PhD Program Requirements

Advisement Checklist

PhD in Rhetoric and Composition form(PDF)

Coursework Requirements

Time Limit

Work on the doctorate must be completed within ten years of admission to the program.

Requirements for the Doctoral Degree Program

Students in this plan must complete at least 30 semester hours of coursework beyond the M.A. level, plus 20 hours of dissertation research. Before you begin taking classes, you should work out a plan of study with one of the faculty.

To facilitate professional specialization within the broad fields of rhetoric, composition, professional writing, and technical communication, the following courses are required:

1. A total of thirty hours of course work beyond the M.A. level (including, if desired, a maximum of six hours of coursework in related fields offered by other departments);

2. Six hours of language, theory, literature, or in any related fields of study outside of English upon approval from the student’s advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies;

3. Twelve hours of required rhetoric and composition courses: ENGL 8125 (if not taken at the M.A. level; should be taken in the first semester, if possible), ENGL 8170 Classical Rhetoric: Greek, ENGL 8120 Writing for Academic Publication (Pro Seminar), and ENGL 8180 Composition Theory (the student can enter the Ph.D. program with this requirement fulfilled if these courses or their equivalent were taken at the M.A. level);

4. Twelve hours of rhetoric and composition courses or strongly related courses;

5. Electives as needed to complete the 30-hour requirement;

6. Twenty hours of 8999 (Thesis Research)


Dissertation research may involve digital and workplace projects as well as textual studies, and the dissertation can be a substantial academic paper or a digital project with approval of the director.

Foreign Language / Alternative Research Skill Requirement

If not already completed at the Masters level, candidates for the Ph.D. with an emphasis in rhetoric and composition are expected to demonstrate fluency in one foreign language or to have received a grade of B or higher in one of the following sequences of courses:   

  1. ENGL 8121, Rhetoric of Digital Media and ENGL 8123, Digital Media Production
  2. ENGL 8122, User Experience Research and ENGL 8124, Web Programming for Writers
  3. Other two-course sequences as approved by your advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies


Because the requirements for the doctoral programs are complex, candidates for the degree are urged to consult regularly with the Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of English. By the time students have chosen their area of concentration and have completed the majority of their coursework, students should choose a major professor who is qualified to supervise their preparation for comprehensive examinations and to guide their thesis research.


See the College of Arts and Sciences Graduate Services Website for details, requirements, and current deadlines.