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Course Requirements for the Ph.D. in Literary Studies and Creative Writing

1.At least 24 hours of credit in appropriate formal graduate courses beyond the M.A. or M.F.A.  At least 15 hours (in addition to 800 if not taken for the M.A.) of this course work must be taken from among courses offered by the Department of English at the 700-level and above. English 997 and 999 credits cannot be included among the 24 hours. Students may petition to take up to 6 hours outside the Department.

2.ENGL 800.

3.Two seminars (courses numbered 900 or above) offered by the Department of English at the University of Kansas, beyond the M.A. or M.F.A. ENGL 998 does not fulfill this requirement.

4.ENGL 999, Dissertation (at least 12 hours).

If the MA or MFA was completed in KU’s Department of English, a doctoral student may petition the DGS to have up to 12 hours of the coursework taken in the English Department reduced toward the PhD.

Responsible Scholarship and Research Skills (RSRS) Requirement

For Doctoral students, the university requires completion of a course in responsible scholarship. For the English department, this would be ENGL 800, 780, or the equivalent). In addition, the Department requires reading knowledge of one approved foreign language:  Old English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Japanese, Greek, Latin, or Hebrew. Upon successful petition, a candidate may substitute reading knowledge of another language or research skill that is studied at the University or is demonstrably appropriate to the candidate’s program of study.

Doctoral students must fulfill the requirement before they take their doctoral examination, or be enrolled in a reading course the same semester as the exam.  Students are permitted three attempts at passing each foreign language or research skill. Three methods of demonstrating reading knowledge for all approved languages except Old English are acceptable:

1.Presenting 16 hours, four semesters, or the equivalent of undergraduate credit, earned with an average of C or better.

2.Passing a graduate reading course at the University of Kansas or peer institution (e.g., French 100, German 100, etc.) with a grade of C or higher. In the past, some of these reading courses have been given by correspondence; check with the Division of Continuing Education for availability.

3.Passing a translation examination given by a designated member of the English Department faculty or by the appropriate foreign language department at KU.   The exam is graded pass/fail  and requires the student to translate as much as possible of a representative text in the foreign language in a one-hour period, using a bilingual dictionary.

4.Passing a translation examination given by the appropriate foreign language department at the MA-granting institution. Successful completion must be reflected either on the MA transcript or by a letter from the degree-granting department.  

To fulfill the language requirement using Old English, students must successfully complete ENGL 710 (Introduction to Old English) and ENGL 712 (Beowulf).

[Return to Graduate Handbook index]

Residence Requirement

A doctoral student must fulfill the university policy residence requirement before taking the doctoral exam. 

Annual Review

Post-Coursework Ph.D. students must submit, with their committee chair(s), an annual review form to the DGS and Graduate Committee.

Doctoral Exam

During the oral examination (not to exceed three hours in length), a student will be tested on his or her comprehension of a literary period or movement, including all genres and groups of authors within that period or movement. In addition, the student will be tested on two of the following six areas of study:

  • An adjacent or parallel literary period or movement,
  • An author or group of related authors,
  • A genre,
  • Criticism and literary theory,
  • Composition theory, and
  • English language.

No title from any field list may appear on either of the other two lists. See Best Practices section for more details on these six areas. See below for a description of the Review of the Dissertation Proposal (RDP), which the candidate takes the semester after passing the Doctoral exam.

University policy dictates the composition of exam committees. Students may petition for an exception for several committee member situations, with the exception of the Graduate Studies Representative.

Doctoral students must take their doctoral examination within three semesters (excluding summers) of the end of the semester in which they took their final required course. If a student has an Incomplete, the timeline is not postponed until the Incomplete is resolved. For example, a student completing doctoral course work in Spring 2018 will need to schedule their doctoral exam no later than the end of Fall semester 2019. Delays may be granted by petition to the Graduate Director in highly unusual circumstances. Failure to take the exam within this time limit without an approved delay will result in the student’s falling out of good standing. For details on the consequences of falling out of good standing, see “Falling Out of Good Standing,” in General Department Policies and Best Practices.

A student may not take his or her doctoral exam until the university’s Research Skills and Responsible Scholarship requirement is fulfilled (ENGL 800 or equivalent and reading knowledge of one foreign language or equivalent).

While many students confer with the DGS as they begin the process of developing their lists, they are also required to submit a copy of their final exam list to the DGS. Most lists will be left intact, but the DGS might request that overly long lists be condensed, or extremely short lists be expanded.

The student will write a substantial (minimum 6 double-spaced pages) Review of Literature (formerly called the “Rationale”) for each of his/her lists. The three together should not exceed 25 double-spaced pages. Each section should demonstrate an advanced awareness of the current critical and/or methodological tendencies and the dominant debates that guide work in the field. To achieve this goal, the Review of Literature will include an overview of critical discussion of the defining attributes of the field, as well as a recent (past 30-40 years) history of major issues and debates in the field. For example, for a literary period, the student might include an overview of critical definitions of the period as a coherent -field” (i.e. an overview of primary formal and thematic elements, of the relationship between literary and social/historical developments, of prominent movements, etc.) as well as of recent critical debates and topics. If one were doing a genre, the Review of Literature might include major theories of its constitution and its significance, as well as of its changes over time.

The Reviews of Literature will not be produced in an exam context, but in the manner of papers that are researched and developed in consultation with advisors. Final exam lists need to be approved and signed by the committee at least 12 weeks prior to the prospective exam date. The lists should then be submitted to the Graduate Secretary.  Reviews of Literature need to be approved and signed by the committee at least three weeks prior to the exam date. Failure to meet this deadline will result in rescheduling the exam. No further changes to lists or Reviews of Literature will be allowed after official approval.

The three-week deadline is the faculty deadline--the last date for them to confirm receipt of the ROLs and confer approval--not necessarily the student deadline for submitting the documents to the faculty. Please keep that timing in mind and allow your committee adequate time to review the information and provide feedback.

To facilitate quick committee approval, students may copy the graduate secretary on the email to the committee that contains the final version of the lists and reviews of literature. Committee members may then respond to the email in lieu of signing a printed copy.

Each portion of the oral examination must be deemed passing before the student can proceed to the Review of the Dissertation Proposal. If a majority of the committee judges that the student has not answered adequately on one of the three areas of the exam, the student must repeat that portion in a separate oral exam of one hour, to be taken within one month.  Failure in two areas constitutes failure of the exam and requires a retake of the whole.  The doctoral examining committee will render a judgment of Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory on the entire examination.  A student who fails the exam twice may, upon successful petition to the Graduate Committee, take it a third and final time.

[Return to Graduate Handbook index]

Remote participation of committee members via technology

Students with committee members who plan to attend the defense via remote technology must be aware of college policy on teleconferencing/remote participation of committee members.

A majority of committee members must be physically present for an examination to commence; for doctoral oral examinations this requirement is 3 of the 5 members, for master’s oral examinations the requirement is 2 of the 3 members. In addition, it is required that the student being examined, the chair of the committee, and the outside committee member all be physically present at the examination or defense. Mediated attendance by the student, chair and outside member is prohibited.

Post-Exam Enrollment

Ph.D. candidates must be continuously enrolled in Dissertation hours, including during the summer semester, from the time they pass the doctoral examination until successful completion of the final oral examination (defense of dissertation).  If a student does not have a teaching appointment for the summer, they are still responsible for paying for their summer tuition. Enrollment should accurately reflect the amount of work that the candidate expects to accomplish during the semester or Summer Session in question.  There are, however, certain minima to be observed:

1.Students enroll for a minimum of 6 hours of Dissertation each Fall and Spring semester and a minimum of 3 hours of Dissertation each Summer Session, until the total of post-doctoral exam Dissertation hours is 18. In order to more quickly reach the 18-hour minimum, , it is highly recommended that students enroll in 9 hours of Dissertation in the Spring and Fall semesters.

2.Once a student has accumulated 18 post-doctoral exam Dissertation hours, each subsequent enrollment, including the summer semester, will be for a number of hours agreed upon as appropriate between the student and his or her advisor, the minimal enrollment each semester being 1 hour. During the summer semester, GTAs who are past the 18-hour mark may enroll for one hour during the summer, but are responsible for paying their own tuition costs.

3.A student must be enrolled in at least one hour of credit at KU during the semester he or she graduates. Although doctoral students must be enrolled in 999 while working on their dissertations, per current CLAS regulations, there is no absolute minimum number of ENGL 999 hours required for graduation.

4.Students who live and work outside the Lawrence area will, under current University regulations, have their fees assessed at the Field Work rate, which is somewhat lower than the on-campus rate. Students must petition the College Office of Graduate Affairs before campus fees will be waived.

Please also refer to the COGA policy on post-exam enrollment or the Graduate School’s policy.

Review of the Dissertation Proposal (RDP)

As soon as possible following successful completion of the doctoral exam, the candidate should establish his or her three-person core dissertation committee, and then expeditiously proceed to the preparation of a dissertation proposal.  Within the semester following completion of the doctoral exam, the student will present to the chair of his or her dissertation committee a written narrative of approximately 10-15 pages, not including bibliography, of the dissertation proposal. Copies of this proposal will be submitted to the members of the dissertation committee no later than three weeks prior to the scheduled examination date.

In the proposal, students will be expected to define: the guiding question or set of questions; a basic thesis (or hypothesis); how the works to be studied or the creative writing produced relate to that (hypo)thesis; the theoretical/methodological  model to be followed; the overall formal divisions of the dissertation; and how the study will be situated in the context of prior scholarship (i.e., its importance to the field). The narrative section should be followed by a bibliography demonstrating that the candidate is conversant with the basic theoretical and critical works pertinent to the study. For creative writing students, the proposal may serve as a draft of the critical introduction to the creative dissertation. Students are expected to consult with their projected dissertation committee concerning the preparation of the proposal.

The review will focus on the proposal, although it could also entail determining whether or not the candidate’s knowledge of the field is adequate to begin the composition process.  The examination will be graded pass/fail.  If it is failed, the committee will suggest areas of weakness to be addressed by the candidate, who will rewrite the proposal and retake the review by the end of the following semester. If the candidate abandons the entire dissertation project for another, a new RDP will be taken. (For such a step to be taken, the change would need to be drastic, such as a move to a new field or topic. A change in thesis or the addition or subtraction of one or even several works to be examined would not necessitate a new proposal and defense.) If the student fails to complete the Review of the Dissertation Proposal within a year of the completion of the doctoral exams, s/he will have fallen out of departmental good standing. For details on the consequences of falling out of good standing, see “Falling Out of Good Standing,” in General Department Policies and Best Practices.

After passing the Review of the Dissertation Proposal, the student should forward one signed copy of the proposal to the Graduate Secretary. The RDP may last no longer than 90 minutes.

The Doctoral Dissertation

The Graduate Catalog states that the doctoral candidate “must present a dissertation showing the planning, conduct and results of original research, and scholarly creativity.” While most Ph.D. candidates in the Department of English write dissertations of a traditional, research-oriented nature, a creative writing candidate may elect to do a creative-writing dissertation involving fiction, poetry, drama or nonfiction prose. Such a dissertation must contain a section of scholarly research related to the creative writing.  The precise nature of the scholarly research component should be determined by the candidate in consultation with the dissertation committee and the Graduate Director. Candidates wishing to undertake such a dissertation must complete all Departmental requirements demanded for the research- oriented Ph.D. degree.

The dissertation committee will consist of at least four members—three “core” English faculty members, plus a fourth English faculty member for the defense. It may include (with the Graduate Director’s approval) members from other departments and, with the approval of the University’s Graduate Council, members from outside the University. The candidate’s preferences as to the membership of the dissertation committee will be carefully considered; the final decision, however, rests with the Department and with the office of Graduate Studies. All dissertation committees must get approval from the Director of Graduate Studies before scheduling the final oral exam (defense). Furthermore, any changes in the make-up of the dissertation committee from the Review of the Dissertation Proposal committee must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Membership of the dissertation committee should remain constant. However, under extraordinary circumstances, a student may request a substitution in, or a faculty member may ask to be dismissed from, the membership of the dissertation committee.  Such requests must be approved, in writing, by the faculty member leaving the committee and by the Graduate Director.

If a student does not make progress during the dissertation-writing stage, and accumulates more than one Unsatisfactory on his or her transcript, s/he will fall out of good standing in the department. For details on the consequences of falling out of good standing, see “Falling Out of Good Standing,” in General Department Policies and Best Practices.

[Return to Graduate Handbook index]

Final Oral Exam (Dissertation Defense)

When the dissertation has been tentatively accepted by the dissertation committee, the final oral examination will be held, on the recommendation of the Department. Although the dissertation committee is responsible for certification of the candidate, any member of the graduate faculty may be present at the examination and participate in the questioning, and one examiner—the Outside Member—must be from outside the Department. The Graduate Secretary can help students locate an appropriate outside member. The examination normally lasts no more than two hours. It is the obligation of the candidate to advise the Graduate Director that he or she plans to take the oral examination; this must be done at least one month before the date proposed for the examination.  At least three calendar weeks prior to the defense date, the student will submit the final draft of the dissertation to all the committee members and inform the Graduate Secretary.  Failure to meet this deadline will necessitate rescheduling the defense. The final oral examination for the Ph.D. in English is, essentially, a defense of the dissertation.  When it is passed, the dissertation itself is graded by the dissertation director, in consultation with the student’s committee; the student’s performance in the final examination (defense) is graded by the entire five-person committee.

Rubric for an Honors dissertation in Literature

“Honors” should only be given to dissertations that are rated “Outstanding” in all or most of the following categories:

1.Introduction/Statement of the Problem/Focus/Thesis is significant and innovative; the introduction clearly places the problem/focus/thesis in context.

2.The doctoral candidate demonstrates a full and up-to-date grounding in existing literature; the writer also engages in an extensive critique of the literature, not just a summary of it.

3.The doctoral candidate thoroughly understands methodology/approach/theory. His or her application of methodology/approach/theory is innovative and convincing.

4.Summary of materials under examination is clear, concise, and insightful.

5.Detailed discussion of the implications of the research and future directions for research.

6.The dissertation demonstrates original and sophisticated analysis. Novel, important conclusions are drawn, and the results are thoroughly contextualized.

Rubric for an Honors dissertation in Creative Writing

“Honors” should only be given to dissertations that are rated “Outstanding” in all or most of the following categories:

1.Significant and innovative plot/structure/idea/focus. The writer clearly places plot/structure/idea/focus in context.

2.Thorough knowledge of literary traditions. Clear/flexible vision of the creative work produced in relation to those literary traditions.

3.Introduction/Afterword is clear, concise, and insightful. A detailed discussion of the implications of the project and future writing projects exists.

4.The creative dissertation reveals the doctoral candidate’s comprehensive understanding of poetics and/or aesthetic approach. The application of the aesthetic approach is innovative and convincing.

5.The creative dissertation represents original and sophisticated creative work.

6.The creative dissertation demonstrates thematic and/or aesthetic unity.

These sets of attributes are adapted from the Graduate Learner Outcomes that are a part of our Assessment portfolio.

After much discussion about whether the “honors” designation assigned after the dissertation defense should be for the written product only, for the defense/discussion only, for both together, weighted equally, or eradicated altogether, the department voted to accept the Graduate Committee recommendation that “honors” only apply to the written dissertation since this designation is necessary for that work to be nominated for the Argersinger Prize for Outstanding Dissertation. "Honors" will be given to dissertations that are rated "Outstanding" in all or most of the categories on the dissertation rubric.

[Return to Graduate Handbook index]


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