The Ph.D. is the terminal research degree in American Studies. The pursuit of the doctorate is an intensive process of acquiring the breadth and depth sufficient to produce an original contribution to the field. It is by nature a pursuit that requires a high degree of flexibility in the curriculum, substantial self-motivation on the part of the student, and strong mentorship by the faculty.
We have organized the process around a clear set of benchmarks, each designed to move students to new levels of competency and qualification. These benchmarks include core and elective coursework, skill training, second language acquisition, qualifying exams, application for candidacy, and the proposal, writing, and defense of a dissertation. Recently, the department redesigned the qualification process, moving from a two-day sitting exam structure to a multi-year portfolio process.
While the doctorate is increasingly the requisite degree for careers with substantial professional responsibility, it is at root a stamp of qualification for research. Thus, the doctorate prepares students for rigorous work in fields that require a foundation in research, writing, analysis, information organization, administration, grant writing, and program development.
However, the faculty in American Studies recognizes that the doctorate alone does not prepare students for professional work. For this reason, we work closely with students to develop a professional plan, and to build into the Ph.D. a range of experiences relevant to each student's interest. Such training includes media and technology workshops, teaching certificates, museum internships, non-profit management courses, and leadership development.
PhD students in the Department of American Studies normally receive four years of fully funded support. They are expected to make constant, significant progress toward the fulfillment of their requirements, including completing their course work, language requirement, and oral exam during this time period.
Course requirement: A total of 57 hours of coursework beyond the B.A. degree, plus 12 hours of dissertation writing credit. (Students with M.A. degrees may be able to count much of their previous coursework toward the 57 required credit hours.)
Skill/experiential requirement: Center for Teaching Excellence Certificate OR Internship for students entering the program in Fall 2011 or earlier. The experiential learning component is recommended but not required for students entering the doctoral program after Fall 2011.
Foreign Language requirement: 400-level course in translation or literature OR translation examination
Qualifying Exam requirement: Successful completion of first-year exam (see below).
Dissertation requirement: Successful completion of a dissertation and a public oral defense (see below).
Qualifying Examination Procedure
At the end of the second semester, after completing ASTD 510, all graduate students take a three-hour written qualifying examination, administered during finals week of the Spring semester. The exam covers materials from ASTD 510 and one other course taken during the first year, and students are expected to be able to demonstrate extensive knowledge of the field of American Studies. The written exam will be included in each student's portfolio.
Comprehensive Examination Procedure
After successfully completing the first year qualifying exam, the student then begins to create a three-person committee, in consultation with American Studies faculty members and the department Chair. Working closely with the committee members over the next two years, the student develops two portfolio papers. Generally, these papers will grow out of a student's seminar work, and typically they will be significantly expanded versions of initial seminar papers. One of the portfolio papers should be written as a publishable article, and the other as a literature review. One of the papers should represent the area of future dissertation research. Both portfolio papers are meant to demonstrate extensive knowledge in the student's chosen areas of inquiry.
After the student's committee has accepted the final drafts of the portfolio papers, the student may schedule an oral examination. The 90-minute oral examination will be focused principally, but not exclusively, on the portfolio.
Generally, for full-time students, the oral examination will take place at the end of the third year. A funded student must complete the comprehensive examination stage within one calendar year after completing course work. While preparing for the examination, he/she enrolls in Special Study for Exams (ASTD 595 or ASTD 695). A student may only enroll in Special Study for Exams twice; the second time he/she does so, completion of all comprehensive examination requirements, including the oral, is mandatory by the end of the enrolled semester. Once the student has completed the comprehensive examination requirements, he/she receives the MA.
Upon successful completion of the oral examination, students must then declare an intent to advance to candidacy, after which the Graduate School will inform them of any outstanding requirements. The language requirement must be fulfilled before the student can be advanced to candidacy.
The department's expectation is that, by the second semester following the oral examination, the student submits a dissertation proposal, following the template for this document. After working with the dissertation committee to revise and finalize this document, the student then defends the proposal in a 60-minute oral, on the day for dissertation defenses scheduled by the department. The three-person dissertation committee is generally, although not necessarily, the same as the examination committee, and is created in consultation with American Studies faculty members and the department chair. There will be one day for dissertation proposal defenses scheduled each semester.
After the dissertation proposal is successfully defended, it is filed with the graduate school, and the student advances to doctoral candidacy status. (These documents formalize the composition of the student's three-member dissertation committee.)
Working with the dissertation committee over a period of one to two years, the student writes a dissertation. When the student and committee agree that the dissertation is complete and satisfactory, a one-hour public defense is scheduled. Two weeks before the dissertation defense, students must submit final drafts of their dissertations to their committees. They must also prepare an abstract of the dissertation and a vita to distribute to faculty at the oral defense.
Please note: In order to obtain a degree in the Spring semester, dissertations should be submitted to committees by the end of February. For degrees awarded in the Fall semester, dissertations should be submitted to committees by the end of October.
Student Responsibility for Deadlines and Graduate Status
Graduate students are responsible for staying apprised of and meeting all Graduate School dates and deadlines, including when to notify the Graduate School of intent to advance to candidacy and intent to graduate.
Graduate students must maintain continuous enrollment in the graduate program. If one takes a semester leave, one must sign up for 5CR or 6CR, 0-credit courses, in order to maintain one's status in the department.
Registration beyond the Coursework Years
A student preparing for the comprehensive examination registers for ASTD 595 or 695: Special Study for Exams, using the section number of his or her exams committee chairperson. Special Study for Exams, a 0-credit course, may not be taken more than twice; any student taking the course a second time must complete the comprehensive exam that semester. A Pass/Fail grade is assigned at the end of each semester in which the course is taken, regardless of whether the exam has yet been completed. Course requirements include meeting with the exams committee chair at least twice during the semester; arranging to fulfill this requirement is the student's responsibility.
A student working on dissertation research and writing registers for ASTD 699: Dissertation Research, using the section number of his or her dissertation advisor. The course is graded as IP (In Progress) or U (Unsatisfactory), except for a semester in which the student graduates, when the grade is S (Satisfactory). Course requirements include meeting with the dissertation advisor at least once during the semester; arranging to fulfill this requirement is the student's responsibility. SLU requires 12 credits of Dissertation Research over a doctoral student's years of study; after these have been accrued, a student may continue to take ASTD 699 for 0 credits. Any student receiving a time extension for completion of the dissertation must take one additional credit hour of ASTD 699 for each extension granted. The department will approve petitions for extension beyond the normal time to degree only for a student who is working on his or her dissertation-that is, a student who has passed the comprehensive exams and who is a Ph.D. degree candidate-except in very unusual circumstances.