Students are required to enroll in a minimum of two courses per quarter until advancement to candidacy.
Incoming students are required to take a minimum of five history of consciousness graduate seminars during the first two years. In the first year, students are required to take the introductory seminar HISC 203A, Approaches to History of Consciousness. In the course of the first year, students must also take a writing intensive "B" seminar, either HISC 203B, Approaches to History of Consciousness, or a complete "A" and "B" course sequence in another seminar course offering. By the end of the first year, students are expected to complete a full seminar paper. Unless an exception is approved by the Director of Graduate Studies, "B" courses do not count toward the five seminars selected to fulfill the basic department requirement. The remainder of the courses taken to fulfill university enrollment requirements may include not only history of consciousness seminars but also independent study with specific faculty or graduate seminars offered in other departments.
Additional requirements for the Ph.D. vary with individual disciplinary and interdisciplinary needs and are determined in consultation with relevant faculty and the chair of the program.
Advancement to candidacy depends on the general quality of a student's work; demonstration of proficiency in a foreign language relevant to the student's area of work, either by passing a written exam administered by the department or successfully completing a language course approved by the department; success in the qualifying exam; and proposal of an acceptable thesis topic and dissertation plan. The qualifying exam should be completed by the end of the third year of enrollment, and is centered on a qualifying essay that demonstrates the candidate's ability to do extended dissertation-level research and analysis relevant to the proposed thesis topic. The exam focuses on the student's research project and on the fields of scholarship it presupposes.
After advancement to candidacy, students concentrate on the writing of the dissertation. The current normative time to degree limit of seven years means that a student usually has three years after advancement to candidacy for completion of the dissertation.
Students also have the option of doing advanced work in a traditional discipline and receiving a designated emphasis with their degree. In such cases, students must satisfy the appropriate department's criteria. Currently such degree notations may be with American studies, anthropology, literature, politics and feminist studies.