You are here

Rhetoric & Composition Doctorate

Students in rhetoric & composition required to take seminars in rhetoric and courses in literature; they may also take a range of courses in pedagogy, theory, and linguistics, and creative writing. Upon completion of coursework, students take comprehensive exams and write a dissertation based on their research in rhetoric & composition studies.

The Ph.D. requires a total of 72 hours, split between coursework (48) and dissertation research (24). Courses for rhetoric & composition Ph.D. candidates include required rhetoric & composition seminars, and elective minor areas in English and American literature, creative writing, linguistics, and folklore. 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 Rhetoric & Composition Doctoral Plan of Study.

Depending on their previous coursework, doctoral students holding teaching assistantships are encouraged to complete their coursework in the first two years, their comprehensive exams during the third year, thereby allowing them to begin dissertation work during the fourth 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.
Rhetoric & Composition students complete a book-length scholarly dissertation which engages issues, ideas, and/or practice of rhetoric & composition studies.
Applicants in rhetoric & composition should submit a critical writing sample to the graduate coordinator at Find more information on applying to the program here.