Spanish Graduate Student Handbook

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Ph.D. Degree in Spanish

Ph.D. Degree in Spanish

Course requirements

Upon entering the program, students will choose a specialization in either literature or linguistics. The specific details of each student’s program will be developed in consultation with the graduate adviser and/or mentor with the following general requirements.
The Ph.D. program requires a minimum of 48 units, chosen in consultation with the graduate adviser. No more than 12 units (including MA work) of SPA 299 may be counted toward the 48 units requirement.

Literature students will take the following courses:

1 unit: SPA 203 (Research Methodology)
4 units: SPA 201 (Literary Theory I) 
4 units: SPA 202 (Literary Theory II) 
8 units: Two Linguistics courses – chosen from SPA 205-215, 291
8 units: Two graduate seminars in Spanish Literature – chosen from SPA 222-224, 252-265
8 units: Two graduate seminars in Latin-American Literature – chosen from SPA 230-231, 272-285
8 units: Two graduate seminars in chosen specialty – chosen from SPA 222-285
7 units: Two elective graduate seminars
48 units total (including no more than 12 units of SPA 299)

2016 Spanish degree checklist - literature emphasis [pdf]
2011 Spanish degree checklist - literature emphasis [pdf]


Linguistics students will take the following courses:

1 unit: SPA 203 (Research Methodology)
8 units: Two Literature courses (Graduate Seminar in Spanish or Latin-American Literature)
4 units: SPA 205 (Spanish Phonology)
4 units: SPA 206 (Spanish Syntax)
4 units: SPA 207 (History of the Spanish Language)
4 units: SPA 212 (Applied Linguistics)
8 units: Two elective liguistics graduate seminars within the Spanish dept.
15 units: Four elective graduate seminars
48 units total (including no more than 12 units of SPA 299)

2016 Spanish degree checklist - linguistics emphasis [pdf]
2011 Spanish degree checklist - linguistics emphasis [pdf]

Foreign language requirements

As early as possible, Ph.D. students will demonstrate competence in reading comprehension in two languages other than English and Spanish which are pertinent to the student’s research. One of these must be Portuguese. Students will normally demonstrate proficiency in Portuguese by receiving a satisfactory grade (B+ or higher) in POR 31G (Portuguese for Spanish-speaking Graduate Students). The language requirement must be fulfilled before being admitted to the qualifying exam.

Students may satisfy language requirements in any of the following ways:

  • Take and pass an exam which tests reading comprehension and translation.
  • Take and pass with a B+ or better three quarters of the language.
  • Take and pass with a B+ or better the third quarter of the language (i.e., FRE 3, ITA 3, etc.)

If a student chooses to take an exam, he or she should provide two books of critical literature in his or her subject for approval by the examiner. The exam will consist of material taken from these approved sources. Once the books are approved, the exam is set up by the graduate program assistant and the books are returned to the student for final review. The test is made up of two sections: 1) ten or fifteen lines for idiomatic translation into English or Spanish, and 2) a section, chapter, or article for summarizing (not paraphrasing) the main ideas only. The student may use a dictionary and has two (2) hours to complete the exam. The final product must read well in English or Spanish.

To arrange a foreign language reading exam, start by asking the graduate program coordinator what professor to contact based on the particular language.  These are the foreign language reading exam guidelines for Spanish Students: [pdf]. Read through them and get an idea of some texts that are relevant to your research before contacting the suggested professor. Once the professor has approved your texts and you’ve arranged a time with him or her, let the graduate coordinator know and she will reserve the room in which you will take the exam.

Residence requirement

Ph.D. students must be in residence for a minimum of six regular quarters of full-time enrollment (12 units per quarter). Two six-week summer sessions may be counted as the equivalent of one regular quarter for purposes of satisfying this requirement. A minimum of two units must be taken in each summer session.

Designated emphases

Spanish graduate students may participate in a Designated Emphasis (DE), a specialization that might include a new method of inquiry or an important field of application which is related to their existing Ph.D. program. The Designated Emphasis is awarded in conjunction with the Ph.D. degree and is signified by a transcript designation; for example, “Ph.D. in Spanish with a Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory.”

The Graduate Program in Spanish is affiliated with 7 Designated Emphases: African American and African Studies; Classics and Classical Receptions; Critical Theory; Feminist Theory and Research; Native American Studies; Second Language Acquisition; and Studies in Performance and Practice. Students interested in completing a DE in conjunction with their Ph.D. program should submit the Application for Designated Emphasis. The form is available from the graduate program assistant and must be signed by the student, the
student’s graduate advisor and the chair of the DE. The student must be admitted to the DE prior to taking the qualifying exam.

Students must complete all the requirements for the Spanish program, as well as the courses required for the selected DE (see the following list of DE requirements). A faculty member representing the DE must serve on the student’s qualifying exam committee and dissertation committee. The student will be examined on the DE as part of the qualifying exam.

Specific questions about DE requirements should be addressed to the staff contact or DE chair. Contact information is listed in the following table.

Reading lists Dissertation proposal Qualifying Exam Advancement to candidacy Dissertation Normal progress schedule  

All DEs     All DEs require that the student’s dissertation research topic incorporates the area of his/her Designated Emphasis. Furthermore students must have a DE faculty representative on both the Qualifying Exam committee and the Dissertation committee.
African American & African Studies Moradewun Adejunmobi
Aklil Bekele

Two AAS courses and an independent study (AAS 299).

Classics & Classical Receptions Emily Albu
Nancy Masson
Three upper-division undergraduate courses in either Latin or Greek .
Classics 200A and 200B
One additional course selected in consultation with the student’s DE adviser.
Critical Theory

Jeff Fort

Nancy Masson
Critical Theory 200A – Approaches to Critical Theory
Critical Theory 200B – Problems in Critical Theory
Critical Theory 200C – History of Critical Theory
The fourth course can be either another CRI 200B or a course from student’s own department, if approved by the DE Chair.
Feminist Theory
& Research
Wendy Ho
Jason Sison
Women’s Studies 200A – Current Issues in Feminist Theory
Women’s Studies 200B – Problems in Feminist Research
Two courses on gender, one in the student’s home department and one outside
Human Rights Michael Lazzara
Maria Ruby

HMR 200A - History, Theory and Criticism of Human Rights. (cross-listed with Study of Religion course REL 231E)
HMR 200B - Memory, Culture, and Human Rights. (cross-listed with Cultural Studies course CST 210)
One course or course of study in the student’s home graduate department or group, relevant to the study of Human Rights or in which the student may conduct significant research on a topic relevant to the study of Human Rights (approved by DE Adviser)
One reading or independent study course (such as HMR 299) with a faculty member of the Human Rights Designated Emphasis Group

Native American
Zoila Mendoza
Jason Sison
NAS 200 and three additional NAS courses in the 200 series
Second Language Acquisition Robert Blake
Maria Ruby
LIN 280 – Theories of SLA (or SPA 212, or FRE/GER/SPA 291)
LIN 281 – Research in SLA
Two courses from two of the following four areas: Pedagogy, SLA and Multilingualism; SLA in Society, SLA and Cognition.
Studies in Performance & Practice Lynette Hunter
Victoria Dye
DRA 200
Two courses from DRA 265A, DRA 265B, DRA 265C, or DRA 265D
A fourth course to be selected in consultation with the student’s DE adviser.

Reading lists

Literature Specialization
Students of literary and cultural studies are required to construct individualized reading lists that incorporate the following three fields:

  1. Depth Field (specialization)

This field may be defined in terms of region/nation, period, or genre (see below for definitions of these terms). This section of the reading list will often reflect a student’s area of research without being merely a basic bibliography of the dissertation, but instead defining an entire field of study. No more than half of the works on this list may be taken directly from the student’s dissertation prospectus.

Region/nation may include any – or any combination – of the following: Spain, Portugal, Iberian Peninsula, Latin America, Mexico, Brazil, Central America, the Caribbean, the Latino US, the Andes, Southern Cone, Transatlantic Hispanic, Lusophone world; any variations subject to the approval of dissertation director.

Periods will normally consist of any – or any combination – of the following: Medieval Iberia, Golden Age Spain, 18th/19th century Iberia, 20th/21st century Iberia, Colonial Latin America, 19th Century Latin America, 20th century Latin America, contemporary Latin America; any divergences from these periodic divisions are subject to the approval of dissertation director.

Genres may include: poetry, prose fiction, essay, crónica, testimonio, cinema or other forms of visual culture, autobiography/memoir or any other genres relevant to the student’s research, in any combination, subject to the approval of dissertation director.

This list should consist of a minimum of 30-40 works of literature (or of nonliterary cultural production, such as film, where appropriate). In addition to these works, appropriate theory, criticism and/or literary/cultural history may be included in this field.

  1. Breadth Field

This much more general field should cover Spain/Iberia or Latin America (in its entirety) and encompass at least three periods and/or at least three genres. A transatlantic approach to this field is also possible. This list should be based upon sample lists filed in the Spanish department in the office of the Graduate Program Coordinator. Substitutions may be made to model lists with permission of student’s Major Professor.
This list should consist of a minimum of 30-40 works of literature (or of nonliterary cultural production, such as film, where appropriate). In addition to these works, appropriate theory, criticism and/or literary/cultural history may be included in this field.

  1. Third Field options:
    1. Theory (postcolonial theory, semiotics, poetics, cultural studies theory, etc.). Such a list would consist of a minimum of 20-25 theoretical works.
    2. A second “Depth Field” (see #1 above), which would include a minimum of 20-25 works of literature (or of nonliterary cultural production, such as film, where appropriate). In addition to these works, appropriate theory, criticism and/or literary/cultural history may be included in this field.
    3. Designated emphasis (DE): Incorporation of appropriate DE readings into qualifying exams may be a requirement for the fulfillment of DE. Note that any student who wishes to obtain two DEs will need to include the second DE field as a fourth reading list field. DE reading lists should be constructed according to DE program requirements.

All lists are subject to the approval of the student’s Major Professor. Students should construct their lists using as a basis the lists available from the graduate program staff.

Linguistics Specialization
All Students: A copy of the reading list should be submitted to the graduate program assistant for inclusion in the student’s academic file.

Dissertation proposal

Six weeks before the scheduled date for the qualifying exam, the student must present a dissertation prospectus to his or her exam committee members. A copy should also be submitted to the graduate program staff for inclusion in the student’s academic file. This proposal, although preliminary in nature, will outline the overall scope of the dissertation, will specify the theoretical approach, and will include an appropriate critical bibliography. The prospectus should be roughly 20-30 pages

Qualifying Exam

Having fulfilled the above requirements, the candidate will request a qualifying examination committee to be appointed by Graduate Studies. The form for this request is available from the graduate program assistant or at the Graduate Studies web site ( The qualifying exam committee will consist of five members, three from the department, and at least one from outside the department. The committee will include the designated dissertation director, who may not act as Chair. The Ph.D. adviser, in consultation with the candidate, will propose the membership of the exam committee to the Graduate Program Committee for approval. The recommendation of the Graduate Program Committee will be forwarded to Graduate Studies, who has the final authority in the appointment of the committee. The candidate has the right to veto one name on the recommended list before it is passed to Graduate Studies. Students are encouraged to look at previous exams which are available from the graduate program assistant.

Students may bring only food and drinks to their exam. They may not bring any notes or other items.

The written portion of the qualifying exam in literature will cover the depth, breadth, and third field areas covered in the student's approved reading list.

Candidates in linguistics will be examined in four fields: two from Group I, one from Group II and one from Group III. The exam will consist of two questions in each field (8 questions).

Group I (two fields):
History of Spanish

Group II (one field):
or any other field in linguistics (e.g. psycholinguistics, discourse analysis, etc.)

Group III (one field):
Applied Linguistics

Fourth Field Option: Students may opt for doing three areas of the written examination and fulfill the fourth area by presenting an original publishable quality paper in the field of their choice. This Qualifying Paper (QP) cannot be the same as the dissertation prospectus.  The QP needs to conceptualize a research problem, situate the problem in an ongoing discussion in the field, and show awareness of different methodological avenues for addressing the problem. The paper should sustain an original and clear argument while integrating the knowledge of the topic in the field. The QP will be read by the examining committee and has to be presented in advance together with the dissertation prospectus.

The oral portion of the qualifying exam, conducted in Spanish, will last a maximum of two hours and will cover both that candidate’s area of specialization and the broader fields of study as represented by the reading list.

At the conclusion of the oral exam, the committee will submit the results of the exam to Graduate Studies indicating all members who were in attendance or absent. There are four results the committee can make:

  • Pass (Note: Conditions may not be appended to a pass decision)
  • Not Pass; with the option to retake all or part of the examination within a specified time period, or to satisfy specific requirmements.
  • Fail

No exam; if at any time during the examination the committee determines that the student is unable to continue the exam, whether due to illness or other extreme circumstances, the committee may judge the examination as “No Exam” and must notify Graduate Studies of their decision and the circumstances.

In cases where the committee reports a “Not Pass” or “Fail”, the chairperson of the exam shall inform the student of the right to appeal the committee’s decision for cause. The appeal should be directed to the Associate Dean of Students who will submit the matter to the Administrative Committee of the Graduate Council for review and recommendations.

In all cases, the chairperson of the exam committee is responsible for reporting the votes and supplying other information as required to the Graduate Council. In all cases, the Associate Dean of Students shall inform the student in writing of the results of the Qualifying Exam.

Upon recommendation of the qualifying exam committee and with the approval of the Graduate Council, a student who has not passed the exam may repeat the qualifying exam once. The exam must be held by the same committee except that members may be replaced, with the approval of the graduate adviser and the Associate Dean, for cause such as extended absence from campus. Failure to pass the exam on the second attempt means that the student is subject to disqualification from further study for the doctoral degree in that program.

After a second exam, a vote of Not Pass is unacceptable; only Pass or Fail is recongnized by the Dean of Graduate Studies.

Advancement to candidacy

Upon successful completion of the qualifying exam, the student is given an application for advancement to candidacy by the examining committee chair. The student, in consultation with their major professor, provides the names of the three faculty members who will serve on the dissertation committee. This committee is appointed to direct the student’s research and guide him/her in preparation of the dissertation. When the candidacy form is filled out and signed by the graduate adviser and major professor, the student pays the $90.00 candidacy fee at the Cashier’s office and submits the form to Graduate Studies. Students admitted to a Designated Emphasis must have the candidacy application approved by the director of the DE as well.
International students must be advanced to candidacy before the first day of the quarter to qualify for the Nonresident Tuition Reduction Fee.


A dissertation on a subject chosen by the candidate, bearing on the principal subject of study, and of such character as to show ability to prosecute independent investigation must be approved by the committee in charge of the dissertation and by the Graduate Council before the degree will be recommended. Special emphasis will be laid upon this requirement, and in no case will the degree be granted merely for the faithful completion of a course of study, however extensive.

The student, in consultation with his/her major professor, nominates three (or more) faculty members to serve on his/her Dissertation Committee. These nominations are submitted to the Chair of the Graduate Committee for program approval. Once approved at the program level, they are submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies for formal approval in accordance with Graduate council policy. The major professor serves as Chair of the Dissertation Committee.

Detailed instructions on the format of the dissertation and abstract may be obtained at The candidate shall file with the Dean of Graduate Studies one copy of the dissertation approved by the committee in charge. There are forms that should be completed and submitted to Graduate Studies with the dissertation. Links to these forms can be found at the web address listed above.

Normal progress schedule

1 Choose specialization and begin taking required courses.
2 Coursework.
3 Coursework.
4 Submit application for the DE if applicable. Coursework.
5 Identify dissertation adviser. Coursework.
6 Coursework.
7 Complete foreign language requirement. Coursework.
8 Complete foreign language requirement. Coursework (if requirements not complete).
9 Coursework (if requirements not complete). Prepare proposal and submit to exam committee. Complete Qualifying Exam application. Take qualifying exam*. After passing QE, complete the Candidacy Form and begin writing dissertation.

*Students continuing from the M.A. have until the twelfth quarter to take their qualifying exam.