Students take courses that will contribute to an understanding of their major field of specialization. Students also take courses in inside and outside minor fields. An inside minor is in another field in religion. An outside minor typically is in a field intellectually contiguous to religion, such as anthropology, classics, history, literature, philosophy, political science, or sociology.
The Ph.D. program begins with two years of coursework (three years for doctoral students entering directly from undergraduate studies). When they are ready, students will take four preliminary exams, one each in their major, dissertation area, inside minor, and outside minor. The program normally takes five years to complete, though some fields with significant language requirements may take longer.
Foreign language requirements are determined by the faculty in each field. Most fields require reading competency in two modern languages. Many fields also require competency in primary research languages such as Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Aramaic, Syriac, Japanese, Chinese, or Arabic. The languages must be completed before taking the doctoral preliminary examination.
Additionally, training in Responsible Conduct of Research is a formal requirement to obtain the Ph.D. degree in ALL departments and programs at Duke.
The program of doctoral studies presumes a foundation in the academic study of religion. Students applying for graduate work in religion directly from an undergraduate program should have completed a strong undergraduate major in religion or a closely related field.