Cultural Studies
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Field Requirements

Part 2 - Field Requirements 

End of Second Year, Third Year

In addition to completing the core requirements, students concentrate their study in two fields of specialization. At the end of this process of specialization, students produce and then orally defend two field statements. This section of the Handbook will outline the general process students will follow to meet the field requirements.

What is a Field?

A field is a substantial, recognizable area of scholarship; for our purposes, it is an area of cultural studies scholarship. Under the guidance of a faculty advisory committee, you will define your two fields in such a way that they point topically and theoretically toward dissertation research. However, a good field statement will also be a useful resource for generating syllabi, for framing new research proposals, and for supporting related forms of professional development.

A field cannot be as broad as "culture" or "politics"; it cannot be as narrow as "Facebook" or "Siegfried Kracauer." Some durable fields are expressly introduced by program breadth offerings: "Culture and Political Economy," "Gender/Sexuality," "Visual Culture," and so on. Others are sometimes offered as special topics courses, for example, "Popular Culture" or "New Media." In any case, your fields should pass the CV test: Would an informed reader on a hiring committee recognize them as durable, substantial areas of scholarship?

Keep in mind: The two fields will be complementary; they should be distinct and non-redundant. One may be disciplinary in orientation. If so, the other field should be interdisciplinary. One may be theoretical in orientation; if so, the other should be topical.

What is a Field Statement?

A field statement is just that: a statement of field; a comprehensive, critical review of the scholarship that defines the field. It should explore the major issues, debates, and texts in the field and be accompanied by a bibliography of the relevant texts. See Annual Reviews ( for excellent prototypical examples of field statements in various areas of knowledge. Field statements serve in lieu of the proficiency exams that are used in some other doctoral programs; the principal purpose of both exercises is to demonstrate professional competence in a broad area of knowledge.

Minimal Coursework Requirements for the Fields

Over the long term, field specialization will involve a minimum of 9 credit hours study in each field (18 credit hours total). At the initial stages of preparation, you should lay the groundwork for your fields by selecting relevant courses from theory or topic offerings (not used to fulfill other program requirements), or from special topics courses (CULT 860). If relevant coursework is lacking, and if you are advanced beyond the first couple of years in your course of study, you may also take sections of CULT 870 (Independent Study) to fulfill a portion of the 9-credit minimal requirement. The eventual capstone for each field will take the form of a 3-credit Field Preparation course (CULT 880); during your registration in CULT 880, you will write and finalize each field statement.

Note: In our experience, independent sections (CULT 870) sometimes imply slow progress. These sections can be productive, but they require a great deal of individual initiative and are seldom supervised as closely as regular course offerings are. The program thus imposes credit hour prerequisites on CULT 870; it also requires students to submit a detailed syllabus (weekly readings, periodic meeting times with the instructor), which has been approved by the instructor, by the first day of the term.

Step 1: Conceptualizing the Fields

Many of you will come to the program with a general idea of your field interests and thus will be conceptualizing your fields from the beginning. Although much of the reading and work on your fields will take place outside of formal courses, Cultural Studies courses are designed to offer a broad grounding in material that can be incorporated into your fields. (Regardless of how the detailed content of your fields takes shape, you should be able to explain how key texts in foundation courses are relevant to your fields.)

Accumulated syllabi from a given set of courses will not, in themselves, constitute an adequate bibliography for a given field. Coursework will not, in itself, constitute the fields. In the end, the content of fields will be shaped by formal coursework, directed independent study with faculty advisors, and general bibliographic immersion in the texts that form the core of a given field.

Step 2: Forming a Field Advisory Committee

Your field advisory committee will be comprised of two cultural studies faculty members; each will serve as primary advisor for one field. Take initiative from the start of your studies: You are encouraged to meet with potential faculty mentors to discuss their research and your interests. Some of these meetings will grow out of coursework, guest lectures, or colloquium presentations. Others will result from your own investigation.

As you begin to form your committee, remember some important points. Each committee member will be expert in one or the other field. But in order to serve as effective mentors, both committee members will need to understand the picture in the round: What is the conception, shape, and content of the other field? How does one field relate to the other and to the general direction of the dissertation research?

When you have two willing mentors, two viable fields, and a general dissertation question, you will submit a request to form your field committee to the program director, who will solicit input from the Executive Committee. (See "Request to Form Field Advisory Committee") The Executive Committee may approve your request, or it may ask for more information. The director may communicate advice on revisions to titles and frames, or, in some cases, ask for resubmission.

The timing of the formation of your field advisory committee will depend on your progress through the program and the speed with which your specific field interests take shape. Some students will be in position to form their committees by the end of their second year in the program. In general, you should complete the formation of your advisory committee by the end of your third year.

Step 3: Preparation and Approval of Field Proposals

After you have received approval of your field advisory committee, and after you have conducted some preliminary studies of the proposed fields, you will prepare a formal proposal for each field. Field proposals are to be reviewed and approved by the student's advisory committee prior to being submitted for formal approval to the Cultural Studies Program Director and the Executive Committee.

Once you've gotten the go ahead from your field advisory committee to begin the formal approval process for your field proposals, you'll need to make sure that your proposal is formatted properly for submission. A standard form is available to serve as a cover sheet. (See "Field Proposal Form") Two Field statement proposals will accompany the cover sheet. Each proposal will include: a narrative (two to four pages) outlining the subject to be treated, its significance, and its relationship to the student's research, teaching, and other professional plans, and a sample bibliography (75+ references, as a sample of the eventual bibliography of 150-200 references). Field proposals will be considered ready for submission to the program when both members of the field advisory committee have signed the Field Proposal form.

The director will review the student's field statement proposals and attached bibliographies, and will sometimes convey additional advice. Copies of formally approved field proposals will be kept on record in your program file in the Cultural Studies office.

Research interests change, of course. Minor shifts of content consistent with the overall framing of approved fields require no administrative action. Substantive changes in content or any change in the composition of your committee require a second review by the executive committee. (See the above procedures for either forming a field advisory committee, or for approval of field proposals.)

Step 4: Preparation of Field Statements

Once your field proposals have been approved and you are prepared to write your field statements you should plan to take CULT 880 under the supervision of the advisor for each field. Keep in mind that work in CULT 880 will complete, not inaugurate, your work in a particular field. It is highly recommended that students try to complete both field statements in the same semester; however, you should discuss the sequencing of your 880s with your field advisory committee to determine an appropriate course of action.

The field statement itself should be 6,000-10,000 words (approximately 25-50 double-spaced pages), with additional pages for bibliography (approximately 150-200 references). The style sheet to be used for preparation of the bibliography and for citation within the field statements should be agreed upon by the student and his or her committee.

Grades will be given upon the completion of the field statement in 880. A professor may sign the cover sheet of the field statement to indicate his or her approval of the document. Note, however, that successful completion of the field requirements is not accomplished until a successful defense meeting with both members of the committee has been undertaken.

Final Step: Submission and Oral Defense of Field Statements

A single one-hour defense of the field statements should take place within a month of submission of the field statements to your field advisory committee. Only you and your committee members will be present for the oral defense. The two advisors will establish the format for the conduct of the defense.

As is customary in Ph.D. programs, field advisory committee members will reach a consensus on the evaluation of the field statements (based on both the written field statement and its oral defense), and share this consensus with the student at the end of the oral defense. Grading for Field statements is Fail/Pass/Distinction.

Upon the completion of a successful oral defense, each field advisor will co-sign a form indicating that you have passed your field requirements and oral examination on such date. (See "Field Statement Form") The signed field statements and record of the oral defense will be kept in the program files.

If you receive a failing grade on either field statement, with either the written field statement or its oral defense being deemed inadequate, you may resubmit the unacceptable field statement(s) and repeat the defense one more time only, no sooner than 3 months and no later than 6 months after failing. A student submitting field statements and undertaking the oral defense for the first time will be questioned on both fields concurrently, but if s/he fails one part, then only that field must be examined a second time.

Advancement to Candidacy

Advancement to candidacy occurs when students have successfully completed all coursework, two field statements, oral defense of both field statements, and the foreign language requirement. The Cultural Studies office will file the required notice to the College of Arts and Sciences within the time frame required. (See "Advance to Candidacy Form") Students may not register for CULT 998 (Dissertation Proposal) until they have advanced to candidacy.

For students enrolled under catalogs beginning in 2014 or later, total time to degree will not exceed nine (9) calendar years from the time of first enrollment as a doctoral degree-seeking student in the program.  These doctoral students are expected to advance to candidacy in no more than six years and to complete all other degree requirements for graduation in no more than three years from the time of advancement to candidacy. If they advance earlier than six years, they will have the balance of time up to nine years to complete the dissertation.  For students enrolled under catalogs prior to 2014-2015, total time to degree will not exceed eleven (11) calendar years from the time of first enrollment as a doctoral degree-seeking student in the program.  These doctoral students are expected to advance to candidacy in no more than six years and to complete all other degree requirements for graduation in no more than five years from the time of advancement to candidacy.  The Cultural Studies Program may support extensions for those students who have come up against time limits for extenuating circumstances beyond their control, such as illness (one's own or a family member's). The program will not support extensions for students who have run out of time because of the other, anticipated demands on their time, such as employment elsewhere. In all cases extensions may not exceed more than one calendar year, as per the university catalog.


Notes On the Foreign Language Requirement

All students must demonstrate a reading knowledge of a research language other than English that has substantial potential for use in their cultural studies research. This knowledge must be demonstrated by a translation test, which may be taken any time before you register for CULT 998, doctoral dissertation proposal credits. (See "Language Exam Form") Remember, you cannot advance to candidacy, and thus may not register for CULT 998, until you have passed the language exam.

The examiner will be proposed by the student in consultation with his or her field advisory committee and should be a member of the Cultural Studies faculty; the director will appoint the examiner. A list of faculty who give the language exam is available in the Cultural Studies office. You will be given 3 hours in which to translate into idiomatic English a passage of 500-700 words from a journal or primary text relevant to cultural studies. You may consult a dictionary during the exam.

This translation test may be waived for students who have passed such a test as part of the requirements for an M.A. program, as long as this test was passed within 5 years of beginning the Cultural Studies Ph.D. program. (Students who fulfilled a foreign language requirement in an M.A. program through coursework in a foreign language will still have to demonstrate their reading knowledge with the translation test.) The test will also be waived for native speakers of a language other than English, if the student's native language has significant potential for use in the student's research.

If a student fails the translation test, he or she may take it as many times as necessary in order to pass, but each try must include a new passage for translation. In some cases, a student may need some training in a second foreign language to complete dissertation work. Such competencies will be assessed by the student's dissertation committee.

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