PhD Degree Requirements and Timeline
The graduate program in English offers a PhD degree in English with different tracks for English Studies, Creative Writing (known as the Program for Writers), and English Education. Most candidates for the PhD have earned an MA in English or another relevant discipline; the program is specifically designed to encourage innovative work in writing and teaching, leading to careers in academic professions.
A range of rigorous seminar courses aims at strengthening a student’s command of specific historical periods, topics, and theoretical issues; these courses also provide crucial preparation for writing the dissertation and making substantial contributions to work in a student’s chosen field(s). (See Faculty listings for information on areas of expertise.)
Guided by faculty advisors, PhD students follow their preliminary examinations with a creative or scholarly dissertation. These components of the degree, combined with teaching experience in composition, creative writing, or literature, provide a high level of professional training and help to ensure success on the academic job market.
Accepted doctoral students are normally awarded six years of departmental funding via a teaching assistantship. The Graduate College and the Department both offer a number of fellowships and awards in varying amounts for graduate students. Limited amounts of travel funding are available through the Department and the Graduate College.
Students who have completed their preliminary examines are eligible to apply for the cotutelle with Macquarie University, in Sydney, Australia.
When do I...?
|Take ENGL 503 - PhD Proseminar?||Fall Year 1|
|Take seminar courses?||Years 1 and 2|
|Take care of my language requirement?||As soon as possible, and definitely before preliminary exams.|
|Enroll in ENGL 592 - Prelim Prep?||Usually Fall Y3; sometimes students will take two semesters of ENGL 592 while preparing for prelims. Be aware that the dissertation leave can only be taken AFTER the prospectus colloquium and ONLY in Spring|
|Write my Prospectus and take ENGL 591 - Prospectus Prep?||After prelims (usually Spring Y3 or Fall Y4)|
|Take my dissertation leave semester?||In the Spring term following your successful prospectus colloquium - usually Spring Y4|
|Write my dissertation and take ENGL 599 - Dissertation Research?||After the prospectus is approved and until you reach 32 hours of 599; then you may register for Zero Hours until the dissertation is defended or continue to register for course hours. You may register for 591 and 599 concurrently.|
|Qualify for granting of the PhD?||After 32 credit hours of ENGL 599 and all other course hour requirements, language requirements, and defense requirements are met|
|Register for zero hours?||After all course hour requirements have been met|
|Register for "Option B" zero hours?||When living far from campus and after all course hour requirements have been met.|
|Need to petition the Graduate College for an extension of time to degree?||After your ninth (9th) continuous year of enrollment.|
|Need Graduate College approval for a Leave of Absence?||When you will be gone more than three consecutive semesters|
Degree Requirement Details
All PhD students are required to take the following courses. Credit toward the PhD is not given for any course in which the student receives a grade of less than B. All courses are four (4) credit hours except ENGL 591, 592, 594, and 599.
Advanced undergraduate courses (400-level) with a grade of B or better may be counted toward distribution requirements with the permission of the Director of Graduate Studies. Students pursuing Interdepartmental Concentrations will need to check those course requirements as well.
Course English Studies Creative Writing Minimum Total Credit 96 hrs 96 hrs Proseminar 4 hrs - ENGL 503 4 hrs - ENGL 503 Teaching College Writing (TAs only) 4 hrs - ENGL 555 4 hrs - ENGL 555 Bridge Course Requirements (ENGL 507, 517, 527, 537, 547, 557, 567) 4 hrs minimum 4 hrs minimum Discourse, Text, Context (ENGL 505, 510, 515, 520, 525, 530, 535, 540, 545, 550) and/or Theoretical Engagements (ENGL 579, 580, 581, 582, 583, 584, 585, 586, 587, 588) 8 hrs minimum 8 hrs minimum ENGL 592 - Prelim Exam Prep 4 hrs minimum 4 hrs minimum ENGL 591 - Prospectus Prep 4 hrs minimum 4 hrs minimum Creative Writing only: Workshop Requirements (ENGL 570, 571, 572, 573, 574, 575, 576) N/A 12 hrs (8 hrs in primary genre) ENGL 599 - Dissertation Research 32 hrs 32 hrs
Normative Timeline for the Prelim Exam
- Spring Year 2: Assemble your committee and lists
- Fall and Spring Year 3: Write research exam paper and study lists
- 3 weeks before exam (Friday Week 7): Submit Committee Recommendation form to DGS Office
- 1 week before exam (Friday Week 9): Questions due to DGS Office via Box
- Week 10, Friday 10 am: Exam questions released
- Week 11, Monday 10 am: Written exams due via Box
- Weeks 11 & 12: Oral exam takes place
Register for ENGL 592 with your preliminary exam committee chair while you prepare to take the preliminary examination. Typically students take ENGL 592 in the Fall and Spring of their third year to take the exam in the Spring. You may register for anywhere between one and twelve credit hours of 592, but be aware that at least four credit hours are required to graduate.
At the start of the semester, you must complete ENGL 592 – Preliminary Exam Research form. Details on how to complete this form are available on the ENGL 592 Form page.
Committee Recommendation Form and Examination Report
At the beginning of the semester in which you plan to take your exam, complete a Committee Recommendation Form. This form lists all five members of your committee and their departments. The Committee Recommendation Form must be submitted no later than three weeks before the exam weekend (i.e., Friday of Week 7). Once your chair signs the form, bring it to the Office of Graduate Studies to be signed by the DGS, who will then submit it to the Graduate College. The Graduate College will return an official examination report to the DGS who will keep it in your file until your defense as well as a letter from the Dean requesting formally that your committee members serve on your committee. The examination report MUST be present during your oral examination.
Structure of the Examination
The UIC English PhD Preliminary Examination consists of three written examination papers and an oral examination on those papers.
Two of the papers are known as “field examinations.” Each field exam is based on a reading list drawn up in consultation with one of your field exam directors (i.e., members of your committee). The field exam directors write the questions for their students’ exams and discuss readings with them leading up to the exam weekend, in addition to devising the list.
The third paper, known as the research examination, is written in the form of a submitted research paper. Unlike the field exams, the research exam does not begin from a reading list but rather culminates in a bibliography that is submitted with the research paper. The research paper is the basis for the dissertation prospectus.
Two professors direct the writing of the research examination paper: this paper is researched and completed throughout the PhD exam preparation year, and is due at the same time as the other two written exams. One of the directors of the research paper will, in most circumstances, be the proposed director of your dissertation. In most circumstances, this professor will also be the chair of your examination committee.
After the three written examination papers are completed,they are distributed to the five members of the committee.
Samples of examination questions and reading lists are available digitally on Box. Contact the Graduate Studies Program Coordinator for access.
Content of the Examination
The two field exams consist of broadly defined teaching fields. These may include work in rhetoric, literature, critical theory, and cultural studies. Each reading list should cover the basic primary and critical texts that a scholar in the field would be expected to know, supplemented by works that would reflect your specific interests.
Successful field examinations will display a thorough knowledge of the field on which you are being examined, a grasp of secondary texts pertaining to that field, and a coherent argument—an argument supported by particular readings or accounts of the texts for which you are responsible, and articulated in relation to the relevant critical and/or theoretical writings assigned on the reading list. Field exams are generally 10 pages long.
The research exam paper should be an extended commentary toward a Dissertation Prospectus and should create a coherent set of arguments about a thesis. It is the summation of a year’s directed reading in potential themes and critical materials that pertain to your current and extended research interests. The research exam paper should facilitate a prompt draft of the Dissertation Prospectus. For PhD candidates in the Program for Writers, the research exam paper may examine influences, authors, genres, or narrative strategies that contribute to their creative work. The paper also results in a growing list of primary and secondary texts that culminate in a working dissertation bibliography at the end of the research exam paper process (in contrast to the field exams, which require a list of texts at the beginning of the process).
Successful completion of the written part of the research examination is dependent upon a clearly articulated argument about a chosen group of works or issues, acknowledging and responding to relevant critical and theoretical views of those works or issues. The choice of works—the basis for the working bibliography accompanying this paper—should be guided by your anticipated dissertation topic. The paper itself should demonstrate your familiarity with creative and/or scholarly conversation and debate about the works you are studying, and it should make the contribution of the paper to the topic of field of inquiry as clear as possible.
A successful working bibliography should include primary and secondary texts that are relevant for your chosen dissertation topic, and it should represent a thorough knowledge of the full range of works related to that topic. Since this paper is expected to form the basis of a Dissertation Prospectus, it may take the form of a prospectus, examples of which are available in the Office of Graduate Studies.
The oral examination is based on the three written examination papers, the Field Exam lists, and the student’s working dissertation bibliography. Generally speaking, this part of the examination will last no more than two hours, with separate parts of it devoted to each of the three papers. At the Chair’s discretion, the time is generally divided along the following lines: one hour for the field examinations and lists and one hour for the research examination and bibliography.
A successful oral examination displays your ability to discuss, and respond to arguments about, the content of the written examinations (both the field and research papers). Committee members may ask you to explain answers more fully, or may challenge your conclusions: the aim is to provoke further discussion and debate about the readings and assertions contained in the written work. You will be expected to display a thorough understanding of the works you have chosen to study, and a thorough understanding of the relevant critical and theoretical discussions about those works; you are also expected to be able to address materials contained in the reading lists and working bibliography that are not addressed in any of the written components of the examination.
Composition of the Committee
All members of the committee, including the fifth member, review the field exam lists and the questions pertaining to them; all members of the committee read the three examination papers and bibliography before the oral examination. As described above, your committee will consist of five members. Two members devise lists and submit questions for the field exams, a third and fourth direct the research exam paper, and a fifth serves on the oral examination committee.
The Graduate College requires three of your committee members to be full members of the graduate faculty and two to be tenured. Three of your committee members must be from the Department of English. An outside member is recommended but not required.
According to the Graduate College, Emeritus faculty cannot chair a committee without the approval of the Graduate College. However, Emeritus faculty can sit on committees, put together reading lists, submit questions for the field exams, direct the research exam paper, and be fifth readers. Emeritus faculty do not count as full or tenured members of committees in determining whether the committee makeup satisfies Graduate College requirements.
Consult with professors about your examinations in the second year of yourdegree. By the end of the Spring semester of your second year, you should have a good sense of the makeup of your committee and you should have your field examination lists prepared.
Written examinations are conducted ONLY in Week 10 of each semester. You will receive your written questions on the Field Exams at 10 a.m. Friday morning of Week 10 and you must return the answers by 10 a.m. Monday morning of the following week.
The field examinations and research examination, bibliography, and lists are submitted to the Graduate Coordinator via Box (contact the Graduate Coordinator with questions about this process). The Graduate Coordinator then distributes electronic and hard copies of the three exams to the five members of the committee.
The chair of the examination committee is responsible for scheduling the oral examination no more than two weeks after the exam.
After successful completion of the PhD Preliminary Examination, you will be relieved of teaching one course in the spring after the examination is completed.
Requirements/Expectations for the PhD Prelim Exam
Before scheduling an Oral Examination, the Chair of the Examination Committee consults with all members of that committee and determines whether performance on the exam merits proceeding with the oral component of the exam. If any part of the exam has been failed, the committee may decide that any part of the examination needs to be revised or rewritten; it may decide to resubmit new questions to be answered; it may decide that failure on any part of the exam prohibits progression to the Oral Examination. If a student does not progress to the Oral Examination, he/she may not continue on to PhD candidacy, and is dismissed from the PhD program and from the Graduate College.
The committee discusses the student’s performance on the Oral Examination immediately following that exam. The committee may decide that any part of the examination needs to be repeated; it may decide that failure on any part of the exam invalidates progression to PhD candidacy. Students who do not continue on to PhD candidacy are dismissed from the PhD program and from the Graduate College.
Re-examination on any part, or both parts, of the PhD Prelim Exam can only occur once, and only within one calendar year of the first examination. Any changes to the exam committee must be approved unanimously by the original committee and by the DGS.
Once you have passed the preliminary examination you will arrange with a tenured faculty member to become your dissertation director. Initially, the dissertation director will guide you in shaping the project, which will usually result in a preliminary bibliography.
Registration & Forms
You should register for ENGL 591 – Prospectus Research Registration with your committee chair after you pass your prelim exams. You should register for no more than four hours total. Submit an ENGL 591 form each semester that you register.
Turn in to the DGS Office a hard copy of the signed Prospectus Colloquium Report form after your successful colloquium with a copy of your prospectus. The Colloquium Report form must be present at your colloquium.
In consultation with you and the DGS if necessary, your dissertation director will appoint a four-member dissertation committee, consisting of the dissertation director and three other readers. One of these readers may be from outside the English department (and may be from outside the university). If any subsequent changes are made to this committee or to the defense committee, the changes must be approved by the dissertation director and by petition to the DGS.
For the dissertation defense, a fifth member is added to the committee; one of the readers must be from outside the department. This fifth member or outside reader may participate in the prospectus colloquium as well, but it is not required.
Format & Timing
The prospectus should be at least 10 pages; it should include a bibliography where applicable, and should have content appropriate to your chosen concentration. Ideally, you should prepare this document no later than the semester following your preliminary examination. The prospectus should be circulated to all members of the dissertation committee at least two weeks prior to the colloquium date. The colloquium date is set by the dissertation chair in consultation with the members of the committee.
After you have registered, assembled the committee, and written the prospectus, you will discuss your prospectus in a colloquium with the members of your dissertation committee.
At the colloquium, committee members generally give feedback on the scope and length of the project and discuss time to degree particulars. After the colloquium, you or your dissertation director will submit the approved prospectus along with the completed Prospectus Colloquium Report form to the DGS Office.
If you make any major substantive changes to the approved prospectus or to the subsequent dissertation (including a change of direction, focus, methods, or materials covered), the dissertation director, at her discretion, may ask for a revised prospectus and request that you follow all the above procedures again.
Critical Paper for Students in the Program for Writers
Students in the Program for Writers may elect to prepare a critical paper of approximately 30-40 pages in addition to their creative dissertations. If you pursue this option, you must provide a 1-2 page description of the critical paper for the prospectus meeting. The faculty member directing this portion of the dissertation project may be one of the members of the preliminary examination committee. You are encouraged to let the Graduate office know that you intend to submit a critical paper as part of the dissertation, so that the appropriate paperwork can be submitted to the department; you should also consult with the director of the preliminary exam committee for advice on appropriate faculty directors.
Registration & “Zero Hours”
Register for ENGL 599 with your committee chair in any term in which you are working on your dissertation, including the term in which you write your prospectus, if applicable. (You must take a minimum of 32 credits of ENGL 599 in order to graduate.) Submit an ENGL 599 – Dissertation Research form each semester you register.
You must be registered for the term in which you defend. If you have already met the 32 hour registration requirement, you may register for “zero hours.” Zero-Hour Registration Option A is for students who will still be using campus facilities; Zero-Hour Registration Option B is for students who live far from campus and will not regularly be using on-campus resources. You may register for zero hours via the online Graduate College Petition process.
At the start of the semester in which you plan on defending your dissertation, you must also apply to graduate with the Graduate College.
Writing & Formatting the Dissertation
Doctoral candidates in English Studies write dissertations presenting research in such areas as rhetorical theory and history, literature and literary theory, pedagogy, and language and literacy. Doctoral candidates in Creative Writing are expected to produce as a dissertation one of the following: a novel, a volume of short stories or poems, a full-length book of creative nonfiction, or a collection of essays.
The format of the completed dissertation must meet the minimum requirements set by University Microfilms and the UIC library for archival purposes.
- Maintenance of a 1″ margins on the left side, and margins of no less than 1/2″ on the other three sides. Proper margins are necessary for binding and microfilming purposes.
- Consecutive numbering within the prescribed text space of pages, notes, and tables, with no missing numbers.
Students must also consult and follow the UIC Thesis Manual, available for download at the Graduate College website. Other formatting features are at the discretion of the dissertation director, in accordance with standards and practices of the discipline. If no other formatting changes are specified by the dissertation director, students are expected to follow the UIC Thesis Manual.
The faculty of the English department has agreed on the following formats:
- Dissertations in English Studies should follow the Graduate College format, the MLA Style Manual, the APA Style Manual, or the Chicago Manual of Style. The dissertation director will decide which style is followed.
- Dissertations in Creative Writing shall follow a format appropriate to the material, as determined by the director of the dissertation.
The necessary forms that accompany the completed thesis can be found on the Graduate College website’s Thesis Page.
Committee Recommendation Form
You must download, type and print out a Committee Recommendation Form. It is due to the English Department’s Office of Graduate Studies (2002 UH) three weeks prior to the anticipated date of defense. It requires the signature of the committee chair and Director of Graduate Studies. The program code for the doctoral program in English is 20FS0311PHD.
Once the committee has been approved, the Graduate College will deliver the forms that must be present during the defense. This paperwork, the examination report, must be signed by the entire committee immediately after the successful defense of the dissertation. The examination report is returned to the Office of Graduate Studies (2002UH).
Deadlines for submission are available on the Graduate College’s Academic Calendar.
Committee & Defense
You defend your completed dissertation before a committee of professors with graduate standing. The committee must be comprised of two full members of the graduate faculty, two tenured faculty, and one outside reader. Typically (but not always), the committee is the four members of the Prospectus Defense Committee plus a fifth reader.
The Graduate College defines an outside reader as a full member of the graduate faculty with full-time appointment outside the English Department. According to the Graduate College, Emeritus faculty cannot chair a committee without the approval of the Graduate College. However, Emeritus faculty can sit on committees, put together reading lists, submit questions for the Field exams, direct the Research Exam paper, and can be fifth readers. Emeritus faculty do not count as full or tenured members of committees in determining if the committee makeup satisfies Graduate College requirements.
You must submit your dissertation to the Graduate College electronically in PDF format. Visit the EDT Homepage for a complete breakdown of the submission process.
There are also choices regarding the publication fee:
- Doctoral students who choose traditional publishing through ProQuest will pay $37.50, which includes the $25 ProQuest fee and a $12.50 library publishing fee. NOTE: The decision to choose traditional or open access through ProQuest is separate from open access for the UIC Library.
- Doctoral students who choose open publishing through ProQuest will pay $132.50, which includes the $120 ProQuest fee and a $12.50 library publishing fee. NOTE: The decision to choose traditional or open access through ProQuest is separate from open access for the UIC Library.
- It is recommended that you choose traditional publication through ProQuest and open access through the UIC Library. The charge for traditional ProQuest publication is much lower and the document will be available as open access through UIC.
- Candidates are asked who in the department should be emailed in regards to format approval. Those should go to the Graduate Studies Program Coordinator.
If a doctoral student is registered in spring (as he or she should be), and defends by June 20 or earlier, he or she does not need to register in summer (or fall). If on a visa, the student should consult with OIS.
For a complete review of the defense process, please consult the Graduate College web page on Dissertation Defense.
All students must present evidence of advanced knowledge of a language other than English and of its literature or culture prior to the start of their fourth year (before prelim exams). Students should choose a language that is appropriate for their specific field of inquiry, and should embark upon language study after consulting with their advisor and/or the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS).
The language requirement should be fulfilled before a student takes the PhD preliminary examination; in fact, students should begin considering this requirement as soon as they begin graduate study.
Students may demonstrate advanced knowledge of a language in the following ways:
- A graduate-level language course that culminates in a translation exam. Graduate students are advised to consider the foreign language offerings at UIC language departments which are targeted to their needs, such as “GER 400. German for Reading Knowledge,” or “FR 401. Reading French for Graduate Students”. Graduate students may request to take this class pass/fail; however, the department will need proof that the final translation exam received a B or better.
- Four (4) semesters of college/university language study, with a grade of B or better in each course. Courses where readings are in translation may not be used. The last semester of study can be no more than 4 years prior to the student’s first year of graduate study.
- Verifiable fieldwork or research in a foreign language.
- A degree from a foreign university where English is not the primary language of instruction.
- Being a native speaker of a language other than English.
- A test administered by or through the Department of English of no more than two hours. The language test usually consists of a translation of a passage into English with the aid of a dictionary; a spoken component for the examination will be administered in appropriate cases.
- A test of language proficiency from an MA degree from an accredited institution (must be noted on transcript).
For students with language-learning disabilities as documented by the UIC Disability Resource Center, alternate accomodation is possible in the form of 15 hours of culture coursework in a single culture.
Finally, in cases of languages where there is not a significant body of written material in the language, such as some Native American languages, courses focusing on grammar and conversation, or spoken fluency as demonstrated by testing, may be used.
These policies are subject to review by the DGS and the Graduate Studies Committee.
Gender and Women’s Studies
Students earning a graduate degree in English may complement their courses by earning a concentration in Gender and Women’s Studies. Students pursuing this concentration must apply to the director of the Gender and Women’s Studies program and obtain approval from a GWS faculty member within the department of the degree, who becomes the student’s GWS advisor. 16 hours of graduate course work are required for the concentration, including GWS 501 and GWS 502 plus eight additional hours of GWS or cross-listed courses at the graduate level. Up to four of these hours can be directed study or thesis research on an appropriate topic approved by the student’s GWS advisor.
For more information, please contact Professor Judith Keegan Gardiner.
Latin American and Latino Studies
Students earning a graduate degree in English may complement their courses by earning a concentration in Latin American and Latino Studies (LALS). Students must take at least 16 hours of course work approved by the student’s advisor for the concentration, of which 4 hours must be the core seminar LALS 501. The remaining 12 hours may come from courses offered by or cross-listed with LALS, from English courses with Latin American or Latino content, and from independent study courses chosen in consultation with the advisor. Up to 8 hours may be taken in the English department and counted towards the LALS concentration, although students are encouraged to take advantage of the multidisciplinary nature of the concentration. Doctoral students may not apply dissertation credit (ENGL 599) toward concentration electives. Doctoral students are encouraged, but not required, to elect a dissertation topic related to Latin America or Latinos in the United States.
For more information, contact Professor Ralph Cintron.
Second Language Teaching
The Interdepartmental Concentration in Second Language Teaching is intended for those graduate students whose primary research and teaching interests lie in literary, cultural and linguistic studies in English, Spanish, French, German, and other languages. It will provide them with advanced education in the processes of language learning and approaches to language teaching, including the teaching of composition.
The concentration is an option in addition to the student’s regular course of study and is not intended as a replacement for requirements in individual degree programs. It consists of four courses that are chosen from particular areas of study useful to the development of the student’s knowledge and skill in language teaching. These areas are Introduction to Language Teaching, Foundations in Second Language Acquisition, and Specific or Special Topics in Language Teaching.
Those interested in the Interdepartmental Concentration in Second Language Teaching must take a total of four courses to be distributed in the following way:
- one course from Category A: Introduction to Language Teaching
- one course from Category B: Foundations in Second Language Acquisition
- one course from Category C: Special or Specific Topics in Language Learning and Teaching
- one additional course from either Category B or C
Cotutelle with Macquarie University
UIC PhD students who have passed prelim exams are eligible for the cotutelle with Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. Please see our cotutelle page for more information.
Students holding teaching assistanships (TAs) who do not have first-year writing program teaching experience must take ENGL 555 during their first year. TAs must serve as teaching assistants for at least four semesters. All TAs teach sections of ENGL 160 and 161. TAs are often assigned to other lower-level courses in English appropriate to their specialization. The Graduate College has compiled a guide to teaching at UIC: “Teaching at UIC: A Practical Manual for Instructors and Teaching Assistants.”