PhD Requirements

Spanish PhD program alum Alberto Egea

Sequence of Study

The following table provides a detailed overview of the prototypical sequence of study. Students may have opportunities to engage in collaborative research within the program or beyond it (e.g., with affiliated faculty), and these opportunities may require some flexibility in the application of this schedule.


Progression of Study

Semester 1

Hispanic Studies Program Orientation

Three courses: 2 electives; HISP 510R Understanding Hispanic Studies: Theories and Methods

Jones Program in Ethics: JPE 600 and two JPE 610

Two Professionalization Workshops


Semester 2


Three courses: 2 electives; HISP 520 Research and Writing Workshop

Laney Graduate School First-Year Grant Writing Forum

Jones Program in Ethics

Preparation and submission of grant applications

Two Professionalization Workshops

Annual Review with research statement


Summer after the first year

Independent Study/Research (HISP 597R/599R)


Semester 3    


Laney Graduate School Orientation to Teaching (TATTO 600)

Hispanic Studies Teaching Orientation

Three courses: 1 elective; HISP 510R Understanding Hispanic Studies: Theories and Methods;  HISP 610 Pedagogy of Language and Culture (this seminar coincides with teaching of first undergraduate language-culture course; see Teaching for more information)

2 Professionalization Workshops

Preparation and submission of grant applications


Semester 4


Three courses: electives

Selection of faculty advisor; formation of exam committee

Preparation and submission of grant applications

2 Professionalization Workshops

Annual Review with research statement


Summer after the second year

Independent Study/Research (HISP 597R/599R)


Semester 5


Beginning of semester: Submission of formalized exam organization (plan for Independent Research Overview and readings lists for three topic areas)

End of semester: doctoral exam

NOTE: Students may request to take a fifth semester of courses; this will delay exams until the sixth semester and prospectus development until the seventh.

Grant applications (if needed)

2 Professionalization Workshops

Annual Review with research statement


Semester 6

Formation of dissertation committee

Preparation and submission of dissertation prospectus; prospectus colloquium

Completion of language requirement

Grant applications (if needed)

Annual Review with research statement


Semesters 7 and 8 (fourth year)


Dissertation research (including field or archival research) and writing

Grant applications (if needed)

Annual Review with research statement

Semesters 9 and 10 (fifth year)        


Completion of dissertation

Job search workshops

Job applications

Dissertation defense


The curriculum includes three core seminars (one, with variable content, taken twice) and eight additional electives.

The core seminars center on fundamental knowledge and skills: theories/methods relevant to the three research foci; scholarly and professional writing; pedagogy of language and culture.

The electives foster in-depth study of topics related to the three research foci and develop students’ knowledge of disciplinary issues and approaches to research in Hispanic Studies or related disciplines/fields. 

Required core seminars:

1)      HISP 510R: Understanding Hispanic Studies: Theories and Methods

Students normally take this seminar twice, in Fall semester of their first and second years; content will vary. 

Content in one iteration of the course foregrounds theoretical approaches as well as the history and polemics surrounding the field of Hispanism. It will introduce students to the contested boundaries of this evolving field, with particular attention to the program’s three research foci. It will also introduce them to the practice and ethics of public scholarship.

Content in the other iteration of the course focuses on methods of research in the humanities and qualitative social sciences, ranging from the close reading and critical analysis that is central to the study of literature, to archival and ethnographic research methods more traditionally associated with the fields of history, sociolinguistics, and anthropology. Study of these varied approaches highlights the analytical and ethical choices that confront researchers. Students are also introduced to grant writing and are expected to develop grant proposals for their own projects.

2)      HISP 520: Research and Writing Workshop

Instruction will focus on approaches to developing and writing research papers, with the final goal of submitting a publishable article to a peer-reviewed journal. Students may develop a paper written for a seminar in the previous semester or may initiate a new project. The course also addresses types of journals, journal audiences, the mechanics and ethics of manuscript submission, and the ethics and politics of choosing to publish in Spanish (Portuguese) or English.

3)      HISP 610: Pedagogy of Language and Culture

Students normally take this course in their third semester, at the same time as they begin teaching undergraduate Spanish courses. HISP 610 presents the fundamental theories and methods of teaching second/foreign languages, texts/discourse, and culture, with particular attention to the goals and challenges of teaching language and Iberian/Latin American/Latin@ cultures within North American educational institutions. It integrates throughout critical approaches to the teaching of language, culture, and intercultural communication, along with attention to curriculum design for courses at all levels of the undergraduate language and culture program. 

Elective courses:                   

The program offers elective courses related to the three research foci: 

  • HISP 710: Topics in Identity and Citizenship
  •  HISP 720: Topics in Imperial and Post/Colonial Culture
  • HISP 730: Topics in Intercultural Discourse and Translation

Students are required to take at least one of these courses during their course of study.

The program offers two additional elective topics courses:

  • HISP 740: Topics in Texts and Culture
  • HISP 750: Topics in Language and Communication


Plan of Study:

Students normally take three 3-credit courses per semester, during four semesters; four of these must be courses conducted principally in Spanish. Courses taken to satisfy program requirements must be taken for a letter grade.

Following consultation with the DGS and/or their faculty advisors, students are encouraged to enroll in seminars in other Laney Graduate School doctoral programs that are relevant to their chosen field(s) of inquiry and/or continuing professional development. One of the 12 courses that students must complete may be fulfilled, with permission of the DGS, by enrolling in an Independent Study course (HISP 597R) with Hispanic Studies or other LGS faculty as well as scholars outside Emory University. 

Following completion of required coursework, students enroll in HISP 599R while preparing for their doctoral preliminary exam.

See "Sequence of Study" above for the prototypical progression of study.


Students are required to demonstrate an appropriate level of proficiency in at least one language other than Spanish and English (the research and career goals of some students may require them to acquire some level of proficiency in more than one language other than Spanish and English). For each student, the language(s) and type/level of proficiency to be attained will be determined in consultation with the DGS and/or dissertation advisor, keeping in mind the research and career goals of the student. Minimum types/levels of proficiency will range from functional reading proficiency to advanced proficiency in spoken and written communication.

Fulfilling the Language Requirement

This language requirement must be satisfied by the sixth semester, by means of (a) evidence of research successfully conducted in the language(s); (b) completion of relevant coursework; (c) a translation exam (for reading knowledge); or (d) a written and oral exam (for advanced proficiency).


Teaching and Pedagogical Preparation

Within Hispanic Studies, teaching ability, experience at a range of curricular levels, and pedagogical vision tend to be highly valued. Teaching and pedagogical training therefore play an important role in the program as we strive to prepare students for the job market. Such training also enhances students' communication and leadership skills.

Key features of the teaching program include:

  • Limited teaching. Students teach four undergraduate semester-long undergraduate courses during their five years of study.

  • Range of teaching. Students teach a wide range of courses, from lower-level language-culture classes to an advanced undergraduate seminar of their own design, normally related to their dissertation research. This unique sequencing of teaching assignments provides students with a range of teaching experience that is not commonly found among recent PhDs in Hispanic Studies and therefore constitutes a tremendous advantage for graduates when they seek academic or other employment.

  • Initial course assignment. Doctoral students with no previous teaching experience normally begin by teaching Spanish 101 Elementary Spanish and Hispanic Cultures. Students entering with more experience may begin their teaching experience at Emory in Spanish 201 Intermediate Spanish and Hispanic Cultures or Spanish 212 Introduction to Hispanic Texts and Contexts.

  • Teaching schedule. First-year students do not teach, nor do those who are preparing exams (normally in the fifth semester). Second-year students normally teach during the third and fourth semesters. This allows them to spend an entire year focusing on the development of their teaching and communication skills at an opportune moment during their Emory career, prior to exams and immersion in individualized dissertation research. More advanced courses are taught during years 3, 4, or 5, depending on the students’ research schedule.
  • Autonomy. Graduate students normally teach their own sections (i.e., they do not serve as assistants to other faculty, but rather take full charge of the teaching of their own section of 15-18 students). At advanced levels, doctoral students are responsible not only for classroom teaching but also for all content and design.
  • Seminar on pedagogy. All students enroll in HISP 610 Pedagogy of Language and Culture during the third semester, at the same time that they teach their first undergraduate Spanish class. The course prepares new instructors to teach language and culture at a variety of levels in the curriculum, from beginning to advanced.
  • Teaching mentors. At every level, doctoral students are assigned teaching mentors. In 100- and 200-level courses, course coordinators serve as mentors. While teaching at the Spanish 300 and 400 levels, graduate student instructors are assigned an individual teaching mentor --normally from the tenure-track or lecture-track faculty of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese--to help them with their teaching responsibilities, provide feedback on their teaching, and to further their pedagogical development.

  • Ongoing development. Students have ample opportunities to further their pedagogical development by attending presentations, workshops, and other training experiences organized by the Emory College Language Center, the Emory Writing Center, the Emory Center for Faculty Development and Excellence, the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship, and the Laney Graduate School. This programming includes attention to such topics as online teaching, digital pedagogy, heritage language teaching, languages for the professions, and community-engaged learning.

  • Flexibility. Some students may wish to acquire other sorts of teaching experience in other departments, perhaps serving as a teaching assistant in a large lecture class or co-teaching (in Spanish or English) with a faculty member from Spanish and Portuguese or some other department. Those students who plan to pursue non-academic careers may also substitute the teaching of the fourth course with other experience that is relevant to their career goals, such as team research, community engagement, and digital scholarship.

  • Summer teaching. Opportunities exist for additional teaching assignments during the summer, when doctoral students may request to teach (for extra pay) on-campus summer courses or online courses (which can be taught while traveling), or to participate as assistants on study abroad programs in Argentina, Brazil, or Spain.   

Prototypical teaching timeline for Hispanic Studies doctoral students


Year and semester

Teaching Assignment

Accompanying Training and Guidance

Yr 1 Fall and Spring

No teaching

 No required training


Yr 2 Fall

Spanish 101 or 201 or 212, according to level of experience and training (=TATTO 605)

Summer Workshop of Laney Graduate School Teaching Assistant Training and Teaching Opportunity program (TATTO 600)


Orientation to Teaching Spanish (before classes start)


HISP 610 Pedagogy of Language and Culture (while teaching)


Guidance and mentoring from course coordinator and other experienced instructors


Yr 2 Spring

Spanish 202, 212 or 300-level course (=TATT 610)

Guidance and mentoring from course coordinator and other experienced instructors


Optional workshops on teaching, including those sponsored or co-sponsored by the Emory College Language Center, the Writing Center, the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship (ECDS), and the Center for Faculty Development and Excellence (CFDE).


Yr 3 Fall

No teaching (exams)





Yr 3 Spring

One 300-level foundational course or alternative career preparation experience

Teaching Mentor


Optional workshops on teaching


Years 4 or 5

One 400-level undergraduate research seminar or alternative career preparation experience

Teaching Mentor


Optional workshops on teaching


Doctoral Exam

Preparing for the Exam

The doctoral exam is prospective in orientation, designed to help students establish a base for their dissertation research. It is composed of four parts: an Individualized Research Overview (IRO) and three related topic areas. In consultation with a three-member exam committee, the student will identify three topics that are an integral part of the student’s emerging research interests, as laid out in the IRO (see below). These areas might be defined by chronological period, geographical region, genre, theoretical or methodological approach, intellectual problematics, media, and/or language/linguistic study. Beginning normally in the fourth semester of study, each student works in close consultation with the members of the exam committee to design reading lists corresponding to each of these three areas. These lists should be completed by the beginning of the semester during which exams will be written, and submitted with the one-page plan for the Individual Research Overview.

Individualized Research Overview (IRO)

The IRO is a key unifying element of the doctoral exam. In preparation for this part of the written section of the exam, the student writes a one-page single-spaced statement explaining his/her core research interest and including a two-page single-spaced bibliography. Development of this statement begins in the student’s first year of the program, at the end of which each student turns in a first long-term research plan. Each student will be asked to submit annually a one-page research statement as part of their annual activities report; these statements will serve as a stimulus to begin thinking about the dissertation project, provide a basis for faculty feedback, and aid each student in identifying grant opportunities. 

The one-page IRO plan must be submitted no later than the beginning of the semester during which the student will take the exam; it will be circulated among members of the exam committee for approval and serves as the basis for the IRO, which constitutes the first section of the doctoral exam. The IRO should take the form of an extended discussion of the problematics that will figure prominently in the student’s future research endeavors, and should include a review of the bibliography submitted with the initial statement.

Exam Schedule and Composition

Students generally sit for written and oral preliminary doctoral exams at the end of their fifth semester of study.

The written exam consists of the IRO (prepared without time limitations) and three extended essays written in response to one of two questions for each of the three areas of scholarly inquiry. Students will be given 5 business days (Monday to Friday) to complete the three extended essays. The IRO may be written in Spanish or English; of the three exam sections based on areas of research inquiry, two must be written in Spanish and the remaining one in English.

The oral exam consists of a two-hour discussion of the student’s written responses and the readings included in the bibliography, with particular emphasis on the relation of these to the IRO. The oral exam is normally divided into parts conducted in Spanish and other parts conducted in English. The linguistic flexibility governing the exam structure is consonant with the program’s objective of producing bilingual scholars whose research, teaching and future employment will depend on their ability to communicate effectively, both in writing and orally, in Spanish and English, with diverse audiences in academia and the public and private sectors.

Dissertation Project

Dissertation Project


  • Prepared and submitted during the semester following successful completion of doctoral exam (normally in the sixth semester of study).
  • Prepared in consultation with dissertation advisor and dissertation committee, which is also constituted in the sixth semester, and is usually comprised of the doctoral exam committee.
  • Prospectus is 20-30 page document with bibliography that proposes:
    • Dissertation topic and significance
    • Methods, approaches, object of study
    • Scholarship review
    • Preparation and qualifications for studying topic
    • Preliminary chapter outline
  • Student is admitted to candidacy upon approval of prospectus.

After receiving approval of the written version of the prospectus, each student presents her or his work in a “prospectus colloquium”. In communicating the premises and initial/possible results of their research, and explaining the latter’s significance, students gain useful feedback, and participate in a culture of scholarly collaboration. The prospectus colloquium consists of an oral presentation made by the student to the faculty members who comprise his/her dissertation committee, as well as faculty and students from the program who wish to attend, along with other guests the student wishes to invite.

Dissertation Defense

  • The dissertation defense is the final requirement for the Ph.D. degree. It is an academic exercise open to the general university public.
  • Date is set in consultation with the dissertation advisor, members of the committee, and the DGS.
  • Upon completion of the full dissertation manuscript and its approval of by the committee, a public presentation and defense of the dissertation is scheduled.
  • Defense consists of:
    • Short presentation by the student
    • Questions and comments by the committee
    • Additional questions or comments by others present
    • Committee meets privately to vote. If the vote is positive, the student will proceed to prepare the final version for presentation to the Graduate School, with emendations suggested by the dissertation committee during the defense proceedings.
    • Approved dissertations are archived in an online database:

Degree Completion and Graduation

--Review the degree completion requirements and process on the Laney Graduate School Website.

--The Laney Graduate School holds a special ceremony for PhD Graduates.
To find out more about the ceremony, ordering regalia, hooding instructions, etc., visit the Laney commencement page.