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Doctoral Program

The Tri-University doctoral program is committed to the pursuit of excellence in graduate research and teaching. It prepares candidates for a scholarly career in teaching and research. The PhD field preparations provide a wide intellectual basis for scholarship and teaching and allow reading complementary to a student's proposed area of doctoral research. Field seminar discussions are intended to develop skills in critical analysis and historical synthesis. Through the process of completing required research papers and a doctoral dissertation, students acquire the capacity to conduct independent research and to produce written work of a sufficient standard to be acceptable for scholarly publication.

Program Overview

The following is an overview only. Visit for further information.

Professional Development Seminar

The Tri-University Professional Development Seminar is designed to guide students through doctoral studies in history and to prepare them for the their future careers. The course will examine different aspects of the historian’s work in applied ways. Faculty from the three participating departments will introduce students to the various aspects of the historian’s work and offer tips for students looking to enhance their teaching and publishing record, and help increase their odds at securing funding and being hired.

Major Field

The major field is the student’s primary area of concentration; it provides the background and context for thesis research and will, in all likelihood, serve as the area in which graduates apply for academic jobs. The basis of the major field is the major field reading list, which consists of 100 books or equivalent.

The major field instructor and the student’s supervisor/advisor will each provide one half of the field readings list. Students are examined on their knowledge of their field list through participation in the field seminar, written work and the major field/qualifying exam milestone.

Minor Fields

The minor fields represent the secondary areas of concentration; they are intended to provide students with a supplementary teaching area and a comparative understanding of works in their dissertation research area. These two goals may be combined in each minor field course or the director, in consultation with the student, the thesis advisor and the seminar instructors, may coordinate a program in which one field is primarily geared towards a second teaching area and the other towards developing an understanding of the student’s research area beyond their major fields.

The equivalent of one minor field lists (50 books) may be in the student’s specialized area of concentration/research beyond that covered in the major field. Minor fields are completed by seminar work. A grade will be assigned by each minor field instructor upon completion of each minor field seminar.

The Thesis Proposal

All doctoral students will present a thesis proposal to their advisory committee during the semester following the completion of their qualifying exams. The proposal represents the student’s major assignment for the semester and should demonstrate the depth of a semester’s research. Although the exact composition of the proposal will be determined by the advisory committee in consultation with the doctoral student, a proposal will normally include a statement of the research question to be addressed in the dissertation, a description/discussion of the major issues, a review of the principal primary/archival sources to be used, a chapter or topic outline, and a clear explanation of the originality of the proposed dissertation. The expected length is approximately 3,000 words, excluding notes and the bibliography.

The student will be examined orally on the proposal by the advisory committee within four weeks of submission of the proposal to the director. The proposal is graded as a pass/fail.

The Colloquium

The purpose of the colloquium is to give students an opportunity to demonstrate their research progress toward the completion of their dissertation, and to receive critical comments from their advisory committee as guidance for their continuing research and writing. It will normally consist of a public presentation of a chapter of the dissertation, and is held one year following approval of the thesis proposal. The exact scheduling will be determined by the thesis advisor in consultation with the student and the advisory committee. Students are expected to consult their advisory committee on a suitable topic for the colloquium. The student will present the paper orally to their advisory committee (normally no more than 20 minutes) after which committee members will examine the candidate on their research and presentation. The colloquium presentation is a public event. Time permitting, guests attending the colloquium will be invited to ask questions following the formal examination. A pass/fail grade will be assigned by the committee.

Language Requirement

Students must demonstrate a reading knowledge of a second language. If no specific language is required for the student’s research (as authorized by the student’s advisory committee), the second language will be French. The determination of the second language will be made by the student’s advisory committee in the first term of the student’s registration in the program.

The Teaching Practicum

PhD students may apply to the department chair to teach a one term/0.5 credit course. Placement will be secured for the student at one of the three participating campuses. Student teachers will be mentored and courses will be assigned in ways consistent with the procedures for teaching assignments at each of the three universities. Ongoing feedback on teaching effectiveness, including teaching evaluations, will be provided to the student instructor by the course mentor.

Thesis and Thesis Defence

Each student will be required to write and successfully defend a thesis of such cogency and originality as will represent a significant contribution to knowledge. The thesis will normally be between 50,000 and 90,000 words in length.