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Ph.D. Handbook

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The doctoral degree is awarded for excellence in research scholarship. It signifies the attainment of independently acquired and comprehensive learning attesting to general professional competence. The doctoral degree requires at least 90 post-baccalaureate hours, including both formal coursework and hours of research. 

All Ph.D. students are expected to choose two research areas, one primary and one secondary, in which to focus their coursework and writing. Students will design these areas of study in close consultation with the chair of their committee. These areas of study may be selected from well-established fields of national literature and/or historical periods (e.g., British, American, Native American, post-colonial Anglophone, medieval, early modern, Eighteenth, Nineteenth or Twentieth century), Rhetoric and Writing Studies, theoretical approaches (feminism/gender studies, critical race/ethnicity studies, Marxism, poststructuralism), media studies (film, graphic novel), more recent areas of scholarly interest (transnational literatures, new kinds of interdisciplinary studies, digital humanities). The committee must consist of a committee chair, an outside member, and at least two other members of the English graduate faculty.

The faculty are committed to preparing graduate students through preparation in coursework, mentoring, and professional development. Students have published their work in prominent journals and presented at national and local conferences. Teaching assistantships are competitive with peer institutions, and financial assistance for dissertation completion and conference travel is available through the department, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Graduate College. The department has been successful in helping students find tenure-track positions and other employment in the field. 

 Admissions Requirements:

  • Prospective graduate students must submit an application for admission and official transcripts to the Office of Admissions.
  • A $50 non-refundable application processing fee is required of all applicants for admission to the University of Oklahoma.
  • The English Department deadline for applying to the Graduate Program for the Fall term is January 5th. New students are not accepted into the graduate programs during the Spring or Summer terms.
  • To be considered for admission into the Ph.D. program, we require the following: a Grade Point Average of 3.5 or better on a 4.00 scale in graduate work already completed; and an M.A. in English or in a closely related field. A student with a slightly lower G.P.A. may be considered if the application is otherwise very strong. Candidates are admitted on a competitive basis.
  • A Financial Aid Services packet, and information about eligibility for financial aid, can be obtained from the Office of Financial Aid at (405) 325-4521.

Application Requirements (to be submitted with online application):

  • Three (3) Letters of Reference: On your online application, you will be asked to provide emails for three references who will be contacted by the University with a request for a letter of recommendation. Your recommenders should comment specifically upon
    (1) your qualifications as a graduate student (literary judgment, writing ability, originality, diligence) and, if you are applying for Graduate Teaching Assistantship (GTA),
    (2) your qualifications as a prospective teacher (ability to organize, enthusiasm, responsibility, objectivity).
    If possible, referees should use the online reference system, but if they prefer, they may send hardcopy letters directly to the Office of Graduate Admissions (731 Elm Avenue, Room 318 Norman, OK 73019).
  • Official Transcripts: These should be sent directly to the Office of Graduate Admissions (731 Elm Avenue, Room 318 Norman, OK 73019). Unofficial transcripts may also be uploaded to your online application.
  • Statement of Goals in Graduate education: This should include your reasons for the choice of Field of Specialization and be 250-500 words. Upload this statement to your online application.
  • Critical Writing Sample: It should be no more than 25 pages, appropriate to program and area. Uploaded to your online application.

Teaching Assistantships:

  • Teaching Assistantships with stipends of $16,404 are available on a competitive basis for up to five years at the Ph.D. level. Prospective students interested in teaching assistantship support should indicate that on the application. 
  • Two weeks before the beginning of the first semester, all students who receive teaching appointments will also participate in a workshop to help them prepare for their courses, covering topics such as reading assignments, writing assignments, paper grading, and classroom strategy. 
  • Students awarded graduate teaching assistantship (GTA) positions will typically teach one to two composition courses each semester under the supervision of the First Year Composition Office (FYC). 
  • After a student has completed coursework and passed the Ph.D. General Exams, dissertation research can be supported with a $1000 increase in the assistantship stipend for one year.

Dissertation Fellowships:

  • Ph.D. students working on their dissertations are eligible to apply for a one-year dissertation fellowship, which will provide them financial support without any teaching duties. 
  • Students applying will need to demonstrate that substantial work on the dissertation is already completed, and that they have a clear plan for a writing schedule for the rest of the chapters. 
  • Students awarded fellowships will be expected not to take on any additional work responsibilities so that they can concentrate on research and writing.
  • For more information, see the Awards and Funding page.


  • Initial advisement should occur just prior to the beginning of the fall and spring semesters. In your admission letter you are informed of the name of the assigned faculty member from the Graduate Committee who will be your adviser for the first semester or year. As soon as possible, students should seek an advisor from among the faculty in their area of study. Until the student has found a permanent adviser, he or she should seek advisement from the assigned adviser and the Director of Graduate Studies.
  • During the first several weeks of the first semester in the program, new graduate students will meet collectively with the faculty and advanced students for an Orientation session and Q&A.
  • After the student has chosen a faculty member to serve as adviser, the adviser will thereafter help the student construct a coherent plan of study according to the regulations of the Graduate College and the structure of the Ph.D. program.
  • A plan of study will be prepared by the student and the Adviser, and approved by the Director of Graduate Studies, before enrollment for the second semester.

LCS Ph.D. Program Requirements

  • ENGL 5113 Teaching College Composition Proseminar (3 Credits)
  • ENGL 5313 Literary Criticism Proseminar (3 Credits)
  • 7 Seminars (21 Credits)
  • ENGL 6880 PhD Exam Hours (3 Credits)
  • ENGL 6980 PhD Dissertation Hours (30 Credits)

Total Credits = 60 Hours + 30 Hours at the MA level = 90 Hours

*If a student has gone through our MA program and remained in our program to pursue a PhD, that student would not be required to retake either the ENGL 5113 Teaching Proseminar (3 Credits) or the ENGL 5313 Literary Criticism Proseminar (3 Credits). Instead, that student can take an additional 2 seminars as Proseminars in the first year by completing a Proseminar contract with the instructor. Contact the Graduate Director, Dr. Amit Baishya ( for that form.

RWS Ph.D. Program Requirements

  • ENGL 5113 Teaching College Composition Proseminar (3 Credits)
  • ENGL 5403 Introduction to Rhetoric and Writing Studies Proseminar (3 Credits)
  • ENGL 6103 Research Methods in Rhetoric and Writing Proseminar (3 Credits)
  • 6 Additional Seminars (18 Credits)
  • ENGL 6880 PhD Exam Hours (3 Credits)
  • ENGL 6980 PhD Dissertation Hours (30 Credits)

Total Credits = 60 Hours + 30 Hours at the MA level = 90 Hours

*If a student has gone through our MA program in RWS and remained in our program to pursue a PhD in that area, that student would not be expected to retake the required courses again. Instead, the student can take any other seminars to replace the required courses. In the first year at the PhD level, the student may take two of those seminars as Proseminars. The student would complete a Proseminar contract with the instructor. Contact the Graduate Director, Dr. Amit Baishya ( for that form.

Ph.D. Exam Committee:

The exam committee should be composed of at least 3 faculty members of the English Department and one external member. These members should be submitted to the Graduate College via the Advisory Conference Report form. In addition to the Advisory Conference Report form, students must complete a General Examination Application form the semester before they intend to take their exams.

2 Reading Lists:

  • Primary list:  50 entries
  • Secondary list:  30 entries

Students will compose 2 reading lists to prepare for their General Examination. The first list is connected to their primary area of interest and the second is for their secondary field. Lists should be determined in consultation with the PhD Exam Committee, particularly with the guidance of the Committee Chair.


The student provides questions for the exam in consultation with the Committee. The student will provide three questions for the primary list and two for the secondary list. The Committee chooses two questions, one for each area, from the list provided by the student.

Written Requirement:

  • 2 take home essays
  • First Essay will be on the Primary list and should be 15-20 pages
  • Second Essay will be on the Secondary list and should be 10-15 pages

Oral Requirement (Oral Defense of the PhD Written Exams):

The student writes and defends the exam essays in the fourth semester at the PhD level. Sometimes students will wait until the beginning of the fifth semester to take the exam. Students should not take their exams any later than early fall of the fifth semester to remain on track.

After successfully passing their PhD exams, students will sign up for dissertation credits and tuition waivers (usually five credits/semester- sometimes they will need to take more or fewer credits depending on how long they are in the program to make a full 30 Credits. Details can be discussed with Brenda Mackey, Graduate Coordinator).

Typically students will complete and defend their dissertation two or three years after passing their exams.

Written Requirement

Students will write a dissertation in consultation with their Dissertation Committee, particularly their Dissertation Chair.

Oral Requirement (Oral Defense of the Dissertation)

It is important that students successfully defend their dissertation before running out of tuition waivers. Contact Brenda Mackey ( for details.

The forms needed to complete this dissertation can be found at the Graduate College website.

Language Requirements:

One language at reading proficiency level.


  1. Two undergraduate courses in the language (must have received at least a B in each class)
  2. A translation exam offered by the Department of Modern Languages or other appropriate department.
  3. A graduate level reading class offered in Modern Languages (this class is offered each summer and only Spanish or French are offered).
  4. Native proficiency

*Before the department informs the Graduate College that a graduate student has met the requirement for language proficiency, the student’s chair must determine whether the student has met the necessary proficiency level for the student’s particular area and research project. Some fields require greater language proficiency than the first three options above may allow for.

**The graduate level reading course does not count for the degree credits nor do any other language courses taken during degree time count for credits toward the degree. Students can petition the graduate college for extra waivers to take language classes.

With permission, students may avail themselves of all three options. However, these options will only be approved in exceptional circumstances.

  1. Directed Readings (3 Credits): When a student cannot proceed with their main course of study without taking a directed reading, the student and their chair can petition the graduate committee for permission to replace a seminar with a directed reading. Students may petition to take up to one directed reading at the M.A. level and one directed reading at the Ph.D. level. The student and faculty must also fill out a directed reading contract specifying required assignments, readings, and meetings.
  2. Students may take up to one 4000 level course (3 Credits) when that course is truly necessary for the student’s course of study with the approval of the graduate committee and the student’s chair. This course must result in a 20+ page research paper. Students may petition to take up to one 4000 level course at the M.A. level and one at the Ph.D. level.
  3. Students may take up to one graduate level seminar (3 Credits) in another department when that course is truly necessary for the student’s course of study with the approval of the graduate committee and the student’s chair. Students may petition to take up to one seminar in another department at the M.A. level and one at the Ph.D. level.
  • Each graduate student will be evaluated formally and collectively at the end of each academic year during a meeting of the faculty. The annual evaluation of each current graduate student will be an occasion for a careful (re)assessment of his or her scholastic progress, accomplishments, and prospects of continuation in the program. Students are evaluated upon their timely progress in the program and the quality of their work.
  • If a student's annual evaluation indicates that he or she is not making satisfactory progress in the program, the Graduate Committee will review the case and make an appropriate recommendation, such as further advisement, probation, etc.
  • Early on in the spring semester, students will submit to their Adviser the filled out Progress Report, sent through email by Brenda Mackey, with the required information for that academic year. The Adviser will submit a written evaluation for the student's report based on a review of the student's grades and performance in courses. During the Spring semester, in the Graduate Progress Report meeting of the full graduate faculty, each student’s performance is discussed and the faculty will deem the student’s progress acceptable or unacceptable. If a student receives two consecutive unacceptable progress report evaluations, the student’s continuation in the program becomes tenuous.