Degree Requirements: Ph.D. Degree

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Graduate students in the art history program at The University of Iowa are expected to be full-time students and fulfill program requirements in a timely manner. In consultation with the Graduate Program Adviser, students should begin fulfilling requirements immediately upon entering the program. M.A. students are expected to complete their course work and qualifying paper in two years. Ph.D. students are expected to fulfill their course requirements in two years. The comprehensive examination, dissertation proposal, and preliminary research should be accomplished the following year.

Any student who arrives at what he/she thinks is the final semester of the degree program and, because of inadequate planning, has not completed the course requirements for the degree, must continue in the program until the requirements are met.

Ph.D. in Art History Degree

To earn a Ph.D. in art history, students must complete a minimum of 72 semester hours of graduate- level course work with a grade point average of 3.50 or higher. A maximum of 38 semester hours of work taken for the M.A. may be used to satisfy this requirement. Students are allowed only one semester of academic probation. To establish academic residency, beyond the first 24 semester hours of graduate-level course work, candidates must either (1) be enrolled as full-time students (9 semester hours minimum) at The University of Iowa in each of two semesters OR (2) be enrolled for a minimum of 6 semester hours in each of three semesters during which the student holds at least a one-quarter-time assistantship. Students are assessed resident tuition for the terms during which they hold the appointments, and any adjacent summer session during which they are registered.

Major and Minor Areas:
Ph.D. candidates major in one of the following ten distribution fields: Architecture, African (Oceanic), Asian, Ancient (3000 B.C.-300 A.D.), Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century European, American (includes Pre-Columbian, Native American, and African American), and Modern/Contemporary. In addition, candidates minor in two fields. At least one of these (the first minor) must be in an art history distribution field that is non-contiguous with the major field. The second minor may be in any art history distribution field, OR it may be in a relevant discipline outside the Division of Art History, subject to approval of the Art History faculty.

All Ph.D. Art History students:

  • must register for and satisfactorily complete ARTH:4999 “History and Methods” even if they have enrolled in a similar course at another institution (students who have already taken this course at The University of Iowa are exempt);
  • must register for and satisfactorily complete ARTH:6020 “Art History Colloquium” for 1 semester hours each semester that they are enrolled for 9 semester hours or more or have an RA/TA appointment. Students who register for fewer than 9 semester hours are strongly encouraged to attend. Art History Colloquium is a monthly series of lectures, panel discussions, or field experience focusing on professional development. Planned in conjunction with the graduate Art History Society, this requirement is integral to the degree program and is an important avenue toward professionalism in the field. Attendance is required (any absence needs to be approved by the Head of Art History before the missed meeting);
  • must attend at least six lectures by visiting scholars in art history during the course of their enrollment as Ph.D. graduate students (proof of attendance is provided by short response papers turned in to the Head of Art History during the week after the lecture);
  • must register for an art history seminar in each of the first three semesters of their Ph.D. course work and prior to both the Ph.D. Readings course and comprehensive examinations;
  • must adhere to the following course schedule:
Semester 1 Semester 2
Graduate Seminar Graduate Seminar
History and Methods or Elective Elective
Elective Elective
Art History Colloquium Art History Colloquium
  2nd non-English language proficiency exam
Semester 3 Semester 4
Graduate Seminar Ph.D. Readings (ARTH: 7010)
Elective Elective
Elective Elective
Art History Colloquium Art History Colloquium

Up to six semester hours of credit (Ph.D Thesis (ARTH:7020) for dissertation preparation may be applied toward the total hour requirement.

Courses outside the curriculum of the Division of Art History of the School of Art & Art History do not carry art history credit. Cross-listed courses not taught by an art history faculty member do not carry art history credit.

Foreign Language Requirements:
Students must demonstrate reading proficiency in French or German for admission to the Ph.D. program in art history. They must demonstrate proficiency in a second non-English language, generally one relevant to the chosen area of research, by the end of the sixth semester or by the time of dissertation topic approval. Proficiency may be demonstrated either by two years of university-level coursework or by achieving at least an 80% proficiency level on the five level tests of the relevant Rosetta Stone language program. Language courses do not carry degree credit.

Directed Studies:
Normally, a maximum of 6 semester hours of Directed Studies may be applied to the Ph.D. A doctoral candidate may petition the Art History Faculty for permission to take up to 9 semester hours by writing a letter to the Art History Faculty addressed to the Head of Art History explaining the necessity for an additional course. See page 8 for additional information.

Ph.D. Readings:
This course ARTH:7010 is intended primarily for students who are preparing for their comprehensive examinations. A student is expected to work closely with his or her Dissertation Adviser (see Division of Art History Administration) while taking a Ph.D. Readings course and should ideally meet with that adviser once every two weeks.

Plan of Study:
The development of a Plan of Study at the doctoral level is the responsibility of the student working together with his or her adviser. (See Graduate Program Coordinator for form.) A formal Plan of Study must accompany the departmental request to the Graduate College for permission to conduct the comprehensive examination. The plan will provide a listing of all graduate courses taken that apply toward the degree and a listing of courses in progress or to be completed after the comprehensive examination.

Ph.D. Comprehensive Examinations:
At the time of the Ph.D. Comprehensive Examinations, the Art History Faculty will assume that Ph.D. candidates have considerable expertise in their major field and substantial knowledge in each of their minor fields. Candidates’ understanding of their major and minor fields is largely a matter of their own reading and inquiry, but a number of formal courses are also required in both the major and the minor areas. Before taking comprehensive exams, students must take at least two actual courses with the major area adviser, at least one course with each minor area adviser, after earning the M.A. degree. Graduate students work out the specifics of which courses they should take with their Dissertation Adviser and minor area professors.

Upon completion of course requirements, Ph.D. candidates take three written comprehensive examinations. The major exam consists of six questions (chosen from a group of eight or nine questions). The exam lasts for six hours. The two minor exams each consist of three questions (chosen from a group of five or six questions in each area). The minor exams last for three hours each and are taken on the same day. Thus, the total time allotted for the written portion of the Ph.D. comprehensive exams is twelve hours. The exams must be taken during the week before the beginning of the 5th semester of the Ph.D. program on any three days within a five-day week (Monday through Friday).

Comprehensive examinations, as the name implies, are intended to test students’ knowledge of their major and minor fields. The departmental philosophy is to have students choose fields of specialization with sufficient breadth to adequately prepare them to become competitive teachers or curators within those fields. The comprehensive examinations are designed to test this preparation. For example, if a student's major field is Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Art, the questions are designed to allow that student to demonstrate his or her understanding of the painting, sculpture, architecture, and minor arts of those centuries. The comprehensive exams do not concentrate specifically on a student's dissertation topic or on a subfield within the major. Preparation for the minor exams should involve similar scope. Planning for the major and minor examinations requires completion of the “Ph.D. Comprehensive Examinations Committee Approval” form. (See Graduate Program Coordinator for form.) Soon after the committee members are chosen (approximately one year before the exams), the student meets with the committee to discuss the definitions and specifications of the major and minor fields.

The overall structuring of the exams is overseen by the Head of Art History who assures that the exams conform to the procedures and standards published in the Graduate Bulletin. If the Head of Art History cannot serve (say, because he or she is already a member of the committee), he or she appoints another faculty member to serve in this capacity. The comprehensive examinations cover the time periods specified on the “Ph.D. Comprehensive Examinations Committee Approval” form. As the time of the comprehensive examinations approaches, the major and minor area professors turn in questions to the Head of Art History (or designee), who checks that the time-frames and other specifications of the chosen fields are covered by the exams. If the Head of Art History has questions, he or she convenes a meeting of the graduate committee to resolve any issues. The Head of Art History may chair the oral part of the examinations (ex officio).

The Graduate Program Coordinator is responsible for scheduling a room for the written comprehensive examinations. Students should consult the Graduate Program Coordinator at least two months before comprehensive examinations are taken.

If a student changes his or her major area after the comprehensive examinations, the student is required to complete another major exam in the new field. If the new major was one of the student's minor fields, then the student is required to write on three additional questions in that field. If the new major was not one of the student's minor fields, then the student is required to write on six questions in the new major.

Ph.D. Oral Comprehensive Examination:
No more than two weeks after the completion date of the three written exams, the candidate meets with his or her Degree Committee for the oral comprehensive examination. This exam is normally 60 to 90 minutes long and concentrates on questions raised by the written comprehensive exams.

The Graduate Program Coordinator and the candidate's Dissertation Adviser, in consultation with the Head of Art History, schedule the oral comprehensive examination.

Funding Restrictions:
Ph.D. students who have not successfully completed their written and oral comprehensive examinations before the beginning of their fifth semester of graduate course work at The University of Iowa will not be eligible to receive continued funding.

Ph.D. Dissertation, Dissertation Adviser, and Degree Committee:
Ph.D. candidates complete a dissertation on a topic chosen from one of the ten distribution fields (see major and minor areas). Up to six semester hours of course credit (ARTH:7020, “Ph.D. Thesis”) are applicable to the total number required for graduation but are in addition to other course requirements. The Ph.D. candidate chooses a Dissertation Adviser who specializes in the student’s field of interest. In cases where the student wants to concentrate on a subject involving more than one field, the art history faculty strongly recommends that he or she work closely with faculty members in both fields. The Ph.D. Degree Committee consists of the student's dissertation adviser, two members who are responsible for the two minor fields, and two additional members for a minimum of five. Of these five, four must be tenured or tenure-track faculty from the Art History Division, and one must be from outside the Art History Division. This outside member must be on the faculty of the Graduate College. If appropriate, additional members may serve on committees.

The procedure for establishing the Ph.D. Degree Committee requires completion of the “Ph.D. Comprehensives Committee Approval” form and the “Ph.D. Dissertation Committee Approval” form. These forms are available from the Graduate Program Coordinator and the end of this bulletin. These forms must be completed prior to scheduling the comprehensive exams.

For Graduate College rules covering the dissertation, see the Thesis Manual. Forms necessary for graduation and a list of deadlines are available from the Graduate Program Coordinator (E317 Visual Arts Building).

Dissertation Proposal:
During the fifth semester, and immediately after successfully passing the comprehensive examination, a Ph.D. student must consult with his or her Dissertation to discuss the Dissertation Proposal, its structure, and content. 

The Dissertation Proposal shall include all of the following requirements:

Length: Fifteen to eighteen pages (3750-4500 words) plus a working bibliography;

Introduction: The introduction announces the thesis in concise terms. It describes the breadth and scope of the thesis, states why it is important to the discipline and field, and what it will contribute in terms of research and perspectives; 

Historiography: A literature survey situates the thesis within the context of art historical scholarship. It identifies the major works with which the dissertation will engage and in what ways.

Main Directions, Contexts, and Methods: The proposal describes the main directions to be explored in the research. It identifies the principles contexts of importance as well as major research challenges that can be foreseen.

Chapters: The proposal outlines the organization of dissertation chapters and justifies this organization.  It succinctly describes what will be accomplished in each chapter.

Timeline: The Ph.D. candidate provides a detailed and realistic schedule for research, travel, and writing with specific goals and deadline notes by calendar dates.

Funding Sources: The Ph.D. candidate identifies specific internal and external sources of research funding and when the candidate will be applying for those resources.

Working Bibliography: The Ph.D. candidate provides a working bibliography of the critical works of scholarship applicable to his or her specific field of research.

During the semester following the comprehensive examinations, the candidate must submit a dissertation proposal of approximately 15-18 pages to his or her Dissertation Adviser

After obtaining approval of the dissertation proposal from his or her Dissertation Advisor the Ph.D. student requests a “Dissertation Topic Approval” meeting with the candidate and the members of his or her Degree Committee. The Degree Committee discusses the dissertation proposal with the candidate and offers comments and suggestions. (The candidate must distribute copies of the dissertation proposal to committee members at least two weeks prior to this meeting.) At the approval meeting, or at a subsequent meeting if substantial revisions of the proposal are required, the Degree Committee members sign the "Dissertation Topic Approval" form, which the Dissertation Advisor obtains from the Graduate Program Coordinator or online prior to the meeting. After the form is signed, the Dissertation Adviser returns it to the Graduate Program Coordinator. The candidate is responsible for delivering a revised copy of his or her dissertation proposal to the Graduate Program Coordinator,

The 15-18 page dissertation proposal includes a statement of the art historical problem to be solved, a statement of the thesis to be proved, a review of the pertinent literature on the topic, an explanation of methodology to be used in research, an outline of the content of each chapter, a list of research resources such as archives that the student will use, a chronological plan for completion, a list of available external funding sources, and a bibliography.

After the dissertation proposal has been approved by the Degree Committee, the candidate circulates a 1-2 page abstract to the entire Art History Faculty a week before the public presentation. He or she then presents an approximately 20-minute public presentation on the dissertation topic no later than the end of the semester following Degree Committee approval. The candidate schedules this presentation in consultation with his or her Dissertation Adviser and the Head of Art History. The presentation can take place only during the fall or spring semester. For Graduate College rules covering the dissertation, consult the Graduate College website under Thesis and Dissertation.

Forms necessary for graduation and a list of deadlines are obtained from the Graduate Program Coordinator (E317 Visual Arts Building). 

Timetable for Turning in Dissertation:
A preliminary copy of the dissertation with all footnotes, bibliography, illustrations, etc. is due to the candidate’s Dissertation Adviser approximately two weeks after the beginning of the semester in which the candidate plans to graduate (that is, by early September or early February). After the Dissertation Adviser has read the preliminary copy and approves the dissertation, copies are given to the candidate’s other committee members (by mid-October or mid-March). At this time, the dissertation defense is scheduled for approximately four weeks prior to the end of the semester in which the candidate plans to graduate (that is, mid-November or mid-April). At the dissertation defense, committee members return their preliminary copies with their corrections and suggestions to the candidate for final revision and editing.

Dissertation Form:
Graduate College regulations covering the form of the written dissertation are in the Thesis Manual.

First Deposit of Dissertation:
The complete dissertation, in as close to final form as possible, must be deposited electronically for a first check with the Graduate College by the first-deposit deadline date in the session in which the degree is to be conferred. Deadlines are posted each semester on the official Graduate Program bulletin board, on the SAAH website under the Graduate Programs link (Calendar), and are available from the Graduate Program Coordinator. If students have further questions about thesis requirements, they should consult the Graduate Program Coordinator (E317 Visual Arts Building).

Final Examination/Oral Defense:
The completion of a written dissertation, which constitutes an original scholarly contribution to the field, and the successful completion of the final examination (oral defense) of this dissertation fulfill Ph.D. requirements. Both the candidate and Dissertation Advisor must be physically present at the examination. The final examination meeting with the Ph.D. degree committee is normally scheduled for two hours. If the dissertation is approved, the Degree Committee signs the Final Examination Report and the Certificate of Approval.

Final Deposit of Dissertation:
After the Degree Committee has accepted the dissertation and signed the Certificate of Approval, the dissertation is submitted electronically and the Certificate of Approval is taken by the student to the Graduate College, 205 Gilmore Hall, by the posted deadline. Any corrections required by the Graduate College Examiner or Degree Committee members must be completed prior to this final deposit.

The Graduate College requires that students complete their dissertations and graduate no more than 5 years after taking their comprehensive examinations.