Pursuing the Doctorate in History at UIC
The graduate faculty offers training at the Ph.D. level for a select number of advanced graduate students. Admission is restricted to those students who, in the opinion of the graduate faculty, have demonstrated the potential to make a significant contribution to scholarship. All incoming Ph.D. students must consult with a faculty adviser to plan an appropriate program of study. It is particularly important that students make the necessary arrangements to obtain an adequate preparation in the one major and two minor fields in which they are to be examined. The graduate faculty expects full-time students to take their preliminary examinations during their second year and to defend their dissertation at some point within the next four years. The Graduate College requires students to complete their Ph.D. degree within seven years of their admission to the Ph.D. program, and within five years after passing the preliminary examination.
Students entering the Ph.D. Program with a master's degree from another department or discipline may be required to complete additional coursework which is specified upon admission.
Note: Any exceptions to these requirements must have the support of the student's faculty adviser and the approval of the Graduate Advisory Committee
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Letter to Graduate Students
Dear Prospective Graduate Student:
Thank you for visiting our webpage and for your interest in the graduate program in the History Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago. My name is Malgorzata Fidelis, and I have the pleasure and privilege to serve as the Director of Graduate Studies. Our department has long been noted for cutting-edge scholarship on race, labor, gender, empires, and migration among other topics. We are particularly strong in African American, Gender and Sexuality, Urban, and Intellectual History. Beyond the Modern The United States, we specialize in Latin American, Eastern European, Russian, South Asian, and African History. Our two graduate concentrations, Work, Race, and Gender in the Urban World (WRGUW) and Encounters, Ethnographies, and Empires offer a strong grounding in transnational and interdisciplinary approaches while fostering a productive dialogue across regions and conceptual frameworks. For more information on our graduate concentrations and key areas of strength see. https://hist.uic.edu/academics/graduate-studies/phd/
As a relatively small program, we offer a close collaboration between our outstanding faculty and graduate students in scholarship and teaching. For faculty profiles please visit our Profile Page.
The deadline to apply to our Ph.D. program is December 15. Each year, we typically admit 6-7 Ph.D. students and dedicate ourselves to providing a professional, challenging, and personalized program that will make our graduates competitive for academic and nonacademic positions worldwide. We especially welcome applicants from underrepresented groups and students, who follow unconventional paths towards graduate education.
All admitted students will gain experience in the classroom as Teaching Assistants, and some will serve as teachers of record as well. Excellent teaching increases the job market. While teaching at UIC, you will develop unique skills interacting with students from diverse cultural and social backgrounds at our cosmopolitan university, whose diversity reflects its surrounding urban area.
When you apply to our Ph.D. program, your materials will be carefully reviewed by the Graduate Advisory Committee in conjunction with the specialists in your field. If you are admitted, you will be offered a guaranteed multi-year funding package, which includes a tuition waiver, a stipend, and a TA-ship. In addition, we provide awards and fellowships to support researching and writing of your dissertation. You can also expect a robust set of professional development workshops and assistance in applying for grants and jobs. You will have a chance to present your work and learn about the work of others in the department and the field at weekly brown bags.
All of our graduate students have access to amazingly rich libraries and archives in the city of Chicago. Our own Richard M. Daley Library at UIC features Special Collections and University Archives that house rare books and published and unpublished documents related to the history of Chicago. Additionally, our students utilize collections at the Newberry Library, University of Chicago Library, Northwestern University Library, and the Center for Research Libraries.
We pride ourselves on our strong graduate placement record. Recent placements include tenure-track positions at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University of Georgia, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, University of Texas, Arlington, University of Kentucky, Louisiana State University, Utah State University, Macalester College, and Wheaton College. Some of our graduates secured prestigious positions in independent research institutions, private academies and secondary schools, libraries, archives, community colleges, and higher education administrative positions.
I invite you to explore our website. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me or reach out to our faculty directly.
Director of Graduate Studies
Department of History
University of Illinois at Chicago
Requirements for the PhD
- Earn a grade of A or B in History 501: Introduction to the Graduate Study of History. This course is ordinarily taken in the first year of graduate study. This requirement can be waived for students who took History 501 as UIC MA candidates or who completed an equivalent course in another History MA program.
- Earn a grade of A or B in History 591: Preparation for Preliminary Examinations and Dissertation Prospectus (eight credit hours).
- Earn a grade of A or B in two research seminars. Research seminars require preparation of a major research paper based on primary sources. (Students entering the program with an MA degree in History may be exempted from one of the research seminars.)
- Complete 64 credit hours in graduate-level courses (400 or 500 level) beyond the MA (includes 48 hours of thesis research, see below…). At least 12 of these credit hours must be in courses that are taught at the 500 level by members of the graduate faculty in the Department of History. No student may receive graduate credit for a course at the 100, 200, or 300 level. Should a student enroll in a 400-level course, which is also open to advanced undergraduates, the instructor has the right to require the student to undertake extra work or to demonstrate a higher standard of proficiency.
- Students must take 16 of these credit hours prior to the preliminary examination. The remainder may be earned in History 599: Thesis Research, in which the student enrolls while preparing the dissertation.
- Maintain a grade point average of at least 3.00.
- Successfully complete any colloquia required for the student’s major or minor fields. Students majoring in the history of colonial America and the United States are required to pass the two-semester historiographical colloquium series History 551A and 551B. Students majoring in other fields are required to complete colloquia on appropriate topics. To find out which colloquia are required, students should consult their faculty adviser. The faculty adviser can waive all or part of these requirements if the student already obtained an MA in history.
- For students in the WRGUW Concentration, of the two required minor fields for students concentrating in WRGUW, at least one will address none- U.S. or comparative topics. In addition to their department-based course requirements, students concentrating in WRGUW entering with a BA must satisfactorily complete four WRGUW-themed courses (HIST 593, 16 hours), while those entering with an MA must complete three such courses (12 hours). Participation in the WRGUW Concentration involves no increase in the total credit hours needed to graduate. Students work closely with their advisors in designing their program of study. Completion of all requirements for the Ph.D. is necessary to graduate with a Concentration in WRGUW.
- For students in the Encounters Concentration, those entering with a BA must satisfactorily complete four Encounters courses (HIST 594, 16 hours), while those entering with an MA must complete three such courses (12 hours). For students concentrating in Encounters, of the minor fields required of Ph.D. students, one will be World History, and students concentrating in Encounters must take a graduate course in World History. Participation in the Encounters Concentration involves no increase in the total credit hours needed to graduate. Students work closely with their advisors in designing their program of study. Completion of all requirements for the Ph.D. is necessary to graduate with a Concentration in Encounters.
- Demonstrate reading knowledge of one foreign language. This requirement is usually met by passing the Foreign Language Exam. The requirement may be waived for students who received an MA in history from UIC.
- Successfully pass Preliminary Examinations in one major field and two minor fields.
- Successfully pass an oral dissertation prospectus defense. Students must prepare a dissertation prospectus, and defend it before a committee consisting of the student’s adviser and at least two other dissertation committee members.
- Complete and defend a dissertation that is an original and significant contribution to historical scholarship.
- Note: Any exceptions to these requirements must have the support of the student’s faculty adviser and the approval of the Graduate Advisory Committee.
- Note: Students will receive credit at the Ph.D. level for any requirements that they have fulfilled at the MA level.
Foreign Language Requirement for Graduate Study at UIC
Graduate students at the M.A. and Ph.D. programs must demonstrate a reading knowledge of one language other than English. The purpose of this requirement is different for students who will be working extensively with foreign-language sources while in graduate school than for students who will not, so the History Department has designed two paths to a fulfillment of the requirement. Students are to select one of the two paths in consultation with their advisors.
Path I. This path is intended for Ph.D. students who will be working extensively (i.e. on a daily or weekly basis) with foreign-language primary and secondary sources in their research for the dissertation. The goal is to ensure that these students are adequately prepared to comprehend, analyze, and translate sources in at least one of the primary languages in which they will be working. Students on Path I must successfully pass a written exam, which comprises translating a passage of college-level prose, roughly one page in length, into standard English. Students are given two hours to complete the exam, for which they are allowed use of a dictionary. The text is selected and the exam is read by a two-member faculty committee (either from inside or outside of the History Department) appointed by the Director of Graduate Studies. A passing grade is given for an exam that demonstrates graduate-level proficiency in translating the text both in its specific details and in its overall meaning, not by translating it word for word but by conveying the sense of each sentence clearly and correctly. If a student fails the exam, it may be twice retaken.
Path II. This path is designed for Ph.D. students who will not regularly depend on foreign-language sources for their research, as well as for all students in the terminal-M.A. program. The goal is to ensure that these students possess a basic ability to understand written work in at least one language other than English, sufficient to allow them to read primary and secondary sources with a general level of comprehension when they encounter them. Such familiarity with, if not fluency in, another language is an increasingly important qualification for teaching, scholarship, and participation in the profession for all historians today, especially given the transnational turn of historical scholarship in all fields and the multilingual diversity of high-school and college history students. This requirement is intended to encourage a broad acquaintance with non-English sources and perspectives, providing a gateway for scholars of British and U.S. history in particular to pursue lines of inquiry that cross the English-language border. Students on Path II may fulfill the language requirement either by passing a written exam or by taking a course:
- The written exam for Path II calls for paraphrasing rather than translating a passage of college-level prose, roughly one page in length, and then answering a brief series of guided questions about the text. Students are given two hours to complete the exam, for which they are allowed use of a dictionary. The text is selected and the exam is read by a two-member faculty committee (either from inside or outside of the History Department) appointed by the Director of Graduate Studies. A passing grade is given for an exam that demonstrates basic comprehension of the main ideas and overall meaning of the text. If a student fails the exam, it may be twice retaken.
- Alternatively, students on Path II may fulfill the requirement by completing and receiving a grade of “A” or “B” in a relevant language course. This can be either a graduate-level readings course (e.g., French 401: Reading French for Graduate Students, or German 400: German for Reading Knowledge) or a 104-level undergraduate language course (i.e., the intermediate level corresponding to the fourth semester of college language instruction).
All graduate students must complete the language requirement no later than the semester prior to taking the Comprehensive or Preliminary Exams. In special cases, students may request postponements or waivers of the language requirement, in consultation with their advisors, by petitioning the Graduate Advisory Committee. Such waivers may be granted, for example, to Ph.D. students who are native non-English speakers or whose research plans require special training in a skill comparable to learning a language, such as quantitative analysis. Students in the terminal-M.A. program may be granted waivers if no foreign language is directly relevant to their studies.
Preliminary Exams for PhD Students
- The purpose of the preliminary examinations is to give students the opportunity to demonstrate a superior understanding of three areas of historical inquiry.
- Preliminary exams consist of three written examinations, one in a major field and two in minor fields. One of the two minor fields must be distinct in time and/or space from the major field. Students wishing to take a minor field offered by another department within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences must petition the Graduate Advisory Committee for approval.
- The Department of History administers preliminary examinations twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring. Exams are held during a single week, with all three examinations made available via Blackboard at 9:00 a.m. on Monday and all three responses due via Blackboard by 9:00 a.m. the following Monday. Exams are graded in one of three ways: pass with distinction (for a performance of outstanding merit), pass, or fail. PhD students who receive marks of “pass with distinction” or “pass” are admitted to candidacy. Preliminary exams are evaluated by committees appointed by the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). Ordinarily, the major field test is evaluated by three faculty members and each of the minor field tests by two faculty members. If the grades for a minor field exam are split (i.e., one reader grades the exam as a “pass” and the other grades the exam as “fail”), the DGS will ask a third reader to evaluate the exam and cast the deciding vote.
- Students who fail a field exam may re-take that exam up to two more times (for a total of three attempts). Students will be reexamined only on the fields that they failed. Should a student fail a minor field, the student may choose to be examined again in a different minor field. The student may exercise this option to change a minor field only once. Students who fail any written exam three times will have their status in the program automatically reviewed by the GAC, with dismissal from the program a possible outcome. Students who fail one or more exam fields may petition to retake those fields before the next regularly scheduled exam period.
Preparing for Exams
Major field exams are generally based on colloquia readings and topics covered during the past three years. Typically, these fields are subdivided into thematic subfields that represent the most salient periods, themes, and conceptual frameworks within the overarching field. These subfields represent the areas of inquiry students of this subject would be expected to master. Each student prepares an individualized reading list based on the main themes in the field. Each theme should be covered, but not every work in every category need be on each student’s list. Students are responsible for developing their own minor field reading lists in conjunction with their advisers and other faculty in the minor field area.
Examination questions are often historiographical and analytical and are not necessarily restricted to topics covered in particular graduate courses. For this reason, it is extremely important for students to consult with their exam committees in order to become familiar with their expectations. Students are strongly encouraged to consult the most recently administered tests for their selected fields, as well as a range of course syllabi. The most recent version of written tests in most fields, as well as many course syllabi, are available from the Graduate Program Coordinator. Only one back exam will be made available to students requesting sample exams.
Exam readers will be selected during the semester preceding each exam and the identity of the readers for each field will be made known to the students at that time. Readers will also receive the names and contact information for all exam takers in their fields.
Students are strongly encouraged to meet with the chairs of their exam committees. In large fields (such as U.S. history) committee chairs may prefer to organize one general meeting for all exam takers rather than meeting individually with a relatively large number of students.
Students may petition to take up to one minor field exam in an area not included in the History Department’s approved list. The petition must be endorsed by at least two faculty members who are competent to administer the exam. In certain circumstances, one or both faculty members may come from outside the Department of History. All petitions for special fields must be submitted for approval to the Graduate Advisory Committee. Petitions for special fields must be submitted at least one semester prior to the examination.
The Dissertation in History at UIC
Dissertation Prospectus and Prospectus Defense
Following successful completion of preliminary exams, students begin to develop dissertation proposals. Students must work closely with their advisors to prepare for an oral defense of the proposal. The student and the chair agree on a proposal committee consisting of at least three faculty members. The chair, who is usually the student’s mentor, must be a member of the graduate faculty. The chair is responsible for ensuring that the student prepares a dissertation prospectus for submission to the dissertation prospectus committee for discussion, comment, and approval. Should the student subsequently change topics, he or she must inform the committee of this fact in writing and submit a new prospectus.
The dissertation prospectus is a prospective description that students write about their proposed dissertations. It typically contains four parts:
- The topic or question that is to be investigated, and the conclusion(s) that is (are) expected to be reached.
- The base of sources that will be used as evidence. If oral interviews are to be conducted, then the prospectus will show how these will be conducted in a way that is consistent with professional ethics and UIC regulations.
- The state of the question in scholarly publications, and the dissertation’s relationship to it.
- The way(s) in which the conclusion(s) of the dissertation will constitute(s) an advance in knowledge.
The prospectus will be 20-25 pages in length (including bibliography). In order to demonstrate good academic progress toward the degree, the doctoral student will normally defend the prospectus orally, in front of the committee, within six months of passing preliminary exams, and not more than 12 months thereafter. The committee evaluating the prospectus will normally include at least three people who are likely to serve on the dissertation defense committee.
The prospectus does not increase the student’s time to complete the dissertation, because the work undertaken to complete the prospectus is work that needs to be done to write the dissertation.
When the prospectus has been successfully defended, the student becomes a doctoral candidate. The eventual dissertation may differ from the prospectus through addition, subtraction, or modification, but to the extent that the dissertation follows its prospectus, it cannot be substantially criticized or rejected for having done so. In other words, the successfully defended prospectus constitutes a compact between the student and the department as to what kind of product will be deemed acceptable to the department.
Candidates should work closely with their advisers and keep their dissertation committees informed of their progress. It is the responsibility of dissertation adviser to decide when the candidate is to submit all or part of the work-in-progress to the other members of the dissertation committee. Students should register their dissertations with the American Historical Association so that they can be listed in Dissertations in Progress.
If for some reason the student’s original mentor no longer wishes to supervise a candidate’s dissertation, the faculty member must inform both the candidate and the Director of Graduate Studies in writing. If a candidate wishes to change mentors, the candidate must secure the consent of another member of the graduate faculty and notify the current mentor and the Director of Graduate Studies in writing. If a mentor is for any reason unable to supervise a candidate, the candidate, in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies, is responsible for securing an appropriate alternative.
When the candidate in the judgment of the mentor, is nearing completion of the dissertation, the proposal defense committee will be broadened to include a total of five members. The committee is nominated by the student’s mentor and approved by the Dean of the Graduate College. Graduate College regulations mandate that the dissertation defense committee consists of five faculty members, at least two of whom must be tenured members of the graduate faculty, and at least one of whom must have an appointment outside the Department of History. At the request of the adviser, the Graduate Secretary will schedule the dissertation defense.
The dissertation defense is oral and focuses on the dissertation’s finding, methods, and significance. In attendance are the members of a specially constituted dissertation defense committee. The dissertation defense is ordinarily scheduled approximately within five weeks after the mentor and a second reader have given the dissertation their tentative approval. This time period is intended to give the remaining members of the committee sufficient time to evaluate the dissertation.
The committee may accept the dissertation as it stands, rejects it outright, or accept it conditionally pending certain revisions. The revisions can range from minor editorial changes to a major recasting of a substantial portion of the text. Ordinarily, the committee delegates to the mentor the responsibility for ensuring that these conditions are met. All dissertations must meet the format and stylistic requirements of the Graduate College.
Timeline for Doctoral-track MA Students
This is a list of time-sensitive steps in the process of acquiring an M.A. on the way to the Ph.D. in the UIC Dept. of History. It is not a list of all degree requirements. Italics indicate that this is a logical semester in which to complete this item, although it is not necessary to do it during this semester. All calendar dates are approximate. For exact dates for each academic year, consult the Director of Graduate Studies.
Take Hist 501.
Take colloquium in a major field. For students in U.S. history, take Hist 551(a).
First opportunity to apply for foreign language examination: Oct. 5.
Apply for a teaching assistantship (even if guaranteed, complete application to indicate preferences, time constraints, etc.): April 1
For students in U.S. history, take Hist 551(b).
Take seminar in a major field, unless to be taken in the third semester.*
Apply for foreign language exam: Feb. 1.
For students in U.S. history, take Hist 551(b), already taken.
Take seminar in a major field, unless already taken.*
Apply for foreign language exam: Oct. 5.
Apply for foreign language exam: Feb. 1.
Apply for a Ph.D. program: Feb. 1
Apply for TAship (even if guaranteed, complete application to indicate time constraints, etc.): April 1
Graduate with M.A. Become Ph.D. student.
*Students should be aware that the combination of a colloquium and a seminar taken in the same semester involves a lot of work, although it may be doable, depending on other commitments.