PhD Program Requirements

Program of Study

In consultation with the graduate director, the student plans a program of study comprising at least eight courses and begins to determine three areas of special interest (see below under "Field Exams"). As part of their eight-course minimum, students may take up to three creative writing workshops, no more than two appropriate courses in other departments, and no more than three graded courses from the same faculty member.

Students may take no more than two independent studies. One of the eight required courses must be ENG 589, Teaching of College English. Beyond the eight-course minimum, these limitations do not apply.

Students must maintain at least a B+ average to remain in the program; more than one C grade normally requires dismissal. Students not in residence must register each semester to remain in good standing.

PhD Field Exams

Coursework is normally completed at the end of the second year of doctoral study. Students are then expected to complete three distinct field examinations by the end of the third year (though many students will begin taking these examinations earlier.) While areas acceptable as fields of study are not predefined, they must be approved by the graduate director. A field of study may be defined in various ways: e.g. by nationality and chronology, genre, topic or critical theory. Students may coordinate their fields of study so that the time spent preparing for their examinations will provide a foundation for their dissertations, as well as preparation for their professional identities.

In the fourth semester of coursework, each student, in consultation with the graduate director, works with a chosen professor to define each field examination, draw up a reading list, and pursue the topic chosen. All three examinations are normally administered in the third year of study.

Detailed guidelines for PhD students working on field exams are available in the English Department Graduate Office. For Field Exam Guidelines effective for students entering in Fall 2018 and after see here. For the old guidelines, please see here.

Foreign Language

All PhD candidates must demonstrate a reading knowledge of at least one foreign language at a level of competence sufficient for the understanding of scholarly and critical materials. Such competence may be demonstrated in any one of four ways:

  • Evidence of the student having passed a certified translation exam in a graduate program at some other institution.

  • Presenting transcript evidence of at least three years (six semesters) of college-level study of a single foreign language (we will count as two semesters each, fourth and fifth year high school study in the same language) with a grade average of B or better, completed no more than five years before admission to the PhD program at Binghamton University.

  • Successful completion of a graduate course in a foreign language, or of a graduate course in comparative literature in which a significant portion of the work is done in a foreign language.

  • Successful completion of a graduate proficiency workshop and examination (TRIP 707).


In the course of doctoral study, the student establishes a dissertation committee consisting of a director and two readers. The dissertation is a substantial study of some significant topic in the area of the student's professional interest, or a creative writing dissertation for those students who are admitted to the creative writing dissertation option.

The student's dissertation director must formally approve, and submit to the graduate director, a written prospectus of the dissertation, or for those submitting a creative dissertation a sample of work in progress, at least one semester prior to completing the dissertation. The prospectus or the sample of creative work in progress will be shared with all members of the dissertation committee. On completion of all other requirements, the student submits a finished dissertation for approval and defends the dissertation in an oral examination. The submitted dissertation must conform to the Graduate School requirements for a dissertation, as outlined in the Graduate School Handbook.

After successful completion, defense, and submission of the dissertation, the student is awarded the PhD in English.