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PhD Requirements

Students can find more information regarding program requirements and course of study in the Graduate Student Handbook.

The curriculum includes three core seminars (one, with variable content, taken twice) and eight additional electives taken either within the Hispanic Studies program or in other graduate programs.

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.

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).

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. Doctoral students are generally expected to teach four semester-long undergraduate courses during their five years of study.

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 fields that are an integral part of the student's emerging research interests, as laid out in the IRO, and will serve to organize the exam reading lists. These areas might be defined by chronological period, geographical region, genre, theoretical or methodological approach, intellectual problematics, media, and/or language/linguistic study. Suggested field organization would include Field 1 (Chronological/Geographical/Genre), Field II (Theory), Field III (Research Project). 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 early summer so that the student can spend the summer and fall reading and preparing for exams.

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 Structure

Students usually 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.


  • 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:

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