The First Two Years

Course requirements for the two general programs of study in either Plan A Slavic Literatures or Plan B Slavic Linguistics are normally fulfilled during the first two years of study. All students are required to take the Proseminar and Old Church Slavonic, normally in the first term of the first year.

Plan A

Slavic languages and literatures with concentration on the study of literature. The candidate will choose one major Slavic language and literature and a minor field, which can be another Slavic language and literature, another language and literature, Slavic linguistics and language pedagogy, Russian and East European history, film, the visual arts, philosophy, or comparative literature, among other possibilities (six courses in the major field and four in the minor field).

Plan B

Slavic languages and literatures with concentration on the study of Slavic linguistics. In this program the candidate will choose one Slavic language as the major (four courses), a second Slavic language as the first minor (two courses), and a related elective field as the second minor (two courses). Additionally, Introduction to Comparative Slavic Linguistics and Introduction to Linguistics are required. 

Good Standing

The minimum standard set by the department for satisfactory work by graduate students is an A-/B+ average (as many A’s as B’s). Students who fall below this level must, in the following term, demonstrate their ability to meet this minimum in courses taken within the department. Only students who remain in good standing are eligible to take the PhD general examinations, to teach, and to receive Harvard fellowships. Each year the Department writes a letter to students assessing their progress in the program, recording any milestones and other achievements, and setting forth requirements for the coming year.

Language Requirements

Before the candidate is eligible for the general examination, a reading knowledge of both French and German or French or German, plus one other language of demonstrable importance to the student’s research interests must be shown; also, departmental requirements in the major Slavic language and in the minor Slavic language or languages (one for candidates who have chosen a second Slavic field under Plan A, two for Plan B) must be satisfied. (See the Graduate Program Requirements document, available in the department office and on the Slavic department website, for more specific details.)

Policy on Incompletes

Students may have one Incomplete in a term and must ask permission of the director of graduate studies. They must make clear that this will be the only Incomplete requested that term. The Incomplete must be made up by the end of the next term. Students may not request another Incomplete until the one outstanding has been made up. In addition, students may not begin their minor or major general examinations if they have an Incomplete in the field to be examined. To be eligible to teach, students must not have any Incompletes in their required courses.

Other Requirements

Out of the sixteen half-courses required, at least two must be seminars or conference courses, which involve the writing of a substantial research paper. 100-level courses in literature may be counted for graduate credit with permission of the chair and the professor involved, and on condition that a graduate-level paper is submitted as part of the coursework. All sixteen half-course requirements must be completed with a grade before proceeding to the general examinations.

Master of Arts (AM)

The department does not admit candidates for a terminal AM degree. PhD candidates may, however, apply for an AM degree after having completed, with satisfactory grades, eight half-courses that satisfy department requirements. The degree may also be offered to students unable to complete the PhD.


As part of their preparation, candidates are required to teach; normally students teach in at least the G3 and G4 years, both language courses and those within their areas of specialization. Teaching is supervised by members of the department and includes a program of teacher training.


Through the pre-generals period and until the time a prospectus is approved, the director of graduate studies advises all graduate students. When a student submits his or her prospectus to the department, however, she or he also names an advisor to direct the dissertation as first reader, and recommends the second and third readers as well. Once the department approves the prospectus, the student will work with these three faculty members as needed throughout the dissertation process. At the beginning of each term, the director of graduate studies is responsible for meeting with all the graduate students and signing their study cards.

General Examinations

Before proceeding to write a dissertation, the candidate must pass the following general examinations, which will be offered only during the fall and spring terms. See www.slavic.fas.harvard.edu for more extensive details.

Plan A: Literature

Part 1. A minor field portfolio and collective presentation, normally completed in the third year.

Part 2a. A four-hour written examination that will consist of eight textual and visual excerpts from a range of periods and genres. The author, title, and year the work was written will be identified. The student will write on six of these excerpts, contextualizing each within literary history and the author’s creative biography, and also analyzing the work’s formal features.

Part 2b. A single take-home essay in which the student will be given 48 hours to complete the essay and an expected word count for the result. Normally, the written exam and essay are completed at the start of a student’s fourth year of study, and normally part 2B is completed no more than a week after part 2A.

Part 3. Students will prepare a completed draft of the dissertation prospectus as the first step in Part 3 of the general examinations. In preparing the draft, students are invited to consult widely with faculty in the department. Students will also work closely with the faculty member whom the student has chosen as the dissertation advisor, and with others who seem possible members of the dissertation committee. The completed draft will be submitted to this committee by the last day of classes for the Fall semester of the student’s fourth year.

The planned dissertation committee and the student will meet for a one-hour prospectus conference during the Fall Reading Period. This is meant to be a conversation, with students getting feedback on all aspects of the proposed dissertation – its argument, aims, scope, and components, as well as the plan for research and writing. The prospectus conference will begin with the student offering a brief (ten minutes) presentation of the dissertation’s themes and goals, and questions and discussion will follow, with all committee members participating. Students should come away from this conference with a clear idea of any changes needed in the prospectus itself, and with a clear work plan for beginning dissertation research and writing. In response to the suggestions received at this prospectus conference and subsequently, the student will prepare the final version of the prospectus, to be submitted as soon as possible to the Department for formal approval but no later than Spring Break of the following Spring semester.

Students will also share their prospectus and dissertation plans at a graduate student workshop. The GSAS workshop for graduate students will be the venue for these conversations, and all faculty and graduate students will be invited to participate. These events are meant as much to help the dissertation-writing student, who will get feedback from peers and other faculty, as to engage the larger community in the dissertation projects from the very first. They will also give entering graduate students a sense of dissertation work from the very first, and allow students to learn across the generations and from each other.

Plan B: Linguistics

Part 1. A two-hour written examination testing the candidate’s knowledge of Slavic linguistics from a comparative-historical or contrastive perspective. Or a minor field portfolio and a ten-minute oral presentation.

Part 2. A three-hour written examination on the linguistics of the candidate’s major language in the context of the Slavic family. This is taken no more than one month before Part 3.

Part 3. A two-hour comprehensive oral examination centering on (although not limited to) five “fields”; the fields are to be chosen by the candidate in consultation with the professors in the department.

Dissertation and Submission

A dissertation prospectus must be submitted for review and approval by all members of the Department. Graduate students should plan to submit a prospectus by the end of the fourth year, if not sooner. Normally, this occurs in the spring of the fourth year of graduate study. The prospectus will be accompanied by a cover letter, stating the student’s plans for an advisor and dissertation committee. Typically, the Department will approve the committee as requested, and any anticipated adjustments will be discussed in advance through the Director of Graduate Studies. At least two members of the committee must be from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and at least one member from the Slavic Department.

The dissertation must give evidence of original research or of original treatment of the subject and must be in good literary form. It should be completed within three years after the general examinations. The PhD candidate is then asked to give a defense before the members of the Department.

Dissertations are now submitted electronically through ProQuest to the registrar of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences by the deadline established for each degree conferral date. The final manuscript should conform to the requirements described in the Form of the Doctoral Dissertation. The Department requires that a bound hard copy also be submitted to the Slavic Department, to be maintained in the Graduate Student Reading Room.

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