PhD Program

The English Department funds all M.A./Ph.D.s who enter the program with a B.A. degree for seven years. Ph.D. students who enter with an M.A. degree are funded for six years. See Timelines for more information.


    1. Time Limit and Residence Requirement
    2. Advisory Committee
    3. Coursework Requirements (and Policy on Incompletes)
    4. 2nd-Year Review and Conferral of M.A. Degree (Category 1 Only)

Time Limit and Residence Requirement

Requirements for the Doctoral degree should be completed in six years for Ph.D. students (those entering with an M.A.) and in seven years for category M.A./Ph.D. students (those entering with only a B.A.). Students normally enroll in coursework for three years beyond the B.A. or two years beyond the external M.A. and then register to take examinations. Please see Timelines for the Ph.D. Time-to- Completion Plan recommended by the Director of Graduate Studies. At least one year (two consecutive semesters) of graduate work must be spent in full-time study (“residence”) at Storrs. Doctoral students normally fulfill this requirement while taking course work. Students must maintain continuous registration throughout the graduate program.

Advisory Committee

All Ph.D. students are assigned by the Director of Graduate Studies a Major Advisor from the Department of English upon matriculation. Associate Advisors may be members of any university department. Courses to be taken and all additional program policies should be discussed with the Major Advisor. Students may change Major or Associate advisors at any time (for example, when selecting an appropriate examination committee). Forms to change Advisory Committee members are available in the Graduate English Office and at the Grad School website.

Coursework Requirements (and Policy on Incompletes)

MA/PhD students are required to complete 47 credits of course work at UCONN for the PhD; PhD students are ordinarily required to complete 24 credits of course work at UCONN for the Ph.D., and at least 46 credits total of graduate work. The usual course load for a full-time student in each semester is between six and nine credits (if the student is a teaching assistant), as approved by the Major Advisor. Coursework must fulfill the following requirements:

  • English 5100
  • English 5182 (one credit)
  • English 5150 (MA/PhD only; one credit)
  • English 5160
  • one course in theory (literary, cultural, rhet/comp; English 5500, 6500 or another approved course)
  • one course in literature in texts before 1800
  • one course in literature in texts after 1800

Students who feel they have fulfilled any of the requirements listed above (at another institution) may petition the graduate program office to have those requirements waived at UCONN.

MA/PhD students who are continuing for the PhD have until the end of the third year of coursework to fulfill the distribution requirements.

Coursework is normally taken at Storrs. Transfer of up to six credits from another institution’s graduate program, or  six credits from non-degree graduate coursework undertaken at UCONN, may be accepted toward the MA or the PhD, provided that such credits are not used to earn a degree at another institution.

The Graduate Executive Committee recommends that students take no more than six credits of Independent Study. All Independent Studies must be approved by the Graduate Executive Committee.  Finally, the Graduate Executive Committee strongly discourages incompletes. However, incompletes taken under extraordinary circumstances must be completed within one month of the appointed course final examination time; students who fail to complete coursework within this timeframe will be placed on probationary status by the Graduate Executive Committee. Students with more than one incomplete at any given time may be dropped from the program after review by the Committee.

2nd-Year Review and MA Degree (M.A./Ph.D. Only)

All M.A./Ph.D. students must submit materials to the Second-Year Review Committee in the second year of study at UConn; the review will take place in the spring semester. Candidates will be evaluated according to four criteria:  the completion of at least 30 credits of coursework by the end of the review semester; the maintenance of a minimum 3.5 GPA; the persuasiveness of a 1,000-word (maximum) research statement, which references the candidate’s intellectual and professional development and future plans; the quality of a seminar paper that best demonstrates the abilities of its author; and two written evaluations, one from the candidate’s current advisor and another from a faculty member with whom the candidate has worked in seminar. The personal statement, writing sample, and evaluation by the faculty members must be submitted by February 10th.

The Second-Year Review Committee will generate a written response for each candidate, the results of which will be conveyed in a meeting between the candidate and the Director of Graduate Studies. Candidates earning a “Pass” will receive an M.A. degree and move onto the next phase of Ph.D. work.  Students who earn a “Low Pass” will be allowed to submit—by July 1—a revised portfolio for reconsideration; students who fail a second time will receive their M.A. but will not go onto the PhD.  Students who “Fail” will receive an M.A. degree but will not be invited to continue in the Ph.D. program.

Plan of Study

The Plan of Study for the Ph.D. degree must be signed by all members of the Advisory Committee and submitted to the Graduate School (copy to the Graduate English Office) in the last semester of course work for the degree.   The Graduate School requires 15 credits of the mandatory research course GRAD 6950.  These credits can be fulfilled within two to three semesters of continuous registration with a full Teaching Assistantship.  The Plan of Study must indicate which courses have been taken and are to be taken in fulfillment of requirements, how the language requirement has been or will be fulfilled, and what the dissertation topic will be.  The Plan of Study must be on file with the Graduate School before the Dissertation Prospectus Colloquium takes place. Any changes–in courses submitted, language requirement plans–must be submitted to the Graduate School on a “Request for Changes in Plan of Graduate Study” form. All forms are available in the English Graduate Office or online here.

Language Requirement

The English Department requires its doctoral students to know at least one foreign language, preferably one of demonstrable utility in their intended area of specialization. Students specializing in certain areas–Medieval or Renaissance, for example–will probably need to acquire additional language skills. The various ways to demonstrate knowledge of a foreign language are described in detail on page 19 of  the current Graduate School Catalog:  A plan to fulfill the language requirement should be worked out early in the student’s program in consultation with the Major Advisor. The Graduate Executive Committee recommends that students complete the requirement prior to completing coursework and requires that students do so prior to submission of the dissertation prospectus. Failure to complete the language requirement by the end of the third year (PhD students) or by the end of the fourth year (MA/PhD students) will put students at risk of losing their funding for the next academic year.   The form for the language requirement is online here; it must be completed and signed by the examiner, a copy sent to the Grad English Office for the student’s file and then submitted directly to the Registrar’s Office or

The DGS will meet with students at risk of losing their funding before determining whether funding will be continued or discontinued. Funding decisions will be made by the DGS in consultation with the Graduate Executive Committee, and will be communicated to students by the DGS.

The Doctoral Examination

The PhD Qualifying Examinations are based on two reading lists (details below), which are created in the final semester of coursework and must be approved by the Graduate Executive Committee. The Graduate Executive Committee recommends the following timeline for completion of the Doctoral Examination:

  1. In consultation with the Advisory Committee, create exam lists in the spring semester of the final coursework year. While creating exam lists, discuss the timing and formatting of the PhD exam (details below).
  2. Submit Exam lists and the Doctoral Examination Approval Form to the Graduate Office for approval by April 15.
  3. Submit Plan of Study to the Graduate School in summer or early fall semester in the third year.
  4. Take the Doctoral Examination no later than February 28th of the fourth year for MA/PhDs or third year for PhDs. The Graduate Executive Committee recommends that students take exams in the late fall.
  5. Submit dissertation prospectus and schedule the Prospectus Colloquium no later than April 1st of the fourth year for MA/PhDs, or third year for MA/PhDs.

Creation and Submission of Examination Lists

The PhD Qualifying Examinations are typically based on two reading lists, which provide the materials for three discrete exams: one addressing the first reading list, one addressing the second reading list, and a third which combines materials from both lists. For the purposes of the exams, each list designates a clearly defined and professionally recognizable field or subfield of scholarship (e.g., a literary-historical period such as the Renaissance, a transtemporal genre such as Drama, a critical tradition such as Feminism, an established body of literature such as Children’s Literature). The relationship between the two reading lists is to be determined by the advisory committee, with the understanding that the fields identified by each list are to complement one another (in terms of (literary) history, discipline, method, genre, or otherwise). When appropriate, students should discuss with their advisors ways to handle the challenges of representing multiple subfields and/or disciplines within the two-list structure

Traditionally, each list comprises approximately 60-75 works, including 75% primary works and 25% secondary works. A “secondary” work may refer to a book, essay, or group of essays including literary criticism, historical, or theoretical texts. Lists from students in certain fields may look slightly different. For example, lists in Rhetoric and Composition may contain entirely secondary texts, including articles and book chapters alongside book-length texts. Lists in fields such as Digital Humanities or Film Studies may include texts in a variety of modalities. Students in these fields should discuss with their advisors the best way to proceed. All lists should include no fewer than 60-75 works overall, of any genre or modality. Because each field is different, a student’s list should reflect the kind of texts (e.g., theoretical, multimodal, visual) that are important in that field. How each text “counts” on the PhD exam list will be determined at the discretion of the student and their advisory committee, as the graduate office recognizes that length and complexity are not equivalent. Generally speaking, excerpts are not permissible, though standard excerpts of exceedingly long or multi-volume works may be permitted with the approval of the advisory committee. (In assembling selections of poems, essays, excerpts, etc., students should not use undergraduate-oriented anthologies such as the Norton or Bedford anthologies; instead, students should research and choose an authoritative scholarly edition that surveys adequately — for a PhD-level exam — each author’s writings.) The student’s reading lists should reflect both breadth and depth of reading, as well as a sense of the history of criticism throughout the fields and contemporary critical and theoretical approaches. There should be no overlap of works between reading lists. Selections of works should take into consideration both coverage of the field and preparation for the anticipated dissertation.

Reading lists are to be drawn up by the student in consultation with their advisory committee, beginning at the end of the fall semester of the final year of coursework. Students are encouraged, though not required, to meet with the advisory committee as a whole to discuss the creation of the lists. All items in each list should be numbered clearly, and lists should be arranged chronologically or in some other systematic fashion.

Each list should be accompanied by a brief statement (no longer than 500 words), known as a “rationale,” which explains its content. The purpose of the rationales is the following: (1) to identify a body of texts and its legibility as part of a professionally recognizable field or subfield; (2) to justify inclusions or exclusions that might seem idiosyncratic or which are, at least, not self-explanatory (e.g., including more drama than prose or poetry on a Renaissance list); (3) to indicate a methodological, theoretical, or other type of emphasis (e.g., a high number of gender studies-oriented secondary works).

You can find a sample examination list with correct formatting and marginal notes explaining its elements here.

The student is responsible for making copies of their lists and rationales and depositing them, along with the completed Examination Approval Form, in the Graduate English Office no later than April 15th of the final year of coursework. All reading lists will then be referred to the Graduate Executive Committee for approval. The Graduate Executive Committee will not approve lists that fail to meet the basic guidelines recommended above. Students whose ideas about the exams continue to change during the reading period may update their lists with the approval of their advisory committees.

Scheduling the Examination

After examination lists are approved, students in consultation with their advisory committees need to agree upon the timing and format of the exams (details below) as well as specific dates on which their exam is to be administered.  Please complete the Ph.D. Sign-Up form and send to the Graduate English Office. If the student requires a space on campus to take the exam, arrangements should be made at this time.  Students should communicate this information to the Graduate English Office.  The deadline by which all students must take their Examination (including the exam conference) is February 28th of the fourth year for MA/PhDs or the same date of the third year for PhDs.

Understanding PhD Examination Deadlines and Time Limits

The PhD examination was devised in part to facilitate students’ timely completion of the doctoral degree, and so the Graduate Executive Committee requires that students meet all official deadlines. Students incapable of meeting an examination deadline, for whatever reason, must apply for a time extension from the Director of Graduate Studies by submitting a typed request, signed by the student and their major advisor, at least one month in advance of the deadline. The letter must state the specific reasons for the time delay and also designate the specific amount of extra time requested.

The Director of Graduate Studies, in consultation with the Graduate Executive Committee, will determine an appropriate response to the request, which will be communicated to the candidate by the Director of Graduate Studies. The Committee’s response will specify new deadlines by which the exam should be taken.

Taking the Examination

The PhD exam consists of three parts. The first two exams (Field 1 and Field 2) test the student’s knowledge of works on the each field list for the purposes of teaching and research. The third exam (Synthesis) tests the student’s ability to combine material from both reading lists in the service of a comprehensive argument, ideally one informing future work on the dissertation.

The exam can take one of three formats, charted below. These formats are designed to provide graduate students and their advisory committees the flexibility to design a PhD exam that is intellectually challenging and responsive to a student’s needs and goals. As students prepare reading lists for their exams, they must consult with their advisory committee to select a fitting exam format. In the course of these deliberations, students and their committees also should take into account matters of access (outlined below) as well as students’ caretaking responsibilities, their ability to secure a quiet space to take exams, and other relevant factors. If these factors require a change in the exam’s format not recognized below, or in the event of a disagreement, the student should consult with their advisor and/or the Director of Graduate Studies.

Exam Format Writing Oral
Current Format 3 written essays (Field One, Field Two, and Synthesis) composed over a period of 3 days of writing (i.e., starts 8 am on day 1 and is due 8 am on day 4).

For each exam, the student should receive two questions, of which the student selects and answers one.


The student can receive all exam questions at once.



This format requires an exam conference, but the student will know if they have passed or failed the exam before that meeting. The exam conference is described below. It is ungraded.


Current Format (Extended) 3 written essays (Field One, Field Two, and Synthesis) composed over a period of 3 days spread across 3 successive weeks (e.g. Friday, October 1; Saturday, October 8; Friday, October 15).


For each exam, the student should receive two questions, of which the student selects and answers one.


The student receives exam questions as they answer them, not all at once.



This format requires an exam conference, but the student will know if they have passed or failed the exam before that meeting. The exam conference is described below. It is ungraded.

Modified Current Format: Oral 2 written essays (Field One and Field Two) composed under either the Current Format or Current Format (Extended)


A graded, hour-long oral examination, initiated by a 15-minute presentation from the student in which they outline three to four research questions that arose from their reading, dedicating approximately equal time to each. The remaining 45 minutes is led by faculty as an oral synthesis exam.


In addition to the oral exam, this format requires an exam conference, but the student will know if they have passed or failed the exam before that meeting. The exam conference is described below. It is ungraded.

Examination questions are to be drafted by the candidate’s committee and reviewed by the Director of Graduate Studies, but the major advisor is responsible for assembling the exam. Candidates are not permitted to view the questions prior to the examination. The Graduate Program Assistant will distribute questions for written exams upon the schedule determined by the student and their committee and assist in scheduling a space for the oral exam, if applicable.

The Graduate Executive Committee strongly recommends that all candidates consult their entire Advisory Committee about their personal understanding of the examination process and expectations for each part of it — both early in the process of assembling the lists and at a later stage just prior to scheduling the examination.

The Graduate Executive Committee assumes that answers to written exams will be approximately 10-15 pages of double-spaced prose (with limited block quoting); that each essay will answer the question asked by the advisory committee, however creatively; that each essay will establish a clear argument and seek to back it up with textual evidence; and that each essay will be clearly written and appropriately revised. Pre-written essays are strictly forbidden.  The candidate should pay attention to the question’s instructions regarding the number of texts they should use in their response and not consider a text in detail in more than one essay.

Access and Accommodations for Ph.D. Exams

The University of Connecticut is committed to achieving equal educational and employment opportunity and full participation for persons with disabilities. Graduate students who have questions about access or require further access measures in any element of the graduate program should contact the Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD), Wilbur Cross Building Room 204, (860) 486-2020, or visit Alternatively, students may register online with the CSD by logging into the student MyAccess portal at

The English Graduate Office advises students who would like to discuss matters access related to their PhD exams to consult with the Director of Graduate Studies, ideally during the creation of the exam lists. Access measures for PhD exams may include, but are not limited to, extended time to complete the exam, the use of voice recognition programs and the extended time some programs require, or locating and scheduling space to take the exam.

The Examination Grade

Upon completion of the examination, students will receive a grade from their committee of “Pass,” or “Fail.” Major advisors should communicate this grade to their advisees as soon as possible and certainly before the day set for the examination conference. Students who fail the examination will be required to meet with their advisory committee to determine an appropriate time and plan for retaking it. Students failing the examination twice will be dismissed from the program.  Please Note: ABD status grants a salary increase and eligibility for a library study carroll.

The Examination Conference

Within two weeks of a student passing the PhD examination, the advisory committee will meet with the student to discuss the examination. This examination conference is a mandatory, but not a graded, component of the examination. The purpose of the conference is twofold: to offer candidates a forum for a thorough discussion of their exam’s strengths and weaknesses and to help the student transition from the examination phase to the prospectus phase of the PhD. To this end, the Graduate Executive Committee assumes that advisory committee members will divide time appropriately between offering feedback on each of the three exams and working collaboratively to establish a clear understanding of expectations, goals, deadlines for completion of the prospectus. The Examination Conference form needs to be signed by the advisory committee members and filed with the Graduate English Office.

Dissertation Prospectus

The Dissertation Prospectus, which must contain an accurate title and concise account of the proposed dissertation, must be submitted to the Graduate School before the actual writing of the dissertation has begun. The school’s form can be found online at The prospectus should be approximately ten-pages long, excluding the bibliography. The Prospectus must be approved by the student’s Advisory Committee and reviewed by two departmental reviewers outside the committee, who are appointed by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Prospectus Colloquium

The Dissertation Prospectus Colloquium is an opportunity for the student to defend the thesis topic before the Advisory Committee. The colloquium should take place before the actual writing begins on the dissertation. The Advisory Committee expects to be presented with a Prospectus sufficiently far along in its development for a judgment to be made on its scholarly validity and potential as a fully developed dissertation. The student and Major Advisor should inform the Director of Graduate Studies at least one month in advance of the day and time of this event.  Departmental Representatives need at least two weeks notice before the actual colloquium to read the prospectus.  The readers are expected to attend the colloquium, however, it is not necessary that they do so.  Comments from the readers can be given to the Major Advisor and student.

Dissertation Chapter Advisory Conference

The Dissertation Chapter Advisory Conference is a non-graded opportunity for  students to discuss with their advisory committees the strengths and weaknesses of a complete draft of a dissertation chapter. The conference is designed to serve three basic purposes: 1) to facilitate the transition of ABDs into the process of researching and writing the doctoral dissertation; 2) to encourage early communication between students and their committee members, and between primary and secondary advisors; 3) to encourage discussion of a future plan for the completion of the other dissertation chapters/parts. The Graduate Executive Committee requires every Ph.D. student to submit a complete draft of a chapter to the advisory committee, within 3 months but no later than 6 months after the date of the Dissertation Prospectus Defense. By “complete,” the Committee wishes to emphasize that the intellectual integrity of the submitted chapter must not be compromised by any omitted material (such as notes, bibliography, etc.), by significant stylistic weaknesses, grammatical errors, etc. After the Conference, students must turn into the Graduate office an Advisory Conference Approval Form, which must be signed by all advisory committee members.

Dissertation Defense

A Dissertation Defense is required of every student by the Graduate School. The student’s Advisory Committee and 2 Departmental Representatives are required to attend; members of the department and the University community are invited to attend. The defense is both an examination and a forum for the candidate to comment on the scope and significance of the research. As a result of the Dissertation Defense, the student’s Advisory Committee may require revisions and corrections to the dissertation. The student initiates scheduling of the Defense by consulting first with members of the Advisory Committee and the Graduate Office. At least five members of the faculty (including the members of the student’s Advisory Committee) must attend the defense. Only members of the Advisory Committee, however, may actually recommend passing or failing the student.

According to the graduate school catalog, the dissertation should represent a significant contribution to ongoing research in the candidate’s field. While the graduate school does not stipulate a minimum length for dissertations, the Graduate Executive Committee strongly suggests a minimum length of 60,000 words inclusive for a traditional dissertation in English (not a creative dissertation or a “born-digital” DH dissertation). The committee suggests this length as representing approximately 2/3 of the standard length of an academic monograph according to current publication practices.

Students must schedule the Dissertation Defense with the Graduate Office and Advisory Committee at least three months ahead of time. Electronic copies of the dissertation should be distributed at least three weeks prior to the defense:, copies to each Advisory Committee member and copies to department representatives. The student must also notify the UCONN Events Calendar.

Job Training and Professional Development

In the semester prior to submitting applications for a job, contact the Graduate Director to announce your intentions to go on the job market. The department runs annual meetings on CV and cover letter writing, teaching portfolio workshops, MLA and campus interviewing, etc. The Executive Committee recommends that Ph.D. students attend all of them.

Application to Receive the Degree

An application to receive the Ph.D. degree must be filed in the Graduate Records Office. Check the current Graduate Bulletin for the deadline for submitting this application.