The Ph.D. in Literary, Cultural, and Linguistic Studies offers two major concentrations: 1) Literary and Cultural Studies and 2) Critical Studies of Language/Linguistics. Students in each concentration may opt to develop a secondary field of expertise in the other.

The program is designed primarily to prepare students for careers as university professors and research scholars. Students develop advanced language, teaching, and research skills that lend themselves to other professions, as well. A variety of geographic, temporal, and theoretical concentrations allow students to carry out innovative and interdisciplinary research projects, often with a transnational focus. 



The Ph.D. in LCLS moves beyond the traditional Spanish/French binary of Romance Studies to bridge those two critical areas of emphasis with one another, as well as with additional areas of expertise offered by our tenured and tenure-track faculty in Arabic, Chinese, Italian, and Luso-Brazilian Studies. Graduate training in MLL prepares students to work as teachers and researchers of literary, linguistic, and cultural studies at universities and four-year colleges, as well as to serve in administrative, advocacy, and leadership positions in a range of educational and cultural institutions.



The Department seeks: 1) to train innovative and productive intellectuals whose work can contribute to the creation of more knowledgeable and just societies; 2) to help students prepare for fruitful and fulfilling careers in scholarship, research, teaching, community service, and related professions; and 3) to guide and support graduating students in the successful pursuit of academic or non-academic employment.


Student Learning Outcomes

  • Graduate students should demonstrate a broad, critical understanding of literary and cultural forms, traditions, products, and processes from the geographies and time periods specific to their fields of study.
  • Students working as Teaching Assistants will demonstrate the ability to teach innovative, well-crafted, well-received courses in language, literature, and cultural studies at various levels.
  • MLL will equip its students as innovative and productive intellectuals, preparing them for fruitful careers in scholarship and research within and/or beyond the academy.

Guide to PhD Program

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  • Basic Curriculum Requirements

    The requirements set out below for the Ph.D. in Literary, Cultural, and Linguistic Studies are minimum requirements. The Graduate Studies Committee, Director of Graduate Studies, and individual advisors may set additional requirements.
    The Requirements
    a. for students entering on the “five-year plan” (with a B.A. or M.A., see below), passing satisfactorily a minimum of 60 graded credit hours in approved courses, 30 of which must be open to graduate students only;
    b. for students entering on the “four-year plan” (with an M.A. in a closely related field, see below), passing satisfactorily a minimum of 48 graded credit hours in approved courses, 24 of which must be open to graduate students only;


    Passing the following courses and a minimum of 15 graded credit hours in the area(s) of research emphasis to be determined on an individualized basis in collaboration with the graduate advisors. Credit Hours
    MLL 701 Intro to Second Language Teaching: Theory and Practice.  3 
    MLL 711  Introduction to Critical Theory 3
    MLL 799 Dissertation and Professional Writing Seminar 1-3   


    For students in the Literary and Cultural Studies concentration Credit Hours 
    Critical Studies of Language/Linguistics 3
    any Arts and Sciences discipline focusing on Colonial or Early Modern Studies (18th century or earlier). 3


    Approved cognate discipline to be determined in consultation with graduate advisors. 6 Credit Hours


    For students pursuing an optional minor concentration 9 Credit Hours
    Literary/Cultural Studies or
    Critical Studies of Language/Linguistics
    In addition to proficiency in English and the major language of study, demonstrating the following:
    a. reading knowledge of two other languages; or
    b.  holistic knowledge of one other language (for example, by passing the equivalent of a course at the 300-level).   Note: Appropriate languages of study will be determined in collaboration with the student’s advisors (e.g. students of Latin America  may be encouraged to study Portuguese or an indigenous language; students focusing on early modern Spanish or French studies may be encouraged to study Italian; students working in the French-speaking Caribbean many need to take Haitian  Kreyòl; etc.);     
    c.  if areas of specialization include Medieval, Early Modern, or Colonial Latin American Studies, students must demonstrate reading knowledge of Latin.


    Passing a Breadth Exam. Depending on the student’s interests, the exam shall consist of three parts, according to one of the following configurations:
    a.  one geographic region over three time periods;
    b.  two geographic regions over two or three time periods;
    c.  two geographic regions over one or two time periods and one area of critical sociolinguistics;
    d.  two areas of critical sociolinguistics and one geographic region over one-time period.   ​Note: Students entering the doctoral program with an MA in a relevant field may petition to waive the Breadth Exam (normally taken in the spring semester of the second year) after the first semester of study. The Graduate Studies Committee will consider petitions on an individualized basis.


    Passing a Qualifying Exam on an approved topic. The exam typically includes three general approaches focusing on:
    a.  literature, cultural studies, or sociolinguistics;
    b. critical theory;
    c.  a cognate discipline (e.g. history, sociology, philosophy, law, art, film, etc.). 


    Successfully defending a dissertation prospectus.

    • Completed during the Fall Semester of 4th year (5-year plan)
    • Completed during Spring Semester of the 3rd year (4-year plan) 


    Completing and defending satisfactorily a dissertation. 

    • Completed during the Spring Semester of 5th year (5-year plan)
    • Completed during the Spring Semester of the 4th year (4-year plan) 


    Satisfying the requirements of the Graduate School as stated in the Graduate Bulletin.

  • Timeline of Expected Progress toward Degree

    Students are expected to complete their degrees on time and with sound scholarly achievement. Every student is reviewed annually to evaluate progress toward the degree. While personal matters may understandably cause delay, lack of timely progress may result in non-renewal of the teaching assistantship and/or dismissal from the program.

    Some elements of the plans outlined below are suggestions (e.g. the timing for fulfilling the language requirement) while others define expected progress (e.g. the timing of exams). While most students are expected to complete the degree in five years, those entering with an M.A. may petition during their first semester to follow the accelerated 4-year plan of progress. If approved, this choice is irrevocable for funding purposes. 


    5-year Plan

    4-year Plan

    1st Semester
    • 3 courses (including MLL 711, Introduction to Critical Theory I)
    • Work on language requirement
    • 3 courses (including MLL 711, Introduction to Critical Theory I)
    • Work on language requirement
    • Be mindful of your Cognate requirement
    • April: choose Breadth Exam areas and committee
    • Apply for summer research funding.
    2nd Semester
    • 3 courses (including MLL 701: Introduction to Second Language Teaching)
    • Work on language requirement
    • April: choose Breadth Exam areas and committee
    • June and July: Make progress with reading lists linked to Breadth exam
    • 2 courses (including MLL 701: Introduction to Second Language Teaching) and

      MLL 797 (three credits of Breadth      Exam readings)

      If you have waived the Breadth    exam:

      2 course and

      FRE/SPA 830 - 3 credits 

    • Work on language requirement
    • Be mindful of your Cognate requirement
    • April: Breadth Exam
    • May: choose Qualifying Exam committee
    • June: Work on abstract to send to a conference.
    • July: Work on developing a research paper for publication
    3rd Semester 
    • 3 Courses
    • Work on language requirement
    • Be mindful of your Cognate requirement
    • Apply for summer research funding.
    • 3 courses
    • Work on language requirement
    • Be mindful of your Cognate requirement
    • Finalize Qualifying Exam lists
    • Apply for summer research funding.
    4th Semester 
    • 2 courses and

             MLL 797 (three credits of             Breadth Exam readings)

    If you have waived the Breadth exam:

      2 courses and

      FRE/SPA 830 - 3 credits 

    • Work on language requirement
    • Be mindful of your Cognate requirement
    • April: Breadth Exam
    • May: choose Qualifying Exam committee
    • June: Work on abstract to send to a conference.
    • July: work on developing a research paper for publication
    • 2 courses and 

       FRE/SPA 830 - 3 Credits

    If you have waived the breadth exam:

    2 courses and

    MLL 797

    • Work on language requirement
    • Be mindful of your Cognate requirement
    • April: Qualifying Exam
    • May: Turn in Dissertation Abstract (3-5 pages to Chair and GSC)
    • Begin preparation of Dissertation Prospectus
    • Deadline to fulfill all requirement except MLL 799
    • June: Work on abstract to send to a conference.
    • July: work on developing a research paper for publication
    5th Semester
    • 2 courses and
    • MLL 797 (three credits of      Breadth Exam readings)
    • If you have waived the Breadth exam:
    • 2 courses and
    • FRE/SPA 830 - 3 credits 
    • Work on language requirement
    • Be mindful of your Cognate requirement
    • All requirements must be met by the end of this semester!
    • Finalize Qualifying Exam lists
    • Apply for summer research
    • Enroll in MLL 799 (Dissertation and Professionalization Seminar) and 

       FRE/SPA 830 - 3 credits

       If you have waived the                 breadth exam:

       MLL 799 (Dissertation and                 Professionalization Seminar) and 

       FRE/SPA 830 - 3 credits

    • First Month: defend Dissertation Prospectus Dissertation work
    • Apply for intramural and extra-mural dissertation completion and summer grants
    6th Semester
    • 1 course and

            FRE/SPA 830 - 3 credits

      If you have waived the        breadth exam:

      1 course and

      MLL 797 and

      FRE/SPA 830 - 3 credits

    • April: Qualifying Exam
    • Preparation of Dissertation Prospectus
    • Deadline to fulfill all requirements except MLL 799.
    • June and July: Work on developing a research paper for publication
    • FRE/SPA 840 – 6 credits

             If you have waived the                       breadth exam:

             FRE/SPA 840 – 3 credit

    • Dissertation work
    • June: Work on abstract to send to a conference.
    • July: work on developing a research paper for publication
    7th Semester
    • Enroll in MLL 799 (Dissertation and professionalization Seminar)
    • 840 - 6 credits
    • First Month: Defend Dissertation Prospectus
    • Apply for intramural and extra-mural dissertation completion and summer grants
    • 850 – 1 credit
    • Job search/attendance to job market
    • Fellowship applications
    8th Semester
    • Enroll in 850 - 1 credit
    • Dissertation work
    • July: work on developing a research paper for publication
    • 850 - 1 credit
    • Job search / fellowship applications
    • Dissertation defense
    9th Semester
    • Enroll in 850 – 1 credit
    • Dissertation work
    • Job search / attendance to job market workshops
    10th Semester
    • Enroll in 850 – 1 credit
    • Job search / fellowship applications
    • Application for graduation

  • Advising and Annual Review

    • When you enter the program you will be assigned a faculty advisor whose research interests align with yours. Your advisor’s role is to assist you in choosing courses, meeting faculty relevant to your interests, deciding how to fulfill the language requirement, requesting course waivers and transfer credits, deciding whether to petition for a 4-year plan, and choosing the Breadth Exam areas and committee.
    • While you’re taking courses you will meet with your advisor at least once per semester to discuss your plan of study; selections should be communicated to the DGS and the Graduate Program Administrative Assistant. First-year advisors typically chair the Breadth Exam and facilitate your exam organization.
    • After passing the Breadth Exam you will select a Qualifying Exam chair and committee in consultation with your advisor. Your Qualifying Exam chair then becomes your advisor. It is fine to change advisors and committees as you move from one stage to another, as the Breadth Exam committee, Qualifying Exam committee, and Dissertation committee all serve different functions. It is also fine to work with the same professors throughout the process. Should you wish to change advisors in the middle of a stage, you must obtain approval from the DGS and your new advisor.
    • Each Spring the DGS and your advisor will review your progress and help you plan for the following year. The review concerns the quality of academic and teaching performance and extra-curricular professional development, based on: 1)grades and written reports from the professor of each course taken in the previous two semesters; 2) a report from your current exam ordissertation committee; and 3) your teaching, lab, and/or tutoring supervisors. Lack of acceptable progress will be documented and communicated to student when necessary.
    • Throughout the program, you should consult with your advisors and the DGS about degree requirements, progress toward the degree, and any other general program questions. You hold the ultimate responsibility for understanding and fulfilling all program requirements.

  • Course and Credits

    • In your first and second years, you should work towards fulfilling requirements, which are designed to provide a solid grounding in critical theory and breadth of knowledge in your field. It is expected that students will take the courses offered in their major research languages (FRE/SPA/POR/MLL), which will change every semester depending on the rotation among faculty.
    • In your second and third years, you should continue to develop your knowledge in literary, cultural, and linguistic studies while exploring topics of particular interest. You should begin coursework in a relevant cognate field (e.g. History, Philosophy, Communications, etc.) to fulfill your Cognate requirement and prepare for the Qualifying Exam.
    • “Independent Studies”: Students must submit a petition to take a Directed Reading (Independent Study) for approval by the DGS and the GSC. A syllabus must be submitted with the petition. In general, a student may take one or two Independent Studies at most throughout their career.
    • Your course grades must reflect an overall grade point average of at least 3.3. Grades of B are cause for concern. If you receive such a grade, you should consult with your professor, faculty advisor, and/or the DGS. B- is the lowest passing grade.
    • Incompletes. Courses should be completed before the end of the semester in which they are taken. Incompletes are discouraged, as no student is eligible to sit for any graduate exam or defense with an unresolved incomplete. On the rare occasion that a faculty member accords a student an Incomplete, the completed work should be submitted for grading no later than January 15th for Fall courses, or June 1st for Spring courses. The GSC generally considers work not completed within one semester as evidence of unsatisfactory progress, which may jeopardize future appointments to a teaching assistantship.
    • The language requirement may be completed during the semester of the Qualifying Exam. All other requirements, including coursework (with the exception of MLL 799) must be completed before the semester in which you take your Qualifying Exam. No student will take the Breadth or Qualifying Exam if he or she carries incompletes .
    • Students entering the program with previous graduate course work (M.A. degree or otherwise) can petition for two course requirements to be waived. Requests must be made during the first semester of study and accompanied by documentation that demonstrates that the coursework is equivalent to that offered in the program. In consultation with an MLL faculty expert in the relevant area of study, the GSC evaluates all waiver requests.
    • Students with graduate credits that have not been applied toward an M.A. degree can request to have up to 6 credits transferred. Credits that have counted toward another degree cannot be transferred; credits more than 6 years old cannot be transferred. Requests must be made no later than the second semester of study. The GSC evaluates all transfer requests.

  • Language Requirements

    The purpose of the language requirements is to develop transnational literacy and ensure the student’s ability to engage a broad range of texts and scholarship. Languages should support the student’s areas of interest. For example, students interested in Caribbean Studies might need reading knowledge of Haitian Kreyòl; specialists in Renaissance Studies might need knowledge of Italian; scholars of Latin America might choose Portuguese, French, or an indigenous language. Students specializing in Medieval Studies, Early Modern Studies, or Colonial Latin American Studies must have reading knowledge of Latin (please see below).
    • The Latin requirement can be fulfilled by satisfactory work in LAT 725 or by following the LAT 101-102 sequence. Students who have taken university-level Latin within the last four years can request to have the requirement filled by equivalency. Requests must be made during the first semester. The GSC evaluates all equivalency requests.
    • The language requirement can be met by demonstrating reading knowledge of two languages other than English and the language of study. Reading competency exams are given each semester. No student will be permitted to take more than one reading competency exam in a single semester. Students can prepare for reading exams on their own or by enrolling in graduate-level sections of basic language courses for zero credits. 
    • Students can also fulfill the language requirement by demonstrating in-depth knowledge of one language other than English and the language of study. Holistic knowledge can be demonstrated with a grade of B or higher in a 300-level course or higher or by providing transcripts of a secondary or university-level education conducted in that language. In all cases, the language must be pertinent to the course of study and meet the approval of the students’ advisors and the GSC.

  • Breadth Exam

    (students entering in 2021 may be grandfathered into old Breadth Exam format. All subsequent cohorts must take the exam in the new format).

    The purpose of the Breadth Exam is to assess students’ mastery of fundamental issues in literary, cultural, and/or linguistic studies. The Breadth Exam demonstrates sufficient knowledge of works and problems of fundamental importance to students’ selected fields of study across a broad range of materials, time periods, and cultural forms. It also demonstrates that they master the major debates and theoretical approaches of their selected research fields. It establishes that students have the basic knowledge necessary to identify specialized topics for dissertation research and will be qualified to teach those fields when they graduate.

    The Breadth Exam consists of two parts, described in greater detail below:

    1. A research paper revised for publication;
    2. Design two syllabi, each in a distinct research area.

    There are four possible configurations of research areas for the exam:

    1. three areas of literary movements/genres comprising one region over three periods; OR
    2. three areas literary movements/genres comprising two regions over two or three periods; OR
    3. two areas of literary movements/genres over one or two periods AND one area of sociolinguistics.
    4. two areas of critical language analysis and one area of literary movements/genres


    Students are free to propose diverse configurations meeting the above definitions, or that incorporate a field represented by expertise from the research assignment that will be transformed into a publishable scholarly essay (course offerings will vary from year to year, changing possible research areas for the publishable article). Thus, diverse configurations may be proposed for consideration by student’s examination committee and the GSC. Examples include:

    • Colonial, 19th-, and 20th/21st-Century Spanish America 
    • 19th-, 20th/21st -Century Spanish America and Brazil/Lusophone 
    • Golden Age Spain and 19th-, 20th/21st-Century Spanish America 
    • Maghrebian Literature; 19th Century France; 20th/21st Century Francophone 
    • 20th/21st-Century France and 20th/21st-Century Francophone ; Bilingualism 
    • 20th/21st-Century France; 20th/21st-Century Spanish America; Critical Sociolinguistics 
    • Critical Sociolinguistics; Bilingualism; and 20th/21st-Century Spanish America 


    Breadth Exam reading lists include key genres and canonical texts of the period, and should be reflected in the syllabi crafted for undergraduate (and graduate) courses. Reading lists for critical language analysis include fundamental texts in the fields of critical discourse analysis, sociolinguistics, sociocultural theory, socio-cognitive approaches to second language acquisition, and ideologies of language.

    Students whose focus in the program is literary and cultural studies should also have knowledge of the Core Reading Lists, intended to ensure basic knowledge of canonical texts beyond the students’ areas of specialization. Students may be queried on the list during the oral portion of the Breadth Exam.

    The student will assemble committee of 3 faculty members, one of whom will serve as Chair of the exam and they will work with members throughout year two and submit before spring deadline at the end of the year. The Breadth Exam committee includes one faculty member from each exam area (this may include the faculty member with whom they have authored the original research paper selected for expansion but does *not* have to be the same person). Students are responsible for asking professors to serve on their committees and should seek advice from the advisor they were assigned during the first two years. The advisor does not necessarily need to be on the committee, but should serve as a resource for the student and facilitate the work between the respective committee members. Committee chairs, however, solicit questions from committee members and assemble the exam. Administrative decisions regarding the exam are made in consultation with the DGS. Students take the Breadth Exam in their fourth semester of study.

    Breadth Exam Format: Students will defend each of the following three artifacts (one essay and two syllabi) in a scheduled 3-hour oral examination within one week of submission of the written documents.

    1. SELECT a research paper completed during the first year of MLL Grad courses. Transform the paper with significant revision into a scholarly article by the end of year two (6000-7000 words). (While it may be helpful, it is not *necessary* for the student to retain the same faculty member with whom they developed original project).
    2. Design TWO Syllabi, one in a major area survey (for example, Introduction to Latin American Literature, Intro to Early Modern and Medieval Studies, Intro to Sociolinguistics, etc.) and another for a thematic content course developed with a specific theme, based on the student’s research fields (for example: XXth century Latin American literature, XIX century Peninsular literature). The syllabi should be broad and preferably designed for undergraduate courses.
      1. Accompany both syllabi with an 8-10-page paper explaining literary/cultural, pedagogical, and bibliographic choices
      2. Both syllabi should have a critical secondary annotated bibliography (of approximately 10-15 books and 10 articles per list). This would encompass a three-step process, as follows:
        1. Write a detailed description or summary of each source;
        2. Assess comparatively and critically how each source corroborates, dialogues, or disagrees with other sources and their overall argument;
        3. Explain how feasible or viable each source is in relation to the specific purpose or theme of the course.
      3. Students will defend their choice of primary (or foundational in the case of critical studies of language) and critical texts in their essays and in the oral defense, demonstrating deep familiarity with the canon and its criticism.
      4. If a student does not pass *any* part of the exam the student will have one month to revise the written components. It is up to the committee’s discretion (in consultation with the DGS) to request a second oral examination.

    Oral defense 

    Students will be asked to make an opening statement in which they supplement their written documents – the research article and two syllabi. The committee will then ask questions about the research essay and syllabi, interrogating theoretical as well as bibliographic choices, as well as scholarly debates chosen for the focus of the respective courses. The student may be examined about *any* work included in the research paper, the reading lists, and/or their annotated bibliographies.

    Grading Scales

    1. Pass with Distinction
    2. Pass
    3. Fail (with remediation – no more than one section)
    4. Fail

    Students failing one or more areas may retake the failed area(s) within one month but at least ten days before the end of the semester in a format determined by the committee. Remediation may not take place later than the beginning of the following semester. Students who fail a second time in one or more areas must withdraw from the program by the end of the academic year. Students who pass the Breadth Exam but who do not complete the Ph.D. may request a terminal M.A. degree.

    Reading Lists 

    Reading lists are available on-line. The Core reading lists include additional, fundamental works from all periods and all genres. Once the exam committee is established, students should consult with the members responsible for each area regarding their exam preparation. These reading lists should serve as a guide for the design and crafting of the two syllabi that will demonstrate mastery and command of major research areas.


    Studying for the exam

    Each student brings a different set of prior readings to the Breadth Exam and will devise a personalized method of study. Committee members can provide general guidance and should be consulted regularly to verify understanding of terms and classifications (i.e. movements, genres, critical debates, etc.). Students should submit drafts of their publishable essay and syllabi and complete all readings before the semester of the exam to allow at least one month for additional consultation with committee members prior to the due date. The student may not consult with the committee members after turning in the written materials, and before the oral exam, however, can seek guidance from the advisor (if not on the committee) or the DGS.

    Language of the exam

    Students must answer one question in English and another in the primary language of study. The third area may be answered in either language. Students should make these decisions in advance of the exam and in consultation with faculty in order to prepare accordingly.. 

    Protocol for Breadth Exam preparation 

    • Faculty should meet with students during the late spring semester prior to the academic year of the Breadth Exam to discuss research areas, possible research essay, as well as potential courses that reflect these research areas, so that students can begin preparation over the summer.
    • Faculty should discuss the scope and genre of questions they will ask on the oral exam and their suggested guidelines for preparation of the publishable essay, and the two courses the student will design that reflect major research areas and relevant scholarly debates in those areas. Faculty and students should refer to the core reading lists for guidance when crafting the syllabi.
    • Students should schedule regular meetings with their examining faculty to discuss readings and any doubts or concerns they might have about their exams. Students who fail to meet with one or more of the committee members prior to the exam may have their examination postponed or suspended depending on committee’s assessment of the student’s preparation of the examination materials. The student will not be allowed extra time to complete the program.
    • Faculty should not meet with students after exam materials have been submitted.
    • The Oral Defense is designed as an exercise where the student should be able to engage in the major scholarly debates relevant to their selected fields with the faculty examiners.

  • Qualifying Exam

    The Qualifying Exam prepares students to work on their dissertation proposals and should demonstrate the ability to think critically about methodological issues and to assess theoretical trends in the field(s) of interest.
    The Qualifying Exam is defined around a broad, student-selected theme and typically covers three approaches to that theme: 1) theoretical; 2) that of the primary field (literary, cultural, and/or linguistic); and 3) that of the cognate field. Recent themes include: Existentialism, Memory, Childhood, Terrorism, Urban Development, Diaspora, Bilingualism, Economic Crisis.
    The Qualifying Exam committee consists of four members, typically three from MLL and one representing the cognate field. Committee members should be chosen for their expertise; they may or may not be former members of the student’s Breadth Exam committee or future members of the dissertation committee. Students are responsible for asking each professor to serve on their committees and one professor to serve as Chair.
    Students develop a reading lists tailored to their topics in consultation with committee members. The process begins upon completion of the Breadth Exam and reading lists should be finalized during the following semester. The list comprises three sections, each representing one approach to the topic under study. Students should submit final copies of their reading list to each of their committee members, the DGS, and the Graduate Secretary.
    Students take the Qualifying Exam during April of their sixth semester. Exams are conducted as follows:
    • Students receive three possible questions per field (theoretical, primary, cognate) three weeks prior to the exam.
    • Students receive (on exam distribution day) one or two of the three questions per area (to be determined in advance by each committee member).
    • Students have one week to complete their exams and should turn in answers of 15-20 double-spaced, typed pages per field.
    • At least one area of the exam must be written in English and one in the primary language of study. While students may consult their texts and notes, time is best spent reflecting on the questions and synthesizing ideas. Citations may be helpful in composing answers, but are not required.

    An oral defense lasting 2-3 hours will take place one week after the written exam. The discussion may be in English, the language of concentration, or both (students should consult with committee members regarding language of the exam ahead of time). In addition to discussing the written exam, students will consider relationships among the different approaches represented by the list areas and projected dissertation interests. One express purpose of the oral exam is to help students transition to the dissertation proposal.

    Committee members will communicate exam results (pass or fail) to students at the conclusion of the oral exam. In order to pass, examinees must pass each area. Students failing one or more areas must retake the exam by no later than the beginning of the following semester in a format to be determined by the committee. Students who fail the exam a second time will withdraw from the program by the end of the academic year and may petition to receive an M.A. degree.

  • Tracking Candidacy

    The Graduate School tracks all students’ progress towards candidacy. This tracking means being enrolled in the sequence 830-840-850, which indicate progress towards the degree as follows: 

    • 830 (“Pre-Candidacy Dissertation”) for students who have not yet passed the Qualifying Exam.
    • 840 (“Post-Candidacy Doctoral Dissertation”) for students who have passed the Qualifying Exam.
    • 850 (“Research in Residence”), for one credit, for students who are writing their dissertations. 

    Note: Enrollment in these courses, even if for one credit, indicates full-time student status. 

  • Dissertation

    • Choosing a dissertation director. After the Qualifying Exam, students begin work on the dissertation. The first step is to choose a director with expertise in the areas of interest. The dissertation director may or may not be the chair of the Qualifying Exam committee. Students are responsible for asking faculty members to serve as their dissertation directors and committee members. Consult with the DGS if you encounter difficulties making arrangements.
    • Develop your topic in consultation with your director before the end of the semester in which you take your Qualifying Exam. Consult, read, and write as much as possible, keeping in mind that you will defend your Dissertation Prospectus at the beginning of your fourth year in the program.
    • The dissertation committee comprises at least four members, typically, three from the Department and one from outside the department. The chair and at least two of the other committee members must be members of the Graduate Faculty. A well-balanced committee should have a range of expertise and experience. Students are responsible for requesting the participation of all members. Faculty have the right to decline a request to participate or to impose specific conditions on their participation.
    • The duties of the committee are: to advise you on your research; to meet on a regular basis to review progress and expected results; to read, critique, and approve the dissertation prospectus; to read and comment on drafts of the dissertation; to meet, when the dissertation is completed, to conduct the dissertation defense; to ensure that the dissertation is a contribution to knowledge written in lucid, correct language, and submitted in approved form; to help prepare you for the job market.
    • The Dissertation Prospectus consists of: a description of the proposed research (approximately 15-20 pages), including an overview of the subject; rationale for the project; proposed contribution to the field; outline of projected chapters; and preliminary bibliography. The prospectus should be developed in consultation with all members of the dissertation committee.
    • The Dissertation Prospectus defense takes place during the semester following the Qualifying Exam. The committee must receive the prospectus in final form two weeks prior to the defense. The defense is oral and typically lasts between two and three hours. The defense provides the student an opportunity for extended conversation with committee members to help clarify and develop ideas. If the prospectus is not approved, students may present a second defense by the end of the given semester. If the prospectus is not approved the second time, the student must withdraw from the program at the end of the academic year and may petition to receive an M.A. degree.
    • Admission to Candidacy for the Ph.D. takes place after the prospectus is approved. Students have limited time to complete the dissertation before their credits expire: four years from passing the Qualifying Exam or eight years from entering the program, whichever is later.
    • The Dissertation is a draft manuscript for a scholarly book comprising at least 200 pages of text. In this manuscript, students are expected to develop an original idea and demonstrate how their analysis adds to existing scholarship. Throughout the process ofresearch and writing, students should work closely with all committee members, especially the director. Ways ofworking together depend on the group: students and committee members should have clear mutual expectations. At the beginning ofthe process, students should consult Guidelines for Preparing and Submitting Dissertations Electronically from the Library (available on its website) to familiarize themselves with filing procedures in advance of their completion date.
    • Registration while writing the dissertation: To maintain eligibility to receive the degree, students must maintain continuous registration for at least one-credit per semester (i.e. Fall and Spring) until the semester of the dissertation defense. After the end of the guaranteed funding period (five years in the program) tuition fees are the student’s responsibility if a tuition waiver is not available.
    • The dissertation defense takes place once the committee has approved a complete draft of the dissertation. The full committee must receive the approved draft one month before the defense. The defense is oral and lasts approximately three hours; it is open to the public (and to anyone you wish to invite). Committee members will ask questions first and then the chair of the dissertation committee may invite questions and comments from the audience. The dissertation will either be approved (with “pass” or “pass with distinction”) or not approved. If the work is not met with approval, a second defense may be held at a later date so long as the term of candidacy has not expired. Students are responsible for bringing required forms to the defense (e.g., departmental certificate of defense, university certificates of defense, signature pages). For further guidelines, consult with the Graduate Secretary and see the “Recommended Practices for Dissertation Committees” in the Appendix.
    • Scheduling the defense. Defenses should be scheduled during the regular academic year, usually spring of the 5th year before the deadline issued by the Graduate School (unless the student has received a fellowship from CAS or another entity for a sixth year). Dissertation defenses demonstrate the culmination of the student’s scholarly research in a public forum. As such, summer defenses are highly discouraged, and should be scheduled only in the event of an emergency. Students wishing to defend in the summer must submit a formal petition to the Graduate Studies Committee requesting a summer defense with its rationale. Students are responsible for all associated matriculation fees; however, students may petition the GSC to advocate for a tuition waiver from the Department.
    • Filing the Dissertation. It is not uncommon for approved dissertations to require revision. There may therefore be a delay between the defense and the filing of the dissertation with the Graduate School. Students must file before candidacy expires (within eight years of entering the program or four years of passing the Qualifying Exam). There are four filing dates per year (Fall, Spring, and two in Summer), in advance of the last day of classes (see the current academic calendar). Unless a formal leave of absence is granted, students must be registered continuously prior to and during the semester in which they file. Students are responsible for complying with regulations and timetables set by the Graduate School, and must supply the following: 1) signatures of committee members on specified forms; 2) five copies of the dissertation in approved form on approved, acid-free paper; 3) nine copies of an abstract of not more than 350 words. Dissertations are typically published on the UM ETD and Proquest UMI databases.

  • Graduation

    Upon filing the dissertation, students must apply to graduate by filing a form with the Graduate School. There are four application deadlines per year (Fall, Spring, and two in Summer) available on the current academic calendar. Graduation ceremonies take place in Fall and Spring (the Spring one is substantially larger).  

    Students graduating in Summer are eligible to participate in ceremonies the preceding Spring or following Fall or Spring. 

  • Ph.D. Progress Tracking sheet

    Advisors and advisees should meet throughout the semester (at least twice) to review progress, plan courses, configure exam committees, and review performance and accomplishments in general, and should use this form as a general guide.

    This form should be updated, signed by advisor and submitted at the end of every semester (no later than the first week of the following semester) along with the unofficial transcript through the duration of the student’s program.  Form should be submitted to both the DGS and Graduate Secretary and it will be uploaded and archived in student’s file and reviewed by DGS and GSC. 

    Graduate Student Course Tracking Sheet (as of Dec. 2020)