Skip Navigation


1. Full-time Status

Students who have not yet advanced to G4 status (i.e. who have completed fewer than 24 graduate-level credits) are required to register for 12 credits in order to maintain full-time status. Full-time enrollment for students who have achieved G4 status is 9 credits. Students acting as teaching assistants must carry at least 9 credits (including, if possible, the 3-credit Supervised Teaching, HIS 581). After advancing to candidacy, the sutdent must register for 9 credits of dissertation research (HIS 699, 700, 701) each semester until the degree is awarded in order to remain on full-time status.

2. Award of Master's Degree to Doctoral Students

Doctoral students who have completed the requirements for the master's degree may petition the Graduate School to be awarded the master's degree while continuing in the doctoral program.

3. Foreign Language

All students, including Americanists, must demonstrate proficiency in at least one relevant foreign language before being advanced to PhD candidacy. This is a Graduate School requirement that may not be waived, with the exception of students who are native speakers in the language of their field of specialization.  Minimal proficiency in a language means the ability to translate a given passage clearly and accurately with the aid of a dictionary. Relevant language(s) are determined by the student's area of specialization. Proficiency may be demonstrated either through a written exam administered by the department or a satisfactory grade in a graduate language course (e.g., French 500). The in-department exam consists of translating a passage from a scholarly work in History, with the aid of a dictionary. It is administered and evaluated by an appropriate faculty member. The results of the Language Exam must be reported to the department's Graduate Program Coordinator and entered into the student's file.

At the discretion of the Advisor, a student may be required to study additional languages as part of his or her degree program. It is the student's responsibility to establish with her or his Advisor which foreign languages are necessary for the completion of the PhD and to make sure they have completed the language requirement in a timely fashion so that they may advance to candidacy. Ideally, students take their written language exams by the Fall semester of Year 3.

4. Oral Examination 

By the end of Year 2, each student should name a PhD Advisor (a History Department faculty member who has agreed to serve as the student's dissertation advisor) and, in consultation with that advisor, name two additional faculty members or affiliates who agree to serve on his/her Oral Exam Committee. This team will help the student define his or her examination fields, language requirements, and course work, as well as monitor the student’s progress on the dissertation.

Oral Exams are intended to evaluate students' mastery of their fields, emphasizing readings done as part of their course work and/or in preparation for  a potential dissertation subject. To prepare for Orals, students shall, in consultation with each of their committee members, compile a reading list for each of their fields; most students have 3 fields (including at least one with a geographical focus; others can be thematic). Each list should include 25-35 books or equivalent in articles (3 articles=book), for a grand total of 75-105 books. Committee members must approve their respective lists no later than the middle of the semester that precedes the PhD oral examination. 

Full-time students are expected to take their Oral Exam during Semester 5, prior to embarking on Prospectus during Semester 6 (i.e., Orals in Fall of Year 3; Prospectus in Spring of Year 3). If special circumstances warrant, the Oral Exam may (with Grad Director's approval) be delayed one semester only.

The Oral Exam can be scheduled only after all University and History Department requirements have been met, including the Foreign Language Requirement and all necessary coursework (except Prospectus). Students should check with Roxanne Fernandez, our Graduate Coordinator, well in advance to make sure their records are up-to-date and to process the paperwork. A list of the student's Oral Exam Committee must be submitted to and approved by the Graduate Director at least 3 weeks prior to the exam. 

The student, in consultation with the examination committee, will arrange the day, time, and place of the Oral Exam. The Oral Exam usually lasts about 2 hours and is graded as "pass with distinction," "pass," "weak pass," or "fail." Students who fail the Oral Exam may petition to take the exam a second time at a future date.  

5. Dissertation Prospectus Workshop and Advancement to Candidacy

Required for PhD students at or near the end of their course work, this workshop focuses on helping each participant prepare an outstanding dissertation proposal. It is usually taken the Spring of Year 3. The workshop meets weekly and revolves around group exercises, writing assignments, and development of key areas of the prospectus (research agenda, historiography survey, approach and methodology, preliminary arguments, source base, and scholarly interventions). The course concludes with student presentations to the entire department. Prior to presentations, each student must receive written approval of their Prospectus from their Advisor and other committee members. Passing Orals and a satisfactory course grade in the Prospectus Workship are required for advancement to candidacy.

6. Dissertation Committee

As the doctoral student nears completion of the dissertation, he/she must constitute a four-person Dissertation Defense Committee including: their PhD Advisor, two other faculty members or affiliates, and one "outside reader" (i.e. faculty from another department or university). In the rare case, a PhD advisor is no longer willing to serve as dissertation advisor or if the student wishes to work with a new Advisor, the student must identify some other faculty member in the History Department to serve. The new Advisor must declare in writing his/her willingness to serve as dissertation advisor before the student may be advanced to candidacy. Normally, the PhD advisor meets with the student at least once each semester (or, if the student is not in Stony Brook, will correspond) to discuss progress on the dissertation.

7. Dissertation and Defense

Following Advancement to Candidacy, students are required to enroll for one credit of dissertation research each semester (whether through HIS 699, HIS 700, or HIS 701, depending on each student's location) until the dissertation defense. Teaching assistants must register for 9 credits of Dissertation Research on Campus (HIS 699).

The dissertation is the basic requirement for the conferral of the PhD. The student must present the completed dissertation in such a way that the dissertation committee has a reasonable period in which to read, critique, and suggest changes to be incorporated into the final version before the dissertation defense.  In other words, the completed dissertation must be in the hands of the committee at least one full month before the scheduled date of the dissertation defense. Ideally, the dissertation committee should be given one or two months to read and correct the dissertation and to give the student their written criticisms and suggestions. If the committee is indeed given this proper amount of lead time, committee members' comments must be in the student's hands one month before the dissertation defense. If the criticisms are not written out, the student can assume the dissertation is approved in the form submitted. The student must answer all written objections and corrections by revising the dissertation to the faculty member’s satisfaction before it is submitted to the Graduate School.

The Dissertation Committee is composed of four faculty members, including the student's PhD Advisor and one faculty member outside the field of History or the institution of Stony Brook. The Defense is also open to interested students and faculty. The Graduate School must give advance approval of the Dissertation Committee. (The same form used for the Oral Exam will be used for the defense. These forms are available in the Graduate Program Coordinator's Office and must be forwarded to the Graduate School by the fifteenth day of class of the semester during which the scheduled date of the defense occurs.) All the paperwork for the Dissertation Defense should be given to the History Department's Graduate Program Coordinator well in advance.

8. Advising and Evaluation

When students are accepted into the graduate program, they are assigned a first-year Advisor based on the areas of interest indicated by the student in his or her application. Students may change Advisors with the permission of the Graduate Director, the new Advisor, and the previous Advisor at the end of the first year or thereafter.

Advisors assigned to new doctoral students will meet with them to discuss program requirements and the student's individual course of study, and they will meet with their advisees on a regular basis as they progress through the program. Ideally, students should consult with their Advisors about their course of study (including general course selection, language requirements, and enrollment in courses outside the department) at the beginning of each semester.

Evaluation of student performance takes place throughout the academic year (for example, through grading of student work in graduate seminars), including at the end of each semester, but most importantly through the end-of-year review. In this review, which is held at the end of each Spring semester, faculty members meet to evaluate the progress of all students in the graduate program.  Evaluations of student performance will focus on the strengths and weaknesses of the student and include suggestions for improvement. The Graduate Director will be responsible for sending a written summary of the evaluation to each student, with a request that the student contact his or her Advisor for further details. All students will be ranked in one of the following three categories:

—Good Standing indicates satisfactory grades and timely completion of degree requirements.

—Some Concerns may reflect low grades in one or more courses, slow or intermittent progress towards the degree (even if grades are acceptable), or areas or skills needing special attention.

—Probation means unsatisfactory academic performance and/or progress towards the degree. This departmental probation is independent of the rules for academic probation set by the Graduate School. Specific steps will be set forth to be taken by students on probation, including a timetable for fulfilling them, and failure to satisfy these conditions may result in dismissal from the program. Students on departmental probation whose academic performance remains unsatisfactory may be permitted to complete the master's degree but asked not to continue towards the doctoral degree.

Students are encouraged to meet with their Advisors to discuss the results of this annual assessment, and such meetings are mandatory for those students who are either placed on probation or for whom some concerns are noted. The performance of students who receive either of these ratings will be reevaluated at the end of the Fall semester. For a complete description of departmental policies on evaluation, including probation and dismissal,  see here.

In recent years, the Graduate School and the Department have cracked down on the problem of Incomplete Coursework. Students are strongly discouraged from taking Incompletes in their courses except in the case of pressing emergencies. The pressure of Incompletes impairs one's ability to perform well in subsequent semesters, and Incompletes can negatively affect a student's eligibility for financial aid. Graduate School regulations require that all Incompletes be changed to letter grades within one calendar year after the end of the term in which the course was originally taken; ideally, however, they should be resolved much sooner.

The Graduate School has also instituted a strict policy concerning Time Limits for completing the program as a whole. Students who do not defend their dissertation within a seven-year period after they have advanced to G4 status (i.e., after they have acquired 24 graduate-level credits, usually at the end of their first year or, if they entered the program with an MA degree, upon beginning the doctoral program) are required to petition for a "Time Limit Extension" from the Graduate School. These petitions are contingent on a "contract" that the student draws up with his/her advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies for the completion and defense of the dissertation. Students should bear this time frame in mind as they make plans for doing dissertation research and writing.

Login to Edit