The Doctoral Program in History
The Doctoral Program in History is an intensive course of study comprised of research seminars, historiographic seminars, and independent research, culminating in the composition of a substantial new contribution to the student's field of history in their dissertation.
Each of these requirements is met with the help and consultation of a student’s faculty adviser and committee.
Coursework is expected to be taken at the graduate level, although students may take up to four 400-level courses toward completing the field requirements (outlined below) with the prior consent of their adviser. Required courses include:
- 4 courses (minimum) in a Major Field.
- 2 courses (minimum) in a Minor Field.
- 3 courses (minimum) in an Area of Specialization.
- Fulfillment of general course work requirements.
Upon application to the program, students should formally declare a major field of study. The purpose of the major field is to prepare students broadly for teaching and research. The department offers major fields in the following areas:
- Medieval Europe
- Early Modern Europe
- Latin America
- Modern Europe
- Middle East
The course requirement for the major field is a minimum of 4 courses. Students should consult with their adviser for the particular course requirements of their chosen major field.
Students may, with the support of their adviser, petition the Graduate Program Committee for an alternative major field.
No later than the beginning of the second year of study, students should formally declare a minor field of study. The purpose of the minor field is to broaden the student’s teaching and research expertise beyond the geotemporal boundaries of the major field.
Some students will choose a minor field from the list of major fields of study, or a subset of those fields. Other students may opt for a transnational or comparative field, or a thematic field, or a trans-temporal field, or a discipline outside history. Possible minor fields would therefore include:
- Modern Europe
- Premodern Japan
- The Colonial Americas
- Post-Medieval Europe
- Gender and Sexuality
- Visual Studies
This list is not exhaustive, and is meant to suggest possible courses of study.
The course requirement for the minor field is a minimum of 2 courses.
Depending on their areas of interest, some students may substitute a second major field for the minor field, or complete two minor fields.
Either the minor field or the area of specialization must be (1) outside the major field of study, (2) transnational, or (3) outside the discipline of history.
No later than the beginning of the second year of study, students should formally declare an area of specialization. The purpose of the area of specialization is to deepen the student’s scholarly training in a chosen area.
The area of specialization may be approached in one of two ways: as a thematic field, or as a research field involving intensive preparation for the dissertation. Possible areas of specialization would therefore include:
- 19th Century Intellectual History
- Visual Culture
- Women's History
- The American West
- British History
- History of Science and Medicine
This list is not exhaustive and is meant to suggest possible courses of study.
The course requirement for the area of specialization is 3 courses.
Either the minor field, or the area of specialization, must be outside the major field of study, or transnational (including thematic clusters), or outside the discipline of history.
- All entering students (including those with M.A. degrees) are required to take History 500 in their first semester of study.
- All students are required to take two 600-level research seminars in the History Department, at least one of which must be in the major area of study.
- Students must complete a minimum of 60 units of coursework, of which no more than 8 units may be in History 794.
- While the Department will in many cases honor graduate study completed elsewhere, students must complete at least 30 units of graduate course work within the USC History Department.
All students must demonstrate one of the following:
- Proficiency (advanced reading ability and conversational ability) in one research language other than English
- Competence (reading ability) in two research languages other than English. Faculty members in each graduate field will set additional language requirements as necessary for research in that field.
Proficiency and competence in languages will be assessed in two-hour translation examinations administered by History faculty at the beginning of every semester. Proficiency exam includes an oral component.
All students must pass departmentally administered language examinations before proceeding to qualifying examinations for the doctoral degree.
The qualifying examination consists of 2 parts:
- three 4-hour open-book written examinations (to be taken on-campus) based on the reading lists for the major field, minor field, and area of specialization (students who take two minor fields will combine them into a single examination);
- one 2-hour oral examination, which may include some discussion of the written exam already completed
Students prepare for qualifying exams by developing, in collaboration with appropriate faculty, reading lists for study in their major field, minor field, and area of specialization. The qualifying exams should be completed no later than the 6th semester of residential study (Study abroad thus does not count towards these semester limits).
Within six months after the qualifying exams, each student is required to submit a formal dissertation prospectus (which must be accepted by all members of the Dissertation Committee), and to pass a 1-hour oral prospectus defense involving that committee.
Some students (e.g. those whose major field is in East Asia) can, with the approval of the Dissertation Committee, petition for an extension of this 6-month deadline.
While many graduate students enter the program with a clear sense of which faculty member(s) they intend to work most closely with, the Department will assign each first year student an interim faculty adviser. This first-year adviser helps the student acclimate to the program and oversees their first year of coursework.
By the second year, students should have a clear idea of which faculty they intend to have oversee their advanced coursework and dissertation as their graduate adviser. By the end of their fourth semester of residential study in the program, students are required to constitute a Guidance Committee.
Guidance Committees consist of at least 5 members (including at least 3 from within the History Department, and at least 1 from outside the department — who must hold a tenure-track position in a PhD-granting program).
The Guidance Committee oversees the Qualifying Examinations. The relationship between the Guidance Committee membership and the structure of the qualifying exams should be worked out in consultation with the student’s graduate adviser and the members of the Guidance Committee.
After students have successfully completed their qualifying examinations, they should select a Dissertation Committee—consisting of at least 3 members (including at least 2 from the History Department)—who will be in charge of guiding the dissertation to completion.