History Ph.D. Assessment Plan

Mission Statement

The Ph.D. in History offers the student mastery of the scholarly discipline of history through the expansion of historical knowledge, the comprehension of historiography, and the practice of critical inquiry. Ph.D. students are expected to make original contributions to a field of historical knowledge, through the dissertation. Areas of major study (dissertation) for the Ph.D. include Nevada and the West, U.S. history, American Studies, cultural history, history of science, history of medicine, and selected fields in European history.

Ph.D. students in History pursue the degree for diverse reasons. While some anticipate applying for positions at four-year colleges and universities, others wish to teach in community colleges, to work in cultural resource management, in state or federal agencies, or in public history (museums, historic preservation), and to pursue independent scholarship. The Department of History welcomes all of these reasons, while expecting all Ph.D. students to achieve the outcomes described below.

Program Outcomes

1. Students will be prepared with the knowledge and skills required for future productive research, effective teaching, and independent reading and scholarship.

Student Performance Indicators

  • Student success rate finding professional employment in their chosen fields, as reported by students; or student satisfaction with the outcomes of the degree.

Assessment Method

  • Tracking of alumni (approx. every two years) through surveys about use of the Ph.D. degree.
    Number of graduates who are pursuing careers related to their Ph.D. work, and who obtained employment in their chosen fields (including but not limited to academic employment in four-year colleges and universities).

2. All PhD students will complete their degree in a timely manner.

Student Performance Indicators

  • The Assessment will track students' time to degree with student's major advisor.

Assessment Method

  • Faculty will review appropriateness of student's time to degree completion.

Student Learning Outcomes

1. Students will be able to demonstrate historical knowledge and mastery of particular periods, geographical regions, and topics in history.

Student Performance Indicators
  • Every Ph.D. student chooses three fields of concentration (comprehensive examination fields), and takes at least six credits in each of these fields.
  • Every Ph.D. student writes a doctoral dissertation, generally focused in one of the comprehensive examination fields. The dissertation is a work of significant original scholarly research and analysis. It should contribute to historical knowledge, exhibit a mastery of the sources and secondary literature of the subject and the techniques of exploiting them, and display a fair degree of literary skill.
  • Every Ph.D. student takes at least 25 credits of course work beyond the master's degree, most in courses focused on a historical period, place/region, or subject of inquiry.
Assessment Method
  1. Every Ph.D. student is evaluated by the Department during his/her first six weeks of enrollment, in the form of an entrance interview to assess background, strengths, and possible deficiencies in order to assist the faculty in recommending a program of study.
  2. In selecting the fields, the student meets with his/her entire Advisory-Examining Committee (the faculty supervising the fields) to approve the Program of Study, no later than the completion of nine credits.
  3. Another committee meeting takes place the semester before the student anticipates taking comprehensive examinations, to assess progress.
  4. Written comprehensive examinations (six hours each), taken after completion of at least 24 credits, test proficiency in the fields; each exam is evaluated by at least two members of the faculty. Each reader writes an evaluation of the exam; students receive copies of these evaluations.
  1. Every Ph.D. student prepares a prospectus of his/her dissertation, which is presented in writing and at a prospectus colloquium attended by his/her advisory-examining committee. The committee must approve the proposal for the dissertation to proceed.
  2. Every Ph.D. dissertation is read by all members of the student's advisory-examining committee, who must approve the dissertation in order for the student to graduate.
  3. Every Ph.D. student has a final oral exam (dissertation defense), evaluated by the advisory-examining committee.
  4. Individual faculty members grade each student's performance in course work. At least once a year, the Graduate Advisor evaluates every student's overall progress.

2. Students will be able to define historiography (the history of historical scholarship and debate), and demonstrate familiarity with the particular historiography of their chosen examination and thesis fields.

Student Performance Indicators
  • All Ph.D. students must take at least two core seminars: one in historiography (History 781, 782, or 783) and one in historical methods and theory (History 700, 701, or 780).
  • All Ph.D. students take comprehensive examinations in three fields. Examinations are based on essay questions, primarily dealing with historical scholarship in those fields.
  • All Ph.D. students write a doctoral dissertation, which must demonstrate mastery of the relevant existing scholarship on its topic.
Assessment Method
  • Individual faculty grade each student's performance in core seminars. At least once a year, the Graduate Advisor evaluates every student's overall progress.
  • Every comprehensive examination is read and evaluated by at least two members of the faculty. Each reader writes an evaluation of the exam; students receive copies of these evaluations.
  • The dissertation prospectus (see above) must include a bibliography of relevant scholarship. In reading the student's dissertation and in the final oral exam, members of his/her advisory-examining committee evaluate its effective use of existing scholarly literature.

3. Students will be able to demonstrate proficiency in critical inquiry and historical research methods.

Student Performance Indicators
  • In most courses, students are required to perform research in primary source materials and/or in historical scholarship.
  • On comprehensive examinations, the student should demonstrate the ability to make reasoned observations about the relevant historiography and/or about specific works, and to craft an argument in response to each question.
  • The dissertation must be a work of original scholarship, based on research in primary sources and current methods of historical analysis.
Assessment Method
  • Individual faculty grade each student's performance in course work.
  • Every comprehensive examination is read and evaluated by at least two members of the faculty. Each reader writes an evaluation of the exam; students receive copies of these evaluations.
  • The dissertation prospectus (see above) explains the primary sources to be used and the methodology to be applied. In reading the student's thesis and in the final oral exam, members of his/her advisory/ examining committee evaluate its methodology for currency and appropriate use.