PhD Program | History | SIU

Southern Illinois University



College of Liberal Arts

student with mentor

Ph.D. Program

The Ph.D. is a two-part, 4-5 year program. In the first part, students take coursework in preparation for exams in three fields, two general and one focused, which pertain to the student’s research agenda. After the passage of exams, students proceed to write a dissertation.


The director of graduate studies (DGS) assigns each entering Ph.D. student a faculty advisor. Students should meet with advisors frequently for progress updates and advice concerning coursework, exams, dissertation proposals, etc. If a student wishes to change advisors, he/she should notify his/her existing advisor, and the director of graduate studies.

Hours and Required Coursework

Ph.D. students must complete a residency requirement of at least 24 credit hours of graduate credit (400/500 level) and they must complete 2 colloquium/seminar sequences. Other coursework should be taken in students chosen examination fields  and may include courses outside History at graduate level, or independent readings (History 490/590 – subject to faculty approval, 8 credits). In addition, all Ph.D. students must complete at least 24 credit hours of HIST 600 while working on their dissertations.

Students new to our program should consider taking History 500 and 501. Teaching assistants new to our program must enroll in History 597. All students must complete 6 hours of coursework in fields outside the US and Western Europe.

Research Tool

Ph.D. students must complete 2 research tools – one must be a foreign language, in which the student must demonstrate research proficiency. There are four options for the completion of the research tool:

  1. Four semesters of previous study of a foreign language as an undergraduate with B average or better;
  2. 1 or more semesters of an intermediate language class (200 level or higher or Foreign Language 488) taken during MA with a grade of B or better;
  3. Passage of a translation test administered by the Foreign Language program; or
  4. Students may take two theory or methods courses in another discipline at the 400/500 level, and receive a B or better. Students who choose this option must petition the graduate director in writing for approval of their chosen coursework, explaining how the coursework enriches the student's research agenda.

The research tools requirement must be completed within one semester of passing preliminary exams, and prior to presenting the dissertation prospectus and advancement to candidacy.

Exams & Committees

Ph.D. students are required to take three 4-hour field exams. In consultation with their advisors, students should determine their fields by the end of their first year. Students must then meet with professors who specialize in their chosen fields.

Information on fields and exam procedures (PDF).


Within one semester of the successful completion of exams and oral examination, the student will present a prospectus to his/her dissertation committee. When the committee approves the prospectus, and the research tool requirement has been completed, the student is recommended for Ph.D. candidacy. The student then must write a dissertation demonstrating professional competence in research and writing. Topics must be chosen from the fields of European, American, African, Latin American, Asian or Middle Eastern history. Passage of the oral defense will result in recommendation for the Ph.D. degree. Ph.D. students must complete at least 24 credit hours of HIST 600 while working on their dissertations.

For more information on the dissertation process, see the Dissertation Guidelines (PDF).

Satisfactory Progress

Progress is measured by timely completion of program requirements and maintenance of 3.0+ GPA. Failure to maintain satisfactory progress may result in academic probation or dismissal from the program.