PhD in Hispanic Studies Requirements


Students must complete 15 courses for the program. Of these, 4 of the 5 Transdisciplinary Connections courses and the Contemporary Spanish Language Teaching course are required for all students. One independent study course with Hispanic Studies Graduate Faculty (for 3 credit hours) may count toward the required coursework for the PhD.

Students may take up to three courses outside the department toward the 15 course requirement for our program. Up to three certificate courses would count within the 15 course requirement. *Students pursuing a certificate cannot take more than 3 courses outside Hispanic Studies to count toward program coursework.

See the Coursework Timeline


Qualifying Exam

Updated December 2021

The students may select from the 3 exam format options below that best suits their proposed trajectory and career objectives. Students should choose their preferred exam format by the end of their fourth semester of study. This decision should be made jointly with the student’s research committee and should be communicated to the DGS in writing with the approval of the entire committee. 

Option #1: 

Reading lists (100 texts to be finalized by the end of Semester 4) + exams over 3 consecutive weekends 

  • Exam to be taken at the end of the student’s fifth semester in the program (in October & November)
  • Students will choose areas and faculty advisor during their third semester in the program (by November 15) and began elaborating exam lists.
  • The lists emerge from a consultation process with the student’s advisor and two other faculty members, selected at the beginning of semester 4 (by February 1). Students will finalize the lists for their exam at the end of semester 4 (by April 15).

Evaluation Criteria

  • Competence (adequate knowledge and preparation) to complete a dissertation
  • Ability to construct a coherent argument highlighting the student’s own critical voice
  • Ability to identify and engage with major critical debates in the field
  • Ability to define a corpus of appropriate secondary literature for the student’s field   

Exam Areas

In consultation with their advisor and two other tenure-line faculty members the students will design three separate lists. The ultimate configuration (Sample Exam Configuration) of these lists depends on the student’s project. The advisor and two other faculty members need to approve the list.    
The lists will consist of a total of 100 texts (Period: +-50%, Area: +- 25%, Theory and Criticism: +-25%)

  • Period: Medieval Literature, Early Modern, Colonial, 18th and 19th century, 20th and 21st century, for example.
  • Area: the Caribbean, Southern Cone, Iberian, Transatlantic, Global Hispanophone, etc. This section can also include historiographic and archival sources.
  • Critical and Theoretical Sources: The list should be divided into critical sources specific to the student’s field and theoretical sources.

Format of the exam:

Students will receive the questions for all three sections of the exam (Period, Area, and Critical & Theoretical Sources) on Friday at 9:00 am and will hand in answers on Monday at 9:00 am.

  • Period (Students answer 3 out of 5 questions)
  • Area (Students answer 2 out of 4 questions

Students may answer in the language they prefer, though they must answer at least one question for each of these two sections in the other language.

  • Critical and Theoretical Sources

Students answer 2 out of 3 questions. The exam will be written in the language of the dissertation. 

Oral Exam:

All students will take an hour-long oral exam. The student’s advisor and the other two faculty members will serve on the committee for the oral exam. The oral exam will be conducted in the language of the dissertation.

Option #2: 

Reading list (100 texts, to be finalized by the end of Semester 4) + one scholarly article focusing on their proposed field of research under the supervision of a research committee of three.

Students must configure their research committee and finalize their reading list by the end of their fourth semester in the program. The topic of the article must be determined and approved by the committee by this date.

Students must submit a full first version of the article to the committee by October 1. The article must substantively cite primary and secondary texts from the reading list. Therefore, the list must be designed with the subject of the essay in mind.

Students will be examined for 90 minutes in an oral format by the research committee by October 15 (semester 5). This exam will encompass both the article and the works in the reading list not represented in the article. Students must incorporate comments into a final draft, resubmit it to the committee for reevaluation by November 1. The student will be notified of the results of the exam within 1-2 weeks of submitting this final version. To pass the exam the student must have satisfactorily completed the essay revisions and responded to the questions related to the list to the satisfaction of the committee.

The research committee will provide the student with written feedback on the article, outlining their recommendations toward publication.

The committee will determine whether: 1) the student’s work and their knowledge of the reading list merits a “pass” to advance to the prospectus stage; and 2) whether the article is ready for submission to a peer-reviewed scholarly journal. A “pass” on the exam is not a guarantee that the article is ready for submission. If the committee determines that the student has passed the exam but is not yet ready to submit the article for publication, the student may continue working on it with the guidance of the committee for eventual submission. (However, the preparation of the prospectus should not be delayed.) If the article is ready for submission, the journal selection must be approved by the research committee.

Upon receiving a passing grade, the student will conduct an oral presentation (15-20 minutes) followed by a conversation about the article. This presentation will take place by the end of the Fall semester or early in the Spring and will be open to the public to encourage a culture of collegial support and community participation. 

Evaluation Criteria:

  • Student’s expertise in their defined field and the reading list. This knowledge should be demonstrated in the oral exam, during which the student should be prepared to answer questions on the works on their reading list, as well as the article.
  • The ability to construct an original and coherent argument highlighting the student’s own critical voice.
  • The ability to situate the project within major critical debates in the field and to engage actively in these debates. This will be assessed in part by the ability of directly engaging with materials in the reading list.
  • The ability to explain the intellectual significance of the project, both to specialists in their field and to an audience beyond their own field of specialization. This includes locating the research of the article within the map of scholarship created by the reading list.

Option #3:

Reading list (100 texts, to be finalized by the end of Semester 4) + Portfolio centered on field of research 

The Portfolio must be framed by a two-page intellectual/research agenda statement followed by the project contents. Some examples of such projects include, but are not limited to: digital humanities work/proposals; proposals for fellowships and grants; public-facing projects that are underway or defined proposals the student will carry out as part of their dissertation; teaching and learning innovation initiatives. In the intellectual agenda statement, the student must convincingly articulate how the various elements of the portfolio, including the reading list (consisting of primary, critical, and theoretical sources from the student’s own and other related fields), work together to form a coherent program of study tailored to their intellectual and career goals. The portfolio should demonstrate deliberate planning, representing the intellectual process through which the student has formulated and defined their research project.
Portfolio contents are agreed upon by the student and their research committee. Students must configure their research committee during the first half of their fourth semester in the program, and formulate their reading list and determine the portfolio contents by the end of their fourth semester. During the 5th semester of study, students must present the Portfolio to the research committee in an oral format* and then incorporate their feedback into the final version of the materials by the end of semester 5. 
*The presentation of the Portfolio will be open to the public to encourage a culture of collegial support and community participation; however, the student may choose to have a closed event only with the committee members.

Evaluation Criteria: 

  • The student’s ability to clearly and coherently define their field and intellectual agenda through the research agenda statement, and to answer questions about it.
  • The student’s ability to justify their choice of the various components they have chosen for inclusion in the portfolio and to clearly articulate how these components relate to each other and to the overall research agenda. 
  • The student’s mastery of the reading list, demonstrated by their ability not only to answer questions about its content but also to convincingly justify its relationship with the other elements of the portfolio. The reading list should provide the foundation to prepare the student to carry out the dissertation project in their chosen field of study.
  •  The quality of the components parts of the portfolio and how effectively they position the student to carry out the proposed work.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the research committee the same as the dissertation committee?
The research committee may very well end up constituting part of the student’s dissertation committee; however, the student is free to make adjustments to the committee at any time, through the Director of Graduate Studies. Begining July 1, 2023 the Research Advisory Committee form must be completed and filed with the Office of Graduate Studies.

Can I choose the language of my article / Portfolio materials?
Yes, students may write their article in either Spanish or English, and the Portfolio may consist of materials in either or both languages.

How long will the article project presentation last?  
Students can expect the conversation to last 90 minutes, with the first 15-20 minutes dedicated to the student's presentation, followed by questions from the committee. If time permits, the audience may ask questions.

Language Requirement

Competence in one language other than Spanish and English, and which pertains to the proposed area of research for the dissertation, must be demonstrated prior to the Prospectus Defense. To demonstrate competence, the student may:
1)     take a translation examination prepared by the department lasting two hours. The first hour of translation is of a text with which the student is familiar. The examiner will approve the text and select approximately 800 words to be translated without a dictionary. During the second hour the student may use a dictionary to translate an unfamiliar passage of some 800 words in length selected by the examiner. Students may translate the selected passages into either Spanish or English.

Faculty in charge of Language Exams in RLL are below, but you may do the translation test in any other language by contacting the DGS in the appropriate Department. 

For the French exam, please contact Seth Graebner

For the Italian exam, please contact Michael Sherberg

For the Portuguese exam, please contact Eliza Williamson.  


2)     Earn at least a B one 400 or 500-level course in the language in which the student seeks to develop competence.
Language requirement should be met before the Prospectus Defense.


3)    Take French Intensive Graduate Translation I & II taught in the summer 


4)    Take the sequence in Portuguese for Spanish Speakers I y II (for the Portuguese option, please consult Prof. Eliza Williamson).  

Prospectus Guideline:

In the sixth semester students will submit and defend a 20-25 page prospectus (not including bibliography). The dissertation prospectus should follow the most recent MLA Style guidelines. The student must prepare the dissertation prospectus with the help of the principal adviser and two additional committee members. The committee members must receive the prospectus four weeks before the date of the prospectus defense, though no later than March 1 of a student’s sixth semester. The dissertation prospectus should contain the following elements:

  • Statement of Thesis & Rationale for selecting the subject / area of research focus.
  • Statement of Significance and Impact (also with regards to field and historical period)
  • Critical overview; State of the Discussion of this Topic with clear articulation of where / how the dissertation project will contribute to the field of scholarship
  • Outline of Theoretical Framework and Methodology
  • Chapter Outline (note: while these outlines may include succinct summaries of chapters and material to be studied, they should also present tentative guiding arguments for each chapter)
  • Preliminary Bibliography
  • Timetable for Completion

Students are encouraged to strive to weave these elements into a compelling narrative, using the prospectus as a way to begin mapping rhetorically the the project framework. Thus, while the prospectus will need to address the listed components, it can also provide students with the first opportunity to experiment with the organization and authorial voice of the project work. 

The student will present the prospectus before a committee of our faculty members in a ninety-minute defense. The faculty members will include the thesis director, two members of the thesis committee, and the Director of Graduate Studies. Should there be overlap between the DGS and the thesis committee, another faculty member will participate to maintain the committee of four. Prospectus defense will be in the language of the dissertation.

Link to old prospectus guidelines (option only for students defending the prospectus in Fall 2021)


The student has a dissertation committee to be determined by mutual agreement consisting of a professor in charge and two other members. The Dissertation Defense Committee Form must be completed and filed with the Office of Graduate Studies before the defense is scheduled.

The following steps must be completed:

The dissertation proposal to the department needs to be signed by the three faculty members in the student's dissertation committee;

The dissertation is submitted to the advisor chapter by chapter;

Once approved by the advisor, chapters should be submitted to two other members of the committee.

As soon as the dissertation begins to take shape, the student must file a "Notice of Title,Scope, and Procedure of Dissertation" with the Office of Graduate Studies (“at least six months before the month in which the degree is expected to be conferred (August, December, or May) or before beginning the 5th year of full-time enrollment in the Office of Graduate Studies, whichever is earlier”). When a near-final draft of the dissertation has been approved by the three members of the committee, the student must carefully prepare the typescript according to the rules of the Office of the Graduate Studies. The department usually recommends following the MLA Style Sheet for footnotes and bibliography. The student will prepare a curriculum vitae and an abstract of the dissertation, which must be turned in to the DGS and the Office of Graduate Studies two weeks before the defense. The dissertation committee must receive the final dissertation four weeks prior to the defense date. The defense lasts no more than two hours. The committee often requests corrections before the dissertation is finally submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies.

*Comprehensive overview of the Dissertation Process:

MTE/MPE Hispanic Studies

Once a student has committed to a Mentored Experience--particularly the MTE, which will have an impact on the Department's staffing needs--any request for change must be discussed with the DGS, the Dept. chair and the colleague(s) in charge of course scheduling by the first day of the semester before that of the assigned experience (i.e., before Course Listings are finalized), and approved by all.

MPE Office of Graduate Studies School FAQs:

Departmental Required Minimums
Required Number of Semesters: 6
*Students must complete a minimum of 4 semesters of MTE
*Students must complete a minimum of 1 semester of MPE
*Students may choose between an MTE or MPE for the remaining ME requirement

Mentored Teaching Experience (MTE)
Role of Teaching in the Discipline of Hispanic Studies
Teaching development for graduate students in Hispanic Studies features a comprehensive and systematic apprenticeship in the theory and practice of teaching Romance Languages with ample supervision throughout. The goal of the Mentored Teaching Experience is to prepare students for an academic career or for a career outside academia.

The Teaching Development Program includes the following components:
Teaching Orientation for those beginning the Mentored Teaching Experience (MTE). This is an intensive one-week program in August prior to the opening of classes.
A required one-semester course on contemporary Spanish language teaching. Seminar topics may include an overview of second language acquisition theories; historical and contemporary teaching methodologies; integration of technology into the curriculum; issues in testing and assessment; and working with Heritage-language learners.

Pedagogical Preparation
All first-year Assistants in Instruction (AIs) serve as team members of multi-sectional language courses under faculty supervision. This includes observations, consultations, and written commentary. Mid- career graduate students have exposure to teaching at several levels, primarily in multi-sectioned courses. At all times, graduate students work under faculty supervision with frequent consultation. They have opportunities to plan curricular units, develop assignments, evaluate students, and begin teaching literary and cultural analysis.
Annual Instructional Methods Workshop. The language and literature departments offer workshops and lectures for graduate students, often presented by a national figure in language instructional methods. Recent workshops have featured Sally Magnan (University of Wisconsin, Madison); Robert DiDonato (Miami University of Ohio); and Mari Koda and Galil Walker (Ohio State University).
Advanced Teaching Preparation. The Department, in collaboration with the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, offers a capstone course designed exclusively for Ph.D. candidates who have finished all coursework. This unique seminar, “Integrating Technology into Language Instruction,” provides theoretical and practical training which reflects contemporary efforts to enhance language teaching with technological resources.

Sequence of Teaching Opportunities for PhD Students
All students are required to be an AI for at least four semesters. This teaching experience usually includes a range of language learning courses, from the 100 to 300 levels. Advanced students may also be invited to participate in the teaching of a culture survey course.

Mentored Professional Experiences (MPE)

Students are required to complete at least 1 MPE toward the fulfillment of the Mentored Experience requirement. If a student wishes to petition to replace this MPE with an additional MTE, they may present that request for consideration to the DGS.

Within the first two weeks of an MPE, the mentor and the student will agree on a set of expectations for the position. These expectations will include the number of hours worked per week, which may vary but which may not exceed 12 hours per week. 

A student may do an MTE and an MPE in the same semester, with DGS approval, provided that the MPE commitment does not exceed 5 hours per week.

Opportunities available for completing an MPE
In addition to serving as an Assistant in Instruction, there are many innovative ways in which students may fulfill a Mentored Experience requirement with a Mentored Professional Experience. One example is working as an editorial assistant for the Revista de Estudios Hispánicos, one of the world's top five journals in Hispanic Studies that our department publishes. Internships at think tanks in the U.S., Spain, or Latin America could provide another opportunity for an MPE. Likewise, students could fulfill an MPE with humanities or arts organizations locally or beyond St. Louis, or by connecting with units on campus, such as those listed below. All of these options would expand the opportunities for our students to gain experience in areas of higher education/humanities work, though not in the classroom per se, and thus enhance their professional profile and portfolio.

Examples of on-campus MPE opportunities:

 Examples of local off-campus opportunities:

MPE Office of Graduate Studies Forms:

Search RLL Dissertations at WUSTL Libraries Open Scholarship

See some of our recent student dissertations