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This archived information is dated to the 2011-12 academic year only and may no longer be current.

For currently applicable policies and information, see the current Stanford Bulletin.

Doctor of Philosophy in German Studies

The requirements for the Ph.D. in German Studies include:

  1. A minimum of 54 graduate units during the first year of graduate study, and a minimum of 10 units per quarter during the six quarters following the first year. In addition, ten graduate units must be completed during each of the first and second summers in the program. A total of 135 units is required for the Ph.D.; doctoral candidates must complete at least one course with each member of the department. During each quarter in year one and year two, enrollment in and completion of at least two graduate courses taught by German Studies faculty are required.
  2. A reading knowledge of one language other than English and German. Students in Medieval Studies must also have a reading knowledge of Latin.
  3. A first-year oral examination.
  4. A qualifying paper
  5. A qualifying examination
  6. The University Oral examination
  7. A dissertation.

During the first year of work, the student should select courses that provide an introduction to the major areas of the discipline. During Spring Quarter of the first year, students must take their first-year examination. †During the one-hour oral examination, the student is questioned by three faculty members on work undertaken in specific graduate courses. Students who fail this examination may request to retake it once before October 15.

By July 1 of the summer following the first year of graduate study, students should present as a qualifying paper an example of their course work. Although ordinarily not meant to represent an original contribution to scholarship, it should demonstrate the candidate's ability to grasp complex subject matter with sufficient competence to organize materials and to present arguments in a clear and concise manner commensurate with scholarly standards. The paper is submitted to the department director, who passes it on for approval by the student's faculty adviser and a second reader appointed by the director. If the readers find the paper insufficient, the student will be given one chance to rework the paper, which must then be submitted by October 15.

Students who enter the program with a master's degree from another institution must submit, in lieu of a qualifying paper, a master's thesis or a major research paper as evidence of ability to pursue advanced scholarly work.

Before the end of the autumn quarter of the second year (but only if the qualifying paper has been accepted, and the first-year examination has been completed successfully), the student takes a one-hour oral qualifying exam with two faculty members from German Studies appointed by the director. The purpose of this examination is to demonstrate a broad familiarity with the literature of the major periods, movements, and some major figures. This examination is based on selections from a reading list provided by the department to the student after admission into the program. Only after completion of the qualifying procedure, which includes both the qualifying paper and the qualifying examination, does the department approve the student's admission to candidacy. A student who fails the qualifying examination may retake it once by March 1. Failing the qualifying examination a second time will lead to termination from the program.

After passing the qualifying exam, the student should promptly consult with appropriate faculty members in order to develop a dissertation topic. It is important to consider scholarly significance, access to resources, and feasibility of completion within a reasonable period. The student then prepares a preliminary statement describing the topic (no more than five pages), which is circulated to prospective committee members for discussion at a meeting normally held during the spring of the second year. The purpose of this meeting is to provide the student with feedback and guidance in the preparation of the formal prospectus.

The University Oral examination in the Department of German Studies involves a presentation of a dissertation prospectus. The prospectus, normally 25 pages plus bibliography, elaborates on the topic, the proposed argument, and the organization of the dissertation. It must be distributed to the committee members and the outside chair at least two weeks before the formal University Oral examination. Students should plan this examination for the autumn or winter quarter of the third year. The examination lasts approximately two hours, permitting each of the four examiners a 25-minute question period and reserving an optional ten minutes for questions from the chair of the examination. Should a student fail the University Oral exam, they will be allowed an opportunity to retake the exam. A second fail of the University Oral exam will result in dismissal from the Ph.D. program.

Students, regardless of their future fields of concentration, are expected to acquire excellence in the German language. The department expects Ph.D. candidates to demonstrate teaching proficiency in German; DLCL 201, The Learning and Teaching of Second Languages, is required. The teaching requirement is four quarters during the second and third years of study and mandatory for continued enrollment or support in the program. Students must teach a fifth course which may be a language course, but they may alternatively request to teach an additional literature course at a latter time in the course of study, normally once their dissertation has reached an advanced stage, contingent upon department need and subject to approval of the director. Such teaching does not extend the length or scope of support.

The department expects candidates to demonstrate research skills appropriate to their special areas of study. The requirement can be fulfilled in the capacity of either a University Fellow or a Research Assistant.

Graduate students are also advised to start developing skills in the teaching of literature by participating in the teaching of undergraduate literature courses. Students may enroll in independent studies with faculty members to gain experience as apprentices in undergraduate literature teaching.

Regular attendance at the departmental colloquium is mandatory. Each student is expected to make a formal presentation at the colloquium for public discussion. The principal conditions for continued registration of a graduate student are the timely and satisfactory completion of University, department, and program requirements for the degree, and fulfillment of minimum progress requirements. Failure to meet these requirements results in corrective measures which may include a written warning, academic probation, and/or the possible release from the program.

Yearly Review: In order to evaluate student progress and to identify potential problem areas, the department's faculty reviews the academic progress of each first-year student at the beginning of Winter and Spring quarters and again at the end of the academic year. The first two reviews are primarily intended to identify developing problems that could impede progress. In most cases, students are simply given constructive feedback, but if more serious concerns warrant, a student may be placed on probation with specific guidelines for addressing the problems detected. The review at the end of Spring Quarter is more thorough; each student's performance during the first year is reviewed and discussed. Possible outcomes of the spring review include: (1) continuation of the student in good standing, or (2) placing the student on probation, with specific guidelines for the period of probation and the steps to be taken in order to be returned to good standing. For students on probation at this point (or at any other subsequent points), possible outcomes of a review include: (1) restoration to good standing; (2) continued probation, again with guidelines for necessary remedial steps; or (3) termination from the program. All students are given feedback from their advisers at the end of their first year of graduate work, helping them to identify areas of strength and potential weakness.

At the end of the second year of residency, students who are performing well, as indicated by their counselor, performance on the Qualifying Exam, and teaching and research assistantship performance, are advanced to candidacy. This step implies that the student has demonstrated the relevant qualities required for successful completion of the Ph.D. Future evaluations are based on the satisfactory completion of specific remaining department and University requirements. Students who are not advanced to candidacy will normally be terminated from the program and awarded a terminal M.A. degree. In some cases, the department may require that a student complete outstanding work or complete unmet requirements before admission to candidacy. The university requires that all students must be admitted to candidacy by the beginning of the third year in residence in order to continue in the Ph.D. program. Therefore all requirements stipulated by the department must be met before registration for the fall quarter of the student's third year.

At any point during the degree program, evidence that a student is performing at a less than satisfactory level may be cause for a formal academic review of that student.

Grading: Doctoral students in the department must take required courses for a letter grade if available and are expected to earn a grade of 'B+' or better in each course offered by the DLCL. Any grade of 'B' or below is considered to be less than satisfactory. Grades of 'B' or below are reviewed by faculty and the following actions may take place: (1) the grade stands and the student's academic performance is monitored to ensure that satisfactory progress is being made; (2) the grade stands and the student is required to revise and resubmit the work associated with that course; or (3) the student may be required to retake the course.


Students may work toward a Ph.D. in German Studies with minors in such areas as Comparative Literature, Modern Thought and Literature, Linguistics, or History. Students obtaining a Ph.D. in such combinations may require additional training.

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