Department of History

Doctoral Degree Requirements

  1. Time Limits, Expectations, and Advising
  2. Credit Hours and Course Requirements
  3. Language Requirements
  4. Field Review
  5. The Qualifying Examination
  6. The Dissertation

A. Time Limits, Expectations, and Advising

Time Limits and Expectations

There are two notable timelines when pursuing a Ph.D. in History. First is the time you spend completing coursework, languages, and qualifying exams. All of these tasks must be completed within seven years. Once a student has successfully completed the qualifying exam procedures they are formally nominated to "candidacy" by the department. A student is then in the next stage known in the profession as A.B.D., or "all but dissertation." During this time the student will research and write a dissertation. Another seven years of time is permitted for this A.B.D. stage. However, it is reasonable for students to complete the first stage of study in three to four years with and additional two to four years for the A.B.D. stage. Variables influencing these timelines are determined by fields of study and language requirements.


A new graduate student in the Indiana University Department of History is assigned a faculty advisor who works in the general field of the student's interest. As the student refines and focuses that interest, she or he is encouraged to seek out the most appropriate faculty members with whom to work. Students are free to change advisors at any time after the first semester, subject to approval by the Director of Graduate Studies. Effective and continuous advising provides the basis for satisfactory development of education and career plans. Students should meet with their advisors at least once each semester to review thoroughly both their current programs and future plans. Each student is required to schedule a formal "progress meeting" with her or his advisor during the spring semester of every year in which s/he is enrolled in the graduate program. Each you the advisor will complete a brief report that summarizes the student's academic progress to date. The Director of Graduate Studies is also available to clarify degree requirements and to discuss long and short-term goals.

B. Credit Hours and Course Requirements

Ph.D. History Majors

The minimum course requirements for the Ph.D. degree are six colloquia (courses H600-H699) distributed in two or more fields, two seminars (courses H700-H799) taught by different instructors, one of which must be in the major field, H601 (“Introduction to the Professional Study of History,” during the first semester at IU), and courses to complete the outside minor. For those students transferring MA credits, a maximum of 2 colloquia and 1 seminar may by transferred from another institution, the remainder of the history course work must be completed at IUB. Students may take dissertation credits (H899) to fulfill the 90 credit hours required by the University Graduate School to complete the Ph.D. Students enrolled in the dual concentration program in Cultural History must complete H680 and H780 in addition to the requirements listed above.

The Outside Minor

The University Graduate School requires all Ph.D. students to complete a minor field outside the student's major department. The relevant department or program determines the requirements necessary to complete the minor, including the number and type of courses.

Ph.D. Outside Minor in History

Students in other departments may minor in History by completing, with a grade-point average no lower than B (3.0), at least 12 hours of course work in history in courses numbered 500 or above, including one colloquium. No more than 6 hours of work transferred from another university may be applied toward this requirement, and such credit must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies in the History Department. To arrange for a history minor, students should consult the Director of Graduate Studies in History.

C. Language Requirements

Languages of Scholarship

Students are required to demonstrate proficiency in at least one foreign language with most fields of study requiring two languages, and a few specialized areas requiring even more. Certification of reading knowledge in one of the following foreign languages is most common: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Ancient Greek, Italian, Latin, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian or Spanish. However, another foreign language may be substituted with the approval of the University Graduate School. A language requirement may be replaced by a tool skill (if the field allows), but only in fields that normally require at least two foreign languages. The student should consult with his/her adviser about appropriate languages. Entering students should obtain certification of reading knowledge or begin appropriate language study in the first term of enrollment. International students may be eligible to use English as a second language to fulfill the graduate language requirement.

The above requirements should be met by the time the student has completed the qualifying exam and dissertation proposal defense.

D. Field Review

Graduate students who enter with an M.A. from another institution will be reviewed a year after beginning graduate work at IU. The student will at the end of her/his first year at IU present two papers, one from a seminar, and at least one of them written at IU, to the field committee or advisory committee. The field or advisory committee will review the student’s papers and overall record, meet with the student to clarify any necessary issues and recommend whether the student should be invited to continue in the Ph.D. program. (The department anticipates that the answer will be “yes” in almost all cases.)

E. The Qualifying Examination

Assessment of a student’s learning takes place in a set of examinations at the end of formal course work and before full-fledged work on the dissertation begins. The examination consists of an oral examination in the major field and inside minor fields and defense of the dissertation prospectus. The outside minor field has the option of participating in the exam or waiving their right to examine. Students will take their Ph.D. examinations no later than the sixth semester of graduate work (fourth semester after entering IU for those who have entered with an M.A. from another institution).

To take the exam, a candidate must complete all graduate courses and other Ph.D. requirements, including the outside minor, by the end of the term during which she or he plans to take the examination. It is a rule of the Graduate School that graduate courses must be completed within the seven years prior to the qualifying examination (see Graduate School Bulletin). Satisfactory performance on the examination entitles the student to proceed to the prospectus defense.

After passing the qualifying exam and completing all courses, language, or tool skill requirements, including the requirements for the outside minor field, the student is formally nominated to "candidacy" by the department. This is the stage known in the profession as A.B.D., or "all but dissertation."

F. The Dissertation

The culmination of the Ph.D. program is the writing of the dissertation, which is required of all doctoral students.

The dissertation must be an original contribution to knowledge and of high scholarly merit. The dissertation is written under the supervision of a research director and a research committee. The student must have received acceptance of his or her dissertation and must submit a copy to the University Graduate School within seven years after passing the qualifying examination.