PhD Requirements

The PhD in American & New England Studies is dedicated to rigorous interdisciplinary investigation of American culture and society—its arts, literature, history, institutions, and its diverse intellectual traditions. The program admits candidates for study leading to the PhD only,* and guarantees five full years (8 months each) of financial support for students who maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress.

There are six components to the PhD program. For a detailed explanation of each component, see the Current Students area of our website:


There are two required courses: AM 735 (Studies in American Culture) and AM 736 (The Literature of American Studies). Students entering the program post-BA normally take sixteen courses over a period of four to six semesters, with eight courses at the 700 level or higher, and all other courses at the 500 level or higher. Students can, at the discretion of the AMNESP director, receive up to thirty-two transfer credits for graduate courses completed prior to matriculation. Students entering post-MA will take eight courses over a period of two to four semesters. Students may not take more than four and one-half courses for degree credit in any one semester, and those taking more than two directed studies in any academic year must have approval from the program director.

Language Requirement

Students must demonstrate reading competence in a single modern foreign language. This can be accomplished in one of the following ways: through an examination given by the program, by earning a score of 570 in the Graduate Student Foreign Language standardized exam, or by successfully completing a language reading course numbered 621 offered through the Graduate School. Advisors recommend that students fulfill their language requirement by the end of their first year in residence. Completing the language requirement is a prerequisite for the Qualifying Examination or earning an MA degree.

Major Research Paper

Before attempting the Qualifying Examination, students must submit a polished scholarly paper, usually a revised essay written for a graduate seminar, that employs a range of interdisciplinary methods. The paper must be approved and signed by first and second readers, as well as the program director, before scheduling the PhD Qualifying Examination.

Qualifying Examination

To be admitted to candidacy for the PhD degree, a student must pass an oral Qualifying Examination in a major and two minor fields. Students often take this examination in the semester after their last course work.

Early in their careers students begin the initial preparation for this examination. Students choose courses and make personal contacts with faculty members while keeping their qualifying examinations in mind. Students should have identified their examination fields by the time they complete course work, and then undertake intensive reading in those fields under faculty direction. Each examination is unique because it tests the knowledge of a specific student.

Dissertation Prospectus

The prospectus is 20 double-spaced pages maximum (excluding bibliography) and briefly explores three aspects of the dissertation topic: previous scholarship on the subject, techniques and methods to be employed and documentary or other sources to be consulted. Before a prospectus is submitted to the program director for final approval, it must be approved and signed by the first and second readers of the dissertation. Students can also examine previously approved American Studies prospectuses in the Program Office by special permission.


Candidates shall demonstrate their abilities for independent study in a dissertation representing original research or creative scholarship. Recent dissertation titles can be found here. Candidates must undergo a final oral examination in which they defend their dissertation as valuable contributions to knowledge in their fields and demonstrate a mastery of their fields of specialization in relation to their dissertation. All portions of the dissertation and final oral examination must be completed as outlined in the GRS General Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree.

*Students may obtain an MA in the course of their work for the PhD or, in exceptional cases, as a terminal degree. PhD students leaving the program with a terminal master’s degree must complete 8 courses at the 700 level or higher (including AM 736 and AM 735), pass the language exam, and complete a major paper.