PhD Course of Study

Coursework in our program is intended to provide students with a solid knowledge of historiography in their specialty, substantial experience in archival research, and the opportunity to explore new fields, themes, and methods of inquiry.

Generally, doctoral students take three courses each semester for their first two years in the program. All students must take the Core Colloquium in their first semester and complete a two-semester research seminar.  In addition to choosing from the list of offered courses, students may arrange for individual tutorials with faculty, or seek out a Consortium course from a participating university in the area.  Students who matriculate with an MA degree may petition for advanced standing, which reduces the courseload requirements.  Students are guided in their choice of courses by their Mentor and Advisory Committee.

Entering students are expected to have reading competency in at least one relevant language and are tested before they start their first semester of classes. Students cannot register for the third semester of classes until they pass at least one language exam. All students, except those whose major field is United States History, must pass a minimum of two language exams before scheduling comprehensive exams.

Courses Available in the History Department

Our Comprehensive Exams are intended to prepare students to teach in their specialties and launch them towards their dissertation research. Doctoral students usually take their exams some time in their third year.

Ph.D. students at Georgetown prepare three fields: a Major field, a Research field within the Major, and a separate Minor field. While the Major field must be one of our formal fields of study, students have a great deal of leeway and creative license to determine their other two fields. This flexibility is a hallmark of our program of study.

Students prepare a written exam in the Major Field and Research field and a written portfolio in the Minor field. Passing the written work qualifies a student to move on to a two-hour oral exam. Passing the oral exam qualifies the student as a Doctoral Candidate.

Writing a great dissertation is the goal of every student’s doctoral training. After passing their comprehensive exams, students form a dissertation committee, write a dissertation proposal, and move forward on their research. Ideally, students spend their fourth year doing archival research and their fifth year writing their dissertations. The doctoral students have a standing writing workshop for dissertators to share and critique each other’s work in progress. Our students have won prestigious external fellowships to fund their research and writing, including the ACLS and ACLS/Mellon, Newcombe, Ford Foundation, Fulbright and Fulbright-Hays, among many others. Click here for a list of completed dissertations and dissertations in progress.

Our doctoral students have plentiful opportunities to teach. Students on renewable fellowships usually serve as Teaching Assistants in their second, third, and fifth years. Every year, a handful of Davis Fellowships are awarded to advanced doctoral students to teach their own upper-level undergraduate seminars. Students who are nearly done with their dissertations or have recently completed their dissertations sometimes teach their own undergraduate survey-level classes. Ph.D. students in the History Department work closely with Georgetown’s Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship to improve as teachers. Our Ph.D.s enter the academic job market with extensive training and experience as teachers.