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PhD English (Writing, Rhetorics, and Literacies)

Mark Hannah, Director

Sheila Luna, Program Manager

Doctoral Examinations

Doctoral Procedures and Timeline 

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.

All applications for admission to the program must be approved by the doctoral admissions committee in the Department of English and by Graduate College. There are several requirements for admission, none of which will be arbitrarily disregarded, and the best applicants will meet or exceed all of these criteria. However, the Admissions Committee will consider the individual aspects of each application.

For more information on how to apply, see the Department of English Application Procedures.

Apply Online!

Deadline: January 1st for fall admission
Note: The committee reviews applications shortly after the deadline. The application must be complete with all supporting documents before review. This is the applicant's responsibility. Please plan accordingly when submitting an application.

Undergraduate and graduate majors: Given the interdisciplinary nature of work in this program, faculty will consider 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.

  1. Cumulative grade point average: Graduate College requires a GPA of 3.00 or better in the last two years of work leading to the bachelor's degree and the recommendation of the academic unit in which the applicant plans to study. In addition, the Department of English requires that applicants have at least a 3.50 GPA in all previous graduate work.
  2. Letters of recommendation: At least three letters of recommendation from professors familiar with the applicant's academic performance.
  3. Statement of Purpose: A well considered, one to two-page, single spaced statement of purpose in which candidates explain how their experience and training—either in school, out of school, or both—have prepared them for the program. Candidates should indicate their career goals and explain how these goals relate to our graduate program in linguistics and applied linguistics..
  4. Sample of scholarly work: Applicants should submit a critical paper or research paper prepared in a recent course.
  5. Vitae: A CV that outlines educational background, relevant work experience, honors and publications.
  6. Official Transcripts:   Official Transcripts should be sent to ASU Graduate Admissions.
  7. A Graduate online application. An application fee is required.

*The GRE is not required for admission.

International students must have an official Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or IELTS score report sent to the Graduate College. Please refer to the English Proficiency Score requirements.

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.

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: 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 examinations. This requirement may be met by any of the following:

  • 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.

Graduate Education 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 leave status, not to exceed one year. Failure to obtain leave status for the semesters in which they are not enrolled may 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 of which should be face-to-face classes.