- The Course of Study Petition
- The Qualifying Examination
- The Dissertation
- Guidelines for Progress in Ph.D. Studies
- Guidelines of the Committee on Degrees (pdf)
- Dates and Deadlines
- Available for Appointment Page Listings
The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program is a rigorous program of advanced study and research that prepares students for a lifetime of field-defining scholarship, intellectual leadership and teaching in the academic study of religion. Instruction and research in the Ph.D. program is organized by means of the three committees of the faculty and eleven areas of study:
Ph.D. students concentrate their work in an area of study toward the end of achieving a high level of expertise and the capacity to pursue advanced research in it. Ph.D. students also must pursue substantial work in at least one other area of study to prepare broadly for their future careers and to locate their research in contexts outside of, but relevant to, their own concentration.
The Divinity School's Committee on Degrees—composed of the Dean of Students and the chair of each committee of the faculty—supervises the individual doctoral student's course of study and dissertation proposal. (Students who enter the Ph.D. program from the A.M. in Divinity program must complete all requirements for the Ph.D. not completed as part of their A.M. curriculum.)
1. Four years of Scholastic Residence.
2. Satisfactory completion (at least B- level) during the first year of three courses, one from each committee of the faculty.
3. Ph.D. students must demonstrate reading competence in two languages for scholarly research. Under normal circumstances, these languages will be French and German. When a student, in consultation with her or his advisor for the course of study, comes to the judgment that there is in fact a modern scholarly language that is of more immediate relevance to said course of study, the student may petition the Committee on Degrees to replace French or German with that language. Only one such replacement may be requested. The petition must explain the rationale for the replacement, and demonstrate 1) that the replacement language is indeed of central scholarly importance to the student’s program (i.e., that the scholarly literature in the language is significant) and 2) that the language being replaced is not at least equally relevant. The petition should also indicate whether the University offers a reading examination in the language or, in cases when such an examination is unavailable, explain how the student will certify reading competence. Decisions of the Committee are final, and may not be appealed; i.e., such a petition will be reviewed by the Committee once. (See Foreign Language Requirements and Foreign Language Exam Preparation for more information.)
4. Approval from the Committee on Degrees of a course of study petition outlining the student's anticipated program of study through the qualifying examination. (For students in the Divinity School's A.M. in Divinity program, this petition constitutes part of the application for doctoral admission.) Entering Ph.D. students must submit this petition during their first year in residence. (For further details, see The Course of Study Petition.)
5. Satisfactory completion of courses, colloquia, and assignments that may be stipulated in the specific guidelines of the student's area of concentration.
6. Satisfactory completion of the qualifying examination, which consists of:
a) The four four-hour written examinations specified in the student's petition and approved by the Committee on Degrees.
b) A research paper written by the student and submitted to all examiners during the first week of the quarter in which the student takes the qualifying examination.
c) A concluding oral examination focused on the research paper and the written examinations. The oral examination committee must include at least four Divinity School faculty members. (For further details, see The Qualifying Examination.)
7. The completion of teaching assignments equivalent to a total of five (5) teaching points, consistent with the established point system for various levels of teaching appointments currently in effect. The current point value system is available from the Dean of Students. (For example, a teaching assistant appointment is worth one point, and a lecturer appointment is worth two (2) points.) Students ordinarily will begin teaching in the third year, completing two assignments in each of the third and fourth years. A student should consult with the academic advisor to plan for the timing of the qualifying exams and the completion of the teaching assignments.
8. The completion of an acceptable dissertation approved by the student's established reading committee. The dissertation shall be an original contribution to scholarship in the area of religious inquiry.
9. The student should complete the qualifying examinations and submit the dissertation proposal by the end of the fourth year of residence. The dissertation should be completed within five calendar years of approval of the proposal. (For further details, see The Dissertation.)
The Course of Study Petition
The course of study petition includes the following:
1. A statement that identifies topics of scholarly interest and a proposal for research.
2. A list of four written examinations drawn from among those offered by the areas of study as best suited to the student's program. (At least four Divinity School faculty members must participate in the written examinations.)
3. The designation of one faculty member as advisor for the student's course of study.
The student submits the original hard-copy petition and one electronic copy to the Dean of Students' Office by Friday of the sixth week the appropriate quarter. The petition is first reviewed by faculty working in the student's area of concentration, who then refer the petition to the Committee with their recommendation for action.
The Qualifying Examination
Ph.D. course work at the Divinity School culminates in the qualifying examination, which the Ph.D. student takes within three calendar years of approval from the Committee on Degrees of the course of study petition. (The precise timing is determined by the student in consultation with the advisor and other faculty examiners.) The process of study leading up to the examination provides an opportunity for systematic consideration of the student's field of professional competence in religious studies, as well as in at least one other related field. The examination itself is intended to demonstrate the student's general knowledge of the scholarship in these professional fields of competence and also the student's readiness to pursue a dissertation. The qualifying examination contains both written and oral components. Students register for exams no later than the first week of the quarter in which the exams will be taken. To register, please contact the Assistant Dean of Students.
The written examinations test the student's ability to organize, synthesize, and analyze a substantial body of knowledge and reading in response to questions set by the faculty. The student completes four written examinations selected from those offered by the areas of study in the Divinity School. The student will usually complete two or three examinations in his or her area of concentration and one or two from another area. Some areas may encourage students to complete two examinations in the area of concentration and two from other areas.
Each written examination is four hours in length, and students pick up the questions at the Divinity School and return them there. (Time will be allowed before and after each exam for pick-up and return. In exceptional cases, space will be provided to write exams in Swift Hall.) The Divinity School faculty regards the optimal length of a student's answer to any one set of examination questions to be a total of 3,000 to 4,500 words, or ten to fifteen typed, double-spaced pages. Students have the options of writing by hand or typing their answers.
The oral examination tests the student's ability to engage in discussion of issues relevant to his or her fields of competence. The focus of the conversation will be discussion of the student's answers on the written examinations and discussion of a research paper that reflects the student's principal current interest. Based on consultation between the student and the student's advisor, the research paper will ordinarily have as its topic a subject in the student's intended area of dissertation research, and should indicate the student's capacity for writing a dissertation. The paper should be twenty-five to forty pages, typed and double-spaced, and should be submitted to all examiners early in (ideally during the first week of) the quarter in which the student plans to take the qualifying examination.
The student's advisor for the course of study convenes the oral examination and is specifically responsible for communicating its result to the student at the conclusion of the examination. The Dean of Students writes to each examinee following the oral examination week to communicate formally the result of his or her qualifying examination.
A student who has not completed the qualifying examination within three years of the approval of the course of study must consult with the Dean of Students to establish a satisfactory deadline for its completion.
Although bibliographies for individual exams may change from time to time, a student is entitled to take the qualifying examination based on the bibliography in effect when his or her course of study petition is approved by the Committee on Degrees, so long as the student takes the examination within five years of that date. A student who has not taken the qualifying examination within that five-year period will ordinarily use the bibliographies in effect at the time the examination is taken. A student who has not completed the qualifying examination and has been out of residence for a total of five years or more must take the examination in effect at the time of resumption of residency.
To achieve a passing grade on the qualifying examination, a student must normally accomplish the following:
1. Score B or higher on all written examinations.
2. Complete the oral examination at a satisfactory level, as determined by the examining committee (this includes production of a satisfactory research document).
In cases where most or all of the written examinations are at a B level, a strong oral examination is necessary in order for the student to pass the qualifying examination. Grades on qualifying examinations are not subject to appeal, and failed qualifying examinations may not be retaken.
Procedures for Writing the Dissertation
Upon completion of the qualifying examination, the student proceeds to the dissertation. Three formal steps organize this process: the dissertation proposal colloquium and subsequent submission of the proposal to the Committee on Degrees, the midpoint review of dissertation research, and the oral defense of the completed dissertation. Throughout the process, the student is responsible for maintaining good contact with the dissertation committee and providing regular updates on progress.
1. The dissertation proposal colloquium, which takes place following completion of the qualifying examination, is a meeting of the student and the dissertation reading committee (normally three members of the faculty—an adviser from the Divinity School faculty and two readers) to review the dissertation proposal. It should be noted that the dissertation adviser may be someone other than the student's program adviser hitherto. Further details on the dissertation proposal can be found in the "Guidelines of the Committee on Degrees" available in the Dean of Students Office. During the colloquium the student and the committee should discuss their expectations for their work together, including the timing of reading chapters and the format in which work should be submitted (by email or in hard copy).
When the members of the dissertation reading committee approve the proposal, the student submits the proposal in the form of a formal petition to the Committee on Degrees. Approval of this petition establishes the student as a Ph.D. candidate. A student who has not submitted a dissertation proposal to the Committee on Degrees by the end of the fourth year of residence must consult with the Dean and Dean of Students to establish a satisfactory deadline for submission of the proposal.
2. The midpoint oral review of dissertation research occurs at a time determined by the student in consultation with the adviser, usually after the student has written two chapters. It provides an opportunity for the student and the reading committee to discuss the work in progress, both to review what has been written and to discuss what needs to be done to complete the dissertation. The adviser should provide written notification of the successful completion of the oral review to the Dean of Students.
3. Students must submit a complete draft of the dissertation to the committee by the middle (5th week) of the quarter before the quarter in which they expect to graduate. Faculty will return comments to the student by the first day of the next quarter. This will allow the student 5 weeks to complete any necessary revisions and to obtain the committee's final approval before submitting the final copy to the Dissertation Office in time to graduate that quarter. The oral defense of the dissertation is a requirement that may be waived upon the recommendation of the dissertation committee and the approval of the Dean. Guidelines for formatting, and dates of submission of the final dissertation to the Dissertation Office, can be found at http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/phd/.
Guidelines for Progress in Ph.D. Studies
The Divinity School faculty has established a set of guidelines for normal progress through the Ph.D. program, as follows:
1. Approval of the course of study petition by the end of the first year of full-time residence.
2. Demonstration of competence in French and German by the end of the second year of full-time residence.
3. Completion of the qualifying examinations, normally by the end of the third year of full-time residence.
4. Approval of the dissertation proposal by the end of the fourth year of full-time residence.
5. Completion of the dissertation within five calendar years of approval of the dissertation proposal.
Students should plan their program of study in accordance with these guidelines, consulting as appropriate their faculty advisor and the Dean of Students. A student who anticipates difficulty in meeting one of the guidelines should discuss this with the faculty advisor and the Dean of Students.
The deans, in consultation with faculty in the appropriate area of study, may on rare occasions advise a student to discontinue doctoral studies. Such discussions may occur between approval of the course of study petition and the qualifying examination, or between completion of the qualifying examination and approval of the dissertation proposal.
A student's Ph.D. studies may be terminated formally by failure to produce a satisfactory course of study petition that is approved by the Committee on Degrees; failure of the qualifying examination; failure to prepare a satisfactory dissertation proposal in an appropriate period of time (by the end of the fourth year of full-time residence); or failure to write a dissertation, within five years of establishing Ph.D. candidacy, that is deemed satisfactory by the dissertation committee.
PhD students who wish to be included on the “Candidates available for appointment” page must go through the Dean of Students' office to do so. Candidates are eligible for inclusion when they have completed the following:
1. Admission to PhD candidacy
2. Successful completion of the dissertation midpoint review, with a note from the advisor sent to the Dean of Students to confirm completion.
3. Note of approval from the advisor, supporting the student’s posting on the resume page.
In order to ensure the most up-to-date information about PhD students for prospective employers on the resume web page, all resumes will be reviewed during January and July of each year. You may update your CV at any time, but the CV must be updated at least once per academic year. CVs that have not been updated may be removed from the page.
When submitting your information for posting, please include:
1. Current CV
2. Area of study
3. Dissertation title