The doctoral degree in American Studies requires the successful completion of 60 credits of work: 9 required credits, 33 elective credits, and 18 credits of dissertation research.
- Introduction to American Studies (3 credits)
- Public Humanities (3 credits chosen in consultation with the program director)
- Research Seminar in American Studies (3 credits)
Elective courses should be chosen in consultation with the Program Director and reflect the desired areas of content and methodological expertise of students in preparation for their comprehensive exams, dissertation proposal, and career upon graduation.
With the approval of the Program Director, a student may enroll in an undergraduate course for graduate credit up to two times during their coursework. To receive graduate credit, the student, in consultation with the instructor, must propose and have approved by the Program Director additional work to qualify for graduate credit. This plan should be submitted and approved at least one week before the start of classes.
With the approval of the Program Director and the student's academic advisor, up to twelve credits in directed readings may be counted toward the completion of the Ph.D. degree.
Students may take a maximum of one course per semester outside of Rutgers-Newark.
The culmination of work for the Ph.D. is the production of a dissertation based on original interdisciplinary scholarship in the candidate's primary area of focus. These credits will accrue through continual enrollment during the research and writing of the dissertation.
Students may enter the program with either a B.A. or M.A. degree.
For transfer students who earn the M.A. outside Rutgers-Newark, up to 12 credits in coursework may be counted toward the fulfillment of the Ph.D. degree requirements. Acceptance of these credits will be at the discretion of the Program Director in consultation with the Graduate School and will depend on the field of the student's Master's degree, the appropriateness to American Studies of specific courses taken, and the rules of the Graduate School.
For students who enter the program with an M.A. earned at Rutgers-Newark, up to 24 credits may be counted toward the Ph.D. requirements. Acceptance of these credits will be at the discretion of the Program Director and will depend on the field of the student's Master's degree and the appropriateness to American Studies of specific courses taken.
The requirement to pass a foreign language proficiency exam will be decided by the Program Director in consultation with the student. A student may apply for a waiver of the exam if they do not expect to undertake significant research in a foreign language or culture. However, students undertaking such a research project will be required to demonstrate reading proficiency in the relevant language. This examination will be administered by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies and must be taken before the defense of the dissertation proposal.
After the completion of their coursework and before submitting and defending a dissertation proposal, students must pass written qualifying examinations in three fields and an oral qualifying examination conducted jointly with their three examiners. Students will be expected to demonstrate a mastery of the specific areas of focus based on reading lists developed with their examiners.
At least two out of three members of a student's exam committee must be Rutgers-Newark faculty.
The written examination is a take-home examination. Students will have a week to answer a question on each area of focus and its accompanying reading list for a total of three questions. Each answer should be 2,500 to 4,000 words in length and footnoted. Two professors will grade each question.
While the written doctoral exams will reflect the interests, reading lists, and intellectual approaches of a student and their committee, there are certain characteristics that should appear in all good exam questions and responses. Above all, a successful answer will demonstrate the student's mastery of their readings in such a way that they can claim expertise in that field and appropriately situate their work in the scholarly debates that frame their exam questions.
A 90-minute oral examination will be administered within one week of the written examination. The examination committee will be composed of the three professors who administered the written qualifying examination.
Examinations will be graded fail, pass, and pass with distinction. If a student fails any one of the three written questions, or the oral examination, they can retake the failed question or the oral examination. A student who fails a retaken question may not continue in the program.
Within six months of completing the written and oral doctoral examinations, students must present and defend a dissertation proposal to three advisors, a Chair, and two committee members. These can be but are not required to be the same faculty who administered the comprehensive examinations.
At least two out of three members of a student's dissertation committee must be Rutgers-Newark faculty.
The proposal defense is where you formally present your plan including your timeline, answer questions about the project, and gather feedback on how to move forward effectively. Committee members are free to ask a wide range of questions, but proposal defense discussions should focus on questions of scope, viability, and significance.
At the conclusion of the defense, proposals can be:
- Accepted as is
- Accepted with revisions
If revisions are required, they should be completed and approved no more than 14 days after the defense
Once a proposal is approved, the Chair should complete the Dissertation Proposal Defense Form (see Appendix) and circulate for signatures from the student and the committee. The student or the Chair should then forward the form along with the completed proposal to the Program Director within 14 days of approval.
- If a proposal defense is unsuccessful, the Chair and the Committee will generate a document with the key objections to the proposal as defended and recommendations for revision.
- The Program Director and Chair will meet with the student to discuss the committee's feedback in that document. The result of that meeting will be a plan of action articulated in a short document signed by the Program Director, the Chair, and the student. The document will outline clear steps the student must take before scheduling another dissertation proposal defense and a timeline for completing them.
- A student may only attempt to defend a dissertation proposal twice. If the second defense is unsuccessful, the student will not move forward toward completion of the PhD.
Students, in consultation with
their Chair and committee, will determine when their dissertation draft is
sufficiently complete to be defended. If the student, Chair, and committee all
agree, they will jointly schedule an oral defense of the dissertation.
The defense should be scheduled
for no more than two hours. Students may make a short presentation (10-15
minutes) on their research at the start of the defense but are not required.
The bulk of the time should be a discussion between the student and the dissertation
committee. Committee members are free to ask a wide range of questions, but
defense discussions should focus on the argument, evidence, and significance of
the dissertation as written. Students may make a short presentation at the
start of the defense but are not required.
The Chair will lead the meeting
and determine when the question-and-answer portion of the defense is over. At
that point, the student will leave the room while the committee deliberates and
renders a decision.
The committee may render one of
- Pass w/distinction
Upon conclusion of the defense,
the student will fill out a dissertation defense report form, sign it,
circulate it to the committee for their signatures, and send it to the Program
If the defense is successful, the
student should fill out the other relevant forms for the Graduate School Newark
to ensure submission of the defended dissertation and graduation.
If the defense is unsuccessful,
the Chair and committee will provide specific written feedback to the student.
The student will then meet with the Program Director and Committee Chair to
review the feedback.
Interdisciplinary Fields in
American Studies at Rutgers University-Newark
Ethnicity, and Modern Society
History and Artistic Production
States within a Global Context
of Social Institutions