Ph.D. Program in History

General Information and Requirements

At the University of Nevada, Reno, areas of major study (dissertation) for the Ph.D. in History include Nevada and the West, U.S. history, American Studies, cultural history, History of Science, History of Medicine, or selected fields in European history.

Applicants to the Ph.D. program must hold a Bachelor of Arts or a Master's degree in History or a closely related discipline.  Applicants without a Master's degree applying for direct admission to our Ph.D. program must have excellent GRE scores and an exceptional academic record. Admission to full Graduate Standing for Ph.D. applicants requires a grade point average of 3.0 or higher in all undergraduate and graduate work and satisfactory scores on the GRE general test. Students intending to apply to our Ph.D. program should contact the Director of Graduate Studies in the History Department. Detailed information on applying to the Ph.D. program is found below. Ph.D. admissions are entirely separate from M.A. admissions; completion of the M.A. program at the University of Nevada, Reno does not ensure admission to the Ph.D. program.


  1. Review the requirements for admission found below.
  2. Before applying to the Ph.D. program it is imperative that you contact the Graduate Director of the History Department to ascertain if you meet minimum qualifications for admission and to determine if your goals for study and research can potentially be realized at UNR.  Call the Department at 775 784 6855 for contact information.
  3. Application to the Ph.D. Program is made online and ALL materials can be found Here
    1. Complete the basic information.
    2. Follow the instruction for submitting the following:

i.Your scores from the GRE General Test.  Scores must be no more than five years old.

ii.Official copies of your complete Transcripts of all college and university work.

iii.A Statement of Purpose discussing your interests and plans for study, and professional career. Follow instructions to upload this on the online application.

iv.A Writing Sample (Provide a chapter from your MA thesis if a thesis was part of your program). Follow instructions to upload this on the online application.

v.Three Letters of Recommendation that discuss your academic qualifications and aptitude for graduate study.

  1. Once you have applied or have begun the process of application, inform the Graduate Director via email of your intent to apply.
  2. Applications to the Ph.D. program are due March 1 for matriculation in the following Fall semester.  In general, The Graduate School does not allow admissions to roll over to the following semester. 

 International Students:

International prospective students must also submit the following no later than the degree application deadlines below:

                                           International Student Appliication Materials:

                                                   Financial Data Form 

                                                   Send these materials to:  

                                                   International Admissions/074

                                                   University of Nevada, Reno

                                                    Reno, Nevada 89557 USA

The following requirements (listed in order of completion) apply to all students in the Ph.D. program.

General Requirements:

  1. Time Limit. All requirements must be satisfied during the eight calendar years immediately preceding the granting of the degree.
  2. Admission to Candidacy. Admission to a Ph.D. program of study does not imply admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. No Ph.D. student is admitted to candidacy until he or she has passed the comprehensive examinations (see below).
  3. Total Credits. The Ph.D. degree in History requires a minimum of 49 credits past the M.A., of which at least 24 must be in course work.  In addition, the Ph.D. degree requires a working knowledge of one foreign language, written comprehensive exams, a prospectus colloquium, dissertation and oral defense.  The comprehensive exams is for 1 credit and can be used to fulfill the 30 required credits of 700-level coursework.
  4. Grades. A graduate student in the Department of History will not be granted credit toward the degree for any course (including transfer courses) in which the final grade is below a "B" (3.0).
  5. Course Expectations. A term paper or its equivalent will be required in each course taken for graduate credit in the Department of History.
  6. Continuous Registration. By Graduate School regulations, graduate students must maintain continuous registration of at least three graduate credits per semester to remain active in the pursuit of a degree. This means that students studying for comprehensive exams or writing theses must (even if they are not in residence) register for at least three graduate credit hours each semester (summers excluded) until they graduate. Failure to enroll in at least three credits per semester -- or to request an official Leave of Absence -- will result in a student's being dropped from Graduate Standing; the Department may subsequently decide whether or not to readmit the student.  The form for Leave of Absence can be found Here
  7. Residence. By Graduate School requirements, a Ph.D. degree requires a minimum of six semesters of full-time work beyond the baccalaureate degree, including at least two consecutive semesters (excluding summer sessions) to be spent in full-time residence at the University of Nevada, Reno. (Full-time residence requires a minimum of nine credits per semester. Graduate teaching assistants taking at least six credits per semester are also considered to be in full-time residence.) This requirement may be satisfied by dissertation credits earned in residence, but admission to candidacy may not occur until the residency requirement has been met.
  8. Paperwork. The student is responsible for a knowledge of the degree requirements and for the timely submission of all Graduate School forms. Early in their graduate careers, students should become familiar with the most important of these forms: the Program of Study, the Notice of Completion, and the Application for Graduation.

Before proceeding beyond nine credits of Graduate Study, the student must have accomplished the following:

  1. Proseminar. All candidates for the Ph.D. in History are required to take History 600 (Proseminar), ordinarily during the first semester of enrollment (unless they have taken the proseminar as M.A. students at the University of Nevada, Reno). The proseminar provides an introduction to the members of the Department and the examination fields offered, to the requirements of the graduate program in History, and to the graduate study of history.
  2. Entrance Interview. Each student in the Ph.D. program will be evaluated by the Department during the first six weeks of enrollment beyond the Master's degree. The evaluation will take the form of an interview by the Department, to assess background, strengths, possible deficiencies, in order to assist the Department in recommending and setting up a program for the student. Based upon this evaluation and the student's subsequent work, his or her committee may recommend a program that includes additional requirements or other adjustments to the requirements as listed in this bulletin.
  3. Fields of Study. In consultation with the Graduate Advisor, the student must select three fields of study (leading to comprehensive examinations over a broad spectrum of historical material) from the list of Ph.D. Examination Fields. Usually these fields will be from a minimum of two groups. One field should be in the same subject area as the dissertation (see # 27 below). One field may be taken in a department outside History with the approval of the student's committee. The student's examination fields, research emphasis, and dissertation topic must be approved by his or her committee and the Graduate Director on the basis of adequate library resources in the field and committed faculty involvement.
  4. Graduate Committee. The student must secure the agreement of a member of the department faculty to supervise (chair) his or her doctoral dissertation, and an advisory committee must be appointed, subject to that chair's approval. Ordinarily this committee consists of those faculty members supervising each of the student's fields of study, plus two faculty members outside the Department of History. Each field of study should be supervised by a different faculty member. (If a student is pursuing an examination field outside History, the faculty member supervising that field does not count as an outside member of the committee.) In all cases the student's committee must include at least three members of the Department of History and at least two faculty members from outside the Department; all must be members of the Graduate Faculty.
  5. Transfer Credits. A maximum of 24 credits in graduate courses with grades of "B" or higher may be transferred from another university and applied toward the Ph.D., with the approval of the student's committee and the Graduate Advisor. A master's degree from another university can thus transfer as 24 credits, at most. Credit completed as a Graduate Special student or in graduate work outside the University may or may not count toward the total degree requirements, at the discretion of the student's committee. To transfer graduate credits from another university, a student must complete the "Graduate Transfer Evaluation Request". Normally only courses taken in History will be considered for transfer credit.
  6. Program of Study Form. In consultation with the committee members and the Graduate Director, the student drafts the "Advisory - Examining Committee/Program of Study". The student should list all courses that he or she plans to take en route to the degree and that will fulfill the requirements of the degree, including comprehensive exams (History 795) and dissertation (History 799). It is imperative that the student consult with each member of his or her committee, so that all courses necessary for each examination field are included in the Program of Study. Members of the committee should not sign the form until the program-of-study meeting (#15 below).
  7. Program of Study Meeting. Having completed the Program of Study form, the student arranges a meeting to be attended by all members of his or her committee and the Graduate Advisor. At this meeting, the student explains his or her program of study (fields and courses) and scholarly interests. The committee members and Graduate Advisor review the Program of Study form to ensure that it includes all courses necessary for the chosen fields and satisfies all requirements of the program. If the form is deemed complete and satisfactory, the faculty members sign the form, which is then forwarded to the Graduate School for official approval and filing.


After beginning the Ph.D. program but before taking comprehensive examinations, the student must accomplish the following:


  1. Specific Course Work Requirements. In addition to History 600 (Proseminar), all Ph.D. students are required to take either History 781 (Historiography: The Americas), History 783 (Historiography) or History 785 (U.S. Historiography) AND one of the following: History 700 (Cultural Studies and History), History 701 (Philosophy of History), or History 780 (Methodology).
  2. Seminar Requirement. Of the applicant's course work, at least 12 credits must be in seminars. Three of these credits must be chosen from a group other than the major field of study. The student should complete a seminar related to each of his or her examination fields, in order to prepare for the comprehensive examinations. Exceptions to this policy may be approved by the student's committee.
  3. Independent Study/Readings. For most students, some course work occurs as independent graduate readings in history (History 697, 698, 703, or 705). Under each of these numbers, a limited number of credits may be taken (9 in History 698 and 705, 6 in History 697 and 703). Students should keep track of their credits in these courses, so as not to exceed the maximums. Any course taken under such an arrangement should be documented in writing (Department of History form), before the beginning of the semester and at the completion of the course. Completion of this form, signed by the supervising professor, is required for enrollment in independent-readings courses.
  4. History 737. History 737 (Practicum in History) may be prescribed, on an individual basis, for those students who will be teaching in the Department. It is also available to students seeking internship or supervised research experience. History 737 may not count toward fulfilling credit requirements for the Ph.D. in History.
  5. Foreign Language Requirement. A current working knowledge of one foreign language other than the student's native language (not English) is required. Students planning on dissertation research which focuses on a foreign culture should expect to be examined in the principal language of that culture. Currency is determined by the student's completion with a grade of "C" or better of a fourth-level language course while a graduate student at UNR, or by the successful passing of a language examination designed and administered by the University of Nevada, Reno Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures. The student's committee may impose further requirements if deemed necessary for the student's program and professional objectives. The language requirement must be satisfied before taking comprehensive examinations.
  6. Changes in Committee Members/Examination Fields. A student may change his or her examination fields or committee members only with the approval of his or her committee chair and the Graduate Advisor. Such changes may require the student to take additional courses. If the chair and Graduate Advisor will determine that the resulting change in the student's program warrants a new program-of-study meeting, the student will arrange that meeting as in #15 above. A change in the student's major field and/or committee chair will ordinarily require a new program-of-study meeting. If the change does not warrant a new meeting, the student should complete the "Change in Advisory Committee" form, obtain the requisite signatures of the outgoing and incoming committee members, and submit the form to the Graduate Director for processing.

Comprehensive Examinations:

  1. Format and Schedule. Each student must pass comprehensive written examinations of approximately six hours in length in each of his or her fields (as described in #11 above). Previous exams are kept on file in the Department of History; students may consult those exams in the History office. Exams are offered only during fall and spring semesters. The Graduate Advisor schedules all exams within a one-week period, generally around the thirteenth week of the semester. They are to be taken during the student's final semester of regular course work.
  2. Evaluation and Re-examination. All exams are read by at least two members of the Department of History, except in fields taken outside the department. The student's committee may, when the examiners believe that additional study is justified, permit the student to arrange for re-examination in case of failure. Failure in the student's major field of study may lead to dismissal from the Ph.D. program. No part of the examination may be retaken more than once.
  3. Credits. Comprehensive examinations (History 795) count for one credit. If a student must retake an exam after the semester in which exams were originally taken, he or she will receive a grade of Unsatisfactory, to be replaced with Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory after the re-examination.

After successful completion of comprehensive examinations:

  1. Admission to Candidacy. The student is formally admitted to candidacy upon passing the comprehensive examinations, if the residency requirement has been satisfied (see #7 above). At this point, the "Doctoral Degree Admission to Candidacy/ Comprehensive Examination Report" should be signed by the committee and submitted to the Graduate Director for filing.
  2. Prospectus Colloquium. Upon passing the comprehensive examinations, the student prepares a prospectus for his or her dissertation, which is formally presented to the advisory committee at a prospectus colloquium. Typically the prospectus includes a bibliography and an extensive description of intended contents, methodology, and archival sources. The colloquium is a public event of roughly ninety minutes, to which the History faculty and graduate students are invited. Ordinarily the candidate will make a brief (15-20 minute) presentation on his or her proposal, followed by questions from the committee and others assembled. After approval of the prospectus, the student may proceed to the dissertation.
  3. Dissertation. Among the fields of study for the Ph.D., a select number are designated as areas for potential dissertation topics; these are indicated by an asterisk on the list below. The other fields listed are NOT available for dissertation research within the Department of History. Within the marked fields, the specific topics must be approved by the student's graduate studies committee based upon factors such as requisite language skills, library and archival resources, and available faculty expertise. The student must secure the agreement of a faculty member to serve as the dissertation advisor. The dissertation is a work of significant original scholarly research and analysis. It should contribute to historical knowledge, exhibit a mastery of the sources and secondary literature of the subject and the techniques of exploiting them, and display a fair degree of literary skill. It should be submitted in accordance with the guidelines provided by the Graduate School. Students should obtain those guidelines at the beginning of the dissertation process, in order to avoid reformatting later. The Chicago Manual of Style, latest edition, will be the authoritative guide to style and form for all doctoral dissertations.
  4. Students must purchase and complete an online application for graduation in each semester when they wish to graduate.  The application is available Here.  Applications are due in accordance with the information on the Graduate School Website.  (In general, there is no longer a policy allowing graduation applications to "roll over" to a subsequent semester.)  
  5. The application for graduation provides a final list of all courses the student has taken in order to complete the program. If that list in any way deviates from the one on the Program of Study form, the student must attach a "Change in Program of Study" form detailing the changes. If the student's committee has changed, he or she must attach the "Change of Advisory Committee" form.
  6. Final Oral Examination. After the doctoral dissertation has been received by the advisory committee, a final oral examination (60-90 minutes) on the dissertation and related topics will be conducted, upon the committee’s recommendation. The final oral exam is a public event, to which the University community is invited. Upon passage of the oral exam and acceptance of the dissertation, the committee members sign the "Doctoral Degree Notice of Completion".
  7. The Notice of Completion form and the approved dissertation are generally due to the Graduate School approximately two weeks before the end of the semester in which the student intends to graduate. Deadlines are published on the Graduate School's website and in each semester's course schedule. It is the student's responsibility to plan his or her work so as to meet these various deadlines.


The following are the groups and fields of historical study open for Ph.D. examinations:

Potential dissertation fields are indicated by an asterisk (*); within those fields, specific dissertation topics are limited as explained in point 27 above.

Group I

  • U.S. 1740-1815
  • U.S. 19th Century*
  • U.S. 20th Century*
  • U.S. Social History*
  • U.S. Cultural/Intellectual History*
  • African American History
  • American Environmental History*
  • Nevada and the West*

Group II

  • Renaissance
  • Early Modern Europe
  • Europe 1789-1914
  • Europe 1890 - Present*
  • European Cultural/Intellectual History*
  • Family and Community in European History
  • British Isles Since 1688*
  • British Empire
  • Russia to 1900
  • 20th Century Russia and the Soviet Union*

Group III

  • Colonial Latin American History*
  • Modern Latin America
  • Traditional East Asian History
  • Modern East Asian History
  • 20th Century East Asia
  • Latin American Cultural/Social History*
  • East Asian Cultural History
  • Ancient Africa
  • Modern Africa

Group IV

  • Cultural Theory*
  • Gender Studies*
  • History of Medicine*
  • History of Science*
  • Popular Culture and Diaspora Studies
  • Comparative Fields (such as slavery, socialism, environmental history, 16th century studies)
  • Fields in other departments (such as Basque Studies, historical archaeology)