Ph. D. Program

ELA Ph.D. Program

Our doctoral program features theoretically rigorous, self-reflective, and contextual work in the broad fields of English Language Arts. This work is frequently transdisciplinary in nature and international in scope. Doctoral programs are individually organized around students' interests, making use of our connections with programs throughout the College and University, although all students are expected to take a few core courses. Research and courses span a range of theoretical and methodological approaches and are often guided by commitments to critical inquiry and educationally and socially transformative practices.

Course of Study

Ph.D. policies and procedures are intended to ensure high academic performance while permitting flexibility in what is required of each student to achieve that standard. Advisers and doctoral committee members are expected to use their professional judgment in setting specific requirements for each doctoral student based upon their understanding of the students' individual needs and goals. Consequently, seldom do any two students complete their programs in the same way—even those with the same emphasis area.

The Graduate School has no set minimum number of course credits for completion of the Ph.D. degree. The Curriculum and Instruction (CI) faculty have agreed in principle that a plan of study will include a distribution of courses and experiences among four categories: CI doctoral core (CI 590), depth of knowledge (emphasis area), breadth of study (supporting fields), and research knowledge and capabilities. The candidate, adviser and committee members negotiate the specifics of this plan with each student. Each student will work with an adviser and must complete the Ph.D. within an eight-year period.  

Successful completion of a Ph.D. with an emphasis in English Language Arts Education includes completion of several landmark tasks. What it means to complete each of these successfully is negotiated with the adviser and approved by the committee. These landmark tasks include:

  • course work prior to candidacy
  • completion of additional course work following admission to candidacy, as determined by the candidacy committee
  • defense of completed comprehensive examinations
  • committee acceptance of a dissertation proposal
  • defense of a completed dissertation

Prior to Candidacy

Students have no official status as a doctoral student and no assurance of acceptance as a doctoral candidate until the candidacy examination has been passed. In addition to regular, full- or part-time course work, prior-to-candidacy students will take two courses: 

LL ED 590 Colloquium(Fall semester, 3 credits)

This course will support students in beginning what will eventually become the candidacy examination paper. Central assignments will include:

    Genre study of scholarship in your field:
    1. In consultation with your adviser, gather examples of seminal or current high-quality work in you field.
    2. In class, conduct a genre study of those examples and identify features of scholarly work in your field.
  1. Discovery draft for candidacy paper: draft a paper synthesizing and advancing an argument based on those texts, texts from your other courses, and outside readings.

LL ED 590 (Spring semester, 1 credit)

Part of the 590 course will involve support for expanding the discovery draft into a full candidacy paper, through workshops.

Candidacy Process

Students initiate the candidacy process. Students’ responsibilities in the candidacy process are as follows:

  1. Form the candidacy committee. This committee consists of the adviser along with two other ELA faculty members mutually agreed upon by the student and the adviser. The student must contact the two additional faculty members to secure their consent. This committee is for candidacy purposes only; students may change committee members for later milestones such as comprehensive exams and the dissertation. At this point, the adviser and/or committee members may provide a short list of additional recommended readings in preparation for the candidacy meeting.
  2. No later than finals week of the end of the first year of full-time study or its equivalent for part-time students, students will schedule and hold a candidacy meeting in consultation with the candidacy committee. Under exceptional circumstances and with the recommendation of the adviser, candidacy can be scheduled as late as the end of the third semester of full-time study or its equivalent for part-time students.
  3. Submit the candidacy paper (see below for details) to committee members no later than two weeks before the candidacy meeting is to occur.
  4. Participate in a candidacy meeting, in which the committee members and student will discuss the candidacy paper. At this meeting, the committee will determine the student's eligibility to advance to doctoral candidate and continue in the doctoral program. The committee will also determine additional course work or other conditions that students will have to complete prior to moving to comprehensive exams.

Students who are not advanced to doctoral status or who do not meet the candidacy deadline will not be allowed to continue in the doctoral program and funding will not be renewed. In such cases, students may work out a plan of additional study to complete a master’s degree.

Details of the candidacy paper: In a successful candidacy paper, the student will articulate a research agenda in its initial state, understanding that the research will continue to develop and change over the course of his/her program.  With reference to course work, reading and research already completed, and personal/professional experiences, the student will position her/himself as a researcher working within a field and its traditions. The student will demonstrate analytical writing skills appropriate to doctoral level work; such writing skills include the ability to synthesize materials from a variety of sources, to make reasoned arguments, and to observe the conventions of academic writing in the student’s field.  Finally, the student will include a clear plan for how s/he will proceed through the rest of the doctoral program. 

To summarize, the candidacy examination paper addresses these questions:

  • What are your research interests?
  • Why is this work important to you?
  • How do you situate your work within the literature, theory, and history that define the field?
  • What additional work (e.g., course work, readings, research, professional experiences) are required for you to successfully complete your doctoral work?

Comprehensive Exams

After completion of course work and at the discretion of the adviser, students move on to the comprehensive examination. Students must successfully pass a comprehensive examination for advancement to dissertation. The comprehensive exam procedure is as follows:

  1. Students will form a doctoral committee. This committee will consist of four or more active members of the graduate faculty, which includes the adviser, at least two faculty members in major field, and at least one member from outside the department.
  2. Students will prepare three papers, as negotiated in advance with the members of the doctoral  committee. Students will negotiate well in advance with committee members to determine which member will supervise each paper.

The three papers include:

  • A publishable (or near-publishable) article reflecting research conducted independently by the student. This paper may begin as a pilot study for the dissertation or an extension of inquiry begun in a course paper, but this is not required.
  • A piece of writing that demonstrates expertise in a chosen area of specialty.
  • A third product in a form to be mutually agreed upon by the student and the committee. Examples include but are not limited to literature reviews, a course syllabus in an area of specialty, or media compositions appropriate to the student’s specialty.
  1. Students will submit the exam papers to members of the doctoral committee at least two weeks prior to the defense meeting.
  2. Students will schedule a defense meeting of the committee.
  3. Students participate in the Comprehensive Exam defense in which the committee members and student will discuss the exam. At this meeting, the committee will determine the student's eligibility to advance to the dissertation phase of the doctoral program.

Dissertation Proposal

  1. Students will write a dissertation proposal in consultation with the adviser.
  2. Students will submit the proposal to members of the doctoral committee at least two weeks in advance of the proposal hearing.
  3. Students will schedule a proposal hearing with the committee. At this meeting, students will discuss the presentation with the doctoral committee and receive recommendations for the dissertation. Students may be asked to make revisions to the proposal or may be allowed to continue to dissertation.

Dissertation and Dissertation Defense

  1. Students will provide the completed dissertation to all members of the doctoral committee at least two weeks in advance of the dissertation defense. Students should consult the Graduate College to determine required dates of deposit for graduation deadlines.
  2. Students will schedule a dissertation defense with the committee. At this meeting, students will defend the dissertation. The doctoral committee will determine whether the dissertation is passed, passed with required revisions, or failed. Note for scheduling:  Faculty are often not available to participate in candidacy or doctoral committee work in the summer months.

For more information about program requirements, please consult the Curriculum and Instruction Ph.D. manual.