination will be a maximum of two hours in duration, and should focus on integrating the three fields covered by the students.

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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