Ph.D. Program

Ph.D. Program

The Ph.D. is a research degree requiring professional preparation and implying a certain level of both knowledge and technical skill as a historian. We view the training of a historian as an apprenticeship, not as a period when one mechanically follows a set curriculum. Therefore, the requirements for completing the degree will be administered as flexibly as possible within the bounds of the general university regulations.

Degree Requirements

Coursework Requirement

The Ph.D. requires 48 credits of coursework, which works out to 12 courses.  Eight of these courses must be graduate seminars, and the other four may be seminars, directed readings, or other categories of coursework. 

Language Requirement

Ph.D. students must pass an examination in their principal language of research or, if the principal language of research is English, in one other language. When research needs require it, students may be asked to present one or more additional languages.  The timing of this exam is normally the summer after the second semester, but with special approval may be taken later (but always prior to the comprehensive exams). 

Comprehensive Examination

The Comprehensive Examination for admission to candidacy will normally be taken before the beginning of the fifth semester, but may, with approval, be taken later, in no case later than the beginning of the seventh semester. The Comprehensive Examination format is determined by the student's examination committee, is determined no later than the beginning of the third semester and typically consists of a series of written exams and a two-hour oral exam.   

Each student must submit a form by the beginning of the third semester describing the fields, format, scope and faculty on the student's Comprehensive Examination committee.    


After a student has passed the language examinations and the comprehensive examination, the student must have a dissertation committee composed of three or more tenured or tenure track faculty members approved by the Department's graduate committee; one member of this committee must be the student's dissertation director, another must be from within the department, and a third must be a Rice faculty member from outside the History Department. As soon as the committee approves the student's dissertation prospectus, the student must file a petition for approval of candidacy for the Ph.D. with the Graduate Office (no later than November 1 of the year preceding receipt of the degree).

Admission to candidacy also qualifies as completion of the requirements for a Candidacy Master of Arts degree. The Graduate Studies Coordinator will contact the student with details and deadlines.

Dissertation Defense

After completing the dissertation, the student must defend it in an oral examination before his or her dissertation committee. Ph.D. candidates should be careful to check with the Graduate Studies Coordinator early in the year they intend to finish their degree to receive the exact requirements for the format and technical details of the dissertation, for the deadline for the oral defense, and for the deadline for submission of the final text. It is extremely important to ascertain these rules and deadlines accurately, since they are set by the University Graduate Council and are absolute.

Typical Course of Study

Year One


Year Two


Year Three +

SM 1 SM 2 SM 3 SM 4 SM 5 SM 6 +

1st Semester coursework: HIST 575 (Introduction to Doctoral Studies) plus 2 additional courses

3 courses.

*Pass foreign language exam before beginning of 3rd semester.

3 courses.

3 courses.

*Take Qualifying exams by end of summer - Prospectus due 6 months after date of exam.

*Form dissertation defense committee.

HIST 577 Pedagogy Seminar (recommended)                      HIST 578 Prospectus Seminar (recommended)

Research and writing.

*Tenth Semester, final funded semester.

*Defense (must be prior to 16th semester).

See a list of our graduate courses.