College of Education > Department of Curriculum and Instruction > Literacies and English Language Arts

Literacies and English Language Arts

Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction with Emphasis in Literacies and English Language Arts

The PhD in CI with LELA emphasis aims to prepare candidates for teaching and research careers in higher education. The program features theoretically rigorous, self-reflective, and contextual work in the broad fields of Literacies and English/Language Arts. Doctoral programs are individually organized around students' interests, although students are expected to take a few core courses. Graduate school regulations stipulate that all requirements must be met within 8 years.

There are three major strands to the program:

Children’s and Adolescent Literature Studies

Faculty and students in the Children’s and Adolescent Literature Studies concentration are involved in work that is international and transdisciplinary in scope.  Our research addresses one vital question:  What is possible with children’s/adolescent literature in and out of the classroom?  Our faculty engage in research that employs various research methodology including theoretical, qualitative and pedagogic.  Our students have produced major publications and obtained tenure-line positions at several institutions. 

English Education

The work of faculty and students in English Education centers on teachers of English Language Arts and their work in classrooms. We research and practice to support ELA teachers’ initial preparation and continuing growth in both formal and informal settings and at all levels of instruction. 

Early and Elementary Literacies

Faculty and students concentrating within the Pre-K-12 Literacies strand explore individual interests related to an understanding of literacy as the many modes of communication used for gathering and sharing messages and knowledges including reading, writing, speaking, listening, creating, and doing in various social situations and cultural contexts in and out of schools.  In general, research work within this strand interrogates the ways power and privilege are involved in legitimatizing and marginalizing various applications of literacy, the roles culture plays in literacy practices, and how people function effectively in communities of literacy practices.

Requirements for the Degree

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 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 Literacies and English Language Arts includes completion of several landmark tasks:

  • course work prior to candidacy including (CI 590 and LL ED 590, and LL ED 594 as necessary)
  • completion of additional course work following successful completion fo the qualifying exams, must address each of the following areas: Depth of knowledge, Breath of knowledge, and Research Knowledge and Capabilities
  • defense of completed comprehensive examinations
  • committee acceptance of a dissertation proposal
  • defense of a completed dissertation


Qualifying Examination Process

Students’ responsibilities in the candidacy process are as follows:

  1. Form a committee. This committee consists of the adviser along with two other LELA faculty members mutually agreed upon by the student and the adviser. This committee is for the qualifying examination purposes only; students may change committee members for later milestones such as comprehensive exams and the dissertation.
  2. No later than finals week at the end of the third semester of full-time study, or its equivalent for part-time students, students will schedule and hold a qualifying exam meeting with the committee. 
  3. Submit a qualifying exam paper (see below for details) to committee members no later than two weeks before the qualifying exam meeting.
  4. Participate in a qualifying examination meeting.  At this meeting, the committee will determine the student's eligibility to continue in the doctoral program. The committee will also determine additional course work.


Details of the qualifying exam 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.  S/he will include a clear plan for how s/he will proceed through the rest of the doctoral program.  The qualifying 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 Literacies and English Language Arts field?
  • What courses have you taken so far that prepare you for doctoral research?
  • What additional work (e.g., course work, readings, research, professional experiences) are required for you to successfully complete your doctoral work?


  • The qualifying examination should be taken within three semesters of students admit term.
  • The eight-year time limit to degree officially starts after successful passing of the qualifying examination. 
  • A doctoral student becomes a doctoral candidate upon successful completion of the comprehensive examination.

Comprehensive Exams

Purpose:  To encourage students to deepen their understanding of their emphasis area.

The comprehensive exam procedure is as follows:

  1. 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 the major field, and at least one member from outside the department.
  2. Prepare three papers, as negotiated in advance with the members of the committee.
  • A publishable (or near-publishable) manuscript reflecting research conducted independently by the student. This paper may begin as a pilot study for the dissertation or an extension of an inquiry begun in a course paper.
  • A piece of writing that demonstrates expertise in a chosen area within the emphasis or related area.
  • 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.


Preparation for the Defense:

  1. Students will submit the exam papers to members of the doctoral committee at least two weeks prior to the defense.
  2. Students will schedule a defense meeting.
  3. Students participate in the Comprehensive Exam defense. At this meeting, the committee determines the student's eligibility to advance to the dissertation phase of the doctoral program.


Dissertation Proposal

  1. Student writes a dissertation proposal in consultation with the adviser.
  2. Student submits the proposal to members of the doctoral committee at least two weeks in advance of the proposal hearing and schedules a proposal hearing.
  3. At this meeting, student discusses the presentation with the doctoral committee and receive recommendations for the dissertation. Student may be asked to revise the proposal.

Dissertation and Dissertation Defense

  1. Student provides 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, as well as the official dissertation formatting guidelines.
  2. Student schedules 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.
  3. Student submits a copy of the approved revised draft of the dissertation to each member of the dissertation committee.

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.