PhD Program Requirements

Overview of Program of Study


  • Minimum of eight courses
    o   ENG 589 Teaching College Writing for funded students
  • Foreign language competency
  • Field Exams
  • Dissertation proposal (approx. 5 pgs.) for literature students
  • Dissertation prospectus (approx. 20 pgs.) for literature students
  • Dissertation and defense

Detailed requirements, policies, and guidelines for students entering the program in Fall 2018 or later are available under Policies and Procedures

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.

Time-to-Degree Goals

Not every student can proceed according to this timeline, but it provides a guide to mapping out the degree program for those who aim to complete the PhD in four years. Those who need additional time typically take it at the dissertation stage.

Course work complete After 4 semesters, spring of Year 2
Foreign language requirement Fall of Year 3
Field exams completed End of 6 semesters, spring of Year 3
Dissertation defense and deposit End of 8 semesters, spring of Year 4

Course Work

In consultation with the graduate director, the student plans a program of study comprising at least eight courses and begins to determine 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 for funded students must be ENG 589, Teaching of College English. Beyond the eight-course minimum, these limitations do not apply.

PhD Field Exams

Coursework is normally completed at the end of the second year of doctoral study. Students are then expected to complete field examinations -- two written exams and an oral exam for literature students; three written exams for creative writing students -- by the end of the third year. While areas acceptable as fields of study are not predefined, they must be approved by the graduate director. Students should 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. 

Guidelines for students who entered the program before Fall 2018 are available: 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. 


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.