Course Requirements for the Ph.D. in Hispanic Languages and Literatures (as of Fall 2021)

Please note: the following requirements will be applicable starting fall 2021.

The Department of Spanish and Portuguese offers the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in Hispanic Languages and Literatures. The Master of Arts (M.A.) degree in Spanish and the Master of Arts (M.A.) degree in Portuguese is offered en route after completion of eleven graduate courses and a capstone or thesis plan, and demonstrated proficiency in Spanish and Portuguese, by the end of the sixth quarter of the Ph.D. program.

There are three major areas/tracks of study within the department:

1) Latin American and Iberian Literature and Culture

2) Afro-Luso-Brazilian Literature, Creative Writing and Visual Culture

3) Spanish and Portuguese Linguistics.

After the B.A., a minimum of 16 graduate courses is required, including directed research as appropriate. In addition, Spanish 495 (4 units), and Proseminar I and II (2 units each), all offered in the department, are required and may not replace the graduate courses.  In the first year of the Ph.D. program, students take Proseminar I and regularly scheduled graduate courses (200-series). In the second year students take Spanish 495 and may take a combination of regularly scheduled graduate courses and directed research (596) courses.  In the third year, students take Proseminar II  and continue  taking regularly scheduled graduate courses and directed research to complete the program requirements.

For the track in the Latin American and Iberian Literature and Culture: of the 16 graduate courses, one must be a theory course. Within the department, two courses must be pre-1700s, two courses must be post-1700s, and three courses must be outside the main field of expertise (i.e., Latin Americanists take courses on Iberian and vice-versa). A total of three courses (the theory course may be one of them) may be taken in other departments with the approval of the Adviser. A maximum of two courses (8 units) of directed research is permitted.

For the track in Afro-Luso-Brazilian Literature, Creative Writing and Visual Culture: of the 16 graduate courses, one must be a theory course, one course must be pre-1900s, one course must be creative writing and/or translation studies, and one course must be on visual culture. A total of six courses (24 units) may be taken in other departments and/or as directed research (596).

For the track in Spanish and Portuguese Linguistics: of the 16 graduate courses, one must be phonology, one must be syntax, one must be historical linguistics, and one must be in literature. A total of four (16 units) may be taken in other departments. A maximum of four courses (16 units) of direct research (596) is permitted.

Students who hold an M.A. degree in Spanish or Portuguese from another university may petition for up to six graduate courses to count toward the Ph.D. degree.

Foreign Language Requirement

In addition to proficiency in Spanish and Portuguese, students must have a reading knowledge of one other foreign language, to be chosen with the approval of their advisor. Students fulfill this requirement by (1) passing the University reading examination in the language; (2) successful completion of a University course of at least level 3; or (3) successful completion of two upper division literature courses in the foreign language. Students must fulfill the requirement no later than the eight quarter of graduate study.


During the first and second years of doctoral study, students in the Ph.D. program are advised by the Director of Graduate Studies. During this first stage of the graduate program, the student’s choice of concentration is provisional. The Director of Graduate Studies assists students in developing a study program and conducts a regular review of the student’s progress.

During the third  year of doctoral study students choose an adviser, who becomes chair of the doctoral committee and director of the dissertation. Based on the selection of the dissertation topic or area, and in consultation with the adviser, students choose three  other committee members, at least one from among the department faculty, whose interests and fields of expertise support research in the proposed area of the dissertation. These four  faculty members constitute the advisory committee. It is the student’s responsibility to meet with the advisory committee as early as possible during the third year, to determine a program of course work and directed research that leads to the doctoral qualifying examinations. This meeting must take place by the end of Spring Quarter of the third year.   Until the departmental advisory committee is formed, students are advised by the Director of Graduate Studies.


Capstone plan (a.k.a comprehensive examinations)

The examination for the first stage of the program consists of submission of two revised papers written for courses taken during the first five quarters and an oral examination on course work and seminar papers completed while in our graduate program. With the assistance of the SAO and the Director of Graduate Studies, by the end of the 4th quarter of the program, students must demonstrate that they are on track to complete the course work (11 required courses) and the Spanish and Portuguese language requirement for this first stage of the program. Additionally, by the end of the 4th quarter, students must nominate an ad hoc review committee of three faculty members from the department: the Director of Graduate Studies, the faculty member who will serve as the student’s adviser, and a third faculty member. These requirements must be completed by the 5th quarter of the program for a student to maintain satisfactory degree progress.

In consultation with the ad hoc review committee, students are required to submit two of their strongest seminar papers, 20-25 pages each (with revisions). For literature students, one paper must be written in English and one in Spanish or Portuguese. Students must submit the papers to the ad hoc review committee during their 6th quarter in the program and at least two weeks in advance of the oral exam.

The oral exam is two hours in length and consists of a review of the papers submitted and questions addressed to the student. Questions are aimed at reviewing and synthesizing what the student has learned in graduate seminars, focusing on methodology and research questions, as expressed in their papers.

The outcome of the exams and ensuing recommendation is made by the ad hoc committee as follows: (1) Pass with permission to continue in the Ph.D., (2) Pass with reservations and specific recommendations for improvement, or (3) Fail without permission to continue in the Ph.D. program.

The examinations for the first stage of the program are administered only in spring quarter (6th quarter).

Thesis Plan

Every master’s degree thesis plan requires the completion of an approved thesis that demonstrates the student’s ability to perform original, independent research.

In lieu of taking the examination, students in any of the three major areas/tracks of study may seek permission to present a thesis. Students must first complete five graduate courses. In order to endorse the petition, the Director of Graduate Studies in consultation with the Committee of Graduate Affairs need to find evidence of exceptional ability and promise in term papers and course work.

Students are awarded the Master of Arts (M.A.) degree upon successful completion of the  examination or Thesis Plan.

Written and Oral Qualifying Examinations

After all course requirements and foreign language requirements are completed, the student assembles an exam committee consisting of  four faculty members according to the university’s minimum standards for committee constitution; at least two members, including the Chair, must be from the UCLA Department of Spanish and Portuguese. The student then takes the qualifying exams consisting of:

(1) presentation of a 40-60 page paper related to the specific dissertation area. Some students find it helpful to think of this paper as a first draft of a dissertation chapter.

(2) a three-hour written examination in the student’s field of specialization. The written examination is based on a reading list approved by the advisory committee.  The reading list is a minimum of 40 relevant texts. These may include, but are not limited to: primary sources (textual, visual, audiovisual, etc); theoretical texts, and/or critical studies related to the student’s field of specialization. The advisory committee also prepares the questions for the written examination.

3) Presentation of a 12-15 page dissertation prospectus that includes an overview of main questions, a summary of individual chapters, and a bibliography.

4) a two-hour University Oral Qualifying Examination at which the above research paper, written examination, and a dissertation prospectus are discussed.

The examinations are normally taken no later than nine quarters after admission into the graduate program. Only students who pass the qualifying examinations are advanced to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree.

Dissertation and Final Oral Examination (Defense of the Dissertation)

When the student completes the dissertation, s/he must defend it at the final oral examination. The full doctoral committee is in attendance.  During the 2 hours defense, the student summarizes findings for the committee,  respond to questions, and  address possible future avenues of revision and further research.

Suggested timeline for progress through the Ph.D. program:

Full-time students (three courses per quarter) should complete the course work for the first stage of the program within five quarters of admission. Teaching assistants may require longer. Students who are not appointed as teaching assistants are expected to complete eight courses for each three-quarter period; students appointed as teaching assistants are expected to complete at least five courses for each three-quarter period.

For a full-time student taking three courses per quarter, the following figures are optimal: (a) from graduate admission to completion of the first stage of the program: six quarters; (b) from completion of the first stage to authorization to form a guidance committee: one quarter; (c) from formation of a guidance committee to qualifying examinations: two  quarters; (d) from passage of qualifying examinations (advancement to candidacy) to presentation of the dissertation: three to six quarters; (e) from graduate admission to award of the Ph.D. degree (or normative time-to-degree): five years (15 quarters).

Requirement Standard Time to Completion
Course work By the 9th quarter in residence
Completion of first stage By the 6th quarter in residence
Selection of Faculty Adviser By the 7th quarter in residence
Oral Qualifying Examination (Advancement to Candidacy) By the 9th quarter
Dissertation Filed By the 15th quarter


The previous course requirements for our current enrolled graduate students (cohorts prior to fall 2021) can be found HERE