PhD Requirements

Preliminary Requirements

In order to read the scholarly literature, proficiency is required in French and German. A proficiency test in one language must be passed by the end of the student’s first semester and in the second by the end of the third semester (in any order). There are special arrangements for students whose native language is not English.

In order to pursue biblical studies, prior knowledge of biblical Hebrew is required, and some command of Greek and Latin will be necessary. While always desirable, no prior knowledge is required for admittance to study the other ancient languages offered by the department.

Course of Study

Students will normally spend several years in coursework (see individual programs for timetable) before taking the comprehensive examinations in their major and minor areas of concentration.

Courses are in seminars that allow small groups of students and faculty to engage in close study of special problems. All students must take the three-year cycle of seminars in Ancient Near Eastern History, which brings together students and faculty from the different sub-disciplines.

A complete listing of courses may be found in the Registrar’s Online Course Catalog. The courses listed may be modified in particular years to suit the needs of students currently in residence.

After passing the comprehensive examinations, the next step is to prepare and submit a dissertation proposal. If the proposal is accepted, the student will then write the dissertation under the direction of his/her adviser and in consultation with a second reader.

Students are expected to write short research papers in their seminars, which will prepare them for the task of writing a full-length dissertation. When they reach the stage of dissertation research, students are encouraged to present papers to the Departmental Seminar, an occasional informal meeting over lunch where both students and faculty can present their current research. They are also encouraged to present papers on their dissertation research at conferences in their field.

Advanced students are also given the opportunity to gain teaching experience. Traditionally, advanced students teach the elementary language courses and may act as teaching assistants to faculty in undergraduate classes. Near Eastern students are also among the most frequent recipients of the university-wide Dean’s Teaching Fellowship, which enables graduate students to teach a course of their own devising to undergraduates.


The subject of the student’s minor area of concentration is usually an ancient Near Eastern language (and its literature) outside of the student’s major area of study. Permission may be given for a minor to be created from other departments’ courses.

Archaeology students may, with permission, do a minor in the history and archaeology of an area other than the major area of concentration (e.g., an Egyptian archaeologist could minor in Syro-Palestinian archaeology), or create a minor through a selection of courses from other departments (e.g., Classics, Materials Science, Art History).