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Ph.D. Program Requirements

The Ph.D.. requires 80 coursework credits. Credits earned in the Comparative Studies M.A. program or up to 30 credits earned in another M.A. program and approved by the Comparative Studies Graduate Studies Committee may count toward fulfilling a portion of this requirement. M.A. students in Comparative Studies who earned more than 30 credits at the M.A. level are required to submit a “Status Beyond Masters” form to ensure all credits earned in the M.A. are applied to the Ph.D.

See the Graduate School Handbook, Section 7.1 for general information on Graduate School requirements for the Ph.D., including Credit Hours and Residency requirements.

Specific requirements are as follows for students who have not already completed the M.A. in Comparative Studies:

  • 12 credits Critical Foundations sequence (usually taken in the first and second years)
    • COMPSTD 6100 Comparative Analysis and COMPSTD 6200 Interdisciplinary and Methods
    • COMPSTD 6300 Cultural and Social Theory and COMPSTD 6400 The Humanities and Collaborative Practices
  • 3 credits COMPSTD 6500 Teaching Seminar (offered every other year)
  • 12 credits COMPSTD 8100/8200 Interdisciplinary Learning Lab sequence (usually taken in the first and second years)
  • 6 credits 7000-8000 level in Comparative Studies
  • 6 credits 5000-8000 level in any department

Limit of one course at the 5000-level; see note below for more information.

  • 8+ credits COMPSTD 8998 Candidacy Exam Preparation (8 credits typically taken)  
  • 2+ credits COMPSTD 8990 Dissertation Writing Workshop each semester post-candidacy (8 credits typically completed) 
  • 1+ credit COMPSTD 8999 Dissertation Research each semester post-candidacy (4 credits typically completed)  

Specific requirements are as follows for students who have already completed the M.A. in Comparative Studies:

  • 6 credits Critical Foundations sequence (completing the courses in the sequence not already completed as part of the M.A. requirements)
    • COMPSTD 6100 Comparative Analysis and COMPSTD 6200 Interdisciplinary and Methods
    • OR COMPSTD 6300 Cultural and Social Theory and COMPSTD 6400 The Humanities and Collaborative Practices
  • 6 credits COMPSTD 8100/8200 Interdisciplinary Learning Lab sequence (in addition to the Lab already completed as part of M.A. requirements)
  • 6 credits 7000-8000 level in Comparative Studies
  • 12 credits 5000-8000 level in any department

Limit of one course at the 5000-level; see note below for more information.

  • 8+ credits COMPSTD 8998 Candidacy Exam Preparation (8 credits typically taken)  
  • 2+ credits COMPSTD 8990 Dissertation Writing Workshop each semester post-candidacy (8 credits typically completed) 
  • 1+ credit COMPSTD 8999 Dissertation Research each semester post-candidacy (4 credits typically completed)       

5000-level courses

A limit of one 5000-level course will typically count toward required coursework. In consultation with their advisor, students may petition to have no more than two 5000-level courses be included as required coursework. In submitting a brief written rationale, students will need to demonstrate that: 1) the 5000-level course contributes to their research and fields of study; 2) the course either already includes material and requirements for graduate students or that they have, in consultation with the instructor, established a course syllabus that includes graduate level work; and 3) the course material cannot be found in another class 6000-level or above that the student can take.                                                                                                  

Cross-Listed Courses

Cross‐listed courses may count in any department cross‐listing the course, regardless of where the student is enrolled.

Individual Studies

No more than 6 hours of non‐graded (Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory) coursework (ordinarily taken as individual study) may count toward the Ph.D. degree. It is highly recommended that this option be used strategically to maintain progress towards degree. The Individual Study option and credits are not related to non-graded 8000-level hours taken as examination, thesis, or dissertation hours. All Comparative Studies Individual Study (COMPSTD 7193/8193) courses must be approved by the Graduate Studies Committee. Students will submit a copy of agreement between student and faculty member supervising the Individual Study outlining goals, expected readings and assignments, and number of meetings in advance of the beginning of the semester.

Graduate Interdisciplinary Specialization or Minor

Up to 9 credits or three courses taken in fulfillment of Comparative Studies degree requirements may also count toward a Graduate Interdisciplinary Specialization or Minor. See: https://gradsch.osu.edu/degree‐options for more information.

After coursework and before concentrated work on the dissertation begins, students are expected to pass a Candidacy Examination. The Candidacy Examination consists of three written examinations relevant to the student’s proposed dissertation research and general preparedness to enter post‐candidacy, and an oral examination. The Candidacy Examination should be completed within two semesters of the completion of all coursework, and ideally within one semester.

All qualifying examinations will comprise three examination fields and be structured to qualify students in two ways: 1) to pursue a specific dissertation research agenda; and 2) to situate the student as a researcher, teacher, or professional in at least two significant academic fields. In consultation with their advisory committee, the student will design the examinations in a way that best achieves these two objectives. A reading list indicating texts that will be covered on the exams should be developed and approved by the student’s candidacy examination committee well in advance of the exam date.

The Comparative Studies exam format is highly individualized, guided by the needs of the student and the advice of Candidacy Examination Committee.

One of the examination areas must be Critical, Social, and Cultural Theory. The reading list for this exam will build on syllabi from the Critical Foundations sequence, among others, but may be modified by the Candidacy Examination Committee to meet the particular needs and interests of the individual student. The goal of this exam is to provide the student with the opportunity to demonstrate knowledge of current positions in Critical, Social and Cultural Theory and facility in conceptualizing research questions informed by these positions.

The second and third exams should provide the student with the opportunity to articulate the specificity of their research interests and to situate those research interests and general preparedness for scholarly or professional employment in the context of at least two significant academic fields. Before the exam, the student will be required to name the targeted fields of qualification. Candidacy Examination Committee members with expertise in those targeted areas will be responsible for ensuring that the examination process, including the definition of the examination fields, will qualify the student to use methods from those targeted areas in the dissertation research, to situate that research convincingly in debates in those areas, and to teach in those areas. The committee member responsible for overseeing the student’s preparation in a particular targeted area may, at his or her discretion, deem it necessary for an examination field to be devoted in its entirety to that area. For example, it could be possible to devote one exam to the specific area of dissertation research, saving the second exam to allow the student to demonstrate her or his ability to articulate that work to two fields.

Another possible structure would ask students to articulate the relationships between their work and two different fields in two different exams.

Students are also asked to write a rationale for the reading lists in which they explain how the individual three reading lists cohere, how they aid the student to prepare for their dissertation, and how they each engage with various theoretical and methodological debates. The rationale is also meant to describe the dissertation project in a general manner and should be about 1000 words in length total.

The actual examination process will be determined by each student’s Candidacy Examination Committee and approved by the Graduate Studies Committee. The goal of the process is to enable the student to demonstrate her or his capacity to perform interdisciplinary scholarly work at the highest level, but within a constrained framework. The length of time allowed for the writing of the exams and the conditions under which the exams are written should be set with that goal in mind. For example, the student could take three exams, one in each of the three areas, over a period of three weeks and with a specified page limit. Alternatively, the student could write three formal papers over the course of a quarter, discussing the state of the field in each of the three areas. Or the student could take the exams in a very concentrated period of time, such as in three four‐hour exams over the course of one week.

The Candidacy Examination Committee must include four graduate faculty members. At least two members of the Candidacy Examination Committee must be Comparative Studies Graduate Faculty. The Graduate Studies Committee must approve any members of the Candidacy Examination Committee who are not graduate faculty at OSU and petition the graduate school for inclusion on the committee. These members will be in addition to the required number.

Students must communicate their intent to take their Candidacy exams through Gradforms at least two weeks prior to the start of the exam. Before the student begins the written portion of the candidacy examination, the chair of the candidacy examination committee proposes the names of the candidacy examination committee to the Graduate Studies Committee and the Graduate School and informs them of the date the written portion will begin and the date of expected completion of the written portion. A two‐hour Oral Examination is required by the Graduate School and must take place within one month of completion of the written portion of the examination. The Graduate School must be formally notified at least two weeks in advance through GradForms of the oral’s proposed time and place by the submission of a Notification of Doctoral Candidacy Exam form. The candidacy examination must take place during announced university business hours, Monday through Friday.

Oral Examination Procedure: Because the oral examination is a very important qualifying event in a student’s progression to the Ph.D., it should be approached with appropriate gravity. At the outset of the oral examination, students are often asked to leave the room so that the candidacy exam committee can consult on how to proceed with the oral examination, in light of the student’s written exams. Once students are invited back into the room, the exam committee is likely to ask students to clarify or expand upon their written answers and/or to further demonstrate their knowledge of a particular subject. It is customary to also pursue questions relating to students’ dissertation plans. At the end of the oral examination, students are again asked to leave the room so that the examination committee can deliberate.

The outcome of the Candidacy Examination is reached in the absence of the student. The decision to judge the examination satisfactory or unsatisfactory must be unanimous and all examiners must affirm that vote through GradForms. Satisfactory completion of the Candidacy Examination indicates the student is deemed sufficiently prepared to undertake dissertation research, and the student then proceeds to candidacy for the Ph.D. Students are invited back into the room immediately after deliberation to hear the committee’s decision.

If the Candidacy Examination Committee finds the student’s performance unsatisfactory, the examination may be retaken with the approval of the Graduate School. No substitutions may be made on the student’s Candidacy Examination Committee if a second examination is required and a second oral examination must be scheduled.

Once students have completed the Candidacy Examination, they must be enrolled continuously (excluding Summer) until graduation. Full‐time enrollment for students who have entered candidacy is three credits. The department requires a 2‐credit writing colloquium (COMPSTD 8890) in Autumn and Spring terms. All students who have passed their candidacy exams must enroll in the writing colloquium. Students may petition for exemption while they conduct fieldwork or archival research for their dissertation that requires them to be away from Columbus.

See the Graduate School Handbook, Section 7.3-7.6 for additional details on the Candidacy Examination.

Within two months of the successful completion of the Candidacy Exams, the student must develop a dissertation committee (which might be the same as the Candidacy Examination Committee but need not be) and submit a dissertation prospectus. This prospectus should outline a research problem, indicate the research problem’s theoretical significance, briefly review the most relevant past and current scholarship relating to the problem, and identify a relevant theoretical framework and research strategy. The dissertation committee will determine the proper length for each student’s prospectus, but it typically consists of a minimum of fifteen and a maximum of thirty pages. In a meeting arranged with the student, the dissertation committee will determine the extent to which the prospectus represents a comprehensive and comprehensible plan for the completion of the dissertation. It is not required to notify the Graduate School thorough GradForms that the Prospectus has been submitted or approved by the dissertation committee.

A dissertation prospectus is a paradoxical piece of writing. It is not an abstract (which is to say, a summary of a completed dissertation) or an introductory chapter of a dissertation, but rather an attempt to describe what is planned before it has actually been done. Since it is meant to be submitted soon after completion of the candidacy examination, it need not be a lengthy document. Indeed, it could be around fifteen double‐spaced pages in length (roughly 3500‐4000 words) with up to ten further pages of bibliography. As indicated, the prospectus should provide a preliminary description of the proposed dissertation. It should delineate what topic and area the dissertation will explore; discuss why this topic and area merit such exploration; and include a provisional chapter outline and as complete a bibliography as possible. The outline should be as precise as possible, even if it is very likely to be modified in the course of writing the dissertation.

Finding, defining, and communicating a topic that is at once significant and of realistic scope are tasks that require discussion and cooperation between the dissertation writer and faculty members. Therefore, the dissertation writer is encouraged to show drafts of the prospectus to his or her dissertation committee and other faculty members. After these initial consultations, the writer will submit the final version of the prospectus for formal approval by the committee. The committee will then meet collectively with the candidate to discuss the project and its implementation.

There is no single recipe for a good dissertation prospectus. But all writers should answer, to the best of their abilities at this early stage of research, certain fundamental questions:

  • What is the central problem that the dissertation will address? This problem can be theoretical, critical, or historical; but it should, in most cases, be presented as a question or related set of questions to which the dissertation will attempt to find answers. It is important that the problem and hypothetical answers be stated from the outset, so that your research will not risk becoming random, and your exposition will not lapse into mere description. The sense that an argument is being made should be constantly kept in mind.
  • To persuade your reader that you are not just reinventing the wheel or restating what has already been said, you should include a brief review of the present “state of the art” with respect to your topic. Has this topic been treated before? How does your approach differ from earlier ones? Has new evidence appeared (for example, a new primary source) since previous treatments?

Outlining a sequence of potential chapters will help you clarify the argument of your dissertation and check the balance of its parts in relation to one another. A chapter should be conceived as approximately 30‐40 double‐spaced pages. If the major sections of your dissertation seem likely to exceed this length, plan to subdivide them. A finished dissertation is generally 200‐300 pages long. You will find that developing an outline helps your thinking to move forward substantially, so that the actual writing of the dissertation is more clearly focused.

Once you have drafted your prospectus under the guidance of your dissertation committee, you might want to have it read by someone who knows nothing about your topic, to see whether you have clearly set out your problem and defined a workable method. Seeking out a general reader right at the start is a good reminder that although you may be writing on a specialized topic, your dissertation should be written in clear, intelligible prose. Make sure you define the theoretical categories you are introducing and try to avoid technical jargon unless it is necessary to the intricacies of your argument.

Prospectuses and dissertations tend to either lose themselves in detail, or to be too general. To avoid this, try to do what you would in any paper you write: make sure that your main argument remains clearly above ground, and that each paragraph has a clear connection with the ones preceding and following it. The prospectus is not a mini‐dissertation and need not involve more time in writing and revising than another paper of comparable length. Yet enough care and stylistic grace should be exercised so that the prospectus clearly and concisely articulates the project, its arguments, methods, and special considerations in a manner that anyone in interdisciplinary studies can grasp.

The dissertation is a scholarly document requiring independent research under the guidance of faculty advisors. It should demonstrate the student’s competence in interdisciplinary research and should demonstrate strong potential for future publication. The dissertation must be completed within five years of completing the Candidacy Examination, and students must be continuously enrolled while working on the dissertation.

The dissertation advisor or co‐advisors serve as chair(s) of the Dissertation Committee. At least one advisor must be a member of the Graduate Faculty in Comparative Studies. Co‐advisors and other members of the committee must be approved by the Graduate Studies Committee and have Graduate Faculty status with the Graduate School. The Dissertation Committee must include a minimum of three members, at least two from the Comparative Studies Graduate Faculty (including Courtesy‐Appointed Faculty). All members of the Dissertation Committee must be approved by the Comparative Studies Graduate Studies Committee. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the Comparative Studies Ph.D. program, some students choose additional committee members, which may include an external reader from another university. External members of the committee (those who are not graduate faculty at OSU) are included by petition to the graduate school and are in addition to the required number of internal graduate faculty (3).

All students are required to take a final oral examination (usually referred to in this handbook as “the defense”) of approximately two hours. The Final Oral Examination Committee includes all members of the Dissertation Committee and a Graduate Faculty Representative appointed by the Graduate School. See the Graduate School Handbook, Section 7.8-7.13  for additional details about the dissertation, the final oral examination, and a summary of Ph.D. graduation requirements.

In addition to pursuing their intellectual project in the context of coursework and through the successful completion of the dissertation, Ph.D. students are also expected to pursue opportunities outside the framework of the classroom that will contribute to the intellectual life of the department and prepare them for their longer term goals. 

Languages other than English play a prominent role in a department of Comparative Studies and the research undertaken by both faculty and students. Both M.A. and Ph.D. students are thus required to demonstrate reading competence in a language other than English. The department has no list of approved scholarly languages. But it expects students to read a language pertinent to their own research and to forms of scholarly writing in their field. A student may petition the Graduate Studies Committee to have a language accepted that is not taught at OSU.

Typically, the requirement is fulfilled by asking students to translate a piece of scholarly writing in their own field of research (with the help of a dictionary). The course requirement is not about the number of years one must take to study a language but about the level of competence required to read a language in a given field.

It should be noted that some scholarly and (inter)disciplinary fields require knowledge of specific languages, while others are open to a wider range of possible languages. At the same time, the language requirement for both M.A. and Ph.D. students is distinct from the languages a student might need for their M.A. thesis or Ph.D. exams and dissertation, which may require much greater proficiency than the language requirement. Likewise, language proficiency might include not just a specific national/literary/spoken language, but another language based on the scholarship in a given field or discipline. Students are encouraged to speak with their advisors regarding the language requirements suited to their research. The student’s advisor and candidacy or dissertation committee will determine whether a student’s language requirement may be fulfilled by showing competence in one or two languages other than English.

The language requirement should be fulfilled within the first two years of taking classes (i.e. before the M.A. thesis or Ph.D. Candidacy Exams).

All students completing the Ph.D. in Comparative Studies must demonstrate competence in at least one language other than English by the end of their fourth semester. This requirement must be met in one of the following ways:

  • By receiving a minimum grade of “B” in a 6000‐level or higher course taught in a language other than English;
  • By receiving a minimum grade of “B” in a graduate-level course that certifies ability to read with the use of a dictionary;
  • By passing a proficiency examination administered by the appropriate language department;
  • By petitioning the Advisor and Graduate Studies Committee to consider other evidence of competence, for example, an undergraduate major or minor in a foreign language.

Courses below the 5000 level taken to fulfill the language requirement are not counted toward the degree.

Students with GTA appointments will generally take at least 9 graduate credit hours or three classes each semester until advancing to candidacy, and 3 graduate credit hours each semester thereafter.  

Students on fellowship must take 12 graduate credit hours per semester and 6 graduate credit hours in summer until advancing to candidacy, and 3 graduate credit hours each semester thereafter.

Continuation in the program is contingent upon sufficient progress toward completion. Every spring semester, and in line with department guidelines for annual review distributed by the Graduate Studies Committee, students will meet with their advisor and/or committee to discuss progress to degree. The advisor/committee then presents a report of that student's progress to a meeting of core graduate faculty. During this meeting, input will be sought from all the faculty about the progress of each student. After the meeting, the results of this conversation will be communicated to each student by the advisor. The goal of these conversations is to provide timely and meaningful feedback to each student about her or his work and potential for advancement in the program. If, at any time during the annual review, advisors or faculty determine that sufficient progress has not been made, the advisor and the student will draft an agreement as to what constitutes sufficient progress to continue in the program for the subsequent semester. Failure to comply with the agreement may result in the student’s discontinuation in the program.

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