Ph.D. Programs in English
The Department of English offers a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in English for students who already completed a master's degree. It also offers a combined Master of Arts (MA)/Ph.D. program in English for students with a bachelor's degree who know they want to pursue a Ph.D. Graduate students in both tracks gain a rich education, benefit from faculty mentorship, and engage with innovative teaching and scholarship. Our graduates are well prepared for exciting careers in academia and beyond.
Program Length and Timelines
Requirements should be completed in six years for Ph.D. students and in seven years for students in the MA/Ph.D. track.
Students normally enroll in coursework for three years beyond the BA or two years beyond the external MA and then take Ph.D. exams.
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.
Timeline - MA/Ph.D. Track
Those who enter with only a BA in English usually complete their Ph.D. degree in six to seven years.
Year 1: Consult with Major Advisor about courses to be taken. Complete at least 15 credits, including three required Fall courses: ENGL 5100 (Theory and Teaching of Writing, 3 credits), ENGL 5182 (Teaching Practicum, 1 credit) and ENGL 5150 (Research Methods, 1 credit).
Year 2: Complete at least 15 credits, including ENGL 5160 (Professional Development, Spring Semester). Complete the Second-Year Review. Submit Plan of Study for MA in the fall semester.
Year 3: Complete at least 15 credits. Obtain Approval of Exam Lists by April 15th. Complete language requirement. Submit Plan of Study for PhD in the fall semester.
Year 4: Complete Exams, including Exam Conference, by February 28th (Fall recommended). Complete Prospectus Colloquium by April 1.
Year 5: Work on Dissertation. Complete Chapter Advisory Conference by October 15.
Years 6 and possibly 7: Complete dissertation and defense. File “Application for Degree” in final semester.
Timeline - Ph.D. Track
Those who enter with a MA in English usually complete the Ph.D. degree in five to six years.
Year 1: Consult with Major Advisor about courses to be taken. Complete at least 12 credits, including ENGL 5160 (Professional Development, Spring Semester).
Year 2: Complete at least 12 credits. Complete coursework requirements. Complete language requirement. Obtain approval of exam lists by April 15. Submit Plan of Study for PhD in the fall semester.
Year 3: Complete Exams, including Exam Conference, by February 28th (Fall recommended). Complete Prospectus Colloquium by April 1.
Year 4: Work on Dissertation. Complete Chapter Advisory Conference by September 15.
Years 5 and possibly 6: Complete dissertation and defense. File “Application for Degree” in final semester.
All Ph.D. students are assigned a Major Advisor by the Director of Graduate Studies upon matriculation. Associate Advisors may be members of any University department. Students should discuss all courses and program policies with their 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.
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 in the last semester of coursework 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 and the Graduate School’s website.
Coursework Requirements and Policy on Incomplete Grades
Students who feel they have fulfilled any of the course requirements at another institution may petition the graduate program office to have those requirements waived at UConn.
MA/Ph.D. 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 Ph.D., 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.
Policy on Incomplete Grades
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.
The Department of English requires its doctoral students to know at least one language other than English, 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.
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 (Ph.D. students) or by the end of the fourth year (MA/Ph.D. students) will put students at risk of losing their funding for the next academic year.
The Report on Doctoral Foreign Language Examination form is available on the Graduate School’s website. 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 email@example.com.
The Ph.D. 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 completing the Doctoral Examination and moving to the dissertation.
- 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 Ph.D. exam (details below).
- Submit Exam lists and the Doctoral Examination Approval Form to the Graduate Office for approval by April 15.
- Submit Plan of Study to the Graduate School in summer or early fall semester in the third year.
- Take the Doctoral Examination no later than February 28th of the fourth year for MA/Ph.D.s or third year for Ph.D.s. The Graduate Executive Committee recommends that students take exams in the late fall.
- Submit dissertation prospectus and schedule the Prospectus Colloquium no later than April 1st of the fourth year for MA/Ph.D.s, or third year for MA/Ph.D.s.
Creation and Submission of Examination Lists
The Ph.D. Qualifying Examinations are 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 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 Ph.D. 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 Ph.D.-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 rationale (no longer than 500 words), that 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).
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. The deadline by which all students must take their Examination (including the exam conference) is February 28th of the fourth year for MA/Ph.D.s or the same date of the third year for Ph.D.s.
SUnderstanding Ph.D. Examination Deadline and Time Limits
The Ph.D. 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, ideally 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 Ph.D. exam consists of three parts. The first two exams (Field 1 and Field 2) test the student’s knowledge of works on each field list. 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 Ph.D. 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.
|Current Format||Three 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)||Three written essays (Field One, Field Two, and Synthesis). Each exam should be taken within 24 hours, but the three exams can be spaced across any three dates within a period of one month, with approval of all members of the advisory committee. For each exam, the student should receive two questions, of which the student selects and answers one.||None.
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||Two 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 the Center for Students with Disabilities website. Alternatively, students may register online with the CSD by logging into the student MyAccess portal.
The English Graduate Office advises students who would like to discuss matters related to access to consult with the Director of Graduate Studies, ideally during the creation of the exam lists. Access measures for Ph.D. 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 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 carrel.
The Examination Conference
Within two weeks of a student passing the Ph.D. 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 Ph.D.. 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 Dissertation Prospectus Colloquium is an opportunity for the student to discuss the thesis topic in detail with the Advisory Committee. The colloquium should take place before the student begins writing 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 Colloquium. 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.
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 who wish to complete a creative dissertation, a “born-digital” dissertation, or a project in a format other than a collection of textual chapters should consult with their advisory committee and the Director of Graduate Studies.
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: to each Advisory Committee member and to department representatives. The student must also notify the UConn Events Calendar two weeks in advance. For further information, see this helpful guide from the Graduate School.
Annual Review of Academic Standing
Beginning in their first semester following the completion of coursework, MA/Ph.D. and Ph.D. students are required to provide annual written reports of their progress toward degree, including a self-evaluation by the student and a faculty evaluation by their major advisor. Their progress is evaluated each spring semester by the Director of Graduate Studies in consultation with the Associate Director of Graduate Studies. In the preparation of this report, students and their major advisors are required to meet with one another, and students should submit the review to the Graduate Office no later than April 1.
For students in the first year following the completion of coursework, satisfactory progress is initially measured by the student and major advisor in terms of their preparation for and writing of their doctoral examinations, which are to be taken no later than February 28th of the third year for Ph.D. students or the fourth year for MA/Ph.D. students. Successful completion of the language exam (by the time of the prospectus colloquium); and completion of the prospectus and the prospectus colloquium, which is to be scheduled no later than April 1st of the third year for Ph.D. students or the fourth year for MA/Ph.D. students. The Graduate Executive Committee recommends that students take their exams late in the fall semester of their exam year, and submit their prospectus early in the spring semester.
For students who are ABD, the review of academic standing charts progress in the writing of the dissertation. The self-evaluation from the student should record milestones achieved and set forth research and writing accomplished since the last evaluation as well as research and writing plans for the next twelve months. The evaluation by the major advisor should account for the timeliness of the student’s progress toward the degree, the quality of the work the student has produced in the preceding year, and areas in which the student can improve in the coming year. Neither evaluation is to exceed 500 words.
In the event that a student receives an unsatisfactory review, they have the option to appeal and request a meeting with the Director of Graduate Studies. The appeal is to include a statement from the student introducing new information and/or contextualizing past evaluations and a new statement from the major advisor. The appeal may also be accompanied by additional supporting letters from faculty. The appeal will be decided no later than the next regularly scheduled meeting of the Graduate Executive Committee.
Second-Year Review of MA Degree (MA/Ph.D. Track Only)
All MA/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;
Students must also submit 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 MA 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 MA but will not go onto the PhD. Students who “Fail” will receive an MA degree but will not be invited to continue in the Ph.D. program.
Job Training and Professional Development
In the semester prior to submitting applications for a job, contact the Director of Graduate Studies 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.