Regulations for Graduate Study — Requirements for the Ph.D. Program


The Ph.D. requires a total of 54 hours of graduate coursework, not including dissertation research credit (HY 699). All credit hours earned in The University of Alabama’s M.A. program, as well as those accepted for transfer from other institutions, are included in this total.

Forty-eight of the student’s required 54 hours of graduate coursework must be earned in History. The remaining 6 required hours may be taken in History or in a different discipline. Ph.D. students in History who take coursework with a primarily historical focus in other departments at The University of Alabama may in extraordinary circumstances petition the Director of Graduate Studies to have that coursework count towards their required 48 credit hours in History. Ph.D. students are expected to discuss their course selection carefully with their dissertation director and the Director of Graduate Studies.

History Field Requirements

The Department of History offers the following Ph.D. fields:

  • United States History to 1877
  • United States History Since 1877
  • European History to 1815
  • European History Since 1815
  • Latin American History
  • History of the U.S. South
  • Military and Naval History
  • History of Race
  • Religious History
  • Women’s and Gender History

Ph.D. students may also create their own thematic fields, the exact contours of which will be settled in consultation with the student’s dissertation director and the Graduate Committee, provided that there are professors in the department who specialize in that area. Thematic fields may include material that crosses both geographic and chronological boundaries.

Ph.D. students are expected to begin conversations with their dissertation director and the Director of Graduate Studies about the selection of their Ph.D. fields early in their course of study to aid in planning and the selection of courses.

Foreign Language Proficiency Requirement

Ph.D. students are expected to demonstrate reading proficiency in two foreign languages, with the exception of those whose major field is in American history. Those working primarily in American history must demonstrate reading proficiency in only one foreign language, although any advisor may require his or her student to continue to fulfill the two-language requirement if it seems necessary to the area of the student’s research. The language proficiency requirements must be met before the scheduling of the comprehensive examinations. (See also “Foreign Language Proficiency Requirement“).

Comprehensive Examinations

Ph.D. students must test in both chronological halves of the history of their area of primary geographic focus (American, European, or Latin American) with an ‘earlier’ and a ‘modern’ faculty member respectively. Each student will also be required to test in two other fields, at least one of which must have a center of gravity not in the same geographic region as the student’s chief expertise. Students will select their fields in consultation with their dissertation director and the Director of Graduate Studies (see “The Department of History offers the following Ph.D. fields” above for the range of fields).

The comprehensive examinations for admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree consist of separate written examinations administered by each of the four faculty members on the student’s exam committee, and an oral examination taken with the exam committee as a whole.

Each of the four written exams will be an eight-hour long take-home exam.  Students will be sent their exam questions via email at 9:00 am on the morning of the exam, and must send in their responses by 5:00 pm that afternoon. Students will be responsible for ensuring they are in a location with a strong and reliable internet connection while taking their exam. Responses submitted after the 5:00 pm deadline will not be accepted, and will result in the student failing that field of the exam. Exam answers for each field should be roughly 10-12 double-spaced pages in length, and should provide a careful, considered, well-written, and well-edited response to the questions posed to the student. Exam responses will be held to the highest standards of academic honesty, and will be submitted to Turnitin. Students found to have committed academic misconduct in their written exams will be removed from the program.

All four written exams are to be taken over the course of a single seven-day week. Students may decide whether to take them over four consecutive days, or to schedule in break days with no exam during the week. It is the recommendation of the Department that students take their written exams over Spring Break week whenever possible. Students unable to take their written exams over Spring Break should discuss this with their dissertation director and the Director of Graduate Studies well in advance.

The oral component of the examination should take place within two weeks of completion of the written exams (with an allowance of at least five days between the last written exam and the date of the oral exam.) The oral examination will be two hours in length. The exam will begin with one round of questioning by each exam committee member, followed by a short break, and then a second round of questioning.

The written and oral exams in each field are considered a unit, which the student will pass or fail as a whole. The student must pass all four fields in order to pass the examination. A minimum of six months must elapse before the student may repeat a failed examination, the time being set by the examining committee. In cases where a student passes some but not all fields, the examining committee will determine whether the student must repeat the exam as a whole, or only the field(s) in which the student failed. A student is permitted to repeat a failed examination one time only.

Students who fail their first examination and wish to make changes to their examining committee before retaking the examination must submit a written request to the Director of Graduate Studies detailing the reasons for the proposed change. The Director of Graduate Studies, in consultation with the departmental Graduate Committee and the student’s main advisor/dissertation director, will decide on the merits of the case whether or not to grant permission for the changes to be made.

Dissertation Prospectus Defense

  1. The prospectus defense will be held after the Ph.D. comprehensive examinations but before the end of the semester in which the comprehensive exams are taken.
  2. The committee who will evaluate the prospectus will be the student’s dissertation committee, not the comprehensive exam committee (in the event that there are differences between the two committees). At this point, the student does not need to appoint an outside member to the committee. (For information on the outside member of the committee, see “Dissertation Committee“).
  3. Students will follow the prospectus guidelines provided by the Graduate Committee when preparing their document.
  4. The dissertation committee members (student’s main advisor and three other History faculty members) will receive the prospectus at least one week in advance of the defense date.
  5. The prospectus defense will last no longer than one hour. When the committee members have signed off on the prospectus the student will attain ABD status.
  6. After passing the comprehensive examinations and successfully defending the prospectus, students should immediately apply for admission to candidacy for the doctorate.

Dissertation Committee

Dissertation committees in History consist of four faculty members from the Department of History plus one additional member from outside the Department of History. The outside member may come from another department at The University of Alabama, or may come from outside of the University altogether. The use of faculty from outside the Department of History or University to serve on Ph.D. comprehensive examinations requires the advance approval of the dissertation director and the Director of Graduate Studies. Students wishing to include more than one outside member on their dissertation committees will need the advance approval of the dissertation director and the Director of Graduate Studies. All dissertation committee members must be members of The University of Alabama Graduate Faculty; when a member is not (as would be the case for some Alabama faculty and for all faculty who come from outside the University), he or she must be given a temporary appointment to The University of Alabama Graduate Faculty. The dissertation director is responsible for securing this temporary appointment and should do so at least two months in advance of the dissertation defense.

Dissertation Credit Hours

The Graduate School requires each student admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree to pursue completion of the dissertation without interruption by enrolling each semester in HY 699 for at least 3 credit hours. The student must register for a total of at least 24 hours of HY 699 in addition to the required 54 hours of coursework.

Eighteen-Month Dissertation Check-In

Approximately 18 months after the dissertation prospectus defense and achievement of ABD status, each Ph.D. student will meet with his/her entire dissertation committee (external member need not attend) for an eighteen-month check in. The purpose of this review is for the dissertators to discuss with their committees their research progress and the written output they have produced to that point (should be circulated to the committee at least two weeks in advance, along with a document briefly summarizing their progress and laying out a plan/timeline for completion of the remaining research and writing.) While there is no pass/fail vote to be taken at this time, the event should resemble a defense in which committee members are encouraged to interrogate the written product and ask the hard, big-picture questions the dissertator will need to think about while bringing the project to fruition. Dissertators will also have the opportunity at their check-in to ask whatever questions they have in mind and get the advice and encouragement most mid-stream dissertators need. Dissertators should work closely with their dissertation directors to schedule these meetings at the appropriate time.

The Dissertation Defense

The candidate must pass an oral examination with the dissertation committee on the dissertation in accordance with the rules of the Graduate School. Two negative votes constitute failure of the examination, after which the student may repeat the defense one time only at a time interval specified by the dissertation committee.

Other Requirements and Regulations for Doctoral Students


The minimum period in which the doctoral degree can be earned is three full academic years of graduate study. The student must spend at least one full academic year in continuous residence as a full-time student in the Graduate School of The University of Alabama (or, if specifically approved by the faculty concerned, one full summer consisting of two terms, preceded by or followed by one regular semester). This requirement can be satisfied only by enrolling in coursework; dissertation or thesis research cannot be used.

Time Limit

All requirements for the doctoral degree must be completed within 27 semesters following admission to the doctoral program.

Application for Graduation

Application for graduation must be done during the registration period of the student’s final semester.

Requests to Modify Program

Any departures from the Ph.D. regulations above can be made only with the recommendation of the student’s advisory committee, the permission of the Graduate Committee, and, where required, the permission of the Graduate School.

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