Advancing to the PhD program and PhD Candidacy

Qualifying Paper

The Qualifying Paper provides the faculty with one means of assessing whether or not the student can conceptualize new ideas, persuade by effective use of evidence and argument, and write fluently and clearly. The Qualifying Paper is both a requirement for the MA degree and a gateway exercise for acceptance into to the PhD program. After the requirements for the MA are completed and the Qualifying Paper accepted, the student must apply in writing for formal admission to the PhD program.

The Qualifying Paper usually will be a revised seminar paper not to exceed 30 pages. Two readers usually drawn from the Department’s faculty must approve the paper (the main reader is often the departmental faculty member who oversaw the writing of the original paper). An MA thesis in art history from another institution can be used as a Qualifying Paper, but it must be vetted by 2 members of the Department’s faculty, and revised if it does not meet the necessary standard. You should be aware that in order to receive the MA in time for May Commencement, the Department must notify the Graduate School of your successful completion of MA requirements by May 1st. This means that your Qualifying Paper must be approved by both readers before that date. When submitting your Qualifying Paper for approval, leave plenty of time to make revisions in case they are requested. You are not required to submit copies of your Qualifying Paper to the Graduate School.

General Examination

The General Examination is designed to help students develop competency in their chosen field, broadly defined, as well as prepare them for focused research on their dissertation. There are two members of the examination committee: the student’s primary advisor, another member drawn from the Brown faculty. The committee will draw up three questions to be answered in writing. The student has two days to answer the questions, and may do so using appropriate research resources, although it is not expected that these questions will require further research beyond that done for General Examination preparation. The examination is intended to gauge the student’s depth of understanding of the problems, history, and methodologies of the field. It is expected that the general questions will take about three hours to answer thoughtfully and the other two questions no more than two hours each. No more than seven to ten days later the student and committee will convene to conduct an oral examination, lasting no more than an hour an a half. The oral examination is designed to extend the discussion of the written questions and focus on the issues raised in the student’s written responses.

Forming the General Exam Committee and the Questions

The student and his/her advisor should meet by the end of semester 4 to determine who, besides the advisor, will be a member of the examination committee. This person need not be a reader of the dissertation, although s/he may serve in that capacity as well. The student and primary advisor will meet together to define the field of examination. The primary advisor will prepare a field question and a question more narrowly focused on the student’s specific area of interest. The second member of the committee will prepare the other more specific question.

Procedure of the General Exam

The DGS will chair the oral examination based on the written essays generated by the General Exam questions. If the DGS is also the student’s advisor or second exam committee member, s/he will appoint another member of the faculty to chair the examination.

Assessment of the General Exam

Both the written and oral exercises will be assessed by the two faculty members constituting the examination committee. If the student fails all or part of the written or oral exam, s/he will have one opportunity to retake it. The retake must be successfully completed by the end of the next semester. Failure to pass the retake will result in termination from the graduate program. Passing the General Examination qualifies the student to move on to the next stage: preparing a Dissertation Prospectus and defending the prospectus in a Colloquium Examination.

Dissertation Prospectus

The Dissertation Prospectus should set out the major question or problem to be pursued in the dissertation. Length may vary, but it will normally run about 15 pages (double spaced), and should lay out the project in the context of the most relevant scholarship and bibliography, address why the project is important, what major sources will be used, and the critical methods to be used. (Students should note that there are successful examples of the Dissertation Prospectus kept in a binder in the graduate lounge, which may be useful in helping to conceptualize the writing of the Prospectus.) The prospectus should be circulated to the members of the student’s dissertation committee and discussed with individual committee members well before the meeting. The dissertation committee consists of at least three faculty members. Usually at least two members of the HAA Department are on the committee. The committee may also include a member who is outside of the HAA Department. This person must hold a tenure track or equivalent position at a four-year university or college; they are chosen in consultation between the student and advisor, and with the approval of the Department.

Colloquium Examination

The purpose of the Colloquium Examination is to discuss and assess the Dissertation Prospectus. It will be chaired by the DGS and attended by the student and the members of the dissertation committee (see preceding section for the constitution of this committee). If the DGS is a member of the dissertation committee, s/he will appoint another member of the faculty to chair the examination. The Colloquium Examination should last no more than one and a half hours. At the conclusion of this period, the committee will assess the student’s performance and notify the student whether s/he has passed the exam. If the student fails this examination s/he will have one opportunity to retake it. The retake must be successfully completed by the end of the next semester. Failure to pass the retake will result in termination from the graduate program. Advancement to PhD candidacy is achieved with the passage of the Colloquium Examination.

The Dissertation

The dissertation should be a substantial contribution to the scholarship in the history of art, embodying original research and suitable for publication as submitted or in revised form. While there is no formal defense exercise, the PhD candidate is expected to present his or her work at least once after the passing of the Colloquium at a Research Roundtable.

While the work on the dissertation is under way, a written progress report by the student is required each semester. The report should be sent to the DGS, who will send it to the dissertation advisor.

The Graduate School has a very specific set of rules regarding the format of the dissertation text and the procedures surrounding its submission. All of these regulations are available on the Graduate School website.