Doctorate of Philosophy

Degree Requirements

Historiography (3 credits)

In the first term, students will take History 6300 (3 credits), a historiography course that introduces them to the professional study of history. Readings vary from year to year, but cover a broad range of methodologies, perspectives, and topics. The course also addresses historical writing, research techniques, and historical sources.

American History (24 credits)

During the first two years, all students take a sequence of four courses based upon intensive readings in American history (12 credits) from the era of Indian-European contact to the present, in order to acquire a mastery of the historiography of the field. These colloquia emphasize new problems, interpretations, and debates vital to the study of American history. In addition, students take four specialization courses (12 credits) that may vary in both content and method; these take the form of graduate courses, graduate/senior-level reading seminars, and/or individual directed readings. According to individual interests and requirements, one or two of these courses may be taken in another department.

The American Southwest, the U.S. West, Mexico, Hispanic America, Borderlands, Mexican Americans, and Native Americans (12 credits)

Students will develop a specialized field in history by taking a minimum of twelve credits of coursework in any combination of the above areas.  For example, students who have completed a research seminar and colloquium on Mexico might take six additional hours in southwestern history (including Mexican-American and Native-American history); whereas students who have completed a seminar and colloquium in the Southwest might take these six hours in Mexico/Hispanic America. Students may also wish to enrich their historical understandings by taking courses in other disciplines, such as anthropology, literature, or religious studies.  The courses should be chosen in consultation with the adviser. Then, too, the program offers unusual opportunities for students to broaden and deepen their knowledge in their field.  The resources include the Clements Center for Southwest Studies, with its symposia, research fellows and distinguished visitors; SMU’s DeGolyer Library, a repository for a remarkable collection of books and manuscripts on Mexico and the Southwest; and the Meadows Museum of Art, which houses perhaps the world’s finest collection of early modern Spanish art outside of Spain.

Global and Comparative History (12 credits)

The third field, in Global and Comparative History (12 credits), places the American experience in larger contexts by introducing students to the theoretical and conceptual frameworks that have guided advanced research in recent decades. The field also provides interdisciplinary perspectives on particular topics of global significance. Students begin this field of study by taking a colloquium (3 credits) that explores influential methodologies and theoretical perspectives in global and comparative history, including the Annales school, world-system and dependency analysis, cross-cultural approaches, ecological history, post-colonial theory, and comparative methods. These are followed by three specialized courses (9 credits) that treat individual topics and themes in comparative contexts. Topics and themes include urbanization, migration, industrialization, revolution, slavery, and gender roles.

Research Paper Requirement

Students will write two substantial research papers during the first two years of study. The goal is to produce significant work based on primary sources and of a quality comparable to an article in a scholarly journal.

Qualifying Examination

With the Director of Graduate Studies, doctoral students establish the membership of the oral examination committee by May 1 of the second year.  The oral examination committee has four members:  a chair, who will typically become the candidate’s dissertation adviser, and three other members of the Department.  Students compile the reading lists for examination with each committee member and submit them to the Director of Graduate Studies by June 21. Once the membership of the committee is decided, students work with the History Department’s secretary to set up a date for the oral exam.  Students may not take the qualifying exam until they have removed any outstanding incomplete grades and passed the language exam. Ph.D. oral exams usually take place in late January or the first half of February of the third year.

The chair of the orals committee and one other member will examine the student over the major field (Southwest, Mexico, Borderlands, U.S. West, etc.); one will examine a period, methodology or theme of U.S. history; and one will examine a non-U.S. field of study.  During the final stages of preparation for the exam, the student works closely with the committee, concentrating on a review of the materials covered in the various reading colloquia, supplemented with such additional titles as the committee may find necessary.  Broadly speaking, the student is expected to have mastered the readings assigned in all colloquia and readings courses they have taken, as well as those other sources used in preparing papers for courses in the program. The student should expect questions requiring demonstration of a clear understanding of the dominant themes and historiographical issues in the three fields.

Students must pass the qualifying exam before beginning work in earnest on the dissertation. The examining committee may award a “pass” or a “pass with distinction.”  Those who do not pass the exam may, at the discretion of the Graduate Committee, take it again. Those who pass, and who have completed the two required research papers, will be granted, if they so wish, the degree of M.A. in History.  Graduate students who pass the qualifying examination become doctoral candidates.

Dissertation (3 credits)

A formal defense is conducted upon completion of the dissertation.

Teaching Preparation

Learning to be an effective instructor is a vital part of our Ph.D. program. The centerpiece of teacher preparation, to occur in the fourth year, is a mentoring program tailored to the interests and the needs of each student. Students will work closely with a professors in the planning and teaching of an individual course. They also will meet with the professor to discuss topics related to teaching; attend the classes of various professors to observe technique and style; and participate in a seminar offered by SMU’s Commission on Teaching and Learning and the Office of Research and Graduate Studies.  Finally, students themselves will teach a course at SMU or a cooperating institution.


Updated 06/26/2013