Department of Religious Studies

Coursework and Requirements

Regardless of the specific focus, all Ph.D. work in Religious Studies at Brown has the same general five part structure.

  1. Residence (coursework)
  2. Satisfaction of Qualifying Requirements (languages, subject-specific competences, theory and method)
  3. Teaching Preparation
  4. Preliminary Examinations
  5. Dissertation (Prospectus and defense, actual dissertation; final public oral examination)

Residence (Coursework)

All students are required to complete the equivalent of three years (six semesters) of full-time study beyond the baccalaureate degree (i.e. twenty-four tuition units). Up to one full year of graduate work done in residence at other institutions and not used in fulfillment of the requirements for the Ph.D. elsewhere may, on the recommendation of the department faculty (normally the DGS) and with the approval of the registrar, be counted in fulfillment of this requirement. We encourage students to work and develop professional relationships with faculty outside of the Department who focus in cognate areas. Students who have completed their formal coursework often continue to attend doctoral seminars until they have passed their preliminary examinations and begun work on the dissertation.

Qualifying Requirements

All graduate students should consult with their area advisor (and other faculty as appropriate) to determine the qualifying requirements for their particular program, which differ depending on the specific area of study. These qualifying requirements ordinarily include language training as well as basic knowledge of, and competence in, the history and culture of particular traditions. In addition, all RS grad students must demonstrate competence in theory and method in Religious Studies, ordinarily through successful completion of RELS 2000.

Teaching Training

All RS graduate students are expected to serve as Teaching Assistants for courses in their areas of specialization. In addition, most students will be asked to serve as TAs in other departmental courses or, occasionally, in courses outside the department, depending on Department or University needs. All RS graduate students should also participate in the teaching training programs run by the Sheridan Center, including their certification prorams (See below, "Guidelines for Teaching Assistantships.")

Preliminary (Doctoral) Examinations

Ordinarily, all Ph.D. students sit for the Preliminary Examination in at least three areas, a major area, a minor area, and the area of dissertation specialization. Although the precise forms of these examinations are at the discretion of the area faculty and may vary depending on the specifics of the student's program, each area has designed its exams to help students acquire specialized expertise as well as disciplinary breadth. All students should work out the format and general content of these examinations with their area advisor (and other faculty) early in their graduate programs: all areas require students to be involved actively in developing their own reading lists. At the discretion of the area faculty, students may be required to revise portions of their exams or given an opportunity to rewrite or retake an exam. If, in the end, the area faculty determines that the student has not passed the Preliminary Exams, the student will be asked to leave the program and the area faculty will decide whether the student will be awarded a terminal M.A., contingent on the quality of the student's course work and examinations.

Professionalization Seminar

Professionalization is an essential aspect of graduate education. The primary tasks of the scholar are research, teaching, and service. Professionalization, formal and informal, is the process of learning to do these tasks well and to be a good colleague and a good citizen of the academy, University, and Department. Professionalization is a broad and somewhat nebulous term that concerns navigating all the (oftentimes) unspoken and oftentimes disputed norms of academic life: relating to colleagues and mentors; preparing materials for academic jobs and interviews; publishing; supporting and sustaining multi-cultural, diverse, and inclusive academic communities. These efforts happen in various ways, but one principal site in Religious Studies is the professionalization seminar, a required seminar for all fourth-year students

Receiving the Actual Degree

Ph.D. degrees are awarded only at Spring commencement, regardless of when the actual defense takes place. To receive a Ph.D. degree at commencement, students must submit the dissertation by the first business day in May, although an extension to May 15 is possible when a request is submitted to the Graduate School. Students who anticipate completing the dissertation within one month of the semester following that in which they are presently registered may request a one month extension that allows them to complete their work without registering (and paying) for the following semester.

Additional Information

Graduate course listing for Fall 2022.
Listing of advisors by area and the advising structure.
The Department of Religious Studies expects that all Ph.D. students will make satisfactory and timely progress through the graduate program, and all funding is contingent on such progress.