Coursework refers to the work undertaken by doctoral students before taking their oral exams. It includes the required courses, original research papers, and certification of language proficiency as described below.
Students admitted to the PhD program will obtain an MA as part of the process of completing coursework towards the PhD.
Students entering the program with a bachelor’s degree take a total of 16 courses for 64 credits, or roughly 4 classes per semester at 4 credits each. Of these, 14 courses (or 56 credits), including the four required courses that all graduate students must take, consist of seminars, lecture courses, directed research, and directed study taken prior to the Qualifying Oral Examination. The remaining 8 credits are reserved for four semesters of a two-credit Dissertation Workshop course (GRS HI 900) taken after the oral exam.
Note that students entering with an approved Master’s degree from another institution are offered 16 credits of transfer courses, or the equivalent of 4 courses; instead of 56 credits, they are expected to take 40 credits prior to taking the Qualifying Oral Examination.
So that our graduates can participate fully in the historical profession, the Department of History familiarizes graduate students with historiographical and methodological paradigms in fields beyond their own area of expertise. All students in the PhD program (including students who have earned an MA at another institution) are thus required to take the following four courses in their first year of graduate study:
- GRS HI 800: European Historiography
- GRS HI 850: American Historiography
- GRS HI 870: African Historiography
- GRS HI 801: The Historian’s Craft
HI 800, 850, and 870 are reading and research courses on historiographical issues and approaches in the areas where the department has special strengths. In contrast, The Historian’s Craft (HI 801) is a research seminar designed to help students move from the original conception of a problem to a publishable article.
Note students must take the historiography courses (HI 800, 850, or 870) in their first year, alongside HI 801, which is offered every year in the spring semester.
- PhD students may take selected courses (numbered at the 500-700 level) that are open to undergraduates toward their degree requirements. Students are also permitted to take two graduate level courses in relevant disciplines other than history. These courses must be selected in consultation with the student’s advisor. Moreover, PhD students are encouraged to take Directed Reading and Directed Research Studies with their advisors and other faculty members of their choice.
- Students may also take approved courses within the Boston Consortium. Normally these courses are selected in consultation with the student’s advisor and respective Consortium faculty.
- Note that a grade of B or lower counts as a failing grade. Students who fail two classes or whose GPA falls below 3.3 will automatically be placed on academic probation, which is considered in violation of the definition of “satisfactory academic progress” described here. Academic probation will endanger their funding.
- After completing all other course requirements and the qualifying examination, every doctoral student is required to complete four semesters of a two-credit Dissertation Workshop course (GRS HI 900). The eight credits count toward the 64-credit requirement for PhD students. This course, presided over by a departmental faculty member, meets every two weeks for a presentation of a significant work or research related to the dissertation by a current graduate student, a roundtable discussion on an important research issue, or a topic relating to a career in college teaching. Although students in Boston are expected to attend the course regularly, students need not be in residence to enroll in HI 900. However, every dissertation student must present their research once a year, either in person or by some other means when appropriate.
Original Research Papers
Every doctoral student must write two major research papers between 25 and 40 pages. Students with an approved master’s degree from another institution are required to complete only one major research paper. The papers must be based on primary sources and meet professional standards of documentation, citation, argument, and structure. The paper completed in HI 801: The Historian’s Craft qualifies as one of the research papers. The second paper may be developed in a research seminar or directed research study. A copy of each paper must be approved by the student’s advisor and then submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies to determine if it meets these requirements. Approved papers remain in the student’s file. Students may not schedule their oral examination without having completed this requirement.
The Department aims at graduating world-class scholars capable of conducting research in languages other than English. Students working in African, Asian, and European history must conduct primary research in languages other than English. But given that significant secondary literature is produced outside the English-speaking world, the Department believes that it is important for all of our doctoral students, including Americanists, to demonstrate a genuine ability to read research in foreign languages. To this end, we require that doctoral candidates in United States history demonstrate a graduate-level reading knowledge in one relevant foreign language, and doctoral candidates in Asian, European and African history demonstrate a graduate-level reading knowledge in two relevant foreign languages. In exceptional circumstances, doctoral candidates in European history may petition for exemption from the two-language requirement.
Students can demonstrate reading proficiency in a foreign language in one of three ways:
- Language examinations. Students are given an excerpt from a scholarly text and asked to translate as much as they can as accurately as they can into good English (a dictionary is permitted). These exams are administered during the semester in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies. Exams must be scheduled with an administrator at least 2 weeks in advance.
- Language courses. The Department of Romance Studies offers reading courses for graduate students in French (GRS LF 621), Italian (GRS LI 621), and Spanish (GRS LS 621). The Department of World Languages & Literatures offers a reading course for graduate students in German (GRS LG 621). Passing one of these reading courses fulfills the department’s requirement for the language in question. Note that these courses may not be taken for credit toward the degree.
- Prior graduate school certification. If the candidate has passed a reading examination at another accredited graduate school and submits evidence to that effect to the Director of Graduate Studies, the departmental requirement will be waived in most instances.
PhD Students Who Have Already Earned an MA
Incoming PhD students who have already earned an MA receive the following credit upon approval:
- 16 credits toward the 64 credits required to advance to candidacy (Note: please see the Department Administrator for details).
- Credit for one of the research papers upon submission of the relevant document to the Director of Graduate Studies. It is worth noting that most students usually write two papers, one in the required course HI 801 and one through a directed study with their advisor.
- Credit for proficiency in one foreign language if certified by another accredited graduate school, contingent on the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies.