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Creative Writing Curriculum

Creative writing students are required to take creative writing workshops, courses in pedagogy and creative writing theory as well as courses in literature. Upon completion of coursework, students take comprehensive exams, and complete a creative dissertation with a critical introduction.


The Ph.D. requires a total of 72 hours, split between coursework (48) and dissertation research (24). Course requirements for Ph.D. candidates vary with each individual’s chosen concentration (s) in creative writing, and chosen minor areas in English and American literature, folklore, linguistics, rhetoric and composition. For the most part, these requirements aim to provide a generalist education, the flexibility needed for each candidate’s concentration and research interests.

Download the CW Doctoral Plan of Study.

Depending on their previous coursework, doctoral students holding teaching assistantships are encouraged to complete their coursework in the first two and a half years, their comprehensive exams during the third or fourth year, thereby allowing them to begin dissertation work during the fourth or fifth year. The department makes every effort to offer extensions on assistantships to candidates who demonstrate continued progress toward the degree. Because of their lightened teaching load, Fellows tend to complete their degrees at a slightly accelerated rate.

Before taking comprehensive exams, Ph.D. candidates must fulfill these course requirements and demonstrate reading proficiency in two foreign languages, or fluency in one.


Ph.D. candidates may take their comprehensive exams beginning in the semester after they complete their coursework and foreign language requirements. Following exam specifications required of their concentration, students select four areas for examination, one primary area and three secondary areas (find more information here). An oral component follows the written examinations in which the candidate responds to questions from his/her exam committee.

Creative Writing students complete a book length creative dissertation which includes a critical introduction, a scholarly work which engages issues, ideas, and/or craft elements found within the rest of the dissertation. While students are welcome to stick to a single genre for the creative portion of the dissertation, they may also complete a multi-genre work.   

Applicants in creative writing should submit to the graduate coordinator, in addition to a critical work, a sample of their creative writing to" Find more information on applying to the program here.