Department of History College of Arts and Sciences
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Guide for Graduate Students

Doctor of Philosophy in History

The program
Admission requirements
Nature of course offerings
Fields of study
Requirements and restrictions
Previously earned credits
Time limitation
Foreign language requirement
Comprehensive examination
Reading lists for Ph.D. comprehensive examination fields
Timetable for doctoral program
Forms and applications

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Fields of Study in the Ph.D. Program

In consultation with your major professor/advisor and Advisory Committee, you will choose three fields of study, designating one of them as your major or dissertation field.

We offer dissertation fields in United States before 1877, United States after 1877, African American History, Ancient World (Ancient Egyptian History only), Global History, Women and Gender History, and Modern Europe, with minor fields in (in addition to the above) Medieval-Renaissance Europe, Early Modern Europe, Latin America, Africa, China and Japan, Russia, and the Near East. If you wish to work in field other than our normal dissertation fields, it is generally preferable to apply to a university that specializes in it. However, it is sometimes possible to do it here if a potential faculty dissertation advisor agrees to direct you. This will usually require obtaining a second major field examiner outside of the department or university. Please note that examiners outside the university must apply for and receive Adjunct Graduate Faculty status.

All graduate committees, including this one, should normally consist of tenured and tenure-track faculty. Other instructors at University of Memphis, untenured or non-tenure track instructors from other institutions, and unaffiliated scholars, with appropriate graduate faculty status may serve, but only with the approval of the committee chair and by a formal petition to the Graduate Studies Committee providing a full explanation of the reasons for the request.

You and your advisor must also petition the Graduate Studies Committee in order to get approval for a non-standard dissertation field. In your petition, you should make clear how you intend to compensate for the lack of departmental faculty in your field.

Although we require sixty total credits before you can complete the Comprehensive Exam, including any transfer credits, we no longer require a specific number of credits in each field, leaving this determination up to your Advisory Committee. However, you can think of the previous requirement as a good rule of thumb: eighteen credits in the major (dissertation) field, and twelve credits in each of the two minor fields. These numbers include any credits transferred from a M.A. or other graduate program. In addition(although part of the 60 credits), and not subject to the committee’s discretion, near or after completion of the required coursework in each field, you must take three credits of Reading for and Writing Comprehensives (History 8990) in each field, and make take up to six credits in the major field, in each of which you will be expected to make progress toward the exam. The course can serve for intensive individual study directed toward the historiography of the field as a whole, which would include the compilation of a list of important books and articles and the gaining of familiarity with their arguments and the key debates in the field. It can also serve for writing the exam itself.The professor should give some guidance with the preparation, but normally there are no regular meetings. After the exam questions have been posed you must do the writing on your own, without seeking guidance from your professors other than clarification of the questions. The timetable for completing the exam is determined by the professors in consultation with you, and need not be before the end of the Reading for and Writing Comprehensives classes. So long as you are making progress on the exam you should always receive a S grade, not an IP.

At least one of your fields must have its primary focus on a geographical region different from that of the major field. With this restriction, you may petition the Graduate Studies Committee for a field or fields not listed in the official list if the prospective field advisor agrees and your Advisory Committee approves. Additionally, if your major field embraces separate regions or is conventionally divided into separate fields (such as Ancient or Medieval/Renaissance), it may be subdivided into two (and only two) separate fields. With the approval of your Advisory Committee and the Graduate Studies Committee, you may take one field in another department or devise an interdisciplinary field, including courses from at least two departments. In rare instances, if you can demonstrate a compelling reason, the Graduate Studies Committee may waive the geographical requirement.

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Last Updated: 3/12/14