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This archived information is dated to the 2008-09 academic year only and may no longer be current.

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

Doctor of Philosophy in Religious Studies

University requirements for the Ph.D. are described in the "Graduate Degrees" section of this bulletin. The Ph.D. in Religious Studies signifies special knowledge of an interdisciplinary field of study and potential mastery of an area of specialization within it. The faculty of the department have established certain fields of study in which the department's strengths and those of other Stanford departments cohere. They are: East Asian religions, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, religious ethics, and modern Western religious thought. Students who wish to specialize in other fields must obtain early approval by the faculty. Each of these areas of specialization follows a shared structure of study.


The following requirements are in addition to the University's basic requirements.

  1. Residence—Each student completes three years (nine quarters) of full-time study, or the equivalent, in graduate work beyond the B.A. degree, and a minimum of 135 units of graduate course work (excluding the dissertation).
  2. Required Courses—The 135 units of graduate course work must include the following:

    RELIGST 304A. Theories and Methods

    RELIGST 304B. Theories and Methods

    RELIGST 391. Pedagogy (two quarters)

    RELIGST 399. Recent Works in Religious Studies

    The remainder of the course work is individually designed, in consultation with the adviser.

  3. Languages—Each student demonstrates a reading knowledge of two foreign languages, including French or German. One of those language requirements should be fulfilled by the time of advancing to candidacy at the end of the second year. Competence in the second language must be demonstrated at the time of the qualifying examination. Each student also demonstrates reading knowledge of other ancient or modern languages necessary for the field of study, area of specialization, and dissertation topic.
  4. Candidacy—At the end of each academic year, the department's faculty recommend second-year students for candidacy on the basis of all relevant information, and especially on the student's candidacy dossier which includes the approved declaration of an area of specialization, certification for one foreign language, and two substantial papers written for courses during the previous two years. Students are required to take RELIGST 391, Pedagogy, prior to candidacy
  5. Paper-in-Field—During the third year, under the supervision of their advisers, students prepare a paper suitable for submission to an academic journal in their field. The paper is read and approved by at least two faculty members in the department.
  6. Teaching Internship—At least one teaching internship under the supervision of faculty members is undertaken at a time negotiated with the Graduate Director. Students receive academic credit for the required internship, which is a project of academic training and not of employment.
  7. Qualifying Examination—To qualify for writing a dissertation, the student must pass a comprehensive examination in the chosen field and the area of specialization, typically during the first quarter of their fourth year. The student must complete the second language requirement before taking the qualifying examination. The qualifying examination is conducted by a committee of at least three faculty members of the department, one of whom is the adviser. Non-departmental faculty may be included.
  8. Dissertation—The dissertation contributes to the humanistic study of religion and is written under the direction of the candidate's dissertation adviser and at least two other members of the Academic Council. The University Oral examination is a defense of the completed dissertation.
    1. Dissertation Proposal—Candidates submit their dissertation proposal in consultation with their advisers. It is read by a committee of at least three faculty, of whom one is the adviser (as chair) and the two others are members of the Academic Council. Non-departmental faculty may be included.
    2. Dissertation Committee—The dissertation committee may be formed after acceptance of the dissertation proposal. It is composed of the principal adviser and at least two other member of the Academic Council. Non-departmental and non-Stanford faculty may serve as readers when approved by the Graduate Director.
  9. University Oral Examination—This examination, required by the University of Ph.D. students, is a defense of the completed dissertation. The composition of the examination committee is set by University regulation: five or more faculty, normally all of whom are members of the Academic Council, one of who must be outside the department to serve as chair of the committee. Normally, the examining committee includes all qualified members of the dissertation committee.


Religious Studies participates in the Graduate Program in Humanities leading to the Ph.D. in Religious Studies and Humanities, described in the "Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities" section of this bulletin.

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