PhD Requirements

The University of Michigan Ph.D. programs in French, Italian, and Spanish provide great flexibility for highly motivated students wanting to chart individual paths of intellectual development while acquiring a solid grounding in literary study by working with a broad range of faculty in the department and university.

While most of our students work primarily in one of the Romance languages, our practice of strong cooperation across section lines makes the department an excellent choice for students interested in comparative Romance Studies.

The French, Italian, and Spanish Ph.D. programs begin in the Fall term only. Application materials must be received by December 18, 2014

If accepted, you will be admitted directly into the Ph.D. program. While a Master's degree can be earned during the course of study towards a Ph.D., admission is granted only for the pursuit of a Ph.D. degree.

If you enter the doctoral program with a relevant M.A. from another institution, you will follow the same track as the rest of your cohort through the fourth-term review, after which point, having completed the required coursework, you will proceed to the preparation of preliminary examinations.

The following guidelines summarize the formal steps to be completed in the course of our Ph.D. programs: 

Mentoring Committee

Upon receiving notice of your acceptance of admission, the graduate committee will assign you a two-member faculty mentoring committee. One mentor will be chosen based on compatibility of interests, insofar as these can be determined from your application material; and one mentor will be chosen outside your stated field(s) of interest.

A mentoring committee is expected to:

  • assist you in developing a well-balanced course of study appropriate to your interests (including reviewing your selection of courses inside and outside the Department, and providing useful contact with faculty in other disciplines and institutions where appropriate);
  • review the instructor evaluations placed in your files each term in order to address, monitor, and attempt to resolve possible problems in your academic performance; and
  • advise you on issues of professional preparation such as conference participation, teaching opportunities, and publication possibilities.

Mentoring committee members will also participate in your fourth-term reviews and may become members of your preliminary examination and doctoral dissertation committees.

Questions? Contact the Graduate Assistant.

Course Requirements

If you enter a Ph.D. program without a relevant M.A. from another institution, you will need to complete a minimum of 45 hours of graduate coursework in your first three years in the program. If you enter with a relevant M.A. from another institution, you will need to complete a minimum of 30 hours of graduate coursework in your first two years in the program. This coursework includes:

  • Romance Languages 681–Introduction to Graduate Study, to be taken during the first term
  • Romance Linguisitcs 528–Teaching Romance Linguistics, to be taken in the first semester in which you are to teach as a GSI. (This requirement may be waived by permission of the Elementary Language Director in the section in which you are to teach.) If you are interested in second language acquisition as a secondary field you may count this course as one of your cognates.
  • four credits hours satisfying the Rackham Graduate School's cognate requirement
  • three credit hours of 990 in preparation for preliminary examinations (to be taken in the sixth term if you enter without a relevant M.A., and in the fourth or fifth term if you enter with a relevant M.A.)

You should select courses in consultation with your mentors. Mentoring committees should express the department faculty’s commitment to the importance of breadth in graduate education, keeping in mind the many different ways in which such breadth might be conceived and related to your interests.

Second-Language Requirement
Following discussion with your mentors, you should select a second language that will be particularly relevant to your research interests (e.g. Latin for medievalists, Arabic for Maghrebian studies, Nahuatl for Mesoamerican Colonial Studies). You are encouraged to plan how you will satisfy this second language requirement early in your graduate studies.

You are expected to demonstrate a reading proficiency in a second language before admission to candidacy (no later than the end of the sixth term, or fourth term if you entered with a relevant M.A. from another institution). This requirement can be satisfied by:

  • achieving a grade of B or higher either in the University of Michigan intensive reading and translation course sequence (113), or in the equivalent of a fourth-semester (or more advanced) course in the proposed language, taken as an undergraduate or graduate at U-M or elsewhere
  • demonstrating comprehension of an appropriate passage(s) from a book-length work chosen by you and related to the field of intended research. Comprehension will be evaluated by a faculty member appointed by the graduate chair. You may demonstrate comprehension either orally or in writing, either with or without the use of a dictionary, at the discretion of the faculty member, who will inform you in advance of the form of evaluation to be used.

Please see the additional requirements for completing the Ph.D.: fourth-term review; preliminary examinations; and prospectus, portfolio, and dissertation.

Questions? Contact the Graduate Assistant.

Fourth-Term Review

By the end of your third term in the Ph.D. program, the graduate chair will appoint another faculty member to join your mentoring committee in a review of your progress in the program. This committee, chaired by the appointed faculty member, will meet with you by the end of the second month of the fourth term to discuss its review of your work and plans.

Materials required for the Fourth-Term Review:

  • All of your term papers, for courses both inside and outside the department. If there is no term paper for a course, you should select a representative paper, papers, or writing sample
  • If you have taught, your student evaluations as well as the elementary language director’s written observations on your teaching
  • A 4-5 page statement in which you present a self-assessment of your intellectual development during the first three terms of graduate school at U-M and outline plans for continuing studies. The statement should detail (a) your progress and plans for acquiring appropriate general knowledge of your field; and (b) your plans for identifying and developing a special area of expertise within that field. You should refer specifically to courses already taken and to plans for further coursework through the end of the third year.
  • Your transcript
  • The letters of evaluation completed by faculty members at the conclusion of each graduate course

Discussion with the Committee
You will have a formal meeting with your review committee, generally between two and four weeks after the dossier has been submitted.

In this meeting, the committee will help you identify strengths and weaknesses and offer suggestions for improvement. The committee will also evaluate your coursework and offer suggestions regarding plans for continuing general education in your field and for identifying and developing a special area of expertise in which you would do dissertation research.

Part of the discussion may be conducted in your major language of specialization.

Results of the Review
Within a week of this discussion, the committee chair will provide you with a written summary of its evaluation, comments, and suggestions. These will include the committee's recommendation to the graduate committee as to whether you should be allowed to continue your study for the Ph.D. A negative recommendation is made when the review committee believes that you will not be able to pass the preliminary examinations or write an acceptable dissertation. In the event of a negative recommendation, you may send the graduate committee a letter replying to the review committee report. A final decision on whether you may continue in the program or not will be made by the graduate committee.

Applying for an M.A. degree
At this point, if you have completed all the requirements, you can apply to the Rackham School for Graduate Studies for an M.A. degree. To do this, you must have completed at least 24 credit hours, including Romance Linguistics 528 and Romance Languages 681. Applying for an M.A. degree does not automatically indicate termination of studies.

Questions? Contact the Graduate Assistant.

Preliminary Examinations

The Committee
By the end of the first month of the sixth term( fourth or fifth terms if you have a relevant M.A. from another institution) of the Ph.D. program, you will form a preliminary examination committee of three members, which may or may not include members of the mentoring or review committees at your discretion, and which should include one member named as chair.

Date of the Prelim
The preliminary examinations must be completed by the end of the summer between your third and fourth years in the program (second and third years if you entered with a M.A.), preferably in May rather than August.

Structure of the Prelim
The prelim has two parts: a written part and an oral part. There are two options for the written part. You should consult your preliminary examination committee as to which option (A or B) you should choose.

  • Option A: Two written exams, based on reading lists devised by you and approved by the committee, each of which will focus on distinct but complementary aspects of the topic that you expect to be the subject of your dissertation and/or field of principle interest. In forming the lists with your committee, you will submit a concise statement (max. 5 pages double-spaced) describing the rationale for the lists and their aims in the examination process. The exams will be in the form of essay questions. You will have two weeks for each take-home essay exam, each of which should be no longer than 20 pages.
  • Option B: A draft portion (approx. 40 pages) of the dissertation, with an annotated bibliography of works you have studied, are studying, and want to study for the project. Whether this draft be an introduction, a chapter, or some other portion, will be determined by you and approved by the examination committee. In addition, you will submit a concise (max. 5 pages double-spaced) statement of research purpose and plans. This option should be taken only if you have a clear conception of your dissertation, and have done extensive research on your topic and methodology.

Oral Discussion
You will meet with the preliminary examination committee to discuss the written exams and the direction of dissertation research, including the nature of the prospectus and portfolio to be presented.

Results of the Prelim
If the committee determines that you have passed the preliminary examination, and provided that all “incompletes” have been removed, you will be accepted into candidacy and asked to provide a portfolio and prospectus.

If the committee determines that you have not passed the preliminary examination, the committee may, but is not obligated to, allow you to retake the examination. If no such opportunity is offered, or if you do not pass the retaken examination, you will be offered the option of applying to the Rackham School of Graduate Studies for a terminal M.A.

Questions? Contact the Graduate Assistant.

Prospectus, Portfolio, and Dissertation

Prospectus Date
By December 1 of the fourth year (third year if you have a relevant M.A. from another institution) of the Ph.D. program, you will present a dissertation prospectus of 10-15 pages double-spaced to the preliminary examination committee to be discussed.

Description of the Prospectus
You should consult with the chair of your dissertation committee to establish the content and structure of the prospectus.

Portfolio Date (optional)
The portfolio is optional. However if a student wishes to compile a portfolio, it should include the following: a written statement of how your research program and teaching or related experiences lend themselves to employment in a given field; a list of materials, broadly conceived, that have contributed to your preparation; as well as any other materials specifically appropriate to the field described.

For example, a post-secondary teaching portfolio might also include three sample syllabi, one each for possible courses to be taught at the introductory undergraduate level, the advanced undergraduate level, and the graduate level, as well as notes on approaches for teaching given topics.

Dissertation and Oral Defense
The Ph.D. dissertation must be based upon original investigation and demonstrate mature scholarship and critical judgment as well as familiarity with the tools and methods of research. It should be a worthwhile contribution to knowledge in your chosen field. You are advised to familiarize yourself thoroughly with the various rules governing the format and deadlines for your dissertation.

After your dissertation has been submitted, a final oral defense on your dissertation and related topics will be held.

Questions? Contact the Graduate Assistant.