The Ph.D. program in Rhetoric and Professional Communication offers courses in rhetoric, composition studies, professional communication, and critical/cultural studies. Drawing on a range of research methods and pedagogical approaches, we support students from diverse backgrounds pursuing interests in industry, government, and education, including universities, community colleges, and public schools.
We admit students in the fall semester only of each academic year. Complete applications are due by January 15.
Students pursuing a Ph.D. are required to complete a total of 54 semester credit hours of graduate coursework, a qualifying portfolio, comprehensive examination, internship and dissertation.
Students who entered the program before Fall 2006 can access PDF or Word versions of the previous requirements here.
Students in the doctoral program will develop individualized plans of study in consultation with advisors. Students will complete at least 54 hours of graduate coursework, including
- English 610: Doctoral Proseminar in Rhetoric and Professional Communication
- 6 credit hours in research methods
- 12 credit hours in core courses
- 15 to 18 credit hours in courses in an area of specialization
- 18 credit hours of dissertation research
English 610: Doctoral Proseminar (3 credit hours). Students must successfully complete English 610: Proseminar in Rhetoric and Professional Communication, during their first semester in the program.
Research Methods (6 credit hours). Students must successfully complete two courses in research methods. The English Department offers four methods courses. With the advisor's approval, students may also substitute relevant methods courses offered in other departments across the university.
- Engl 548: Graduate Study in Empirical Research
- Engl 601: Qualitative Research
- Engl 602: Quantitative Research
- Engl 603: Rhetorical Criticism
Core Courses (12 credit hours). Students must successfully complete at least one course in each of four core areas.
Core Composition Courses
- Engl 664: Composition History and Theory
- Engl 571: Composition Pedagogy and Practicum [designed for first-semester English Dept. graduate assistants]
Core Critical/Cultural Studies Courses
- Engl 517: Graduate Study in Critical Theory
- Engl 668: Rhetorical/Cultural Studies
Core Professional Communication Courses
- Engl 512: Graduate Study in Writing in the Workplace
- Engl 572: Technical & Professional Communication: Theory and Pedagogy
Core Rhetoric Courses
- Engl 518: History of Rhetoric
- Engl 519: Modern Rhetorical Theory
Specialized Courses (15-18 credit hours)
Students must successfully complete 15-18 credit hours in a specialized area. Students define their specialized area, a coherent set of related courses drawn from both inside and outside the Department of English, in consultation with their doctoral committee. Possible specializations include Border Rhetorics and Cultures; Writing Program Administration/Writing Center Administration; Assessment; Pedagogy; Literacy Studies; Identity and Political and Social Rhetoric; Multimedia Rhetoric and Design; Intercultural Rhetorics; Writing Across the Curriculum; Workplace Communication; and the Rhetoric of Science.
Transfer Courses (up to 18 credit hours)
Students may apply 18 hours of master's level work to the 54-hour coursework requirement with departmental approval. In consultation with an advisor and the Doctoral Committee, students petition for transfer credits when they are filing the Program of Study with the Graduate School.
During the second semester of coursework, students will submit a portfolio to the Rhetoric and Professional Communication faculty for purposes of review and evaluation. The qualifying portfolio allows students to demonstrate that they have the requisite reading, writing, and critical skills to successfully pursue the Ph.D. Students will discuss and begin to prepare the Qualifying Portfolio in English 610. The Qualifying Portfolio consists of a file compiled during the first six months of doctoral study and submitted on March 1. The Rhetoric and Professional Communication faculty will assess the portfolio in the form of a first-year review by April 15. Students will then meet with their advisors to discuss the portfolio and first-year review letter. The portfolio will include:
- an academic profile in which students assess their relevant professional background and their previous, current, and future graduate level work. This includes a discussion of the students' plans and goals related to coursework, research, teaching and professional development;
- a critique of a scholarly article (the selection of which is approved by the Engl 610 instructor) within the field of rhetoric and professional communication, not to exceed 1500 words
Through this portfolio, students will:
- establish a plan shaping their academic careers;
- provide evidence of specific research interests and a clear research trajectory;
- demonstrate the reading, writing, research, and critical skills required to successfully pursue the Ph.D.
The comprehensive examination is normally taken within the academic year following completion of doctoral coursework. The comprehensive examination tests students' knowledge in the four core coursework areas and in a specialized area. The examination covers coursework and related reading in all areas. In addition, the examination provides the student an opportunity to propose a plan for dissertation research. The examination comprises:
- Part 1: Written examination on core coursework.
- Part 2: Written examination on area of specialization.
- Part 3: Oral exam on parts 1 and 2.
The doctoral committee prepares and administers the comprehensive examination. Students unsuccessful in part or all of the comprehensive examination will be expected to retake the necessary part(s) by the end of the following semester.
NOTE: Students preparing for the comprehensive examination may enroll in Engl 600 (Doctoral Research). Engl 600 is not required as part of the program, but students holding Graduate Assistantships can use Engl 600 hours to maintain full time status while preparing for the exam.
More extensive guidelines for the Comprehensive Examination can be found here.
Students will earn a minimum of 6 credits (English 597) for an internship. Students develop an internship plan in consultation with their advisors. The internship should complement the program of study and career objectives.
Note: Students with professional experience equivalent to an internship may petition the Rhetoric and Professional Communication Committee for a waiver of the internship requirement. If the waiver request is approved, students will complete six additional hours of coursework.
The dissertation process includes five components:
- the Doctoral Committee
- the dissertation proposal and proposal hearing
- 18 hours of dissertation credit hours
- the dissertation
- the dissertation defense
Early in the second year of the program (after passing the qualifying portfolio), students should choose an advisor and begin exploring possible dissertation topics. Students will constitute a Doctoral Committee of faculty members inside and outside the department of English. This committee is normally composed of three members of the graduate faculty from the Department of English and one member of the graduate faculty from another department. Each committee must include at least four Graduate Faculty members. The Committee's responsibilities include approving the course of study, administering and evaluating the comprehensive examination, and serving as the committee for the dissertation and its defense.
After passing the comprehensive examination, the students begin full-time work on the dissertation. Early in the dissertation process students develop a formal dissertation proposal comprising a definition of the problem to be explored, a literature review, a methodological or theoretical section, and a working bibliography. With the chair's approval, the proposal is submitted to all members of the doctoral committee. The proposal must be approved by all members of the committee who then sign off on the proposal. A copy of the sign-off sheet and the approved proposal are stored in student departmental files.
During this period, students enroll in ENGL 700 (Doctoral Dissertation); a minimum of 18 credits of ENGL 700 is required for the student to graduate. Students who achieve ABD (all but dissertation) status must register for a minimum of 3 credits of 700 each semester until they complete the dissertation and pass the final oral examination; the dissertation must be completed and approved within 5 years after the comprehensive examination.
After the dissertation is completed, students defend the dissertation in a final oral examination.
The 54 credits of coursework, 6 credits of internship, and 18 credits of dissertation sum to the minimum of 78 hours past the bachelor's necessary for the completion of the degree. In addition, students need to comply with all requirements and deadlines established by the Graduate School, including the requirement of at least two semesters of full-time study in residence. Additional guidelines for planning and completing the dissertation can be found here.