Contact & Location


Department of History

Physical Address:
Administration Bldg. 315
PHONE: (208) 885-6253
FAX: (208) 885-5221

Mailing Address:
Department of History
c/o University of Idaho
875 Perimeter Drive MS 3175
Moscow, ID 83844-3175

Examinations & Dissertations

Preliminary Examinations

All students in the doctoral program must take and pass a cumulative set of three written exams and one oral exam. 
  • Exams may never be waived, in whole or in part.
  • The student determines the exam fields in consultation with his/her committee.
  • Exams will be graded Pass/Fail.
  • The final arbiters of a student's passing or failing an exam(s) are the members of his/her doctoral committee.  A clear majority of the members (three of four, or three of five) must vote in favor for a student to pass the exams.  Minority votes will be noted in the final report submitted to the College of Graduate Studies.
  • All members of a student's committee will participate in preparing questions for the exams, and they alone vote to pass or fail the student's responses to these questions.  However, being that this is a small department, it is normally expected that any and all department members with a competency in one or more areas of a student's exams will participate in the preparation of exam questions in those areas and in the evaluation of the answers.  Committee members are not constrained to accept the advice or opinions of non-committee faculty, but the student should expect that they will to some degree.  Thus, a student should make an effort to acquaint himself/herself with all faculty members likely to play a role in his/her exams.
  • The time needed to prepare for the examinations will vary from student to student.  Most need at least 3-4 semesters of full time study beyond the M.A. degree.

Prior to taking the examinations, the student must:

  • Consult with the members of his/her committee and any other faculty involved in the exams and provide each with a reading list relevant to their areas/subjects.  Each list should detail what the student already has read in each field so that faculty can make appropriate suggestions for further reading.  Thus, the student should do this well in advance of actually taking the exams.
  • Complete the foreign language requirement (see above).  The foreign language exam must be passed before the student may take the preliminary exams.
  • Before or after the written exams, but at least a week before the oral exam, the student presents his/her committee a dissertation proposal.  This proposal will be discussed and defended at the oral exam (see below).
  • A student will sit for three, three-hour written examinations and one three-hour oral examination over a four-week period to be determined in consultation with his/her committee.

The three written examinations are taken first.  The student will have a choice of questions that will reveal a substantive knowledge of chronology, major issues, interpretations, and bibliography.  The written exams should be taken over a two week period.

  • A student may not proceed to the oral exam until he/she has passed all the written exams.
  • Exams may be hand-written or on a computer.
  • Any faculty member may, at any time, enter the area where an exam is being taken.  Students may not.

The oral exam should be taken no later than two weeks after the last written exam.  It will be, in part, a continuation of the written exams but will focus on the fields and issues that pertain to the proposed dissertation.  The student should expect to defend his/her dissertation proposal at the oral exam.

At the oral examination, all members of the department may be present, as well as other university faculty, but fellow students, family members, and/or friends of the candidate are not permitted.  Immediately upon the conclusion of the oral examination, the members of the committee will discuss and vote on the student's performance.  As with the written exams, the final decision as to passing or failing will be made by the committee members.

If a student fails all, some or any one of the preliminary examinations (written or oral), he/she may repeat the exam(s) only once. The second attempt may be made no sooner than three months and no later than one year following the first attempt.  The student must secure the consent of his/her committee to present himself/herself for reexamination.

Failure to pass all of the exams at the end of the second try will result in immediate termination from the doctoral program.

Advancement to Candidacy
Upon successful completion of the preliminary examination, the student becomes a candidate for the PhD degree.  The major professor certifies that all requirements have been met and files the "Advancement to Doctoral Candidacy" form. 

Completing the Dissertation
Having completed coursework, passed all exams and advanced to candidacy, the student normally devotes the remaining part of his/her program to researching and writing a dissertation.  The dissertation is expected to entail research in primary source material and make an original contribution of knowledge to the field.  It is in this period that the student normally enrolls in History 600 Dissertation and Research.  The dissertation likely will entail several drafts, and the student should stay in close contact with his/her major professor and committee.

The candidate must complete the dissertation within five years after passing the preliminary exams, otherwise new exams must be taken and passed.  The College of Graduate Studies may grant extensions to the five year limit.

Defense of the Dissertation
In the oral prelim exam, the student defended his/her dissertation proposal.  When the dissertation is complete and an acceptable draft has been provided to all committee members for examination, the candidate and his/her major professor schedule a Final Defense.  The student and major professor set a time and place for the defense.  At least 10 working days prior to the defense, the student files the "Request to Proceed with Final Defense of Dissertation" with the College of Graduate Studies.  The defense is open to all faculty, thus the College of Graduate Studies places a notice in the Idaho Register as to time, place and dissertation title.  At a minimum, the candidate and the committee must be present.  At the end of the defense, the major professor files the "Final Defense Report" form with the College of Graduate Studies.

Submission of Dissertation
Following the defense, the candidate submits two copies of the dissertation and two extra title pages and abstracts to the College of Graduate Studies.  Specific details and guides are found in a handbook prepared by the College of Graduate Studies.  If the candidate fails to submit the final copy within six months of the successful defense, the candidate must defend the dissertation again or be required to revise it or write an entirely new one.

Recognition of a candidate's completion of requirements is by special notice in the commencement program.  Participation in the event is encouraged (but optional).