Program Requirements


Ideally, graduate students will complete their coursework (16 courses) during their first two years in the program. The minor field would constitute one-fourth of this coursework and students would present their minor field portfolios in the fall of their third year. Graduate students will take their general examinations in the spring of their third year of study and will submit a dissertation prospectus by the end of Fall term of the fourth year. It is possible to complete our program in five years, although most students have taken six years, extending their Teaching Fellow training into the fifth year and holding a guaranteed dissertation completion fellowship in the sixth year.


The requirements for the PhD are:

Residence (Academic)

Minimum of two years (see The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Policies). In practice, most students should expect course work to extend into the third year.

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.

Special Fields

  • Slavic literatures
  • Slavic linguistics

General Requirements:

There are two general programs of study, corresponding to the special fields listed above. All students are required to take the Proseminar and Old Church Slavonic, the former in the first term of the first year.

Plan A — Slavic languages and literatures with concentration on the study of literature.

During their first two years of study, students will be required to enroll in seven 200-level Slavic Department seminars in literature and culture, including a course in Old Church Slavonic and one course in the Medieval period. Students will take 2 of these seminars per semester during the first two years of study, but only 1 in the fall term of the G-2 year. These required graduate seminars are taught by the full range of Department faculty. They vary from year to year and are intended to teach a broad range of literature and culture, as well as current scholarship in the field. In addition to these required seminars, students will take electives each semester to fill out a normally four-course schedule.

During their first year, students will also enroll in the Slavic Graduate Proseminar for G-1 students. This is a year-long workshop-style course that meets every other week, and it is graded SAT/UNSAT.

In addition to the major field, students will select a minor field. The minor field 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. Students should consult with the Director of Graduate Studies when choosing their minor field. Of the four four-credit courses required for the minor field, at least one must be a Slavic Department course.

All sixteen four-credit courses must be completed with a grade before proceeding to the general examinations.


Plan B — Slavic languages and literatures with concentration on the study of Slavic linguistics.

Students will be required to enroll in Linguistics 250: Old Church Slavonic, Linguistics 252: Introduction to Comparative Slavic Linguistics, and Linguistics 101: Introduction to Linguistics. They will take 4 courses in their major linguistic area, one of which must be a seminar or conference course. If a student’s major linguistic area is a Slavic language other than Russian, one of the four required courses for the major must be on Russian language.

During their first year, students will also enroll in the Slavic Graduate Proseminar for G-1 students. This is a year-long workshop-style course that meets every other week, and it is graded SAT/UNSAT.

In addition, students will select two minor fields and take 2 courses for each. The first minor will be a second Slavic language; students will be required to take one grammatical and one theoretical course. The second minor will be a related elective field, such as a 3rd Slavic language (in this case, students would take one grammatical and one theoretical course) or a linguistics minor (students would take courses on phonology, morphology, syntax, or semantics).

Students will select their minor fields in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies.



Before the candidate is eligible for the general examinations, a reading knowledge of a foreign language must be shown. This can be a second Slavic language (BCS, Czech, Polish, Ukrainian) or French or German, two of the languages most helpful for doing research in Slavic. In addition, 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 for more specific details.)

Policy on Incompletes 

Students may be granted one Incomplete in a term and must ask permission of the director of graduate studies as well as the instructor of the relevant course. 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.


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. 

General Examinations

Before proceeding to write a dissertation, the candidate must pass the examinations; they will be offered only during the fall and spring terms. (more detail about the examinations is available under the tabs "Plan A: Literature" and "Plan B: Linguistics")

Application for the Degree

The degree application tool has moved into Instructions for using the Apply to Graduate tool can be found here. For additional information for degree applicants, please visit the FAS Registrar's Office Graduation and Diploma page.