Requirements

Successful completion of the Ph. D. degree in German requires:

  • Obtaining approval of a dissertation prospectus by the end of the fall quarter of the fourth year;
  • Submission of a dissertation approved according to the rules of The Graduate School; and
  • Defending a completed dissertation.

Regular Assessments

Graduate students have a right to periodic evaluations of their academic progress, performance, and professional potential. Students are encouraged to discuss their progress with their professors, to exchange ideas for research projects, to submit any plans for future research and/or papers in advance for evaluation at any stage in the quarter. Students are also encouraged to maintain regular contact with their professors for academic consultations throughout the course of their studies at Northwestern.

First-Year Review

At the end of the spring quarter, first-year students submit two papers that they have completed during the course of the year. The papers will be reviewed by the tenure-line faculty as a whole. These papers should demonstrate that the student is prepared to write incisive essays that could eventually be published in appropriate scholarly venues. A written report concerning the student's progress is sent at the end of the spring quarter to the student and it is the basis of a discussion with the Director of Graduate Studies.

Second-Year Review

By the end of the spring quarter of the second year, students must have organized (in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies) their qualifying examination committee. The names of these three advisers are submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies and the chair of the German department along with a brief outline of the three areas under which the examination will take place.

Qualifying Exam

(usually taken in the winter quarter of the third year)

The examination is principally concerned with literary works. In consultation with their advisors, students develop three independent lists of works. The three lists should, as a whole, include representatives of all major genres (drama, prose, poetry), and they should include literary works from the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries (both pre- and post-War). Students generally develop three kinds of list: one devoted to a particular genre, another to a particular period, and a third that concerns a particular author, including his or her influences. The idea that animates the drafting of the three lists is the following: each list should be the basis for a middle- or upper-level class on the relevant topic, a class, moreover, which introduces advanced undergraduates to some of the major works in modern German literature.

Students generally work with committees composed of three advisers, each of whom helps develop a single list, although occasionally the entire committee helps with all three. Once a student is confident that he or she is fully in command of the lists, the members of his or her committee pose three questions in writing, and the student is given two weeks to write out 12- to 15-page "position papers" about each of the questions. (There is no need for bibliographical material.) An oral examination (lasting around two hours) takes place within a week of the submission of the papers. The examiners will notify the student whether he or she has passed no later than five days after the examination. The qualifying exam must be passed before the beginning of the fall of the student's fourth year.

If the student fails one of the three components of the exam, he or she can retake that component within 30 days. If the student fails more than one component, then he or she will not be allowed to retake the examination. In order to continue in the program, students must pass all three components.

Dissertation Prospectus

(completed during the fall quarter of the fourth year)

The dissertation prospectus should be conceived in the form of a grant proposal. It is composed of the following five sections:

  • An abstract of the project, comprehensible to an audience of broadly educated humanists.
  • A general description of the dissertation, which defines the topic under discussion, provides an account of the basic questions to which it will respond, and locates the project in the critical literature on the topic.
  • Specification of the methodologies that will be used or developed in the course of researching and writing the dissertation.
  • Articulation of the dissertation into its various chapters, each of which is briefly described.
  • Bibliography of both primary and secondary sources.

The usual length is at least 15 pages, not more than 25 (not including bibliography).
The prospectus should be completed by the fifth week of the fall of the student's fourth year, whereupon it is submitted to the chair of the student’s dissertation committee. By the end of the fall quarter the student defends the prospectus before the entire faculty of the department as well as any extra-departmental member of the dissertation committee.

Ph.D. Language Requirement

(completed before the dissertation defense)

The Department of German strives to provide their doctoral students with the best training and broadest practical experience possible in teaching and research. Knowledge of at least one other language besides German and English is required for both, research and teaching. Therefore, the language requirement entails:

  • Native or near-native fluency in English;
  • Advanced proficiency in German language (oral and written). For information see the page on German Language Proficiency.
  • Knowledge of at least one further language. This can be accomplished by one of the following: a) taking a graduate or upper-level undergraduate course taught in the relevant language; b) passing a reading examination administered by the departmen; or c) taking an intensive language course during the summer (equivalent to finishing two years of college language study).