Approval Process

Approval of Portfolio Fields

Each field section of the portfolio must be approved by the committee member designated by you as the examiner for that field submitting a detailed written assessment to you, your major advisor, and the DGS. Upon receipt of faculty assessments of all sections of the portfolio, your major advisor will review the portfolio in its entirety, including the dissertation prospectus and intellectual agenda, at which point they will notify you, other committee members, and the DGS as to whether you may proceed to the oral examination. This approval will take the form of a written evaluation, signed by the faculty examiner and submitted to the DGS and committee chair.

If a faculty examiner refuses to approve their field section of your portfolio:

(A) You may proceed to the oral discussion of the prospectus if theirs is a fourth field and the other three fields have been approved by their examiners and the committee chair. Successful completion of the preliminary examination requires at least three affirmative votes and no more than one negative vote.

NOTE: The sole exception to this policy is that a negative vote cast by the chair of the examining committee will mean a failure on the examination.

A student who fails the preliminary examination may apply, with the consent of the full supervisory committee and Dean of the Graduate School, for the privilege of a second examination to be taken no earlier than three months after the date of the first. Successful completion of the second examination requires the affirmative vote of all committee members. Failure on the second examination will render a student ineligible to continue a program for the Ph.D. degree at Duke University. (See Duke Graduate School Ph.D. Degree Requirements for more information.)

(B) You may substitute another faculty examiner (which may or may not require redefining the field) if time permits. At least three months before the defense, the student must complete the Graduate School's Preliminary Committee Approval Form (available from the DGSA), and return it to be forwarded to the administration. The Associate Dean of the Graduate School must approve the Committee listed on this form at least two months before the defense, and any changes in the committee require the completion and approval of the same form again.

NOTE: Please be aware that these are Graduate School rules and the History Department cannot change them.

If more than one faculty examiner refuses to approve their field in your portfolio you have the option of convening the entire committee to appeal their decision and to defend orally your preparation to proceed to the dissertation phase of the program. If you fail the oral, you will be allowed to reschedule the exam but only if the entire committee supports this recommendation and with the approval of the Senior Associate Dean of the Graduate School.

Oral Discussion

Your entire committee will participate in the two-hour oral discussion of the prelim portfolio. In addition to field examiners, you may wish to include on the committees additional members whose involvement may be limited to their teaching material or to the dissertation prospectus.

Although the committee may wish to explore the relationship among your different fields as well as your overall historical vision or larger intellectual agenda during the oral, the dissertation prospectus will be the primary focus in most cases.

While ordinarily it is expected that a student whose portfolio has been pre-approved will pass on to the dissertation stage, graduate school regulation preclude the History Department from offering any assurances to a student that they have passed their preliminary examination until the oral examination has actually occurred. Therefore, it is only at the close of the oral that the committee may decide whether you have passed or failed their preliminary examination. Success is expected, but although regarded as unlikely, failure to pass may also be the result.

The oral discussion must take place no later than the last Friday of April for students pursuing certification at the end of spring semester and no later than the first Friday in December for students pursuing certification at the end of fall semester.

PLEASE NOTE: Students who fail to defend their portfolio by the end of their third year risk not being allowed to continue in the program. Permission to schedule an oral in the fall of their fourth year will be granted in exceptional circumstances only and requires the permission of the Senior Associate Dean of the Graduate School.