This series on “Analyzing Historical History Dissertations” is a work in progress and I’ve re-done some of these visualizations. If you would like to cite or link to this work in progress, please consider using the landing page, which will always have the most up-to-date information and a list of all the posts.
In the last post, I looked at the changing lengths of history dissertations over time. For context, here is the most significant chart:
There are probably at least four factors influencing the length of the dissertation:
- the topic chosen by the author and the author’s approach as a scholar,
- the requirements of an adviser or committee,
- the requirements at a department or university, and
- changes in the profession as a whole.
The chart above tries to capture the trends in the profession. But in many ways the changes in a department or university might be more interesting, and they certainly would seem to have a more immediate causal effect on dissertation authors.
Here are charts of all the universities with more than 50 dissertations in the data set. (See below for caveats.) What surprised me is that the trend for many departments tracks closely to the profession as a whole. Northwestern, for example, is almost an exact match. Can we say, contrary to my initial hypothesis, that intellectual and job-market trends have a bigger influence on the length of dissertations than departments and universities?
There are some universities, though, that diverge sharply from the general trend. Brandeis (my own department) was founded relatively recently, and the length of dissertations grew steadily from the 1960s to the 1980s as the department established its reputation, then dissertation lengths returned to the general trend. UC Berkeley dissertations were slightly longer than the general trend, but after 2008 or 2009 the length of dissertations shortens considerably. Does this reflect a change in policy in the department or university, or the challenges that California faced in the financial crisis? The University of Nebraska—Lincoln has shorter dissertations; might this be because the history department accepts more digital work?
Some of the institutions that have considerably shorter dissertations are theological schools, such as the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, or education schools, such as Peabody College for Teachers of Vanderbilt University. These dissertations are either church histories or education histories which are written to different norms than dissertations in history departments.
Finally, you might be able to detect some variation based on the prestige of the university. It seems like you could say that less prestigious institutions have shorter dissertations than the general trend, and that there is less opportunity for very long dissertations at those institutions. And you might also observe that more prestigious institutions tend to have dissertations that are longer than the general trend. But it’s easy to find exceptions, and I wouldn’t press the point.
The institutions are listed in descending order of the number of dissertations in the data set, but you can search (
Ctrl + F) for an institution by name.
The University of Wisconsin – Madison.
University of California, Berkeley.
University of California, Los Angeles.
New York University.
University of Michigan.
University of Pennsylvania.
The University of Chicago.
University of Minnesota.
The University of Texas at Austin.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
University of Virginia.
The Ohio State University.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The Johns Hopkins University.
City University of New York.
University of Washington.
Rutgers The State University of New Jersey – New Brunswick.
University of Maryland, College Park.
The University of Iowa.
University of California, Santa Barbara.
University of Pittsburgh.
The Florida State University.
Michigan State University.
University of Kansas.
University of Notre Dame.
University of Southern California.
State University of New York at Buffalo.
The Pennsylvania State University.
University of Missouri – Columbia.
The University of Arizona.
State University of New York at Binghamton.
Saint Louis University.
University of California, San Diego.
The Catholic University of America.
University of Colorado at Boulder.
University of Florida.
The Claremont Graduate University.
The University of New Mexico.
The George Washington University.
The University of Oklahoma.
University of Massachusetts Amherst.
University of California, Irvine.
University of Kentucky.
University of South Carolina.
University of Rochester.
State University of New York at Stony Brook.
University of Connecticut.
University of Hawai’i at Manoa.
University of Delaware.
University of Oregon.
Arizona State University.
Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College.
University of California, Davis.
Loyola University Chicago.
The University of Nebraska – Lincoln.
Washington University in St. Louis.
University of Georgia.
University of California, Riverside.
Case Western Reserve University.
Texas A&M University.
The University of Utah.
Kent State University.
Washington State University.
University of Illinois at Chicago.
University of Cincinnati.
University of North Texas.
Texas Christian University.
The University of Tennessee.
The University of Alabama.
Boston University Graduate School.
The College of William and Mary.
Graduate Theological Union.
Bryn Mawr College.
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
University of California, Santa Cruz.
University of Denver.
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Bowling Green State University.
West Virginia University.
University of Houston.
State University of New York at Albany.
Texas Tech University.
The Union Institute.
Northern Illinois University.
Georgia State University.
The University of Mississippi.
Wayne State University.
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Oklahoma State University.
New School for Social Research.
Princeton Theological Seminary.
University of Miami.
The University of Maine.
University of Arkansas.
George Mason University.
Carnegie Mellon University.
University of New Hampshire.
Mississippi State University.
Kansas State University.
Iowa State University.
The University of Southern Mississippi.
The University of Toledo.
The University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee.
Ball State University.
Union Institute and University.
New School University.
The University of Texas at Arlington.
Brigham Young University.
The University of Memphis.
The University of Texas at Dallas.
Northern Arizona University.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
The University of Akron.
Union Theological Seminary.
Southern Methodist University.
Westminster Theological Seminary.
University of Idaho.
Peabody College for Teachers of Vanderbilt University.
University of Missouri – Kansas City.
Western Michigan University.
California Institute of Integral Studies.
The Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
Caveats: Obviously, the data for some universities only becomes available at a certain point. Harvard, for example, did not start granting the PhD around 1980. This points out a limitation in the data set as a whole. Second, there are more universities granting PhDs about a topic in history than there are PhD granting history departments. So again, we’re looking at dissertations about history rather than dissertations in history departments.
Here is a table of the number of dissertations by university in the data set. The Canadian universities show up in the dataset, but none of them has page counts associated with the dissertations, so they do not show up in the charts above.
Number of Dissertations by University
|The University of Wisconsin – Madison.||2418|
|University of California, Berkeley.||2281|
|University of California, Los Angeles.||2162|
|New York University.||2118|
|University of Michigan.||1934|
|University of Pennsylvania.||1848|
|The University of Chicago.||1793|
|University of Minnesota.||1483|
|The University of Texas at Austin.||1315|
|University of Toronto (Canada).||1284|
|The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.||1263|
|University of Virginia.||1219|
|The Ohio State University.||1208|
|University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.||1076|
|The Johns Hopkins University.||1068|
|City University of New York.||966|
|University of Washington.||933|
|Rutgers The State University of New Jersey – New Brunswick.||882|
|University of Maryland, College Park.||854|
|The University of Iowa.||785|
|University of California, Santa Barbara.||779|
|University of Pittsburgh.||733|
|The Florida State University.||703|
|Michigan State University.||669|
|University of Kansas.||668|
|University of Notre Dame.||554|
|University of Southern California.||510|
|State University of New York at Buffalo.||492|
|The Pennsylvania State University.||481|
|University of Missouri – Columbia.||477|
|The University of Arizona.||459|
|State University of New York at Binghamton.||457|
|Saint Louis University.||453|
|University of California, San Diego.||439|
|The Catholic University of America.||434|
|University of Colorado at Boulder.||424|
|University of Florida.||421|
|The Claremont Graduate University.||417|
|McGill University (Canada).||414|
|The University of New Mexico.||409|
|The George Washington University.||393|
|The University of Oklahoma.||387|
|University of Massachusetts Amherst.||384|
|University of California, Irvine.||380|
|York University (Canada).||378|
|University of Kentucky.||377|
|University of South Carolina.||377|
|University of Rochester.||375|
|State University of New York at Stony Brook.||375|
|University of Connecticut.||363|
|University of Hawai’i at Manoa.||352|
|University of Delaware.||349|
|University of Oregon.||340|
|Arizona State University.||334|
|Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College.||333|
|University of California, Davis.||328|
|Loyola University Chicago.||326|
|The University of Nebraska – Lincoln.||323|
|Washington University in St. Louis.||319|
|University of Georgia.||309|
|University of California, Riverside.||300|
|Case Western Reserve University.||294|
|Texas A&M University.||290|
|Queen’s University (Canada).||287|
|The University of Utah.||279|
|Kent State University.||253|
|Washington State University.||248|
|University of Illinois at Chicago.||246|
|University of Cincinnati.||238|
|University of North Texas.||232|
|The University of British Columbia (Canada).||230|
|Texas Christian University.||223|
|The University of Tennessee.||216|
|Universite Laval (Canada).||207|
|The University of Alabama.||204|
|Boston University Graduate School.||198|
|The College of William and Mary.||195|
|Graduate Theological Union.||195|
|Bryn Mawr College.||195|
|Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.||194|
|University of California, Santa Cruz.||193|
|University of Denver.||190|
|The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.||190|
|Bowling Green State University.||186|
|West Virginia University.||183|
|Universite de Montreal (Canada).||182|
|University of Houston.||182|
|State University of New York at Albany.||175|
|Texas Tech University.||170|
|The Union Institute.||170|
|University of Ottawa (Canada).||167|
|Northern Illinois University.||166|
|University of Alberta (Canada).||165|
|Georgia State University.||160|
|The University of Mississippi.||158|
|Wayne State University.||156|
|Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.||150|
|The University of Western Ontario (Canada).||140|
|McMaster University (Canada).||137|
|The Chinese University of Hong Kong (Hong Kong).||137|
|Oklahoma State University.||136|
|Carleton University (Canada).||135|
|New School for Social Research.||134|
|Princeton Theological Seminary.||134|
|University of Miami.||134|
|The University of Maine.||133|
|University of Arkansas.||131|
|George Mason University.||129|
|Carnegie Mellon University.||127|
|University of New Hampshire.||126|
|Mississippi State University.||126|
|St. John’s University (New York).||123|
|Kansas State University.||118|
|Iowa State University.||116|
|University of Calgary (Canada).||105|
|University of Manitoba (Canada).||101|
|The University of Southern Mississippi.||101|
|The University of Toledo.||100|
|The University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee.||99|
|Ball State University.||95|
|Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Tufts University).||94|
|Union Institute and University.||92|
|Concordia University (Canada).||89|
|Simon Fraser University (Canada).||89|
|New School University.||87|
|The University of Texas at Arlington.||86|
|Brigham Young University.||84|
|The University of Memphis.||76|
|Dalhousie University (Canada).||74|
|The University of Texas at Dallas.||72|
|Northern Arizona University.||72|
|Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.||65|
|The University of Akron.||65|
|Union Theological Seminary.||63|
|University of Victoria (Canada).||62|
|Southern Methodist University.||60|
|Westminster Theological Seminary.||59|
|University of Idaho.||58|
|Peabody College for Teachers of Vanderbilt University.||57|
|University of Waterloo (Canada).||56|
|University of Missouri – Kansas City.||55|
|Western Michigan University.||55|
|California Institute of Integral Studies.||52|
|The Jewish Theological Seminary of America.||50|