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:

  1. the topic chosen by the author and the author's approach as a scholar,
  2. the requirements of an adviser or committee,
  3. the requirements at a department or university, and
  4. 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.

Columbia University.

The University of Wisconsin – Madison.

University of California, Berkeley.

Yale University.

University of California, Los Angeles.

New York University.

Harvard University.

University of Michigan.

University of Pennsylvania.

The University of Chicago.

Princeton University.

Indiana University.

University of Minnesota.

Stanford University.

The University of Texas at Austin.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

University of Virginia.

The Ohio State University.

Duke University.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The Johns Hopkins University.

Cornell University.

City University of New York.

Northwestern University.

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.

Emory University.

Michigan State University.

University of Kansas.

Brown University.

Temple University.

University of Notre Dame.

Boston University.

Georgetown University.

University of Southern California.

State University of New York at Buffalo.

The Pennsylvania State University.

University of Missouri – Columbia.

Brandeis University.

The University of Arizona.

State University of New York at Binghamton.

Saint Louis University.

Vanderbilt University.

University of California, San Diego.

Syracuse University.

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.

Tulane University.

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.

Boston College.

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.

American University.

University of Georgia.

University of California, Riverside.

Case Western Reserve University.

Texas A&M University.

Fordham University.

Drew University.

The University of Utah.

Kent State University.

Purdue University.

Washington State University.

University of Illinois at Chicago.

Rice University.

University of Cincinnati.

Marquette University.

University of North Texas.

Howard University.

Ohio University.

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.

Auburn University.

Northern Illinois University.

Georgia State University.

The University of Mississippi.

Wayne State University.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Miami University.

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.

Baylor University.

Kansas State University.

Iowa State University.

Clark 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.

Tufts University.

The University of Texas at Arlington.

Lehigh University.

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.

Duquesne University.

Peabody College for Teachers of Vanderbilt University.

University of Missouri – Kansas City.

Western Michigan University.

California Institute of Integral Studies.

Regent University.

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

Columbia University.3271
The University of Wisconsin -- Madison.2418
University of California, Berkeley.2281
Yale University.2211
University of California, Los Angeles.2162
New York University.2118
Harvard University.2060
University of Michigan.1934
University of Pennsylvania.1848
The University of Chicago.1793
Princeton University.1678
Indiana University.1541
University of Minnesota.1483
Stanford University.1369
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
Duke University.1079
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.1076
The Johns Hopkins University.1068
Cornell University.993
City University of New York.966
Northwestern University.954
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
Emory University.700
Michigan State University.669
University of Kansas.668
Brown University.651
Temple University.614
University of Notre Dame.554
Boston University.544
Georgetown University.532
University of Southern California.510
State University of New York at Buffalo.492
The Pennsylvania State University.481
University of Missouri -- Columbia.477
Brandeis University.474
The University of Arizona.459
State University of New York at Binghamton.457
Saint Louis University.453
Vanderbilt University.444
University of California, San Diego.439
Syracuse University.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
Tulane University.382
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
Boston College.347
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
American University.316
University of Georgia.309
University of California, Riverside.300
Case Western Reserve University.294
Texas A&M University.290
Queen's University (Canada).287
Fordham University.285
Drew University.284
The University of Utah.279
Kent State University.253
Purdue University.248
Washington State University.248
University of Illinois at Chicago.246
Rice University.245
University of Cincinnati.238
Marquette University.234
University of North Texas.232
The University of British Columbia (Canada).230
Howard University.225
Ohio University.225
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
Auburn University.168
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
Miami University.149
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
Baylor University.123
Kansas State University.118
Iowa State University.116
University of Calgary (Canada).105
Clark University.103
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
Tufts University.87
The University of Texas at Arlington.86
Lehigh University.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
Duquesne University.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
Regent University.51
The Jewish Theological Seminary of America.50