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Doctor of Philosophy

(Updated Ph.D. requirements: effective Autumn 2021)

Please note: You find the current version of the Ph.D. program description as a PDF file on the bottom of the page.

The doctoral curriculum is designed to permit students to focus on two to three particular areas of specialization in preparation for writing a dissertation. The Ph.D. is intended to place primary stress on research work. The program allows for two years of course work beyond the MA degree (60 credits), and additional quarters to take the general exams and prepare the dissertation. Holders of teaching assistantships must abide by the graduate school and departmental requirements for assistantships. Teaching assistants who are new to the program must enroll in German 518/576 during fall quarter.


Outside applicants who hold the MA degree are reviewed by the Graduate Committee with other new applicants, normally in February of each year. Students completing the MA at the University of Washington must request permission to proceed to the Ph.D. no later than the day of the MA exam. A form for this request may be obtained in the main office. This request will be considered by the entire faculty at the department’s annual review of students in early February.

The permission-to-proceed decision is based on the following criteria:

  1. The students’ overall performance in the MA program as indicated by the faculty comments on their work and by their cumulative graduate GPA.
  2. The quality of the critical MA paper as indication of students’ potential for Ph.D.-level work.
  3. The results of the students’ initial MA examinations. In case of marginal performance on the MA exam (one or two low passes or failures) a student may not continue to the Ph.D. program unless a two-thirds majority of the faculty votes to admit him/her.


All students taking courses are required to see the Graduate Coordinator on a quarterly basis. Before autumn quarter of each year, they fill out the Annual Academic & Professional Planning Form and discuss their progress towards the degree with the Graduate Coordinator. PhD candidates meet with the Chair of their PhD Supervisory Committee. This form is submitted to the GC and becomes part of the student’s file. At the end of spring quarter, students fill out an Annual Graduate Student Self-Evaluation Form and submit it to the GC for inclusion in the student’s file.

A doctoral supervisory committee shall be appointed for each student in the doctoral program early in the second year of doctoral course work, and at all events no later than one quarter before exams will be taken. This committee is to be formed in cooperation with the candidate and the Graduate Coordinator and with the consent of those faculty who will constitute its membership; the committee chair is normally the primary thesis advisor and carries primary responsibility for approving the dissertation prospectus and administering the student’s comprehensive exams. The doctoral supervisory committee is responsible for the student’s comprehensive exams and for reading the dissertation prospectus. It is normally reconstituted as the reading committee after the exams by the Graduate Coordinator with the same or reduced membership (three minimum); it is then responsible for advising during preparation of the dissertation, evaluating the dissertation, and conducting the dissertation defense. The doctoral supervisory committee should include at least three members in addition to the Graduate School representative at the oral exam.

Graduate School Requirements for the Ph.D. Degree:

Students who intend to work toward advanced degrees must meet the requirements of the Graduate School as outlined in the University of Washington Catalog.

Department Requirements:

With the exception of 411, 451, 452, 497, 498 and 499 (if these have not already counted toward the MA), candidates for the Ph.D. shall complete 60 credit hours at the 500 level or higher, complete the foreign language requirement, submit one Ph.D. paper, pass one oral and one written examination, write a dissertation prospectus, and complete a dissertation. Students who arrive with an MA degree are required to take German 500.

1. The sixty hours of course work are selected in consultation with the graduate coordinator and with an eye toward developing distinct areas of specialization, though students are encouraged to define their areas broadly. Each quarter, the student must meet with the Graduate Coordinator to discuss course work and progress towards the degree. Funded students must take one of the two required courses per quarter in German Studies.

All courses taught by German Studies faculty count toward the degree, regardless of the department in which they are listed. Courses taught by adjunct German Studies faculty and with a substantive German Studies component count for German Studies credit. Students may count up to 20 credits of graduate course work in other departments toward the degree. The 60 credit hours for the Ph.D. begin to accumulate as soon as the 40 hours for the MA have been completed. During their first three quarters, students will register for a 1-credit directed reading course with a designated faculty member.

In the quarters before the written exam and the prospectus submission, students may sign up for German 600 to prepare the dissertation prospectus. German 600 may be taken only twice, after the completion of 50 graded credits. Students receive credit for the first 600 course when they pass their exam; for their second, when their prospectus is approved. German 575 may be taken at the Ph.D. level for credit only once.

2. One-time enrollment in German 575, Teaching of German Literature and Civilization, is required.

3. Enrollment (S/NS) in the seminar offered by the Kade Professor during spring quarter is required.

4. Graduate students must submit a Ph.D. paper. The Ph.D. paper must be written with a member of Germanics, including adjunct professors. Max Kade professors do not qualify as advisors for the Ph.D. paper.

For students who complete the MA in the department, the first PhD paper, approved by the faculty advisor, must be received by Jan. 31 in the year after completion of the MA exams. For students who enter the program with an MA from elsewhere, the first PhD paper, approved by the faculty advisor, must be received by Dec. 15th in the year following matriculation of the program.

Some specific criteria for the doctoral paper are: (i) that it be ca. 20-25 pages, (ii) that it contain a critical apparatus, (iii) that it pose a significant thesis to be situated and defended within the context of the relevant critical literature, (iv) that it demonstrate the candidate’s potential to carry out professional research, (v) that it evince conceptual clarity, and (vi) that it be prepared according to the MLA style-sheet.

5. Reading Lists: The list for the oral exam at the end of the first year will be developed by students in consultation with faculty. A curated archive of texts is routinely updated to help with the compilation of the reading lists. The three faculty members who supervise the series of directed reading courses during the academic year will approve the final list for the examination during the third quarter.

Students shall prepare their own special topics list for the written exam in consultation with the members of the Ph.D. supervisory committee. It must be approved before students can register for German 600 (spring quarter of second year). Students shall submit signed copies of their approved reading lists to their committee members and have one copy placed in their file.

6. Knowledge of a foreign language other than German must be demonstrated by completion of a 203-level (or equivalent) course or by a targeted open-dictionary translation exercise approved by the Graduate Coordinator.

7. Students will complete two separate exams, one oral examination at the end of the third quarter, and one written examination. The General Examination is an oral discussion based on the student’s presentation of a prospectus draft.

The oral examination is intended to test students’ competence to speak intelligently about a broad spectrum of texts in German literary and cultural studies. A curated archive will help students develop the reading program undertaken during their first three quarters. The final list of texts for which the student will be responsible in the exams must be approved during the third quarter by the faculty members teaching the directed reading courses. The two-hour exam will be scheduled at the end of the third quarter. The three faculty members will each have 20 minutes to ask questions. The remaining time will be devoted to a discussion meant to help students develop their research interests into ideas and to select a seminar essay to expand into the Ph.D. paper. Students who complete the MA in the department can waive this requirement if they successfully completed a similar oral exam after their first three quarters at UW.

The written examination is intended to test students’ ability to treat complex issues and topics in a field related to their dissertation project. The reading list for the special topic exam should include all materials that are relevant to a given field. The purpose of the exam is to enable students to develop focused areas of expertise as a basis for future scholarly development and for the beginning stages of their teaching careers, as well as to enable them to demonstrate advanced control of the body of knowledge in the field.

The written doctoral exam is to be taken at the end of the quarter in which students first register for German 600, after completing 50 credits of coursework (normally, the third quarter of the second year). The exam is normally written by the chair of the dissertation committee, who has approved the student’s special topics list. The normal format offers the student a choice of two questions from which to write one essay of c. 4,000-5,000 words (15-20pp). Students are encouraged to discuss the format of exams with their examiners beforehand. Copies of previous exams may be consulted in the main office. Students should note that examinations are not given in the summer.

Students will pick up the exam questions from the departmental administrator on the day of the exam and deliver the written response to the exam 72 hours later.

After all the committee members have submitted written evaluations of the student’s performance on the examination, the chair of the PhD supervisory committee will inform the student of the results, and the readers’ comments on examinations will be made available to the student. A student may retake a failed examination only once, and may not proceed to register for German 600 for prospectus writing until a failed exam has been retaken and passed. The committee can impose additional requirements (such as a qualifying paper or a course) before the student may retake a failed exam and set a time for doing so.

8. The dissertation prospectus should be submitted to the student’s doctoral committee during the last quarter of coursework (German 600). It must be approved formally and signed off by the chair of the committee and a copy must be placed in the student’s file. The prospectus should be 10-15 pages with sections that (i) define the problem to be investigated and the questions to be posed, (ii) explain why the problem is significant and the questions worth answering, (iii) situate the topic and approach in the context of past and current scholarship and/or theory in order to define the intended contribution of the project, (iv) identify the sub-divisions of the topic into possible chapter divisions, (v) discuss what the candidate has already accomplished on the topic, and (vi) establish a preliminary bibliography. A prospectus is a description of a process to be undertaken; it is not a description of a finished product. The student is not expected to draw definitive conclusions in the prospectus.

Students register for 10 credits of German 600 during the quarter in which they work on the prospectus. In the first half of the quarter (c. week 3-5), students will present a draft of the prospectus during the General Exam. Feedback from committee members will help students refine their ideas and make more detailed chapter outlines before submitting the prospectus to the committee chair for final approval.

  1. After students have completed the required 60 hours of course work, met the language requirement, submitted with approval the Ph.D. paper, and had the dissertation prospectus approved, they may register for 800-level course-work. Otherwise, they are required to register for seminars offered by Germanics, which may be taken on a S/NS basis with the permission of the instructor.
  2. General Exam (Prospectus Presentation): After the successful completion of the written doctoral examination, students will meet with the dissertation chair to launch the student onto a productive path for the prospectus. During the first half of the quarter in which students register for the final course of German 600 (normally the fall quarter of the third year), the student will schedule the General Exam with the supervisory committee and the GSR. In this meeting, the committee members will discuss the special topics exam from the previous quarter and students will present a draft of their prospectus (2-3pp). This prospectus draft should outline a problem for the dissertation to address. Students should indicate the stakes of the problem, the scope of the investigation, and the methods to be pursued. There is no need for a detailed chapter outline at this point. During the following discussion, students should receive feedback about how to proceed. After the prospectus draft has been approved, the student will officially become a doctoral candidate. It is the responsibility of the chair of the supervisory committee to have in hand all evaluations of the exam and prospectus, to obtain the final determination of the committee on the student’s performance, to obtain all signatures for the Committee Signature Form, to inform the student of the result, and to return the signed Committee Signature Form to the department office.
  3. After approval of the prospectus by the student’s supervisory committee, the student shall prepare a dissertation in consultation with the chair of the committee, who is the principal dissertation advisor. Students are expected to consult other members of the committee as the writing progresses. After the dissertation has been approved in writing by the advisor, it may be submitted formally to the committee. Dissertations are normally written in English and oral examinations conducted in English at the University of Washington. Exceptions can be considered upon petition to the Graduate School.
  4. PhD candidates present the first chapter of their dissertation to their PhD supervisory committee at the end of the third quarter after successful completion of the PhD exam.

13. Participation in the dissertation colloquium is required for all PhD candidates.

14. Auditing further coursework at the 500-level and enrollment in German 575 is recommended.

15. The dissertation defense may be scheduled no sooner than five weeks after the submission of the completed dissertation to the reading committee to allow readers two weeks to read the dissertation before signing the request for final examination, which must be submitted to the Graduate School three weeks before the defense. It is the student’s responsibility to ascertain that the members of the reading committee are available in the quarter the dissertation will be submitted and to obtain the signature of all members of the supervisory committee on the request for the final examination. If necessary, adjustments to the committee membership can be made in timely consultation with the Graduate Coordinator. At the conclusion of the defense the advisor shall obtain the necessary signatures on the Committee Signature Form and return it to the department office. The Graduate School requires that the student submit two complete official copies of the dissertation within 60 days of the defense and that the student must be registered during the quarter in which the dissertation is submitted. Students should obtain the Graduate School’s Style and Policy Manual for Dissertations directly from the Graduate School or consult the Graduate School web-page at: With the dissertation the student shall also submit to the Graduate School a completed survey of earned doctorates and a receipt for fees paid through the Graduate School. The student needs to obtain the signature of all members of the reading committee attesting to the fact that changes requested at the defense have been made in a satisfactory manner.

Policies for Summer Quarter

Graduate students teaching in the summer are required to be enrolled for a minimum of 2 credits.
The following rules pertain to graduate students in German Studies:

  • If German 497 (5cr) is offered, summer TAs are required to take this course.
  • If German 497 is not available, summer TAs may take a suitable 400- or 500- level course outside the department. Students consult with the Graduate Coordinator about the best possible option.
  • PhD candidates sign up for 497 (5cr) on a satisfactory/nonsatisfactory option.

Certificate Programs

Ph.D. students have the option of obtaining the following certificates:

Please find the old description of the Ph.D. program here.