Sep 27, 2023  
USC Catalogue 2023-2024 
USC Catalogue 2023-2024

History (PhD)

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Doctoral Program in History

The Doctoral Program in the Department of History offers broad training in multiple fields and methods of historical study. Our students learn how to carry out advanced scholarly research, write and publish in multiple media; to speak persuasively in academic and public settings and to teach both in their specialties and beyond. Our curriculum consists of research seminars, thematic readings courses, historiographical colloquia and independent research, and it culminates in the execution of original research and the writing of a dissertation. The history profession nationwide combines a traditional emphasis on geo-temporal fields with a new emphasis on transnationalism, comparative history and interdisciplinary investigation. The department’s program reflects the changing landscape of historical training and scholarship.

Graduate School Requirements

The Graduate School requires students pursuing a doctorate to complete a minimum of 60 units of coursework, no more than 8 units of which may be in HIST 794a, HIST 794b, HIST 794c, HIST 794d, HIST 794z (dissertation writing sequence).

History Department Course Requirements

Students must complete a minimum of ten (4-unit) courses before their qualifying exam, including the following:

  • HIST 500 in the fall semester of the first year.
  • Two 600-level research seminars within the history department (or taught by an affiliated faculty member in another department). One of the seminars must be HIST 600 and be taken in the spring of the first year. At least one of the research papers to satisfy the 600-level requirement must focus on a topic in the student’s major field.
  • At least eight (4-unit) courses must be taught by faculty with appointments in the History Department.
  • At least one (4-unit) course must be taught by faculty not affiliated with the History Department.

Language Requirement

Students are required to demonstrate competency in two languages or proficiency in one. They must satisfy the language requirements before taking the qualifying examination.

The Qualifying Examination

For their qualifying examination, students are examined in two fields (major and minor) to be selected from the department’s list of fields and at least one (but two, if they wish) area(s) of specialization developed in consultation with their advisers. The qualifying examination, itself, consists of two components: (1) the creation of a portfolio of written materials and (2) an oral examination focused on those materials.

The portfolio must be finalized and submitted to all members of the committee two weeks prior to the oral examination and must include the following:

  1. A reading list for each examiner.
  2. A written exercise assigned by each examiner and based on the student’s reading list for them. Examiners may select from the from the following options:
    • A timed written exam.
    • An historiographical essay on a topic set by the examiner to be completed at any point during the students preparation for the examination. 
    • A detailed syllabus for a course assigned by the examiner to be completed at any point during the student preparation for the examination. 
  3. A reflective personal statement in which the student articulates how their fields and area(s) of specialization cohere and lay the foundation for their future research and teaching agenda.

The oral examination focuses on the whole of the materials in the portfolio, not merely the written exercises assigned by faculty but also the reading lists.

Prospectus and Prospectus Defense

Within six months of passing the qualifying examination, students must submit a formal dissertation prospectus to all members of the dissertation committee and pass a one-hour prospectus defense convened by that committee.

Dissertation and Dissertation Defense

The dissertation is a book-length scholarly monograph based on research, fieldwork and scholarly analysis. It should be an original contribution to academic historical discourse. Once students have completed the writing of the dissertation, they must follow the guidelines set forth by the Graduate School to defend and submit their work. 

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