The Ph.D. Degree
The Ph.D. program is designed to prepare students for careers in university and college teaching and for research in Religious Studies. All doctoral students are admitted into one of the Department's fields of specialization and must fulfill the specific requirements of that field. Students in all fields are encouraged to select courses in other departments or curricula and to pursue supporting studies in another department or another field within the Department of Religious Studies.
Applicants to the graduate program who have already completed an advanced degree in the study of religion from another academic institution and who can demonstrate sufficient preparation in religious studies may be admitted directly into the Department’s Ph.D. program. Such students are required to demonstrate competency in at least one modern research language relevant to their field of specialization prior to matriculation. During the first semester of study, the Director of Graduate Studies serves as the academic advisor for each new student admitted into the Ph.D. program in this fashion. By the end of the first semester of study, each student must designate a faculty advisor (or advisors) in the student’s field of specialization.
Students enrolled in the Department's M.A. program can petition to enter the Ph.D. program after successful completion of all M.A. requirements, or they may be admitted into the Ph.D. program after successfully petitioning to bypass the M.A. degree.
The graduate program offers concentrated study in the following fields of specialization:
- Ancient Mediterranean Religions
- Islamic Studies
- Medieval and Early Modern Studies
- Religion and Culture
- Religion in the Americas
- Religions of Asia
Each new student is admitted into one of these fields of specialization. Each field has specific degree requirements that must be completed in addition to the general requirements for the Ph.D. degree.
All students who have completed an M.A. degree in the Department or who have successfully petitioned the GSC to bypass the M.A. degree are required to take a minimum of 18 additional hours of coursework (6 courses) at the Ph.D. level. Up to 6 hours (2 courses) previously taken at UNC in excess of the 30-hour M.A. requirement may be counted toward the Ph.D. coursework requirement upon approval of the advisor and the GSC.
Students admitted directly into the Ph.D. program with an advanced degree from another institution are required to take a minimum of 36 hours of coursework (12 courses) at the Ph.D. level. As part of this 36-hour requirement, these students are required to take RELI 700 and at least one gateway course.
All students in all fields of specialization are encouraged to select courses in other departments or curricula and to pursue supporting studies in another department or in another field within the Department of Religious Studies.
All Ph.D. students must demonstrate reading competency in two modern research languages prior to beginning their Doctoral Examinations. The particular languages a student studies will be decided by faculty members in the student's field of specialization and the student's advisor. Some fields also require students to demonstrate proficiency in additional languages necessary for the study of primary texts and other materials.
All Ph.D. candidates are required to pass a set of doctoral examinations (the "Doctoral Examinations"). The Doctoral Examinations include at least four written exams and a concluding oral examination. All Doctoral Examinations must be completed before the student can proceed to begin formal work on a doctoral dissertation.
The Doctoral Examinations are intended to demonstrate the mastery of broad scholarly literature within the student's field of specialization as well as specific literature relevant to the student’s dissertation and related areas of research. These examinations also signal the teaching competencies of the student. In consultation with the advisor, the student should aim both for breadth across the discipline of Religious Studies (and sometimes in allied fields in the humanities or social sciences) and for depth within a specific area of specialization.
Students consult with their advisors to form the exam committee, who then work with students to construct and approve bibliographies for each area of examination, write the examination questions, evaluate the written examination, and administer the final oral examination. More detailed information about examination procedures is available in the Graduate Program Policies and Procedures and in the Grad Students FAQ.
As the culmination of the Ph.D. program, each Ph.D. student must write and defend (by oral examination) a doctoral dissertation in the student’s field of specialization. The doctoral dissertation is designed to be a substantial and innovative contribution to knowledge. The student should draft the dissertation in very close consultation with the faculty advisor, who will provide guidance on research, writing, and other practical matters involved in the dissertation process.
At least thirty days prior to the end of the semester that follows the completion of the Doctoral Examinations, each student must prepare a proposal for a doctoral dissertation under the guidance of the student’s advisor. After the student's advisor has approved the dissertation proposal, it is reviewed by the Graduate Studies Committee (GSC). Following approval by the GSC, the dissertation proposal will be evaluated by a dissertation committee consisting of at least five faculty members, at least two (but normally three) of whom must be full-time faculty members of the Department of Religious Studies.
All members of the dissertation committee participate in the oral defense of the completed dissertation. At the conclusion of the defense, the members of the committee will vote either to pass the dissertation, to fail it, or to require revisions. Following approval of the thesis, candidates must meet all University specifications for formatting and submitting the final version of the dissertation manuscript to the University.
A student must complete all the requirements for the Ph.D. degree within eight years of being admitted into the Ph.D. level of the graduate program (not counting time spent attaining the M.A. degree).