PhD Procedures | Department of History

PhD Procedures


I. Acceptance into the Program

A. Admission to the PhD program is competitive and the UNT Department of History takes a holistic approach in evaluating applicants. Letters of intent that contextualize a prospective student's application play a significant role in our admissions decisions. GRE scores are NOT required but are highly recommended. We do NOT have a minimum GPA or GRE score requirement, nor do we have a minimum undergraduate credit-hour in history requirement. However, the general guidelines below provide a broad picture of some of the common characteristics of successful applicants to our PhD program.

(1) Score in the 70th percentile or higher on the verbal portion and 4.0 or higher on the analytical/writing portion of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

(2) Provide a letter of intent that explains why the applicant wishes to pursue a PhD in History at UNT. This letter should describe the central insights and intellectual questions that motivate their interests in history; the specific fields of historical study in which they are interested; the broader goals they hope to achieve through their research and scholarship; and it should also demonstrate how specific faculty members, elements of our curriculum and/or other university resources would make UNT an ideal home for their PhD training.

(3) Provide a writing sample of scholarly work, based on original research, that demonstrates a preparedness to undertake graduate study in history.

(4) Provide at least three letters of recommendation from persons familiar with the applicant's post-secondary academic record, who are able to discuss and contextualize the applicant's potential for success in UNT's Ph.D. History program.

(5) At a minimum, applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited university. Many successful applicants to the PhD program also hold an MA or MS degree in History or an associated field of study. Applicants to the PhD program who do not hold a Master's degree in History or an associated field of study must document sufficient academic preparation for doctoral study.

(6) Meet all other university requirements.

B. Students whose application files are incomplete by the department's current application deadline may register as an undeclared major with UNT and enroll in graduate history courses (with the written permission of the appropriate faculty) while they complete all of the history admission requirements. Such students may transfer up to twelve hours of this history graduate coursework to count towards the completion of his/her history doctoral degree when and if they are admitted to the history doctoral program.

C. The departmental Graduate Committee reviews the application file of each candidate and determines whether that student will be admitted into the Department's history doctoral program.

II. Advising, Choosing a Major Professor, and Picking a Student's Doctoral Committee

A. Upon admission, the Department's Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) will serve as the general advisor for all incoming Ph.D. students. The DGS will assign incoming students an initial faculty mentor who will serve as an interim advisor until the student selects a major professor. The student may ask the initial faculty mentor or another professor to serve as major professor.

B. Prior to completion of their first nine (9) hours of graduate history coursework, students must meet with the Associate Director of Graduate Studies (ADGS) to discuss fulfillment of program requirements.

C. After the completion of their first nine (9) hours of graduate history coursework, and no later than their completion of eighteen (18) total hours of graduate history coursework, students should select a major professor (in consultation with the Graduate Advisor) from among the department's current Category 3 graduate faculty Note that faculty members have the right to refuse to serve as a major professor--the selection of a major professor must be a mutual decision between student and faculty member.

D. The major professor will serve as chair of the student's committee and director of the student's dissertation. The student will then, in consultation with the major professor, select three additional committee members from among the department's current graduate faculty (or two history faculty and one faculty from the student's approved minor field--see below). The major professor and committee members must match up with the approved designations of comprehensive examination fields in four distinct areas as detailed below. If a committee member is no longer on the faculty at the time of the dissertation defense, the member may remain on the committee but may not serve as major professor.

E. The student must coordinate with the ADGS to complete a degree plan once the committee is set, no later than the completion of a student's first 18 hours of graduate history coursework. The ADGS or DGS, the Department Chair, and the Dean of Toulouse Graduate School all certify the degree plan.

III. Degree Requirements

A. The doctoral degree (Ph.D.) is offered in four general concentrations:

(1) Europe, (2) United States, (3) Military, and (4) Body, Place, Identity. After completing all course work and the language requirement, doctoral students will be examined in four areas of history selected in consultation with their major professor. A minimum of two areas must come from the student's main concentration, and one area must come from one of the three remaining concentrations or the World examination fields. All dissertation and exam areas must conform to the list of fields currently recognized by the Department

B. Students entering with only a BA degree must complete:

(1) A total of fifty-four (54) classroom hours of graduate coursework, including 3 credits of HIST 5940; 3 credits of HIST 6000; and 15 credits (5 courses) of research seminars. No more than nine credit hours can come from independent study or "bump up" courses without approval of the Department's Graduate Committee

C. Students entering with a MA or MS degree must complete:

(1) A total of thirty (30) classroom hours of graduate coursework, including a minimum of four graduate-level history seminar courses (12 credit hours); and 3 hours of historiography (HIST 6000). No more than six credit hour can come from independent study or "bump up" courses without approval of the Department's Graduate Committee.

(2) twelve (12) dissertation hours (HIST 6950)

D. Once admitted into the Ph.D. program, the student must maintain a minimum 3.6 grade-point average (on a four-point scale) based on all history graduate classes (HIST) and non-history graduate classes that count toward the degree, exclusive of I and PR grades, each semester until the degree is awarded. This includes any courses taken as an undeclared major at UNT and then transferred into the history doctoral program. After completion of 18 graduate credit hours in History, a student's cumulative GPA as defined above will be evaluated at the end of every semester or summer term as applicable. Once this evaluation process begins, if the student's cumulative GPA is less than 3.6 at the end of any given semester or summer term, they are on academic probation with the department. The student will have one semester or summer term to pull their cumulative GPA up to 3.6 or higher. In cases where it is not possible to achieve a cumulative 3.6 GPA with just one probationary semester, the student may appeal to the departmental Graduate Committee (in writing) to extend the probation one additional semester or summer term if the student has made satisfactory progress towards a 3.6 GPA in their initial probationary term. Failure to pull the cumulative GPA up to 3.6 or higher at the end of the complete probationary term OR a subsequent case of the cumulative GPA falling below 3.6 will result in the student's termination from the program. In addition, students will not be allowed to sign up for dissertation hours or schedule their comprehensive exams if their cumulative GPA is under 3.6.

E. Students should complete the language requirement (reading knowledge of one foreign language that has been approved by the student's major professor) as soon as possible after initial enrollment to use foreign-language skills in course work and/or dissertation research. Ph.D. students must fulfill the language requirement before they schedule their comprehensive exams.

F. Existing university regulations concerning completion of the doctoral dissertation also apply.

G. Doctoral students may not enroll in HIST 6950 (Dissertation Hours) until they have successfully passed their written and oral comprehensive exams.

H. A student may, with the permission of the major professor and the Department Chair, take six graduate level hours of coursework from another department at UNT and declare an official minor field. These six hours must include at least one research seminar (3 hours) in a relevant academic department outside of History. In such a case, the minor field will count as one of the four required comprehensive examination fields, with the minor research seminar counting as one of the four required research seminars. The student must also have a minor field committee member (i.e., a faculty member from the outside department in question with whom the student has taken at least one graduate level course as specified on the student's degree plan) who is willing to administer both written and oral comprehensive examinations, participate in the student's dissertation proposal defense, and be a member of the student's dissertation committee.

I. Completion of a specific number of graduate hours does not automatically make the student eligible for a degree. The student must also demonstrate proficiency by:

(1) completion of the language requirement.

(2) satisfactory performance on written and oral examinations.

(3) completion of an acceptable dissertation.

J. Any student who fails to register for two consecutive long semesters before they begin enrolling in dissertation hours at UNT will be required to reapply for admission to the history doctoral program. Once a student has enrolled in dissertation hours, continuous enrollment in at least 3 dissertation hours each long semester is necessary to maintain eligibility in the program. Per University regulations, students have eight (8) calendar years from the date of their first graduate-level history course listed on their degree plan to complete the Ph.D. degree.

IV. Comprehensive (Qualifying) Examinations

A. A Ph.D. student who completes coursework (and meets the language requirement) must schedule and pass their comprehensive examination within one semester of passing their final class. Students who do not pass their comprehensive exam within this one semester period are determined to have failed and will be removed from the PhD program.

B. The ADGS in consultation with the Graduate Program Assistant and the major professor will be responsible for certifying the eligibility of the student to take the comprehensive examination by determining whether all requirements (language, seminars, courses, etc.) have been met.

C. A student who fails to pass their comprehensive exam within one semester of completing coursework and wishes to remain enrolled may appeal to the Department Graduate Committee for a time extension. This request must be submitted in writing and must include letters of support from the major professor and at least one other member of the student's doctoral committee. Time extensions will be granted at the discretion of the Department Graduate Committee.

D. Prior to the comprehensive examination, the student will need to add a required member from outside the department to the committee. This outside member will participate in the approval of the dissertation topic and will advise and participate in the evaluation of the dissertation as a scholarly and original work

E. The comprehensive examination process consists of the submission of a portfolio of written work (including the dissertation prospectus) that will be defended by the student over the course of a two-hour-long meeting (the oral exam) attended by all members of the student's doctoral committee. Students are expected to provide an electronic copy of their portfolio no later than two weeks prior to their scheduled oral exam

(1) Written Portfolio

  • Required items (5): All students must provide the following

    • Dissertation prospectus of ~5,000 words
    • Article manuscript based on original research submitted for peer review
    • External research grant or fellowship application submitted (or prepared for submission)
    • Conference paper presented at a scholarly meeting (virtual or in-person), or scheduled for presentation
    • CV
    • Statement of Teaching Philosophy
  • Elective field examinations (4): Students must include in their portfolios one of the following additional options for each of their elective examination fields. Each option must be selected with the approval of the committee member supervising that field of study.
  • Minimum 5,000-word state of the field essay based on a reading list of at least 30 books and articles.


  • Course portfolio for a 15-week course in the field including annotated syllabus, sample lecture outlines, and sample assessments.


  • Alternative assessment component proposed by faculty member subject to grad committee approval.

(2) The oral qualifying examination will cover the student's entire written portfolio with particular emphasis on the dissertation prospectus. Upon successful completion of the oral examination, the student will advance to PhD candidacy.

(3) All committee members should base their decision on the student's entire performance over the whole examination. Two or more negative votes will constitute a fail. If the performance is unsatisfactory, the committee must decide whether the student shall terminate studies or do additional work. In the latter case, the committee will counsel the student about their future program. The committee will decide whether the student must complete all the qualifying examinations again or retake only a portion of them. These decisions will be included in a written report prepared by the major professor.

(4) If the committee allows the student to retake the examination or a portion of it, the committee will repeat the same process of decision and report in writing to the Department Chair. If, in the opinion of the majority of the student's committee, the student performs unsatisfactorily in any aspect of the second oral examination, the student will be dropped from the program. Students failing their second oral examination attempt may appeal to the Graduate Committee for a third and final try.

F. Though the outside member will not participate in the comprehensive examinations, he/she may attend the oral examination to give advice on the dissertation topic. If the outside member cannot be present at the approval of the dissertation topic meeting, the major professor will arrange for the outside member's approval or rejection of the dissertation topic as soon as possible after the proceedings.

V. Approval of Dissertation

A. The major professor will direct the dissertation and the associated research; however, all members of the committee (including the outside member) will be equally responsible for its final approval.

B. The major professor shall keep all members of the committee informed on the progress of the dissertation and provide each member ample opportunity to read and evaluate the dissertation as it progresses to avoid major revisions of the completed dissertation.

C. The dissertation must be completed and approved by the student's committee within eight calendar years from the date that they enrolled in their first graduate-level history course listed on their degree plan to complete the Ph.D. degree.

D. Students must apply for graduation with Toulouse prior to scheduling their oral defense.

E. Upon completing the dissertation, the student will make a final oral defense over that completed research.

(1) The student in consultation with the major professor and the advisory committee will arrange the time and place for the final defense with the departmental program assistant. Before the defense, the major professor should check with the departmental Graduate Program Assistant to see if the graduate school's form to report the defense's result is in the student's file. This form is generated when the student files for graduation. The student and major professor should note the catalog date by which defense results must be reported [and the dissertation filed if applicable] if the student is to graduate in any particular semester. If the examination is taken [and the dissertation is filed] after that date but before the end of the semester, the student's degree will be conferred at the next commencement.

(2) All members of the student's advisory committee will be present at the defense, and any interested member of the Department of History may also attend. The committee will make its decision on the dissertation in a manner analogous to those on the comprehensive oral defense. Two or more negative votes will constitute non-acceptance of the dissertation. In that case, the advisory committee will decide whether the student should terminate studies or rewrite all or part of the dissertation. In the latter case, the committee will state in writing how it will determine whether those new requirements have been met.

(3) Upon successful completion of the oral dissertation defense, the committee will complete the proper report form and submit it to the departmental program assistant, who will then forward it to Toulouse Graduate School for certification that the student has satisfactorily completed all departmental requirements for the appropriate Ph.D. degree. The dissertation must also be submitted to Toulouse Graduate School for final approval by deadlines set forth in the Graduate catalog in the semester the student wishes to graduate (see Toulouse website for instructions, including final formatting).

VI. Department Policy on Maximum Hours of non-Dissertation Coursework and Grades of "Incomplete" on Graduate Courses

A. The department recognizes that sometimes it is necessary due to extenuating circumstances for students to take more than the required credit hours of graduate coursework (exclusive of dissertation hours) in pursuit of their Ph.D. degree. It is still in the best interests of all parties involved (students, department, and university), however, to have students finish their Ph.D. degree in as timely a manner as possible. Towards this end, any student who wishes to take more than fifty-four credit hours of graduate coursework (again, exclusive of dissertation hours) while pursuing his or her Ph.D. degree must get the approval of the departmental Graduate Committee (in writing) for these excess hours. In addition, the student should be aware that the eight-year university limit on obtaining the degree overrides all other considerations.

B. An Incomplete Grade ("I") is a non-punitive grade given only during the last one- fourth of a term/semester and only if a student (1) is passing the course and (2) has a justifiable reason (such as serious illness), for not completing the work on schedule. The student must arrange with the instructor to finish the course at a later date by completing specific requirements. These requirements must be entered on the grade roster by the instructor. Grades of I assigned to a graduate course at the end of the Fall 2017 semester and later will default to F after a period of one year unless the instructor has designated a different automatic grade.

C. Students may not sit for their comprehensive examinations or register for dissertation hours if they have any grades of "Incomplete" on their UNT graduate record.

VII. General Statement of Departmental Philosophy and Appeals Procedures

A. All of the preceding departmental policies are meant to facilitate our doctoral students' completion of the Ph.D. degree in a timely manner and in a way that meets the needs of the student, the department, and the university.

B. With the above statement being a general framework, the department realizes that each student's path to the degree will be different and that any given student may encounter circumstances in their program of study that fall outside of departmental policies.

C. In recognition of the above stated fact, Ph.D. students who face extraordinary circumstances that make adherence to particular departmental policies problematic for them may appeal to the Graduate Committee for a waiver of the policy in question.

D. Such appeals must be made in writing to the DGS or the Department Chair, who will then present the appeal to the Graduate Committee for discussion and a vote. Decisions on appeals of departmental policy made by the Graduate Committee are not meant to set precedent for future appeals of a similar nature by other students. Every reasonable effort will be made by the Committee to render decisions in a timely manner.