Overview of PhD Requirements
The Graduate School requires PhD candidates take a minimum of 15 hours beyond the MA, including six hours of dissertation research (HIST 994). In order for students to become Ph.D. Candidates, they must have 1) completed coursework, 2) passed comprehensive examinations, and 3) illustrated their ability to define a compelling research project. Together, these three elements require both depth in their scholarly focus and breadth in their historical understanding.
Students must have completed all of these requirements by the end of their sixth semester (fourth semester for students admitted with the MA).
- a new place
- a new era
- a new discipline.
Please note that the Additional Teaching Area must be also distinct from the areas covered on a student’s comprehensive examinations—that is, it must not be identical to an examination topic, nor a subset of it, nor even largely inclusive of it. Courses used to fulfill this requirement may not be used to fulfill the second language substitution. Students must have their proposed Additional Teaching Area and course selection approved by their adviser in advance and noted on the appropriate worksheet that is submitted to the Department by the end of the second semester. Courses may not be double counted to fulfill requirements. Exception: Students in the Global field who successfully take two geographical fields for their comprehensives will be considered to have completed the Additional Teaching Area requirement, and thus do not necessarily have to fulfill the two-course requirement described above.
Language requirements for the PhD can be met by:
- Minimal proficiency in two foreign languages: Students may demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language by
- passing the reading competency exam given once a semester and administered through the appropriate language departments
- individual testing by an instructor in the chosen language
- earning a “B” or higher in a language course at UNC-CH beyond the second semester
- earning a “B” or higher in a graduate-level course that focuses on developing reading skills in a foreign language
- taking courses at well-respected language programs (Goethe Institute, Indiana University Summer Language Workshop, etc.). This requires, however, prior approval from the DGS.
- Advanced proficiency in one foreign language: A student may demonstrate advanced proficiency in a foreign language by
- individual testing by an instructor in the chosen language
- earning a “B” (or a graduate “P”) or better in a language course at UNC-CH beyond the fourth semester level.
- Taking courses at well-respected language programs (Goethe Institute, Indiana UniversitySummer Language Workshop, etc.) can also count toward the language requirement. This requires, however, approval of the DGS.
- Minimal proficiency in one foreign language and successful completion of a two-course program designed to develop proficiency in a research skill: The Department recognizes that the needs of individual fields and students differ. It has, therefore, established this option for meeting the language requirement for the doctorate where knowledge of only one foreign language is considered sufficient. To obtain approval to substitute a research skill or theoretical perspective, the student must send an email to the DGS after completion of the two-course program. The email should briefly explain how the courses have developed a research skill or theoretical perspective that will further her/his career. The student must have received a P or higher in both courses in order to fulfill this requirement.
Please note: this represents a minimal requirement. Most fields and advisers expect at least minimal proficiency in two languages and a significantly higher level of proficiency in at least one of these. For example, students in all areas of European History can only fulfill the language requirements by demonstrating minimal proficiency in at least two foreign languages.
Exception for students whose first language is not English: A student whose first language is not English must only demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language that is neither English nor her/his first language. That student may also substitute a research skill or theoretical perspective for her/his language requirement. All students whose first language is not English must also demonstrate their proficiency in English. To judge sufficient proficiency in English, a student’s adviser and the convener of his/her field should review a 10-page-or-longer paper written in English by the student. If these two members of the faculty agree that the paper demonstrates the student’s ability to express him/herself clearly at the professional level, then the Department (and the Graduate School) will consider that the student has passed the English-as-a-foreign-language exam. The adviser should provide an email to this effect to the DGS. If a student whose first language is not English needs to improve written proficiency, he or she can seek help with campus resources such as ESL and the Writing Center. In all cases, should a student’s adviser consider command of the language insufficient for research purposes or if the language skill has been acquired in atypical fashion, the professor may insist upon an additional test by the Department.
The written examination is composed and assessed by tenured or tenure-track members of the UNC-CH Graduate Faculty. Examinations can also be set by qualified faculty members from other academic institutions. In fields in which three exams are required, only one examiner may be from outside the UNC-CH History Department. In fields in which there are four exams, no more than two examiners from outside the UNC-CH History Department are permitted. Any exceptions must be cleared with both the field convenor and the DGS in advance. Advisors are strongly urged to communicate to outside examiners a sense of the expectations, and purpose, of comprehensive exams as administered in our department.
Students taking comprehensive exams are expected to receive the exam questions from the Graduate Coordinator on the morning of their scheduled exam. They must submit their completed exam answers either in person or electronically to the Graduate Coordinator by the end of the exam period. Any exceptions must be cleared in advance with both the faculty examiner and the DGS. A student who fails the written examination is permitted to retake it once, but only after a lapse of at least three months.