Loyola University Chicago

Department of History

PhD in History

The doctoral program in history is a 60-hour in-person program that culminates in a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree. Students can enter the program in two ways:

  • (1) Most students enter holding a Master's degree. Usually, the PhD degree is a 30-hour program beyond the MA, but the exact hourly requirement beyond the MA will be determined by the Graduate Program Director and the Graduate School.
  • (2) Students who have compiled an outstanding record in an undergraduate history major may enter the PhD Program directly from their undergraduate program. Admission with a Bachelor's degree only is highly selective and limited to a few undergraduates each year. Students are chosen on the basis of our regular criteria (GPA, letters of recommendation, writing sample and personal statement).

Program Outcomes

Upon completion of the PhD in History, graduates will be able to:

  • Use the historical method to solve historical and historiographical problems while applying the perspectives of class, race, gender, etc. to historical events and trends;
  • Identify and criticize interpretive paradigms and methodologies relevant to historical scholarship and the historical profession;
  • Perform historical research in archives and libraries and evaluate the provenance, context, validity, and biases of these sources from the past;
  • Apply the necessary research skills to produce original scholarship on a chosen historical topic using primary sources while evaluating the validity, context, and biases of secondary source literature produced by other scholars;
  • Demonstrate the ability to deploy multiple forms of communication (written, oral, and new media) to discuss their own historical scholarship and graduate-level knowledge of their chosen fields;
  • Advance the knowledge of the discipline;
  • Conduct cutting edge research;
  • Engage respectfully in debates about the nature of the past in order to enrich historical understanding and generate new questions and investigatory avenues.

General Degree Requirements


For PhD students entering with a Master’s degree, the distribution of hours is as follows if a total of 30 hours pursued at the MA institution is accepted for transfer credit:

History 400 (if equivalent not taken for Master’s degree) 3 hours
History 403 3 hours
One 500-level research seminar (must be in major field) 3 hours
Four major field courses 12
Three minor field courses 9 hours
Dissertation proposal seminar 3 hours
Total30 hours

 For students entering with a Bachelor’s degree, the distribution of hours is as follows:

History 400 3 hours
History 403 3 hours
Two 500-level research seminars (one must be in major field)* 6 hours          
Six major field courses 18 hours
Three courses in first minor field 9 hours
Three courses in second minor field 9 hours
Directed Study/Electives 9 hours
Dissertation Proposal Seminar 3 hours 
Total60 hours

 *Note: the second 500-level research seminar may be completed within a minor field.

Required or Core Courses

Students who have not taken History 400: Twentieth Century Approaches to History or an equivalent course at the Master's level must do so in the PhD program. Additionally, all doctoral students must take History 403: The Professional Lives of Historians during their first semester in the program. They must also successfully complete at least one 500-level research seminar in the major field. Students accepted into the PhD program with only a BA degree must complete History 400 and two 500-level research seminars (one in the major field and the second in either the major or minor fields). All students must take History 598 in which they develop their dissertation proposal under the supervision of their major field advisor.

Major Field


Students choose coursework and specific research to develop a broad major within the field of United States history.


Minor Field(s)

In consultation with their major advisor, students coming in with a M.A. will select one minor field in which they must complete at least three courses. This field must be distinct from the major field and from fields taken at the Master's level. Students entering with a B.A. must complete two minor fields. Minor fields include areas of geographic or topical foci such as:

  • Gender and Women's History
  • Modern Europe
  • Public History
  • United States

Other thematic minor fields (such as race and ethnicity or colonialism and empire) may be created with the approval of the Graduate Program Director. Students may also select a minor field from another discipline with the approval of the Graduate Program Director. Students wishing to pursue a minor field in public history must meet with the Public History Program Director, formally declare public history as their minor field and indicate their plans for fulfilling the minor.

All content courses must be at the 400 and 500 level. Students ordinarily can take no more than three directed study courses (HIST 499).


To view a course catalogue, click on one of the following links:

Research Tool Requirements

United States History Track: Students who choose US history as their major field must complete two research tool requirements:

  • One tool must be within public history and may include History 483: Oral History or History 479: Public History Media. When taken for the research tool requirement, History 483 and History 479 cannot be counted toward the minor field in Public History. In special circumstances, students may petition the Graduate Program Director to substitute another research tool in place of the public history research tool requirement.
  • The second research tool requirement may be fulfilled in two ways: a) reading knowledge of a foreign language appropriate to the student’s major field or b) mastery of a special skill required by the student’s doctoral research. With the approval of the Graduate Program Director, students may demonstrate mastery in one of the following areas: statistics, computer science, GIS, and paleography. Courses taken in these subject areas at Loyola or another academic institution may be used to show mastery of a special skill. However, these courses require prior approval by the Graduate Program Director.

Comprehensive Examinations

Near the end of their graduate program, PhD students must pass a take-home written examination and a two-hour oral examination in their major field. For the written examination, the student will produce three 10–15 page historiographical essays based on a reading list developed in conjunction with a three-member committee of history faculty of their choosing. The committee should be established no later than the beginning of the semester in which the student intends to take the examination. Students will have two weeks to complete the exam, which will be evaluated by the committee. The two-hour oral exam will occur within two weeks of completing the written exam.

For the PhD major field examination in US history, students should choose two of the three designated chronological areas:

  • 19th Century America
  • 20th Century America

They should also choose two thematic areas for the examination. Thematic areas include:

  • Urban
  • Women and Gender
  • Sexuality
  • Indigenous America
  • Religion
  • African-American and Race
  • American West and Borderlands
  • Immigration and Ethnicity
  • Labor
  • Environmental
  • Legal

Other thematic fields are possible with the approval of all committee members.

In addition, students satisfy the minor field examination requirements by passing a take-home written examination in which they will produce two 10–15 page historiographical essays based on a reading list developed in conjunction with a two-member committee of history faculty of their choosing. The committee should be established no later than the beginning of the semester in which the student intends to take the examination. Students will have one week to complete the exam, which will be evaluated by the committee. Those who select a minor field outside of history must successfully pass a comprehensive examination in that discipline. Students in the Accelerated PhD Program take only one minor field exam. The other minor field requirement is satisfied by the successful completion of three courses (nine credit hours) with at least a B (3.0) average.

For the PhD major and minor field examinations in areas outside of US history (such as modern Europe and other thematic fields with a Transnational Urban focus), students should work closely with their committee members to create reading lists with a broad chronological sweep and a set number of thematic areas.


Dissertation Proposal Review and Dissertation

Students will develop a "dissertation field" within the major field in which they intend to write their PhD dissertation. This field must be designated before 18 credit hours of coursework beyond the MA (normally at the end of the first year in the doctoral program). At this point, students present a dissertation topic and proposal to their major adviser (History 598 Dissertation Proposal Seminar) for review and approval. Students formalize their proposed committee with the submission of the recommendation of the Dissertation Proposal Committee form to the Graduate School.

Following the successful completion of doctoral examinations and the portfolio requirement, students will make a public presentation of their dissertation proposal to a committee, which will include the dissertation director and at least two other faculty members acquainted with the research areas of the dissertation. In discussing the proposal, students and members of the dissertation committee should work out problems and address questions the committee members may have. Upon successfully completing the dissertation proposal review, students submit a formal dissertation outline to the Graduate School. Following its approval and the successful completion of all other degree requirements, students are admitted to PhD candidacy.

Oral Defense

The PhD dissertation must be completed, approved by the designated committee members and successfully defended orally at a public defense.