Students will demonstrate their readiness to undertake independent dissertation research by submitting a portfolio of best work. Submissions are meant to demonstrate your developing ideas in prior years, and are intended to prompt discussions in the Portfolio Workshop about how your thinking has changed over time.

Required Portfolio Content

  • 3 annotated reading lists (2 theoretical in focus; 1 geographic) displaying the contours of each of your fields
    • Each field list should include 35 items. Annotations may vary in length (from a short paragraph to a page) - a balance to be determined by the faculty examiner for that particular reading list in consultation with you. The list for each field should be introduced by a synthetic overview that charts the genealogy of the readings and/or that critically reviews its key themes (2-3 double spaced pages per list).
  • 5 exemplary papers written during Duke seminars (10-25 double spaced pages)
    • This should include at least 2 research papers based on original research or analysis (20-25 double pages). The remainder may be shorter theoretical essays (10-15 double spaced pages in length) such as those written for Theories. One of the research papers should be substantially revised. The rest may be submitted in their original form. Each submission should each be identified by the class and instructor for whom it was written and the year it was produced.
  • Dissertation prospectus (20-25 double spaced pages)
    • This document should be comprised largely of your grant proposal for dissertation fieldwork, so you will append a discussion of changes that have occurred in the thinking, design, and framing of the project since the grant was written (particularly considered in relation to the field lists). This document should also include a provisional outline of the dissertation; any questions about implementation of the project that you would like to raise with her committee during the Portfolio Workshop; and discussions of Human Subjects issues that pertain to the project, and formal approval by Duke's Human Subjects Committee if the project includes human subjects.
  • 1 syllabus on a topic pertaining to your dissertation research

Portfolio Logistics

One member of your Ph.D. committee will be responsible for the evaluation of each field, and will provide you with guidelines identifying the kind of materials that should be included within the field reading list, and the nature of the synthetic writing about each field. The chair of your committee may be responsible for one of the fields. You should meet regularly with each examiner to discuss progress on the respective field reading lists. You will assemble your material for the portfolio on your own website, provided by the department, although committee members may also request hard copy of parts or all of the contents.

At the end of the semester in which you will prepare and annotate the list, you will be examined independently by the faculty member responsible for that list. You must pass these examinations in order to sit for the Portfolio Workshop.

Portfolio Workshop (Preliminary Certification)

Before you can move on to candidacy for the Ph.D., you must receive Preliminary Certification from the department. Your entire Ph.D. committee will participate in this two-and-a-half hour oral discussion of the portfolio (typically held in April of the third year). The first half of the workshop will focus on your three fields, and you will be expected to demonstrate fluency in the key themes in these fields. The second half of the workshop will focus on your dissertation prospectus and plans for research. 

If you fail to defend your portfolio by the end of your third year, you risk not being allowed to continue in the program. If your Ph.D. committee feels that you have not performed adequately, you will be allowed to reschedule the workshop only if the entire committee supports this recommendation (pending approval of the Graduate Dean). All Ph.D. committee members must participate in the workshop, with no more than one member participating via conference call.