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This archived information is dated to the 2009-10 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. include:

  1. A minimum of 36 graduate units during the first year of graduate study, 45 units for the completion of the M.A., and a minimum of 9 units per quarter during the six quarters following the first year. A total of 135 units is required for the Ph.D.; doctoral candidates are advised to complete at least one course with each member of the department.
  2. A reading knowledge of one language other than English and German, normally French. Students in Medieval Studies must also have a reading knowledge of Latin.
  3. A master's oral examination, unless the student has an M.A. upon entering the program
  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, except those admitted with a master's degree, must take an oral M.A. examination. During the one-hour examination, the student is questioned by three faculty members, two of whom are regular faculty in the department, chosen by the student, on work undertaken in specific graduate courses.

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 chair, who passes it on for approval by the student's faculty adviser and a second reader appointed by the chair in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies.

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.

At the end of the sixth quarter of study (and only if the qualifying paper has been accepted), the student takes a one-hour oral qualifying exam with two faculty members from German Studies, the student's chosen adviser, and another faculty member appointed by the chair. The purpose of this examination is to demonstrate a broad familiarity with the literature of the major periods, movements, and some major figures. Only after completion of the qualifying procedure will the department approve the student's admission to candidacy. A student who fails the qualifying examination may retake it once at the beginning of the seventh quarter.

After passing the qualifying exam, the student should 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 eighth quarter. 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 is based on the 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 end of the third year or the end of the subsequent summer. 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.

Students, regardless of their future fields of concentration, are expected to acquire excellence in German and a thorough knowledge of the grammatical structure of German. The department expects Ph.D. candidates to demonstrate teaching proficiency in German; APPLLING 201, The Learning and Teaching of Second Languages, is required. The teaching requirement is five quarters during the second and third years of study. The fifth and final quarter of teaching may be postponed until the student has worked extensively on the dissertation and may be devoted to a literary topic related to the dissertation. Such courses are subject to departmental review procedures.

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 can earn up to 3 units of graduate credit for practice teaching in literature.

Regular attendance at the departmental colloquium is mandatory. Each student is expected to make a formal presentation at the colloquium for public discussion.


The department of German Studies participates in the Graduate Program in Humanities leading to the joint Ph.D. in German and Humanities. At this time, the option is available only to students already enrolled in the Graduate Program in Humanities. Although the Graduate Program in Humanities is not currently accepting new students, it continues to provide advising for students already enrolled as well as courses, open to all students. The University remains committed to a broad-based undergraduate education in the humanities, and a successor program is under discussion by the faculty of the Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages. For further information, please consult Gregory Freidin, the director of the program; the list of courses and events may be found on the program web site at


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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