Ph. D. Program

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

The PhD in CI with an 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. This work is frequently transdisciplinary in nature. 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.

There are three major strands in this 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.


Course of Study

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

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

Prior to Qualifying Exams

Students have no official status until the candidacy qualifying examination has been passed. To prepare for the qualifying exams 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 qualifying examination paper. Central assignments will include:

    Genre study of scholarship in your field (And so students are strongly encouraged to take LL ED 594 early in the academic career):
    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.
    3. Discovery draft for qualifying exam paper: draft a paper synthesizing and advancing an argument based on those texts, texts from your core courses, other courses, and outside readings.

LL ED 590 Colloquium 2 (Spring semester, 1 credit)

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

Qualifying Examination Process

Students initiate the qualifying examination process. 

  1. Form a committee. This committee consists of the adviser and two other LELA 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 qualifying examination 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 meeting.
  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 examination with the committee. Under exceptional circumstances and with the recommendation of the adviser, candidacy can be scheduled as late as the end of the fourth semester of full-time study or its equivalent for part-time students.
  3. Submit the qualifying exam paper (see below for details) to committee members no later than two weeks before the meeting is to occur.
  4. Participate in a qualifying exam 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 qualifying examination paper: In a successful 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.  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 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 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?

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. 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. Prepare three papers, as negotiated in advance with the members of the doctoral  committee. 

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.
  • 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.

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 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. 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.
  3. Student schedules a proposal hearing with the committee. 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 for the official dissertation format. 
  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. 
  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.