Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Requirements

Historiography (3 credits)

In their first term, students take HIST 6300, 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 (12 credits)

The major field in American history offers a broad preparation.  During their first two years, students take a sequence of four colloquia (12 credits) in which they read intensively in American history from the era of Indian-European contact to the present. The intention is that they should master the historiography of the field. These colloquia emphasize new problems, interpretations, and debates vital to the study of American history.

 Regional, Ethnic, or Other Specialization (18 credits)

While the department maintains strong specializations in the Southwest, the West, Mexico, Borderlands, Mexican Americans, and Native Americans, students may instead opt to develop an individualized specialization of eighteen credits in a coherent field of study, such as American Presidential or Colonial history, approved by the Graduate Committee. Students may also wish to enrich their historical understandings by taking courses in other disciplines, such as anthropology, art history, 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.  The resources include and 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.  For students with more interdisciplinary interests, the Bridwell Library provides a wealth of primary sources for the study of religious history; the Underwood Law Library supports the study of legal history, including that of international law; and the Center for Presidential History allows for research in the domestic and foreign affairs of the United States.

Global and Comparative History (12 credits)

The program’s third field, 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 world history in recent decades. The field also provides broad interdisciplinary views of 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.  After this colloquium students take three courses (9 credits) that treat, in comparative contexts, such themes and topics as urbanization, migration, industrialization, revolution, colonialism and postcolonialism, slavery, and gender roles.

The courses taken in the specialized and global fields may vary in both content and method; these may be graduate courses, graduate/undergraduate senior level reading seminars, and also individual directed readings. If individual interests and requirements justify doing so, a limited number of these courses may be taken in another department.

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 in the field of specialization; one will examine a period, methodology or theme of general 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.  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 fifth year, is a mentoring program tailored to the interests and the needs of each student. Students will work closely with a professor 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.

M.A. En Route to the Ph.D.

After completion of 33 hours of course work in good standing, doctoral students may apply for the Master's degree in history.

Updated 3-8-16