Coursework is directed towards advanced scholarly research, usually historical or theoretical in nature. Students are required to take 16 “half-courses” (i.e., semester-length courses). Coursework is divided between the GSD and departments in FAS. Each student's curriculum is closely tailored to her or his specific interests. Students are eligible for the A.M. degree after successful completion of 8 half courses.

Generally, there is one course each semester specifically designed for and limited to students in the PhD program. Each fall or spring a senior faculty member teaches a proseminar titled “Discourses and Methods,” which is required of all students in their first and second years. These reading-intensive courses introduce students to important methods of scholarship and provide a general knowledge of the field.

Students are assigned two academic advisors upon entering who stay with them until the completion of general examinations. The student's dissertation committee is formalized during the the prospectus stage. View PhD Guidelines for the General Exams.

Academic training opportunities extend beyond coursework. Senior faculty conduct regular workshops on topics ranging from grant writing to conducting archival research. Most students serve as teaching fellows within the GSD or other departments after the completion of their coursework. Additional resources are offered by the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning and the GSAS Fellowships Office.