PhD Degree

Placements (tenure track) of recent graduates include Central Michigan University, Eckerd College, Haverford College, Queens College—CUNY, Southern Methodist University, Tulane University, University of Northern Colorado, University of Wisconsin-Marquette, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, as well as various universities in Latin America.

The PhD with en route MA

Students who wish to pursue the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in Hispanic Languages and Literatures who do not already hold an MA in this field, or an appropriate MA in another department of the University of Pittsburgh or another accredited university, must first earn an en route Master of Arts degree in our department.

MA Requirements

To receive the en route Master of Arts (MA) degree in Hispanic Languages and Literatures, students must successfully complete the following requirements:

  • 30 credits.  Students must complete a minimum of 30 credits of coursework, chosen in consultation with an advisor, with grades of B- or better. This must include a minimum of twenty-four (24) credits of substantive coursework (eight [8] classes) in the department. This should include:
    • a minimum of three (3) departmental core courses;
    • at least four (4) courses in Latin American literature and cultural studies; and
    • Core courses can often also count toward the major or minor field. The remaining six (6) credits may be earned by any combination of courses taken outside the department (including transfer credits and 1000-level courses), and a maximum of three (3) credits of Directed Study (SPAN 2902) (permission required). A Directed Study course could be used to develop a topic related to the PhD Preliminary examination research paper. The six (6) credits can also be earned by taking two (2) additional departmental courses.
  • The M.A. Comprehensive/PhD Preliminary Examination. 

    The M.A. comprehensive/Ph.D. preliminary exams take place in mid-March of the fourth semester of the program. In order to take the exam, students must have completed all courses (i.e., have no incompletes) at the time in which they take the exams. The exams allow students to demonstrate a specialized knowledge of the fields most relevant to support the proposed dissertation research. (That is, the exams demonstrate that the student is qualified to undertake the proposed research in terms of relevant content as well as theory and methods.) The exams have two components, a written and an oral one.

    The written component consists of a take-home assignment and a concise draft of the dissertation topic. During the seven days of their take-home assignment (for example, questions are given Thursday 9.00am and responses are due Wednesday 9.00am) students should write three short essays (12-15 double-spaced pages each) each based on one of the three reading lists (of 20-25 items each) composed by the students in consultation with all the members of their comprehensive exams committee. Students should finalize forming their comps committees no later than the last day of September prior to taking the exams and present the final approved lists no later than the last day of October of the same term. Each committee should consist of three faculty members from the department one of which will chair it. The comprehensive exams committee may, but does not have to be, the same as the dissertation committee. Each list has to focus on distinct but complementary aspects of the topic that the student expects to be the subject of her/his dissertation. A list concentrates on the main dissertation field and the other two on critical, theoretical, geographical or historical areas that complement and provide a larger context of debate for the issues discussed in the dissertation field. Each list should include approximately 50% of primary and secondary texts and be prefaced by a short statement (½ to one page) explaining how the list comes together. Each member of the committee shall prepare two questions per list and the director chooses one from each member for each essay of which, in turn, the student chooses one to answer. (In other words, students have to answer one of three questions per field or list). The short draft of the topic of the dissertation should be a concise 10-15 double-spaced page document that describes the student’s dissertation project. Typically, the draft should include the following elements: (1) Introduction; (2) Corpus; (3) Contribution to the field and research preparation; (4) Methodology and work plan.

    The oral part of the exams, of no more than two-hours, is conducted by the student’s examination committee within two weeks of the written component. The subject matter of the oral exam will be the three essay responses and the proposal draft. Students will meet with the examination committee to discuss the written exams and the direction of dissertation research, including the nature of the prospectus to be presented at the end of the third year. The committee should help the student identify strengths and weaknesses and offer suggestions for improvement.

    Results. The comprehensive/preliminary exams are taken on a Pass/Fail basis. All three areas sections of the exam must be approved in order to receive a pass. (Each member of the committee should grade each written essay and its oral defense separately on a pass/fail basis; the final grade for each area will result from the addition of each member’s grade.) In the case of a fail in all three areas of the exams the student will be asked to leave the Program and will be offered the option of applying for a terminal M.A. In the case of a fail in one of the three areas, a written commentary must be provided by each of the examiners to the chair of the examining committee, who will forward them with the committee’s report to the Director of Graduate Studies and a recommendation of whether the student should or not be allowed to retake that portion of the exams. The Graduate Committee will determine whether the student may retake the exam; if a retake is approved by the Graduate Committee, the student must retake it by the end of the term, which should include time for its oral defense. If the student does not pass the exams for a second time, s/he will be asked to leave the program with the option of applying for a terminal MA.

    Note: students who entered the program in the years 2018 and 2019 have the option of taking the exams under the old format. If they chose to do so, they must notify the DGS as soon as possible.

THE GRADUATE HANDBOOK, Policies & Procedures of the Graduate Program of the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literatures, University of Pittsburgh

PhD Requirements

  • 72 credits.  Students must complete a total of 72 credits, including a minimum of 48 credits of substantive course work in departmental offerings in Hispanic Languages and Literatures. The remaining 24 credits can be taken in preparation for examinations, independent study and dissertation studies (no more than 12 credits) and additional coursework in this or another department or program (12 or more credits).
  • Portuguese Language Requirement.  All students are required to present evidence of reading knowledge of Portuguese prior to the presentation of their PhD proposals.
  • PhD Comprehensive Exam.  The PhD Comprehensive exam is a focused and in-depth examination designed to test the students’ knowledge of major problems and debates within the areas of specialization related to their dissertation proposals. The PhD Comprehensive, which is usually taken in the seventh or eighth term, consists of both written and oral components.
  • Oral Overview of Dissertation Proposal.  The oral overview, conducted concurrently with the PhD Comprehensive exam, is the exegesis and defense of the dissertation proposal. The prospectus is a detailed outline of the dissertation project laying out the topic, theoretical context, structure, and arguments of the project.
  • PhD Dissertation and Oral Defense.  The completion and defense of the doctoral dissertation fulfills the final requirements for the PhD in Hispanic Languages and Literatures. The dissertation is usually presented in English; however, prior permission to present it in another language may be requested from the Graduate School.

Time to PhD Degree Timelines

Related Work

The PhD in Film Studies is a broad, new, interdisciplinary and interdepartmental degree that stresses the history, theory, and esthetics of international cinema, video, television, and new media. While the student will earn a PhD in Film Studies (granted by the Film Studies Program), he or she would also be a full member of Hispanic Languages and Literatures, one of six Associated Departments, fulfilling its requirements (many of which will overlap with those in Film Studies), as well.

The Department of Hispanic Languages and Literatures will appear as an Area of Concentration on the student’s transcript. Thus, the student graduating with a PhD in Film Studies will be doubly qualified: in film studies as well as in the Latin American literature and culture program offered by the PhD program in our department. You are strongly urged to consult with the director of graduate studies in Hispanic Languages and Literatures before choosing to pursue this option. Interested persons must apply to and be accepted by both our Department and the PhD in Film Studies program, and you cannot assume that acceptance in one assures acceptance in the other. Financial assistance for our students who are pursuing the PhD in Film Studies (in the form of fellowships and/or teaching assistantships) will be provided by our department.