This is the first version of the 2022-23 General Catalog. The final edition and the historical PDF will be published during the fall semester.

The Department of History offers a doctoral program for students interested in earning a Ph.D. in history. Students interested in graduate work may obtain a copy of the current Guide to Graduate Study in history from the Department of History website. The guide is revised periodically to include the latest detailed regulations on study toward advanced degrees and other information for students.

Learning Outcomes

The Ph.D. program is intended for students who wish to pursue original research in history. The end goal is a first-rate dissertation based on that research. Students should acquire a deep knowledge of two fields of history and understand the field's historical and theoretical foundations. They are prepared to pursue careers in and outside of academia, and they fashion their plans of study together with their advisors.

Students are expected to demonstrate:

  • understanding of the development of the histography and historical methodologies;
  • skill analyzing primary source material;
  • skill in contextual analysis and secondary source interpretations;
  • an ability to engage in the broad and ever-shifting philosophical, scholarly, and institutional debates animating the practice of history;
  • ability to engage in sustained critical thinking;
  • ability to write clearly and compellingly;
  • a deep knowledge of their two research fields;
  • reading knowledge of a second language of particular relevance to their field of study;
  • ability to conduct independent research;
  • knowledge and skills necessary to be effective teachers;
  • public speaking skills necessary to present research in professional academic settings; and
  • develop the critical research and writing skills necessary to publish peer-reviewed articles.

The Doctor of Philosophy program in history requires at least 72 s.h. of graduate credit. Students must maintain a cumulative UI g.p.a. of at least 3.33. Those who have earned M.A. degrees can apply up to 30 s.h. of credit toward the Ph.D. degree.

Students must complete at least seven graduate-level history or related field courses numbered 6000 or above, earning 3 or 4 s.h. of credit for each course. Courses taken at the M.A. level may be counted toward this requirement.

Students must complete a required course sequence their first year: HIST:6002 Introduction to Graduate Studies in History: Historiography and Methods and HIST:6003 History Theory and Interpretation. These courses develop an understanding of the philosophy of history, historiography, and methods of historical research. Students also must complete the comprehensive exam sequence in the second or third year depending on their degree at admission: HIST:6004 Comprehensive Exams Seminar I (the semester before the comprehensive exam) and HIST:6005 Comprehensive Exams Seminar II (the semester of the comprehensive exam).

Students who enter the program without an M.A. must write two research papers that are the length of a standard journal article (7,000-9,000 words) before taking comprehensive exams. One of these research papers is the qualifying research paper. For students who enter the program with an M.A., only the qualifying research essay must be completed before taking comprehensive exams. The essay must be based on original research and should be sufficient quality to submit for publication in learned journals, just as the Ph.D. dissertation takes the form of a full-length scholarly monograph. The qualifying essay must be approved by the faculty advisor and a second faculty member in order for a student to continue in the program.

The department has a basic world language requirement for the Ph.D.; however, the supervising faculty member may require a student to demonstrate a reading knowledge of one or more languages and proficiency in the use of other study tools. Students may not complete the comprehensive exam until these requirements have been met.

The comprehensive written and oral exams cover three distinct fields. The primary field is defined thematically and geographically in consultation with the advisor. The secondary field is defined with a field supervisor; it must have a different thematic and/or geographic focus than the primary field. Both of these fields are based on core sets of readings created together with advisors. There are two options for the third field—a teaching option and a non-teaching option. In either case, the parameters are set by the student's advisor, and the required work must be completed prior to the written examinations. The written portion of the comprehensive exams consists of two questions for each field, each answered over two days during the comprehensive exam period. The oral portion of the comprehensive examination focuses on the submitted written examination.

In most cases, the candidate submits a written prospectus for the dissertation to the faculty advisor before the comprehensive exams, and the student defends the prospectus within two weeks of passing the oral portion of the examination. The examination committee considers the prospectus and may approve it, reject it, or require its revision. At this point, all that remains is researching and writing the dissertation, in regular consultation with the faculty advisor. When the dissertation is completed in final form, a dissertation committee composed of up of five faculty members administers the final examination. A formal oral defense of the dissertation typically lasts two hours.

Applicants must meet the admission requirements of the Graduate College; see the Manual of Rules and Regulations on the Graduate College website.

Applicants submit their application online. Along with the official application, they submit academic transcripts; examples of original writing, such as a term paper, a seminar paper, or a master's essay; letters of recommendation from three persons familiar with the student's past academic work; and a one- or two-page personal statement of the applicant's purpose for doing graduate work. See History (M.A. or Ph.D.) on the University of Iowa Graduate Admissions website for more information.

All application materials are due by January 15 for entry the following August.

Graduate study in history prepares students for occupations such as secondary or college teaching, publishing, commercial research, foundations and nongovernmental organizations, and government or other public service. With additional specialized training, students may become qualified for careers in historical site preparation and display, or archival, library, or museum work.

The University of Iowa's history graduates who earn a Ph.D. have an excellent history of job placement, depending on their area of study. Graduate and postdoctoral career services offers multiple resources to assist students in preparing for job opportunities upon completion of the program.

Sample Plan of Study

Sample plans represent one way to complete a program of study. Actual course selection and sequence will vary and should be discussed with an academic advisor. For additional sample plans, see MyUI.

History, Ph.D.

Plan of Study Grid (Manual)
Academic Career
Any SemesterHours
72 s.h. must be graduate level coursework; typically 30 s.h. of graduate transfer credits taken for the master's from an accredited institution allowed upon approval. More information is included in the General Catalog and on department website. a, b
 Hours0
First Year
Any Semester
Language Requirement c
 Hours0
Fall
HIST:6002 Introduction to Graduate Studies in History: Historiography and Methods d 3
History course e 3
History course e 3
 Hours9
Spring
HIST:6003 History Theory and Interpretation d 3
History course e 3
History course e 3
 Hours9
Second Year
Fall
Qualifying Research Essay f
HIST:6004 Comprehensive Exams Seminar I 3
History course e 3
History course e 3
 Hours9
Spring
Comprehensive Exam g
Dissertation Prospectus h
HIST:6005 Comprehensive Exams Seminar II 3
History course e 3
Elective course i 3
 Hours9
Third Year
Fall
Elective or Independent Study i 1
 Hours1
Spring
Elective or Independent Study i 1
 Hours1
Fourth Year
Fall
Elective or HIST:7193 Thesis i 1
 Hours1
Spring
HIST:7193 Thesis 1
 Hours1
Fifth Year
Fall
HIST:7193 Thesis 1
 Hours1
Spring
HIST:7193 Thesis 1
Final Exam j
 Hours1
 Total Hours42
a
Students entering with fewer than 30 s.h. of coursework from the master's degree must work with their faculty advisor to complete the needed appropriate graduate coursework.
b
Students must complete specific requirements in the University of Iowa Graduate College after program admission. Refer to the Graduate College website and the Manual of Rules and Regulations for more information.
c
The department has a basic world language requirement for the PhD. However, the faculty advisor may require a student to demonstrate a reading knowledge of one or more languages and proficiency in the use of other study tools. Students may not complete the comprehensive examination until these requirements have been met.
d
Students must complete HIST:6002 and HIST:6003 during their first year.
e
Students must complete at least seven graduate level history (or related field) courses numbered 6000 or above; work with faculty advisor to determine appropriate coursework and sequence.
f
Must be completed prior to the end of second year fall semester.
g
Written and oral examination typically completed during the second year; more information is included in the General Catalog and on department website.
h
Typically completed during the second year, written prospectus for the dissertation is submitted to the faculty advisor before the comprehensive exams; the student defends the prospectus within two weeks of passing the oral portion of the comprehensive examination.
i
Work with faculty advisor to determine appropriate elective coursework and sequence.
j
Dissertation defense.