Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Composition

The Ph.D. in English with a rhetoric and composition emphasis will help students planning to pursue careers in scholarship, teaching and program administration at the college or university level. The emphasis offers a core of work in rhetoric and writing theory, coupled with focused study in other fields of English language and literature, with possibilities for interdisciplinary study as well.

Students in the program are active in professional activities of various kinds, including publishing, participating in conferences and serving as interns in community agencies, educational institutions or businesses.

Course requirements

  • Required course: ENG 730, Intro to Graduate Study in Rhetoric and Composition, or a comparable course at the Master's level is required and should be taken at the first opportunity. It is customarily offered each fall semester.
  • Core courses: ENG 731, Research in Composition and Rhetoric; either ENG 733, Classical through Medieval Rhetoric, or 739, Renaissance through Contemporary Rhetoric.
  • Elective courses in composition and rhetoric: In consultation with the advisory committee, each student plans a program of study in composition and rhetoric courses. These courses are to be selected from 600 and 700-level offerings in the English Department. If approved by the student's advisory committee, related course work may be taken in the College of Education, the School of Journalism and such departments in the College of Liberal Arts as anthropology, psychology and communication.
  • Secondary area: The student also develops expertise in another area, typically in a field of literature or language, but with interdisciplinary study possible as well.
  • Internship: The student will complete a practicum or internship approved by the committee, including applied work in the field, documentation of that experience and writing a paper and participating in a public forum discussing the implications of the internship. The internship may be taken for credit as ENG 736.

Written comprehensive examination

Working closely with the advisory committee, the student will prepare a reading list of 80-120 sources selected from canonical rhetoric and composition texts, as well as a secondary (and perhaps tertiary) area of expertise related to the student’s interests in the field. When the student is ready to be tested on these lists, generally the spring semester of the third year in the Ph.D. program, they register for ENG 795, Comprehensive Examination. The written comprehensive examination includes three timed exams:

  • Timed written responses: Students select three questions from three lists approved by the committee: The first set pertains primarily to the student’s first/canonical list. The second and third set of questions will mainly examine the secondary and tertiary lists. Students have one 24-hour day, per question, to prepare a response. Each response is 15-25 pages in length.

Oral comprehensive examination

After the written examinations have been evaluated as passing, an oral examination will be conducted. The student will begin by presenting a narrative of their scholarly development (about 20 minutes). Afterward, the advisory committee will conduct an oral review of the student's narrative and work in the written comprehensive examination, not to last more than one-and-a-half hours, as described under the Ph.D. general requirements.

Dissertation defense

After the dissertation has been accepted by the candidate's advisory committee, the committee will conduct an oral examination dealing with the dissertation and related topics. The defense will be about one and one-half to two hours in length.

Please review the Ph.D. rhetoric and composition checklist of degree requirements.