The Ph.D. in Spanish

The Department of Spanish and Portuguese offers a Ph.D. degree in Spanish with a specialization in Spanish, Spanish-American, or U.S. Latino literatures. The program integrates period and genre studies with work in Critical Theory, Linguistics, Socio-historical Studies, and Cultural Studies. The Department seeks to professionalize its Ph.D. candidates not as narrow specialists but rather as scholars and critics acquainted with a range of fields that relate to and enhance their discipline. For this reason, Ph.D. students are encouraged to take up to two courses outside of the Department. Graduate emphases in the programs in Critical Theory and in Women’s Studies are available. Other emphases may be designed with the approval of the Guidance Committee. The Department has traditionally been committed to excellence in teaching, both in regard to faculty performance and in the preparation of its graduates.


Upon acceptance to the doctoral program and in consultation with the Graduate Director, the Ph.D. student is assigned a primary Advisor and an alternate Advisor (in case the primary advisor is temporarily absent). The Ph.D. Advisor will head the Ph.D. Guidance Committee and presumably direct the dissertation. The Ph.D. Advisor in conjunction with the Guidance Committee guides the student in preparing for the qualifying exams, informs the student of departmental and university requirements, signs and approves the Academic Planning Guide each quarter, and serves as faculty mentor for the student. In addition, the Ph.D. Advisor informs the Graduate Director about the qualifying exam (dates, committee membership, outcome). If necessary, the Ph.D. Advisor may convoke a meeting of professors with whom the student has studied to evaluate academic progress and performance. All students are required to meet bi-annually with their Advisors during the second week of instruction in the Fall and, once again, during the second week of Spring quarter. The purpose of these meetings is to advise students in their courses of graduate study and monitor their progress towards the timely completion of the Ph.D. degree. The student may petition the Chair or Graduate Director for a change of advisor or committee (except between the qualifying exam and any retake); any change must be approved by the Graduate Director. The Ph.D. Advisor chairs the Exam Committee and organizes and coordinates the qualifying exam.

The doctoral program comprises a minimum of 16 courses, that is, 8 courses beyond the 8 courses required for the M.A. degree. As part of the 8 courses required for the Ph.D., all students must take the following:

  1. one graduate course in Linguistics
  2. one graduate course in Luso-Brazilian literature and culture
The remaining elective courses will be selected by the student in consultation with the Ph.D. Advisor and the Ph.D. Guidance Committee.

Departmental Policy on Directed Reading and Individual Study at the Ph.D. level

Directed Reading

Students preparing to take the Ph.D. qualifying examination may enroll in a maximum of two Directed Readings (Span 291). All requests for Directed Readings must be formally petitioned no later than the first week of classes. Formal petitions comprise of:
  1. A detailed rationale for taking the course
  2. Reading list
  3. Course objective
  4. Evaluation components
Note that Directed Readings are taken on a S/U basis and do not count towards coursework.

Individual Study

Doctoral students are expected to enroll in regularly scheduled graduate seminars. However, whenever a topic is not available, either in whole or in part, in a graduate seminar offered in our department or in another department at UCI, students can enroll in a maximum of two Individual Studies (Span. 290). Individual Study courses are for the purpose of expanding an existing paper or a longer project. The following rules are to be strictly observed:
  1.  It is recommended that students complete the required minimum coursework towards the Ph.D. before taking an Individual Studies.
  2.  Individual Studies MUST NOT be taken for the purposes of preparing readings for the Ph.D. qualifying examination (see Directed Reading above).
All requests for an Individual Study course must be formally petitioned no later than the first week of classes. Formal petitions comprise:
  1. A detailed rationale for taking the Individual Study with appropriate documentation of eligibility (i.e. completion of all required minimum coursework for the Ph.D.)
  2. A course description and complete reading list for the course
  3. Evaluation components, which must include a research paper
  4. An endorsement from the Ph.D. advisor
After considering the petition, the Graduate Director submits it to the Chair of the Department for final approval.

Any petition for an exception to the maximum number of 2 Individual Studies and 2 Directed Readings allowed per doctoral student will only be considered in special circumstances, which must be officially documented and properly endorsed in writing by the student’s Ph.D. advisor.

Departmental Policy on Incompletes

Students who received an Incomplete have up to one quarter to complete and hand-in the required course assignment. The Instructor has the right to require an earlier due date on Incompletes. Should the Incomplete occur in the spring quarter, the student has until date of notification from Graduate Dean’s office in mid August to complete all required coursework. Students must file with the Graduate Program Coordinator a “Contract” appropriately completed and signed by both the student and professor. This contract should be honored no later than the ninth week of the quarter following the request for an Incomplete, so as to allow the professor enough time to evaluate the work and document the change of grade.
Transfer Courses

A student who transfers into the doctoral program from elsewhere must take 8 graduate courses at UCI, of which 6 must be in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. A student may petition to obtain credit for the required Linguistics or Luso- Brazilian Literature course, if such courses have been taken elsewhere

See also miscellaneous information about coursework under the Masters program above (p. 5).

Foreign Language Requirement

In addition to Spanish and English, all doctoral candidates must take a Graduate Seminar in Luso-Brazilian Literature and culture or equivalent. A student may take an upper-division undergraduate course taught in Portuguese for which a doctoral student may register under Port. 290 following the procedure outlined above (see Individual Study, p.9).

A foreign language (equivalent to completion of 2C) is also required; this requirement may be satisfied by exam or by taking one course numbered 97 (example: Fundamentals French). The selection of the foreign language must be approved by the Guidance Committee and should be based on the specific research interests and field of study of the candidate.

Doctoral Teaching Requirements

The Department recognizes its responsibility to train all Ph.D. candidates as teachers and requires that all doctoral students with no prior teaching experience complete a minimum of 3 quarters of language teaching (Spanish 399, University Teaching).

Moreover, all doctoral students are encouraged to complete a teaching practicum course (Spanish 292) by co-teaching an upper-division course with a professor (maximum of 2 which must be taken prior to advancement). The purpose of this course is to gain professional training in teaching literature and culture. Prior to the quarter, the professor and student will meet to design the syllabus and objectives of the course; in addition to attending class sessions, the student will also teach a minimum of three, maximum of five, class hours under the supervision of the professor. It is recommended that the student prepare a class plan for discussion with the professor prior to teaching a class. The student may also hold office hours, conduct review sessions, give exams, and help in the grading of papers and exams. The doctoral student will enroll in Spanish 292 (Teaching Practicum) for a letter grade of S/U.


The Ph.D. student advances to candidacy by passing the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination by a unanimous vote. The exam is administered by the Ph.D. Exam Committee appointed by the Department on behalf of the Dean of Graduate Studies and the Graduate Council. The Ph.D. Exam Committee comprises five members. Of these five members, one must be regular-rank faculty from another department at UCI. This committee is chaired by the candidate's Ph.D. Advisor. Ph.D. exams must be completed within two quarters after finishing coursework. Failure to do so will result in termination of Teaching Assistantship.

The student must submit the Ph.D. Exam Reading List (with the rationale for the two topics explained on page 13) for approval of all members of the Committee at least one quarter before the intended exam date. After the Reading List has been approved, it is considered final. The final version of the Reading List must be submitted to the graduate coordinator; he/she will date the final version and place a copy in the student’s file.
The Ph.D. Exam Committee

There are several faculty Ph.D. committees which should be distinguished to avoid confusion. Remember that the student has the right to petition changes in advisor, director, and committee membership so the configuration of any given committee may change considerably over the course of time. The Ph.D. Guidance Committee is the initial committee of three faculty members selected by the student and approved by the Graduate Director. Students who have completed the Masters program at UCI will participate in the selection of the committee members. Those students entering the doctoral program after attaining their Masters elsewhere, in consultation with the Graduate Director will be assigned a temporary Guidance Committee in accordance with the student's stated interests on the application for admission. The Ph.D. Guidance Committee will evaluate the transcripts of transfer students to determine how many courses will apply toward coursework requirements for the Ph.D. For all beginning Ph.D. students, the Guidance Committee convened by the Ph.D. Advisor will help the student map out an appropriate course of studies that will prepare the student for the qualifying exams and the writing of the doctoral thesis. As the date of the qualifying exams approaches, the Ph.D. Guidance Committee will form the core of the Ph.D. Exam Committee. The Exam Committee comprises five faculty members, including a professor from another department at UCI. The committee, chaired by the Ph.D. Advisor, will read the student's written exams and participate in the oral exam. The Exam Committee, by unanimous vote, will determine if the student passes the qualifying exam. After successful completion of the qualifying exams, the three core members of the Exam Committee may comprise the Ph.D. Dissertation Committee, chaired by and including the Ph.D. Dissertation Director. The main functions of this committee are to participate in the dissertation proposal, read drafts of the dissertation distributed by the Dissertation Director or the student, propose changes or comments, and participate in the dissertation defense. Upon successful completion of the defense the committee will accept the finished dissertation by signing on the title page.


The Ph.D. Qualifying Examination is an important part of a graduate education. It requires that students demonstrate an appropriate level of scholarly competence in their chosen fields, independently of knowledge acquired through coursework and of their specific interests for doctoral dissertations. It is designed to help students develop the following professional skills:

(1) The ability to work independently, to gather information and process it critically.
(2) The transmission of knowledge acquired in the form of written responses, as well as the ability to expand upon these in an intellectual dialogue with professors during the oral part of the exam.

Students’ competency in their fields of expertise must be proven at four basic levels in the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination:
  1. Knowledge of texts, authors and literary movements.
  2. Familiarity with historical contexts and intellectual currents relevant to the above
  3. Ability to draw from and critically engage major secondary texts relevant to
  4. the chosen fields of study
  5. Capacity for theoretical discussion of themes, topics or problems recurrent in those fields
Any student unable to demonstrate adequate capacity in any of the four areas outlined above and/or unable to comment or discuss texts included on the Ph.D. Examination Reading List will be subject to failure in the exam, and be required to repeat it either in whole or in part. The Ph.D. Examination or any part thereof can only be repeated once.

Please note that performance in coursework is independent of and will be evaluated apart from performance in the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination.

After successfully passing the Comprehensive examination, students will be required to meet with their Dissertation Committee and present a Dissertation Prospectus. This meeting should occur the quarter immediately following the PhD examination. The Committee will make comments and provide guidance to the student.
Advancement to candidacy must occur at least one quarter before the final quarter of enrollment.
The Exam

The Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination will consist of the following three major components:

1. Part One: A written examination in the Major Field to be studied. The student is required to propose a critical problem or topic in the form of a rationale of about two pages followed by a complete bibliography of both primary and secondary sources. The critical problem must have a historical (diachronical) perspective that will cover one of the representative fields in the profession, such as Modern and Contemporary Latin American literature, Medieval Spanish literature, Modern and Contemporary Spanish literature, and the like. The student will develop the problem in close consultation with the main advisor and the members of the PhD Exam Committee. Initial versions of the draft will circulate among members of the committee so that all will provide input. Later on, the members of the committee will draft a number of questions that the student must answer in the form of an essay in a period of 24 hours. This part of the exam is designed to provide students with an extended knowledge of their chosen field of study.

2. Part Two: A written examination in a Topic or critical problem, which may cover a specific research interest within the major field. Students will be required to write a two-page rationale for the topic accompanied by pertinent bibliography. The student will develop the topic in close consultation with the main advisor and the members of the PhD Exam Committee. Initial versions of the draft will circulate among members of the committee so that all will provide input. Later on, the members of the committee will draft a number of questions that the student must answer in the form of an essay in a period of 24 hours. This part of the exam is designed to provide students with the opportunity to develop a more specific topic that should form part of their future dissertation project. Students will be encouraged to approach the topic from theoretical and/or interdisciplinary perspectives.

3. Oral Examination: The oral exam is approximately 2 hours long and includes discussion of the written exams. Students will also be asked to respond to other questions based on their reading lists. At the conclusion of the oral exam, the committee will issue an oral evaluation on the exams and inform the student if (s)he has been advanced to candidacy or if one or more parts of the exam must be retaken.

Procedures: The Ph.D. Advisor chairs the Exam Committee and organizes and supervises the qualifying exams. The written exams must be taken within the same week (i.e., Sunday - Saturday, but not Tuesday - Tuesday, etc.) and the oral exam is scheduled within 2 weeks of the written exams. Two or three questions shall be given on each of the written sections. The Graduate Division stipulates that a student can only take the Qualifying Exam twice. “If the student does not pass the written examination, the student may not proceed with the second part of the exam, i.e., the oral portion. Once the student has taken the written exams, the membership of the Exam Committee cannot be altered. The student must retake any part(s) of the exam within 2 quarters of the first exam. The student will be provided with a copy of the exam to prepare for the oral; this copy is for the private use of the student and must not be circulated for commentary.

The Dissertation Director

Upon the successful completion of the qualifying exam, a Ph.D. student must choose a Dissertation Director. Normally, that Director is the same individual as the Ph.D. Advisor, but students —if they so desire— have the option of choosing a different faculty member as their Dissertation Director.

The Dissertation Director, in consultation with the Dissertation Committee, helps the student choose a topic, prepare a dissertation proposal for committee feedback and approval, coordinates and chairs the dissertation defense, and oversees the preparation and completion of the doctoral dissertation. The director acts as liaison between the student and other faculty members of the committee and also informs the Department of the plans and progress of the student.
Ph.D. Dissertation

A dissertation topic will be chosen by the candidate in consultation with her/his Dissertation Director and Dissertation Committee and will normally fall within the major field covered by the qualifying exams. Three faculty members are chosen by the student and appointed by the Department Chair, on behalf of the Dean of Graduate Studies and the Graduate Council, to constitute the Dissertation Committee that supervises the preparation and completion of the doctoral dissertation. The Dissertation Committee assumes the academic direction of the thesis, and the Dissertation Director wields the administrative responsibility for supervising the thesis and for informing the Department of the plans and progress of the student.

Procedure: In an initial meeting between the committee and the student, the candidate presents a formal dissertation proposal to the committee, who will evaluate and approve it. The proposal should be 4-7 pages, single-spaced, not including bibliography. The meeting must take place during the quarter following the successful completion of the Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination. A copy of the proposal will be kept in the student’s file. The student will then submit drafts of chapters or sections of the thesis to the Dissertation Director who will evaluate and correct the drafts. When the Dissertation Director approves the draft, the student will circulate the draft to the other members of the Dissertation Committee who will submit their commentary and suggestions to the student with a copy to the Dissertation Director. While writing the dissertation, the student enrolls in Spanish 299.

Dissertation Length: The dissertation must be at least 170 pages, not including bibliography. It must be written in 12-point font (Times New Roman or equivalent), and follow the UCI Theses and Dissertations Manual (

Dissertation Defense: In order to be able to meet the deadlines for graduation, the dissertation defense must take place one week prior to the quarter deadlines established by the Office of Graduate Studies (see webpage for guidelines and deadlines at - during the residency of the candidate. For example, if a student plans to graduate in the spring, the filing deadline for all documents is usually during the first week of June. The student must turn in a complete draft of the dissertation to his/her committee at least five weeks before the planned defense date. At that time, a copy must also be turned in to the Graduate Program Coordinator, who must confirm by email to the respective committee the completion of the draft of the dissertation, so that the exact defense date can be established.

The committee certifies the acceptance of a completed final dissertation with the signatures of the individual members on the title page. The finished dissertation is then forwarded to the Graduate Division.