The standard course load for graduate students is 3 3-credit classes per term. The Department offers a range of course options:

History 601

All students, whether admitted to an MA program or to the PhD program, must complete History 601, an essential introduction to historical analysis. Alternatively, if a similar course was taken elsewhere, the syllabus must be presented to the Director of Graduate Studies to determine whether it fulfills the requirements. History 601 is offered every Fall and ordinarily it is taken in the first semester of the program. Through intensive reading, discussion, and writing, centered on a series of reading assignments illustrating the approaches and methodologies employed by contemporary historians, it aims to instill the substantive knowledge and the critical approaches necessary to study history at the graduate level. Mixing perennial issues and contemporary trends in the academic study of history, the course explores the relationship of theory, generalization, and historical practice. Emphasis is upon introducing students to some of the principal schools of thought exemplified in current historical writing and research: for example, approaches influenced by the social sciences (economics, anthropology, psychology), the humanities (literary or cultural theory) or recovery of the past through multiple perspectives (gender or minority history or comparative analysis).

Other Courses

In general, most courses in the department fall into one of two categories: colloquia (readings courses) and seminars (research courses).


The numerically predominant type of course in our graduate program is the readings course at the 600-level, often called a colloquium. Colloquia constitute the majority of the courses which a student completes, and it is in them that students develop the detailed understanding of the subject matter of their field. Colloquia are devoted to reading and critical discussion of the current secondary literature related to a specific topic, historical problem, or period and/or place in history. Students can expect to write historiographical essays as the primary grading instrument.


Courses at the 800-level are defined as seminars. Students must complete two seminars for the MA and two additional seminars for the PhD. In these courses students conduct and present primary source research projects. The Department expects such papers to be roughly equivalent to an article in a scholarly journal. The papers should be approximately 25 pages in length, and should involve original analysis of primary sources (written or material), in whatever languages are appropriate for the topic at hand, as well as analysis of the historiography on the topic. Historiographical essays, specifically, do not meet the seminar requirement.

Some students may elect to take the thesis option for the MA (see below), which would be done in place of the two research seminars.

History 603

The Department regularly offers History 603, a course in historical teaching, which all graduate students are encouraged to take. The class provides an introduction to historical pedagogy. In the course of the class, students will produce a teaching portfolio, including a statement of teaching philosophy and a sample syllabus.

PhD students have the option of taking History 603: Historical Teaching in place of one of the four required research seminars. MA students may not substitute History 603 for one of their two required research seminars, but are nonetheless strongly encouraged to take the course.

History 795

All students are encouraged to take this course, which is a historical internship class. The Department keeps a list of programs with which we have relationships, where students can do an internship for course credit. Students can also set up an internship on their own. Should they wish to do this, the project must be coordinated in advance with the Director of Graduate Studies to ensure that the proposed work is acceptable for history credit and that it can be properly assessed.

Independent Studies

Many graduate students undertake independent studies as part of their coursework. Such classes can be done as either historiographical classes or research seminars. Depending on their schedules, most faculty are very willing to do independent studies with graduate students. Once a plan is agreed upon by professor and student, the student must submit a form to the Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences, available at: Please deposit a copy of this form with the Director of Graduate Studies for your file. These classes appear in Cardinal Station as Directed Readings (History 792) or Directed Research (History 793). Please consult the Director of Graduate Studies to have a course set up for you.

Grading and Evaluation

Acceptable grades for a graduate student are A, A-, B+, B and B-. The University also records grades of C, but in the Department of History, although a student may receive University credit for completion of this course, any course receiving a grade below B- does not count towards a degree program.

Any student incurring more than one grade below B- (“C” or “F”) in a program may be dismissed.

To retain a scholarship or fellowship, a student is expected to do above average work, i.e., maintain at least a “B+” (3.3) average in work undertaken. Students who hope to move from an MA to a PhD are generally expected to maintain an “A-” (3.7) average in work undertaken.

The Department undertakes a full review of the progress of all graduate students every spring. In preparation for that review, all students are asked to complete a short self-assessment. The self-assessment exercise provides an opportunity for students to record milestones from the year past (requirements met, papers presented, grants won, etc.), to reflect on progress-to-date, and to develop a plan for the following academic year. ABD students also have a yearly meeting with their entire dissertation committee, convened by the diretor of their dissertations. The purpose of these meetings is to make sure that dissertation work is proceding well, that the committee is fully informed and can advise on research and writing in-progress, and that the schedule for completion is clear. The faculty take the results of these meetings and the self-assessment exercise into account at the annual graduate student review. Any issues arising from the review will be addressed with the student by the major professor, Chair, and/or DGS.

Washington Area Research University Consortium

The Catholic University is a member of the Washington Area Research University Consortium. Therefore, graduate students may take a class, if the course is not offered here, at another University. In order to do this, students need the approval of their advisor or Section Head, the Director of Graduate Studies, and the Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences. Application forms and instructions for registration can be found here: Only one consortium class may be taken each semester.

Continuous Registration

 Please note that in order to maintain your student status, graduate students must be continuously enrolled. Failure to enroll will result in a lapse in student status and may require a formal application for readmission to the University. For more details, see:

Once PhD students have completed comprehensive exams, they should register each semester for History 996: Doctoral Dissertation Guidance.