English Rhetoric and Composition (PhD)

Admission Requirements

Application Due: January 5 (Fall admission only)

All applicants should submit:

  1. Online Graduate Application (including application fee).
  2. A current CV or resume. For applicants who wish to be considered for a Graduate Teaching Assistantship, the CV should detail your teaching and/or tutoring experience and other relevant background or training. It should also include the contact information for persons who can comment on your teaching performance and/or potential.
  3. A written statement of no more than 1,000 words detailing the applicant's professional goals in the field of rhetoric and composition.
  4. Complete official transcripts of all college-level work. Official transcripts must be sent directly to the Graduate School by the previous institution. International applicants with transcripts that are not in English, in addition to submitting official copies of native language records, must also submit a notarized, verbatim translation in English prepared by an appropriate university or government official. The records must show both the degree granted and all coursework taken during the course of study.  Applicants who are submitting transcripts from outside the United States must verify their records by submitting them to one of the following organizations: World Education Services (WES)(www.wes.org), Educational Credential Evaluators (www.ece.org), Educational Credential Evaluators (ECE), and other NACES approved evaluators found here:  www.naces.org/members.
  5. Three academic letters of recommendation. Letters from employers and personal references are not acceptable. The reference should speak to the prospective student's ability to succeed in their graduate studies. Discursive letters must be attached to the PDF form.
  6. A critical writing sample of at least 15 pages. This writing sample should demonstrate your skills in critical thinking and analytical writing. For example, this can be a substantial analysis paper or research paper written for an (under)graduate course, a chapter from a Bachelor/Honors/Master thesis, or a published journal article. 
  7. A teaching statement (1-2 pages) describing how you would approach teaching in general and teaching writing in particular. If you have experience as a teaching or tutor, describe your teaching philosophy and provide some specific examples of how you turn that philosophy into practice in the classroom or writing center. What are the most important concepts and skills you think student writers need to learn? If you do not have experience as a teacher or tutor, describe what, as a student, you have found effective in your best teachers. What approaches to teaching and what personal qualities did you value in their work? Describe how you would approach teaching based on what you have experienced. What are the most important concepts and skills you think student writers need to learn?  
  8. For international applicants: Official reports of the TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo examination demonstrating English language proficiency. All applicants for whom English is a second language must also submit one of the following: official TOEFL scores (213 or higher on the computer based test, 550 or higher on the paper based test, or 80 or higher on the internet-based test); official reports of the TOEFL, IELTS scores with at least a 6.5 overall band score from the academic module exam; or official Duolingo scores of 105 or higher. Only official Duolingo tests with subscores are accepted. Applicants holding a bachelor's or advanced degree from an accredited U.S. institution may be exempt from the English proficiency requirement. 

Special notes:

  • GRE scores are not required.
  • The entire application must be completed by January 5th to be considered for a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) position.

Degree Requirements

All doctoral students are expected to complete a minimum of 42 graduate credit hours, which must include 12 credit hours of Dissertation Research (English 690); successfully complete the Modern and Contemporary Rhetoric and Composition exam and the Specified Literature Area exam; and complete and defend a dissertation.

More information on requirements can be found in the English Department Graduate Program Guidelines.

Graduate-level English courses beyond those listed may count towards requirements depending on the topics covered. Detailed course descriptions, available on the English Department website, will provide this information and can be discussed during advising with the director of graduate studies. 

General Requirements
ENGL 602Teaching College Composition 13
ENGL 620Research in the Composition3
GS 799Doctoral Exam Prep 20
Pedagogy and Program Administration3
Assessing and Responding to Student Writing
Composition Theory and Practice
Studies in Genres
History of Rhetoric I
History of Rhetoric II
Rhetoric and Textual Analysis
The Rhetoric of Science
Critical Theory3
Contemporary Theories of Interpretation
Topics in Interpretive Theory Since 1900
Literature 36
Studies in Genres
Teaching Literature: Theory and Practice
Creative Writing I
Creative Writing II
Old English and Middle English Language and Literature
Renaissance Drama
Renaissance Poetry and Prose
Eighteenth-Century Fiction
Eighteenth-Century Poetry and Prose
Romantic Poetry and Prose
Nineteenth-Century Fiction
Nineteenth-Century British Poetry and Prose
Irish Studies
Twentieth-Century Literature
African-American Literature
Nineteenth-Century American Fiction
Nineteenth-Century American Poetry and Prose
American Authors: 1900-Present
Contemporary Poetry
Seminar in Special Studies
Seminar in Modern British Studies
Seminar in American Studies
Three further seminars in Rhetoric and Composition; or two Rhetoric and Composition seminars plus one course taken outside the department.
Dissertation Research0
ENGL 690Dissertation Research 412
Minimum Total Hours42

ENGL 602 is a requirement even for those students who have completed an equivalent course at another institution. The Director of Composition has the sole right to waive this requirement.


Non-GTA PhD students are not required to be enrolled in GS 799 at any point.


The six (6) credit hours of Literature courses may be selected from any of the courses listed, as approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. Students may fulfill this requirement with critical theory, literature, or creative writing. Three (3) of the six (6) credits may be in creative writing (ENGL 606 or 607). 


The program requires at least 12 credit hours of English 690 (Dissertation Research).