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Doctor of Philosophy in English

SIU Student Paper

The Doctor of Philosophy degree in English prepares students to be advanced scholars and educators in the fields of literature and language: i.e., autonomous knowers, writers, and thinkers. Our program asks you to know, write, and think about a given topic independently. For that reason, it asks you to focus intensively on a single research project for a sustained period of time.

Our program prepares students for faculty positions, but also for work in a variety of other fields: public history, technical and professional writing, publishing (digital and traditional), arts and educational administration, grant writing and fundraising, and other forms of public humanities work.

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 Student Handbook

Program Details

Our PhD program is designed as a five-year program for full-time students. It does not prescribe a set list of courses or distribution requirements. Instead, you will develop a program of study in close consultation with a faculty advisor. The program’s structure allows for maximum flexibility in your coursework and the development of areas of research focus outside of traditional periodization.

Qualifying examinations cover one major and two minor areas as chosen in the consultation with your committee. Upon successful completion of the examinations, the you are advanced to candidacy, and proceeds directly to the dissertation prospectus and the dissertation. Once the dissertation is completed, you will present an oral defense of the dissertation before a committee, including any designated outside readers.

Application Procedures

The application deadline is January 1 for prospective PhD students in literature and rhetoric and composition.

The Graduate School’s online application will ask you to submit a CV, statement of purpose, writing sample, and three letters of recommendation, in addition to transcripts and other basic academic information. Please consult the following documents for advice on application materials, statements of purpose, and writing samples.

Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores (general or subject tests) are not required for admission to the PhD program. The minimum GPA for admission to SIUC’s Graduate School is 2.7 (of 4.0). International applicants should review the Graduate School’s requirements for international admissions.

Writing Sample Guidelines

Please submit at least one sample of academic writing that forecasts your capacity to complete the written work typically assigned in graduate seminars. The ideal writing sample will be at least eight pages of your writing that demonstrates your ability with as many of the following as possible:

  • clearly articulated and appropriately focused thesis
  • coherently developed argument
  • sufficiently researched analysis (and/or theoretically informed argument)
  • logically derived conclusion(s)
  • correctly documented source material

Please submit a clean copy of the paper, one without teacher comments or grade.

Statement of Purpose Guidelines

All applicantsmust submit a detailed Statement of Purpose for admission to our programs. The statement consists of two or more double-spaced, typed pages (500-750 words) that address the questions below. These questions do not have to be answered in order or in equal detail. The Graduate Studies Committee views the statement of purpose as a chance for applicants to detail their future projects and intellectual interests as well as how department faculty can assist in developing these projects and interests. Although the committee is interested in applicants’ broader career goals, it is most interested in their specific literary, rhetorical, and creative interests.

  • In what aspect of literary or rhetorical studies are you interested? Do you have an interest in any specific literary period, critical or theoretical approach, or research topic? Do you have a research or creative project in mind? (MFA applicants: Also see the next section and direct your responses to reflect your creativewriting interests and goals) Will you be able to satisfy these interests with the
    current English curricula at SIU? What background (i.e., course training, professional or academic experience) prepares you to study English at the graduate level?
  • Additional questions for MFA applicants only: Why are you seeking a degree in creative writing? What do you hope to gain from such a degree program? Which poets or writers, beyond the writers you have studied with as an undergraduate student, do you cite as influences upon your own writing?
  • Why have you selected the English program at SIU? Do you, for instance, want to work with specific faculty? Are you attracted to specific programs or course offerings?
  • Please discuss any connections between your scholarly interests and teaching and/or any special interest in teaching that you might have. Do you have any experience or training in teaching? Do you envision a career in teaching, if so, at what level? How do you see your scholarly interests translating into a pedagogical setting?

Contact Information

Betsy Dougherty
Interim Graduate Studies Coordinator
Faner 2262
1000 Faner Dr
Carbondale, IL 62901

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School of Literature, Writing, and Digital Humanities | College of Liberal Arts | 618-453-5321 |