Graduate Rules and Procedures
(Revised November 2021)
The Graduate Program of the Department is administered by the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS), in consultation with the Chair of the Department. These two officers are the Department’s spokespersons on matters of policies and procedures as they pertain to departmental and university requirements and regulations.
Students consult regularly with the DGS concerning their intellectual interests and choices, as well as their course selection and academic performance in meetings scheduled from their first semester and throughout their graduate career.
Fourth year students and up can keep their advisors/ second reader/ examiners format. Students in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd years will now have a committee of 3 (including an advisor).
Students should choose their 3rd committee member by September 30 of their 5th semester.
II. Course of Study
The department requires a total of 15 courses to be completed by students by the end of the sixth semester (only one course may be an audit).
Students normally take 3 or 4 courses for the first 4 semesters of study. In the fourth or fifth semester, 1 of the courses may be audited. Courses chosen for the fifth and –eventually– sixth semester should be particularly relevant to the projected topic of the dissertation. Students typically take 2 courses in the fifth semester and 1 course in the sixth semester, including reading courses.
Students specializing in Hispanic literature and culture are required to take at least one 500-level course taught in Portuguese, and, likewise, students focusing on Luso-Brazilian topics are expected to take at least one 500-level course taught in Spanish.
No course in the Department is given Pass/Fail (unless force majeure circumstances). Courses will be graded on a letter basis (A, A-, etc), or receive the designation of “Incomplete” or “Audit”.
“Incompletes” have a serious impact on the student’s graduate career. Due to Princeton University's new academic calendar, 1 or 2 temporary “Incompletes” are acceptable at the end of the fall semester but must be completed before the subsequent Spring semester begins. A student with more than one “Incomplete” at the time of the General Examination will not be permitted to take the Examination. All incompletes must be completed by the time the student plans to present the thesis proposal.
IV. Oral Presentations
Students in their first year prepare an Oral Presentation that they deliver to the faculty during the second week of the final exam period of the Spring semester. A text is selected by the student from a list supplied by the faculty, using it as the basis from which to develop a fifteen-minute talk, offering a clear line of reasoning in good Spanish or Portuguese. No presentation may last longer than 20 minutes. The student can use notes for the talk, but should not read a prepared text. This is a diagnostic exercise designed to assess the student’s analytical abilities and success in situating the topic chosen in the context of the literary work as a whole. Students should not overburden their presentation of the selected text with secondary readings or theory, nor should they summarize the piece. Instead they should work exhaustively with the text at hand while situating these close readings within the work’s larger historical context.
After the talk, the student will respond to questions regarding the text and the talk. This examination will not be assigned a letter grade; however, the assessment made by the Faculty will be recorded and communicated to the student by the DGS. Failure to perform satisfactorily will result in termination from the program. In some cases, the faculty may recommend that the student strengthen specific areas.
V. Language Requirements
Reading proficiency in a foreign language that is relevant to the student’s field of specialization is required. Since we are a Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Spanish and Portuguese are not considered foreign languages.
All language exams must be completed by the end of the fourth semester (before the General Examination), and are normally given by the Department once per semester (usually in November and April). Students may also fulfill these requirements by enrolling in an appropriate course, approved by the DGS.
VI. The General Examination
Pre-Generals Requirements(s): Students will receive a reading list of 50 books that they must read before the general exams.
By the end of the second semester, students are expected to declare their primary field of specialization, choosing one of the five possible concentrations:
- Medieval/Early Modern
- Modern Latin American
- Modern Peninsular
VII. Dissertation Proposal
A draft of student’s dissertation proposal is expected to his or her advisor by the third week of March of the sixth semester of enrollment.
The articulation of the dissertation topic and the methodology that will be employed in its writing will be made to the faculty in May (after Dean’s Date) of the third year, at the end of the sixth semester, in a 20-minute presentation. It will consist of: 1-a detailed oral presentation of the dissertation topic in the language in which the dissertation will be written; 2-an examination by the faculty on this proposal and its implications. The faculty will make suggestions to the student, either approving the proposal as it stands, or requesting revision and resubmission. (At this time, the Department may also decide to grant the student a terminal Master’s degree.)
The student must submit a written version of the proposal doubled spaced to the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) for transmission to the faculty no later than one week before the public presentation. This document must include an explanatory essay indicating what the thesis proposes to study, and why it is important to the field. In addition, it should detail a chapter-by-chapter outline of the proposed thesis, and should include a substantial bibliography on the dissertation topic. The presentation should not be a mere summary of the written document—which faculty will already have read—but might explore the process of arriving at the project, methodological challenges and strategies, and analysis of some of the objects/texts/images to be analyzed in the project. The proposal must be double spaced in 12-point Times New Roman. It should be no more than 15- 20 pages, but may not exceed 20 pages (5,000 words), exclusive of the bibliography. This page number limit is to be adhered to strictly.
After the public presentation of the proposal, the Director of the Graduate Students (DGS) will communicate the faculty’s comments to the student. If judged unacceptable, the proposal may be resubmitted one time only after revision.
VIII. Thesis-Writing Support
In the fall of the 4th and 5th years, students writing their theses may participate in an informal series of meetings with faculty members to discuss aspects of dissertation research, writing, and structure.
IX. The Language of the Dissertation
Students wishing to write their dissertation in Spanish or Portuguese rather than in English must obtain the prior approval of the DGS, who will consult with the dissertation director. If permission is granted, an explanatory letter from the thesis director and a formal request by the DGS will then be sent to the Dean of the Graduate School, who normally approves the request.
X. The Scope of the Dissertation
The dissertation committee will consist of one advisor and two additional committee members. The dissertation advisor is required to be a core member of the Spanish and Portuguese Department faculty. External co-advisors will be permitted only in extraordinary cases and with the approval of the primary advisor and the DGS.
Timely progress on the dissertation is a prerequisite for readmission and for financial aid. Before graduate students are hired as preceptors or research assistants by faculty members, their dissertation advisor must agree that such employment will not significantly delay completion of the dissertation.
- Introduction: by July, 3rd year.
- Chapter One: by December, 4th year.
- Chapter Two: by May, 4th year.
- Chapter Three: by September, 5th year.
- Chapter Four: by February, 5th year.
- Final Version: by May, 5th year.
XI. Final Public Oral Dissertation Defense
Please read the Graduate School guidelines on how to prepare for the FPO.
An examiner from another institution may participate in the FPO if s/he fills a gap in expertise that cannot be covered by any other professor at the university. Such examiner needs to be first approved by the DGS and, then, by the Graduate School. For more information see: https://gradschool.princeton.edu/academics/degree-requirements/graduate-committee-requirements.
The FPO consists of the following three parts: 1-a brief (thirty-minute) presentation by the candidate of the dissertation in English, Spanish, or Portuguese; 2-an examination by the three principal examiners; and 3-questions by other Faculty in attendance. The exercise usually lasts an hour and a half. The Final Public Oral is open to all members of the University community, and graduate students are welcome to attend.
XII. Graduate Liaison Committee
Each year the graduate students will choose a Graduate Liaison Committee composed of one representative from the first, second, and third years who will serve as the communicators for graduate student concerns. These representatives will meet with the DGS once per semester, but also whenever issues of immediate concern arise.
XIII. Teaching Assignments
Spanish students will teach during the fall semesters of their second, third, and fourth years (five to six hours of elementary or advanced language or literary instruction). Portuguese students may be asked to teach either in the fall or in the spring semester of their second, third, and fourth years, depending on departmental teaching needs.
A summary of expectations is provided below. For more detailed information, please refer to Course Assignment, Information for AIs, and about DCE Status.
Graduate students will be assigned to teach specific courses based on: previous course evaluations, seniority, appropriateness of field, number of incompletes, and the discretion of the professor in charge of the course. This applies to all levels of teaching, from language courses to precepts.
Students will teach during the fall semesters of their second, third, and fourth years (five to six hours of elementary or advanced language or literary instruction). This will give them time to concentrate on their graduate seminars in their first year, and will also relieve the pressure during the fourth semester, when they will be preparing for their General Examinations.
Besides language teaching, graduate students may have the opportunity to teach in precepts (discussion sections) in literature/culture courses or assist faculty with the teaching of summer study abroad courses or Global Seminars. If circumstances permit and a student’s area of study is closely aligned to a course, one may be invited by a faculty member to teach a precept, and in such unique cases the following policies will apply.
- Graduate students invited to be preceptors for courses of 24 or more will be relieved of their language teaching for that academic year. However, the student must actually lead his or her own precept to receive this course “relief”; he or she cannot, for instance, simply grade for a professor. Princeton in Argentina/Brazil/Portugal/Spain, Princeton in Cuba, and Global Seminars taught by SPO faculty with the help of the graduate student will also allow participating graduate students language teaching relief.
- Precepting can only count in lieu of language teaching if the course is within SPO, for a SPO professor’s course (say, located in PLAS or IHUM), for Princeton in Cuba, or for a SPO-led Global Seminar. Courses taught for other institutions cannot substitute for required teaching or precepting in SPO.
- 3. If a student uses summer teaching for a Global Seminar or for Princeton in Argentina/Brazil/Portugal/Spain to count as that academic year’s teaching, he or she will be compensated in the summer and will receive only the regular fellowship during the academic year.
- If a proposed course does not achieve a minimum of 18 students in some advance of the semester’s inauguration, the precept will be eliminated and the student will be reassigned language courses when possible.
- Every effort will be made to ensure that these opportunities are available for a maximum number of students. However, occasionally a student may serve as a preceptor on more than one occasion.
The Department may elect to provide other forms of support fulfilling the teaching requirement, e.g., languages tables, tutoring, Assistantship, in lieu of teaching when necessary.
Students on external fellowships will also be required to teach, at the Department's discretion. All graduate students will be visited at least once a semester by the head of the course they teach. After the visit, the head of course will meet with the student to discuss performance, offer suggestions and, if necessary, arrange for a follow-up visit. The head of course will also complete a Departmental evaluation form, which will be placed in the student's file.
While these teaching evaluations are confidential and will not be communicated verbatim to a prospective employer, it should be remembered that teaching is an essential part of the student's training, and the Department is usually asked to comment on the student's teaching performance.
XIV. In Absentia and Leave Status
Students should consult the Graduate School for the University´s policies on In Absentia and Leave Status.
XV. Colloquia and Lectures
The Department offers a very lively intellectual climate, with scholarly colloquia, public lectures, workshops, and related events. Graduate student attendance of such events is strongly urged as they provide valuable insights into the scholarship being produced in the respective fields as well as opportunities to engage with leading scholars and participate in events as co-organizers, respondents, and speakers.
Students are encouraged to selectively participate and present papers at professional meetings in the United States and abroad. Given the demands of the program, however, the Department advises that students favor publications in professional journals over conference papers.
XVI. Travel Funds
Requests for funds totaling up to $900 per year for Pre-Generals students, and up to $1,650 per year for Post-Generals students will be available for travel, lodging, and registration expenses incurred while participating in a conference or in connection with research travel. (These funds will not, however, roll over from one academic year to the next.)
Additional information and application procedures are available here.
XVII. Publication Funds
In very special cases, the Department will consider supporting publications. A student may petition the Department for subvention funds. If warranted, the Department will determine the extent of the subvention.
XVIII. Placement Dossiers
In the early Fall of their last year of residence in Princeton, students are advised to consult their DGS about creating a Placement Dossier with Interfolio (www.interfolio.com). This is a permanent record that may be sent to the prospective employers to whom the student chooses to apply. It contains curriculum vitae, a course transcript, and letters of recommendation from three or four professors, including a teaching evaluation.
In order to ensure that student’s records have been fully and fairly presented, the DGS may review the dossiers and the Faculty letters of recommendation before they are sent to prospective employers.
The Department will cover Interfolio's annual fee allowing you to send up to 50 applications. If for any reason the student exceeds this approved amount, additional costs will only be covered by the Department if they are approved by the student’s advisor and the DGS.
Students who have not completed the program by the end of their fifth year at Princeton have the option of applying for an additional year of DCE (Dissertation Completion Enrollment) status (see DCE Status at the Graduate School website). Since DCE students are not funded by the Graduate School in the same manner as regularly enrolled students, the Department may provide additional financial support through the assignment of language courses to departmental students with DCE status. Since the Department cannot guarantee teaching positions to all DCE students in need of financial support, it has therefore established the following guidelines regarding the assignment of courses to DCE students:
- Students must be in good standing in the program.
- Students must show significant progress towards completing their dissertation. They must present a detailed written report of the state of their project and copies of the sections completed to their advisor and the DGS in the Spring semester of their fifth year. In order to be eligible for DCE status, a student must have finished at least one chapter of his/her dissertation by March 15.
- Students are expected to apply for jobs at the MLA conventions and look for other sources of funding (teaching positions, fellowships, and so on) before they request teaching assignments from the Department.
- Students whose last teaching evaluations received an overall mark lower than 4.0 will not be considered for teaching.
- The Department will provide only one year of teaching to DCE students.
- Students who have been assigned courses will teach a total of three courses, two in the fall and one in the spring.
- Students interested in applying for DCE status should read Course Assignment, Information for AIs, and about DCE Status.
XX.Terminal Masters Degree
Requirements for the terminal M.A. degree:
- Successful completion of at least 10 graduate courses with a minimum grade of B
- No INCs
- Completion of an M.A. Thesis (approximate length of 40 pages). The thesis can be based on a previous research paper. The advisor would be the faculty member for whom the thesis was written and there will also be a second reader. Ideally the thesis should be completed before the student's enrollment terminates. It will be accepted up to four months after termination.
The Department will annually award the Arcadio Díaz-Quiñones Prize for excellence in teaching by a graduate student in the department.