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Ph.D. Program

The Ph.D. program in art history and archaeology allows students to delve into advanced research in the discipline, develop expertise in undergraduate teaching and build connections with a broad range of professionals in the field.

Students should consult the department's Ph.D. requirements, stipulated here, together with those of the Graduate School, outlined in the Graduate Handbook. For further information, contact the department's coordinator of graduate studies, Deborah Down.


Program Requirements and Policies

Program Requirements

Requirements for the PhD degree include a minimum of 30 credits of graduate course work beyond the MA and satisfactory completion of the language requirement (two languages) and PhD field exams in a major field and two subfields, the latter of which should be related to the dissertation. At least 12 of the course credits are to be in Art History seminar courses (including a required Methods course) and the other 6 to be selected from additional seminars, graduate lecture courses, or independent study courses, or a combination of these. In addition to the 18 credits of graduate course work, 12 Dissertation Credits are required. Candidates then produce a dissertation, which is defended in an oral examination.

Ph.D. Course Requirements

For students holding an M.A. degree (from the University of Maryland or elsewhere), the Ph.D. requires the successful completion of an additional 30 credit hours. This includes:

  • ARTH692: “Methods of Art History” (3 credits)
  • Five 600- and 700-level ARTH courses (15 credits)  
  • ARTH899: “Dissertation Research” (12 credits)

Students that enter the graduate program without an M.A. will complete the requirements for that degree before advancing to the doctoral level. They will be required to successfully complete a total of 51 credit hours. This includes:

  • ARTH692: “Methods of Art History” (3 credits)
  • Twelve 600- and 700-level ARTH courses (36 credits) * 
  • ARTH899: “Dissertation Research” (12 credits)

Graduate students are also eligible to enroll in courses at member institutions of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area. The scope of our graduate students’ curricular offerings is further enhanced via a program of course exchange with the Art History Department of the Johns Hopkins University in nearby Baltimore, while advanced students may participate in seminars given by the Folger Institute at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington.  Up to two seminars may be taken in other UMD departments, or one seminar and, within the department, a directed reading course with the advisor or an undergraduate class, modified with extra graduate-level work and discussion.

*Art history is a global and transhistorical field, and graduate education at the University of Maryland is fittingly diverse. All students therefore must fulfill distribution requirements. If a student enters the Ph.D. program after earning an M.A. from another institution and has not already completed coursework reflective of these distributional requirements, he or she must satisfy these requirements at the Ph.D. level.

A minimum grade of "B-" is required for all courses approved for graduate credit. Two grades below "B-" result in dismissal from the program.

Foreign Language Requirements

All doctoral students are required to take examinations in two foreign languages necessary for research in their art-historical field. The first examination takes place in the first semester of enrollment and the second must be completed before the end of the third year in the graduate program. The languages are to be determined by the major field advisor and approved by the director of graduate studies. 

For further information on the content, administration and evaluation of foreign language examinations, please contact the department's coordinator of graduate studies, Deborah Down.

The Graduate Examination Committee

The student's Examination Committee will advise on the student's program and evaluate their progress. The Examination Committee will comprise three members of the Graduate Faculty from the Department of Art History and Archaeology, including the student's advisor, who will serve as chair. If appropriate, one member of the committee may be drawn from another UMD department or from another area institution. Composition of the committee will be determined by the advisor and the student and approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Ph.D. students are required to submit a formal request, addressed to the department's Curriculum Committee, naming the proposed examination fields and briefly explaining the rationale for this choice. 

For the examination there will be a broad general field and two sub-fields. The general field will be defined, and the reading list developed, to allow the student to master a breadth of material on which they might teach an undergraduate lecture course, including (as the advisor and student feel is pertinent) key controversies, major monuments, historiography, primary sources, etc. The goal is to promote critical thinking about the field as well as to master knowledge. The two sub-fields will be geared to the kind of material the student anticipates working on for their dissertation. These will be more focused questions with shorter reading lists. They may concentrate on a type of visual material, a methodological issue, a single location, even a single (major) artist, at the discretion of the advisor and student.

The Doctoral Examination

The Ph.D. examination includes two parts: the written examination and the oral examination. Both parts of the exam are graded pass/fail. The examination may be taken only during the fall or spring academic terms. If the examination is failed, the student may attempt it once more. An unsuccessful second attempt will require the student to withdraw from the Ph.D. program.

The written examination will consist of a single four-hour essay, for which the student will be given a choice between three questions. These will be set by the committee and will, to at least some degree, incorporate material from all three fields, with the focus on the larger general field. The student will be permitted to use their notes in answering the question. The student’s responses are evaluated by their Graduate Examination Committee.

Upon successful completion of the written examination, the Examination Committee will administer a two-hour oral examination.. Each member of the committee will be expected to ask questions for half an hour, followed by general discussion. The student can choose the order in which the examiners ask their questions. Each examiner will concentrate on the reading list they worked on with the student, although examiners in the sub-fields can always refer to the general list. Questions may be broad or quite specific to particular works of art.

The Dissertation Proposal Defense

Within six months of successfully completing doctoral exams, the student will meet with their Dissertation Committee to review and discuss the dissertation proposal, its scope and significance. The membership of this committee may be composed of the same members as the Examination Committee or the membership may be adjusted before this meeting. Nevertheless, the Dissertation Committee at this stage should comprise at least three members, two of whom must be full-time permanent departmental faculty.

Students should be aware that the decision to supervise a dissertation rests with the individual faculty member, and that it is necessary to secure this consent before work on the dissertation proceeds. The proposal will usually be a document of 15-40 pages and should include, at minimum, the following:

  1. A statement of the problem that will be investigated or the hypothesis that will be argued; an explanation of the value the dissertation would have for the field of art history.
  2. A chapter-by-chapter breakdown of how the dissertation will be arranged, and what materials and issues will be covered in each chapter.
  3. A statement of existing scholarship related to the thesis.
  4. The primary and secondary sources  to be consulted, as well as their location and availability.
  5. A work plan (an outline of the projected research, including travel) and the methodology to be used.

Before the defense is scheduled, the student’s advisor must read and formally agree to support the proposal as provisionally presented. The defense will consist of constructive criticism of the proposal’s goals and arguments, and advice on how research can best be undertaken.

Advancement to Candidacy

Once a student passes qualifying exams and defends the dissertation proposal, they must submit the Application for Advancement to Candidacy Form to the Graduate Office. Teaching assistants receive a step promotion and a small raise in stipend once they have advanced to candidacy. Upon advancing to candidacy, the student has four years to complete the dissertation; the Graduate School grants extensions only in extreme circumstances.

Satisfactory Progress

A student must make satisfactory progress in meeting programmatic requirements, demonstrate the ability to succeed in his or her course of studies or research and attain performance minima specified by the graduate program in all or in particular courses, otherwise his or her enrollment will be terminated. All graduate students are required to submit an annual report on their progress to degree to the director of graduate studies.

The Doctoral Dissertation

A successful defense of a dissertation is the final requirement for the doctoral degree. The dissertation is prepared under the direction of the student's advisor along with annual meetings with members of their Dissertation Committee.

Dissertation Committee

The Dissertation Committee consists of four faculty members who advise the student on the writing of their dissertation. The membership of this committee may be composed of the same members as the Examination Committee or the membership may be adjusted before the final defense. 

The Ph.D. student should consult with the director of graduate studies and their advising team concerning the selection of the final Dissertation Committee, which must  be approved by the dean of the Graduate School. The advisor must submit to the director of graduate studies a list of all committee members at least four weeks before the final copy of the dissertation is distributed. Should a student wish to include a special member (a scholar with no official affiliation with the university) on the Dissertation Committee, the student must request a nomination from the director of graduate studies no later than four months before the proposed oral defense date.

Dissertation Defense 

When the dissertation is nearly complete and the major advisor has approved moving on to this penultimate step, the Ph.D. candidate 1) submits to the Graduate School a request to appoint the Dissertation Defense Committee and 2) schedules the dissertation defense. Consisting of a minimum of four faculty, this committee normally includes the three members of the candidate's Dissertation Committee; an additional member of the university’s graduate faculty (from outside the department) serves as the graduate dean's representative. All members of the Defense Committee appointed by the Graduate School must attend the defense. Students must submit the final draft of their dissertation to their committee at least four weeks before the defense date. 

Students should discuss with their directors the format of the defense. Typically, the defense is a two-hour discussion of the dissertation. The defense usually begins with a statement from the student on the experience of writing the dissertation (key discoveries, important changes in critical perspectives, main contributions, etc.). Four of the five members of the Dissertation Defense Committee must approve the dissertation in order for the student to pass. Students are frequently asked to make revisions to the dissertation before submitting it to the Graduate School. Upon satisfactory completion of the oral defense and the electronic submission of the dissertation to, and its approval by, the Graduate School, the candidate is awarded the Ph.D.

Submission of the dissertation

The approved dissertation must be submitted electronically to the Graduate School by the deadlines posted in order for a student to graduate in a given semester.  Information about all aspects of electronic submission of the dissertation is available on the Graduate School's Information for Current Students under Thesis and Dissertation Resources



Completing the Ph.D. involves careful attention to deadlines imposed and paperwork required by the Graduate School

Students are expected to complete their coursework and meet all foreign language requirements by no later than their fifth semester in the program. Please contact the department's coordinator of graduate studies, Deborah Down [link], to schedule your language exam and confirm the acceptability of equivalences if you wish to forego an exam to meet your language requirement. 

Students are expected to advance to candidacy by successfully passing their qualifying examination by their seventh semester in the program. Please contact the department's coordinator of graduate studies, Deborah Down [link], to schedule your qualifying exam. Submit your form for candidacy advancement to the Graduate Office upon successful completion of your qualifying exam. Upon advancing to candidacy, students are expected to file a dissertation progress form with the Graduate Office each semester.

Students must file an approved dissertation prospectus with the Graduate Office no later than four months following the qualifying examination. 

Specific deadlines for students intending to graduate will be announced on the ARTH graduate-student reflector and are also available from the Graduate School's Deadlines for Graduates. Most of the necessary paperwork for these deadlines can be found on the Graduate School's General Forms for Graduate Students.

Graduate Placement

Recent alumni are currently employed at both public and private research universities, as well as smaller liberal arts colleges. Students from the graduate program have also gone on to work at museums and galleries.

Graduate Placement

Contact Us

Deborah Down

Coordinator of Graduate Studies, Art History and Archaeology

4219 Parren J. Mitchell Art-Sociology Building
College Park MD, 20742

(301) 405-1487

Elizabeth Honig

Professor, Art History and Archaeology

4216 Parren J. Mitchell Art/Sociology Building
College Park MD, 20742

(301) 405-1490