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English (Writing, Rhetorics, and Literacies), PHD

At a Glance: program details

Explore history, theories and methods of rhetorical inquiry across disciplines such as anthropology, law, psychology, religion, history, cognitive science and beyond. Prepare yourself for entrance into academia as well as for a variety of careers through internships, professional development opportunities and a strong mentoring program.

Program Description

Degree Awarded: PHD English (Writing, Rhetorics, and Literacies)

The PhD program in English with a concentration in writing, rhetorics and literacies promotes the study of rhetorical strategies, production, distribution and interpretation of oral, written, digital, visual, discursive, material and symbolic texts.

Students study the history, theories and methods of inquiry as well as pragmatic and social actions of writing, rhetoric and literacies. With theories and methods from both historical and contemporary contexts, students learn strategies for inquiry; the ways in which communication creates knowledge and action; and how communication is constructed, circulated, reacted to and repurposed over time and across space. Program requirements are designed to encourage a full understanding of theoretical and applied aspects of writing studies, rhetorical studies and literacy studies. Students also are provided many opportunities to explore the intersections and tensions that exist within and between the three different areas of inquiry.

The program encourages transdisciplinary study, and its flexible requirements enable students to pursue those aspects of the disciplines that interest them the most.

The PhD in English, concentration in writing, rhetorics, and literacies at Arizona State University promotes the study of the production, distribution, and interpretation of texts (oral, written, digital, visual, discursive, material, symbolic) and the rhetorical strategies involved in such processes. Students draw on composition/writing theory, rhetorical theory, and literacy studies to examine the ideological, pedagogical, pragmatic and social dimensions of words, symbols, texts, images, and artifacts. Using theories and methods from both historical and contemporary contexts, we teach students strategies for inquiry; the ways in which communication creates knowledge, meaning and action; and how texts, meanings, and communication are constructed, circulated, reacted to, and repurposed over time and across space. Program requirements are designed to encourage students to develop a nuanced understanding of the role of critical inquiry and rhetorical analysis in framing problems, advocating for change, exploring solutions, or disrupting the status quo. With a sophisticated understanding of how words work in the world, student pursue avenues of original inquiry that have relevance and implications for the challenges and opportunities of an increasingly complex and dynamic landscape. The program encourages interdisciplinary study, and its flexible requirements enable students to pursue areas of inquiry that interest them the most and tailor those pursuits to their career goals. The program prepares students for multiple career paths including in academia, the public sector and private industry--as teachers, scholars, advocates, professionals, and public intellectuals.

Mark Hannah, Director

Sheila Luna, Program Manager

Faculty in Writing, Rhetorics and Literacies

Doctoral Examinations

Doctoral Procedures and Timeline

Teaching Assistantships


Degree Requirements

Curriculum Plan Options

  • 84 credit hours, a foreign language exam, a written comprehensive exam, a prospectus and a dissertation
  • 84 credit hours, a foreign language exam, an oral comprehensive exam, a prospectus and a dissertation

Required Core (3 credit hours)
ENG 501 Approaches to Research (3)

Concentration (9 credit hours)
ENG 551 Rhetorical Traditions (3)
ENG 552 Composition Studies (3)
ENG 556 Theories of Literacy (3)

Focus Area (9 credit hours)

Electives or Research (48 credit hours)

Other Requirements (3 credit hours)
writing for publication/scholarly writing coursework (3)

Culminating Experience (12 credit hours)
ENG 799 Dissertation (12)

Additional Curriculum Information
When approved by the student's supervisory committee and the Graduate College, this program allows 30 credit hours from a previously awarded master's degree to be used for this degree. Students who do not hold a master's degree are required to take additional elective and research credit hours to reach the 84 credit hours required for this program.

Admission Requirements

Applicants must fulfill the requirements of both the Graduate College and The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Applicants are eligible to apply to the program if they have earned a bachelor's or master's degree from a regionally accredited institution. Applicants with bachelor's or master's degrees in fields such as anthropology, applied linguistics, cognitive science, communication, comparative languages and literatures, English literature, education, history, law, linguistics, modern languages, philosophy, political science, psychology, religion, rhetoric, composition, sociology, and speech and hearing science will be considered.

Applicants must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in the last 60 hours of their first bachelor's degree program, or a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.50 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in an applicable master's degree program.

All applicants must submit:

  1. graduate admission application and application fee
  2. official transcripts
  3. statement of purpose
  4. resume or curriculum vitae
  5. three letters of recommendation
  6. academic writing sample relevant to the field
  7. statement of teaching philosophy (teaching assistantship only)
  8. proof of English proficiency

Additional Application Information
An applicant whose native language is not English and has not graduated from an institution of higher learning in the United States must provide proof of English proficiency regardless of their current residency. Applications will not be processed without valid proof of English proficiency; official scores must be sent to ASU in order for the application to be processed.

The well-considered, one- to two-page statement of purpose should explain the applicant's scholarly background and training, career goals, proposed research specialization, any secondary field of interest, and why the applicant wishes to pursue a PhD in English with a concentration in writing, rhetorics and literacies at Arizona State University. Applicants applying for funding must also submit a statement of teaching philosophy.

Courses and Electives

The Doctor of Philosophy is a total of 84 hours. In general, a student with an appropriate master's degree must complete a minimum of 54 credit hours of approved graduate work, which includes 12 hours of dissertation. Research hours may be used towards course work in consultation with the advisor. A student without an appropriate master's degree usually must complete 84 hours of work at ASU. At the advisor’s discretion, students may include up to 12 hours of appropriate, graduate-level course work undertaken at another university, and not previously counted towards any other degree.

Approaches to Research (3): Students are required to take ENG 501 Approaches to Research during their first semester in the program.

Writing, Rhetorics, and Literacies Concentration Coursework (9): Students are expected to complete the following courses within their first three semesters. If a student has taken a very similar course elsewhere (e.g., while pursuing an MA), the student may bring the syllabus for the completed course to the Writing, Rhetorics, and Literacies (WRL) Program Director (or the faculty member scheduled to teach the course) and request that it be waived.  If any of the concentration courses are waived because they were previously taken under the MA in English, the students must take additional elective or research methods coursework to reach the 84 credit hours.

  •     ENG 551 Rhetorical Traditions
  •     ENG 552 Composition Studies
  •     ENG 556 Theories of Literacy

Focus Area (9):  Students are encouraged to consult with their advisor or the WRL Program Director when selecting additional courses for their focus area as these courses provide the depth of training needed for dissertation research. Students should take at least two 600-level courses.  Students may choose to take most of their courses from one area of study (e.g., writing/composition studies, rhetorical studies, or literacy studies), from two areas of study, or from all three areas. All ENG 500 and ENG 600 level courses may be repeated for credit when topics vary. Thus, two classes with the same course number (e.g., two ENG 651s, two ENG 654s, or ENG 655s) may count toward this requirement when the topics vary.  To fulfill the focus area requirement, students may choose from the following:

  •     ENG 525 Teaching Second Language Writing
  •     ENG 553 Technologies of Writing
  •     ENG 554 Rhetorics of Race, Class, and Gender
  •     ENG 560 Genre Studies
  •     ENG 625 Advanced Studies in Second Language Writing
  •     ENG 651 Advanced Studies in History and Theories of Rhetoric
  •     ENG 652 Advanced Composition Studies
  •     ENG 654 Advanced Studies in Rhetoric, Writing, Technology & Culture
  •     ENG 655 Disciplinary Discourses
  •     ENG 656 Studies in Cross-Cultural Discourse

Research Methods (3): Students are expected to take at least one additional course in research methods (beyond ENG 501) and are strongly encouraged to consider enrolling in an advanced research methods course offered by graduate faculty in the Writing, Rhetorics, and Literacies program. With the approval of their advisor, students may choose to take a research methods course outside of the area/unit to fulfill the advanced research methods requirement.  Students who take more than 6 credits of research methods may count any additional course in research methods as an elective.

Electives (15):   Students may fulfill the Elective requirement by taking additional 500 or 600-level courses from Writing, Rhetorics, and Literacies faculty (e.g., courses listed under Specialization Concentration), by taking ENG 594 Conference and Workshop (the Teaching Practicum), or by taking courses from other programs in English or programs outside the area. With the approval of their advisor, students may choose to take additional research methods courses from faculty outside of the area or the department if needed to pursue their research agenda. Students have the option of taking ENG 792 Research, on an individual basis, for the purpose of working independently in preparation for the doctoral examination. This is an alternative to be selected by the student with the approval of the advisor and supervisory committee. Satisfactory completion of ENG 792 is indicated by the grade of "Y."

Writing for Publication/Scholarly Writing (3): Students are encouraged to enroll in ENG 598 Topic: Writing for Publication/Scholarly Writing after they have completed both 15-18 credits of coursework at ASU and an acceptable draft paper.  In this course (to be capped at 15), students will read about, discuss, and practice strategies that will help them prepare manuscripts for publication. In a supportive environment and under the guidance of faculty, students will become more adept at identifying a potential venue for their work, using effective strategies for revision, and soliciting and give critical feedback. This course provides a structured opportunity to revise a paper for the portfolio and/or for submission to a journal or edited volume.

Other Requirements

PhD Examinations: Portfolio, oral or written exam, colloquy on the dissertation prospectus.

Dissertation: Students must include 12 (and only 12) credit hours of ENG 799 on the doctoral plan of study.

Language Requirement: PhD students must demonstrate evidence of a competent knowledge of a natural language other than modern English, to be selected by the student, subject to the approval of the chair of the dissertation committee. The language requirement must be completed before the student is eligible to take the doctoral exams. This requirement may be met by

  • Earning a “B” (3.00) or higher in a 400- or 500-level course in an appropriate (approved) language.
  • Demonstrating comparable proficiency by taking a language examination, administered by the School of International Letters and Cultures, in a language approved by the student’s supervisory committee.
  • Demonstrating native-speaker proficiency, as determined by the School of International Letters and Cultures, in a language approved by the student’s supervisory committee.
  • Earning a “B” (3.00) or higher in both ENG 530 Old English and ENG 531 Old English Literature or their equivalent.
  • Holding a bachelor’s degree in an approved foreign language.
  • Having fulfilled a foreign language requirement towards a previously awarded master’s degree that has been completed within five years of the semester for which the student has been admitted to the doctoral program. This foreign language must be in a language approved by the student’s doctoral supervisory committee.
  • For languages which the School of International Letters and Cultures does not offer or does not offer above the 200 level, two years (4 semesters) of successfully completed college level coursework at least at the 100 and 200 level with a C or better would fulfill the requirement. The coursework must have been successfully completed no more than six years prior to admission to the degree program.

The Graduate College also requires that students be enrolled every semester, excluding summer sessions, until they have completed all requirements for the degree. Continuous enrollment may be satisfied by registration for one hour of ENG 799, or, in cases where dissertation or other credit hours are not needed, Continuous Registration (ENG 595 or 795). If students wish to interrupt their programs of study for one or more semesters, they may apply for a leave of absence, not to exceed one year. Failure to enroll or obtain leave status for the semesters in which they are not enrolled will result in dismissal from the program.

Doctoral Supervisory Committee

The doctoral supervisory committee consists of a minimum of three members from the graduate faculty selected at the time the student files a program of study. In consultation with the director of the doctoral program, the student will select the committee chair, who also serves as the student's advisor. Once a graduate faculty member has agreed to serve as the student's chair, the student and chair will then consult before recommending two other members to the director of the doctoral program. Ideally another member of the supervisory committee in addition to the chair should be in the area of specialization. It is the responsibility of each student to form a supervisory committee very early in the program so that the chair and members of the committee may be involved in shaping the course of study, for example, in determining such matters as the choice of foreign language(s) and in specifying courses that will be required for the student's particular area of concentration.

Important Notice to Current International Students

In order for international students to maintain good standing for their VISAs, they must take a minimum of 9 credit hours per semester (i.e., 3 classes), 6 credits (2 classes) should be face-to-face classes.

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Application Deadlines



Session A/C
In Person
January 1st

Learning Outcomes

  • Evaluate competing knowledge claims within rhetorical studies and draw relevant interdisciplinary connections between those claims and one's own research topics.
  • Design and carry out an original research study that produces data, findings and applied strategies for publication in professional, scholarly venues.
  • Evaluate and draw from relevant disciplinary histories, theories and methods to support rhetorical inquiry into their research topics.

Career Opportunities

Professionals with expertise in written communication, research and knowledge management are in high demand across sectors and industries, including business, media, law, entertainment, politics, nonprofits and community organizations. Skills in the measurement and analysis of data for the development of multimodal content (digital, print, oral, visual) are valuable to businesses, organizations and institutions relying on data-driven strategies to address and communicate complex, knowledge-rich issues to broad professional audiences.

Graduates are prepared for work as teachers, scholars and communications professionals. Career examples include:

  • editor and content manager
  • English or communications professor
  • human resources specialist
  • market research analyst
  • public relations specialist
  • publishing copyeditor or proofreader
  • social media manager
  • technical writer

Global Opportunities

Global Experience

With over 250 programs in more than 65 countries (ranging from one week to one year), study abroad is possible for all ASU students wishing to gain global skills and knowledge in preparation for a 21st-century career. Students earn ASU credit for completed courses, while staying on track for graduation, and may apply financial aid and scholarships toward program costs.

Program Contact Information

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