PhD Requirements

In discussion with major and minor field advisers, History of Art Ph.D. students develop areas of concentration and courses of study to suit their intellectual interests and commitments. The art history faculty also encourages students to take full advantage of offerings in other departments, and students may, if they choose, develop a minor field in another discipline.

All students entering the Ph.D. program, regardless of the degree they hold, must complete four full semesters of coursework and pass the required language exams before being approved to take their qualifying exams (also known as the Ph.D. exams). In the first year, students normally take three courses at the graduate level per semester; in the second year, when students generally assume Teaching Assistant assignments, the student will normally take two courses at the graduate level per semester. As part of the coursework requirement, students must satisfactorily complete and submit all assigned papers and projects associated with the courses they have taken before being approved to take their qualifying exams.

All qualifying exams, regardless of the fields in which they are taken, are comprised of two written exams (one major field and one minor field), followed by an oral defense before the advisers and other department faculty. Exams should take place during the student’s third year; in some instances (e.g. the need for additional specialized language training beyond the modern language requirement or additional coursework) the exams may be taken later.

After the successful completion of qualifying exams, it is expected that students will be ready to begin work towards the dissertation by formulating a proposal. The dissertation proposal should be approximately 6–8 pages in length (10 pages will be the maximum), with a list of works cited and a very selective sample of figures appended. Simple parenthetical references to the works cited list are preferable to footnotes. Each proposal must contain a relatively straightforward description of the principal object of study and the defining questions the work seeks to answer, as well as a working title that captures the subject and the theme. The body of the proposal often also includes discussion of the current state of research, the intended contribution of the work to the field, and a preview of the research agenda and its challenges.

Students, having ideally secured outside research funding, then proceed to pursue dissertation research and writing. When the dissertation is complete, the student must successfully defend the dissertation before a Graduate Board Orals committee consisting of three internal (departmental) readers and two external readers. Successful defense of the dissertation and electronic submission of the work, complete in all its components, marks the fulfillment of the program’s degree requirements. 

Please see the Graduate Student Handbook for full details on all aspects of the above requirements.