Ph.D. Fields and Comprehensive Exams

Primary Fields

Each student chooses one primary field: American, European, or World. This field provides the survey breadth expected for students in their general dissertation area. Students must take the two core 900-level classes in their chosen primary field.

Secondary Fields

We also offer three secondary fields: American, European, or World. Training in these fields helps students gain a broad foundation in an additional area. Each student generally chooses one secondary field and takes the two core 900-level classes within it.  In some cases, in consultation with their advisors, students may elect to take 2 classes in two different secondary fields outside their primary field.

Students who choose World as their primary or secondary field will take a World History Seminar and Topics in Non-Western Historiography, which will enable them to gain some training in Africa, Asia, Latin America, or the Middle East.

Focus Field

The focus area will normally be the field in which the student plans to pursue his or her dissertation research. Students are expected to choose from among these six focus areas of faculty strength:

Comprehensive Examinations

Purpose: The purpose of comprehensive examinations is to assess the preparedness of Ph.D. students for research and teaching in their chosen fields. Successful completion of the exams is required before doctoral students will be admitted to candidacy.

Format: Comprehensive examinations are normally three distinct take-home written exams for each field, as described above. Students have 72 hours to complete each examination. Individual exams should normally consist of no more than three questions. Students usually must complete all three examinations within a two-week period. Any exceptions to these guidelines must be worked out in advance with the agreement of the Graduate Chair, the Adviser, and the Supervisory Committee. Students must pass all three written examinations before advancing to the oral examination. Students take a two-hour oral examination with the Supervisory Committee within two weeks of passing their written exams.

Timing: Students will normally take comprehensive examinations during the second semester of the third year of doctoral study. Students in European History who require two or more languages may take up to an additional year to take their comprehensive exams.

Results: Students will receive notification of the written exam results by the faculty who supervise each field within one week of the exam date. Each evaluation is given as high pass, pass, or fail. Should the student fail any part of the comprehensive examination, he or she may attempt another examination, or a part thereof, during the following academic term only on the recommendations of the Supervisory Committee and the Graduate Chair. The Supervisory Committee will complete the Comprehensive Examination form at the end of the oral examination, indicating the student’s performance on each written examination and on the oral examination.

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