Doctor of Philosophy in English

The Doctor of Philosophy degree in English at LSU is designed to help students develop high-level, theoretically informed, professional skills in research, reading, writing, editing, and teaching in a range of language-related areas, and to develop expertise in at least one of those areas. We hope to prepare students for careers in college and university teaching and for careers requiring similar professional skills. All students must complete the program within 7 years of entrance into the program.


Note on Internal Admission

Students initially entering our MA or MFA programs must be formally admitted to the PhD program. They will be reviewed early in the spring semester, on a strictly equal basis with other applicants, for admission and financial aid. Such students should apply for admission no later than January 15 to begin the PhD program the following Fall semester. They should complete the department’s application form, with writing sample and statement of purpose, but need not apply to the Graduate School.


Requirements: Overview

In order to earn a PhD in English, all students are required to:

• Submit the Academic Course Plan

 Complete the Qualifying Procedure

Complete required course work

Meet the foreign language and residency requirements

Pass the General Examination

Complete the pre-dissertation conference

Complete the dissertation

Pass the final Exam

Each of these requirements is detailed below.

Academic Course Plan Conference

The Academic Course Plan conference is a formal review and assessment of the scope and quality of your past work and plans for future work. In the first semester of study or early in the second—or in the third semester if you enter the program with a BA only—the following process must be completed:

You find three Graduate Faculty members willing to serve as your conference committee. These may be professors who specialize in your area of interest or other professors of your choice.
The DGS approves the committee.
You schedule the conference with your committee.
The conference is a diagnostic conversation in which you and your committee:

Discuss the intended shape of your doctoral work, including any deficiencies or problems needing attention.
Determine how much (if any) previous graduate work will be applied as course credit toward the LSU PhD degree. (The department allows a maximum of 24 hours of previous graduate course work elsewhere [with grades of A, B, P, or S] to be applied toward the degree, including no more than 12 hours of courses taken as a non-matriculating student. MA Thesis Research hours may not be applied toward the PhD degree.]
Draw up the full list of courses (or choices of courses) that will satisfy your degree requirements and provide coverage of a variety of subjects of study relating to your approved plans.
Discuss the possibility of choosing a minor area. You may declare a minor on your Program of Study form either within or outside the English department, but you are not required to do so. If you choose to declare a minor, you must find a member of the university’s Graduate Faculty who agrees to serve as your Minor Professor, and you must report your choice of a minor program and Minor Professor to the committee for inclusion in the Academic Course Plan. You need not file any separate forms to declare a minor. More details are discussed below under Minor Courses. The decisions made during this meeting are recorded on a form called the Program of Study, available from the English Graduate Program Specialist or the Graduate School’s website along with instructions for filling it out. The principal record of the conference is the Program of Study form, completed (in duplicate) and signed by the committee, forwarded to the DGS, and filed in LSU's Graduate School by the department.

If you later decide (with the approval of your advisor and the DGS) not to take courses listed in your Academic Course Plan or to take additional or different courses, a “Request for Change in Program of Study” form must be approved and submitted to the Graduate School prior to taking your General Examination. This form is available from the English Department's Graduate Program Specialist or the Graduate School’s website.


Note: For students entering the program with an MA, the Academic Course Plan meeting is essentially the same procedure as the Qualifying Procedure (see below).


Note on the Residence Requirement: The fulfillment of the residence requirement (full-time registration for at least two consecutive semesters, not counting summers) cannot begin until the Program of Study form is filed with the Graduate School.


Qualifying Procedure

In practice, the Qualifying Procedure is taken as the equivalent of the MA Final Examination for students pursuing the PhD at LSU. The Qualifying Procedure is designed to ensure satisfactory overall student progress and quality of work (including determining foreign language requirements), and to give faculty a forum for evaluating whether or not a student should remain in the program. This is a mandatory procedure for all PhD students, but PhD students with MAs automatically pass the procedure. Students with MAs will complete their Qualifying Procedure by undergoing an interview in order to establish and confirm programs of study and to establish the student’s foreign language requirements.


1. When to complete the Qualifying Procedure: For full-time PhD students entering the program with an MA, the Qualifying Procedure should be taken during the first semester or, at the very latest, by the end of the second semester of the first year of study at LSU. For full-time students entering without an MA, the Qualifying Procedure should be taken no later than the fourth semester when they have completed the MA-level coursework. For students entering with a BA, the Qualifying Procedure and the MA Exam are the same procedure. For students entering with an MA, the Academic Course Plan Meeting and the Qualifying Procedure are the same procedures.


2. The Qualifying Procedure Committee shall comprise three faculty members chosen by the student and approved by the Director of Graduate Studies; the student should have taken courses with at least two of the committee members.


3. The Procedure contains THREE elements:


1. Portfolio Review: The portfolio review is done before the actual meeting; the student submits the portfolio to committee members who individually review the material prior to the meeting. The contents of the portfolio and the procedure here are identical to that of the Non-Thesis MA Examination.


2. Student Presentation: Drawing from the portfolio, the student orally presents a summary of graduate-level work completed to date and plans for future work and specialization: this is an exercise in scholarly self-articulation and should take no more than 20 to 30 minutes. This procedure is identical to that of the MA Examination.


3. Examination and Plan of Work: Questions or concerns about the portfolio’s contents and the student’s presentation are addressed at the meeting. The range of possible questions is identical to that of the MA Examination. For students who entered without an MA, the Program of Study form (see above)—that they are required to fill out with professorial guidance by the end of their third semester—is also reviewed and approved. For students entering with an MA, the Program of Study form will be approved at the Qualifying Procedure/ACP meeting. Having examined the student’s previous coursework, the committee recommends further coursework, where it is needed.


Note: Doctoral students who entered the department without an MA may choose to receive an MA from LSU when they satisfactorily complete the Qualifying Procedure; if they choose to do so, they should schedule their Qualifying Procedure as an MA Final Examination with the Graduate School. In the cases of students who entered the department with an MA, or who wish to go straight to the PhD without receiving an MA from LSU, the Qualifying Procedure is a purely in-house departmental procedure; in these cases, the committee members should simply inform the Graduate Program Specialist when the student has satisfactorily completed the Qualifying Procedure. It is mandatory for all students to complete the Qualifying Procedure/Academic Course Plan meeting within the time period outlined above.


You must complete a minimum of 48 hours of graduate courses. At the PhD level, students in Literary Studies and Writing & Culture will need to take the coursework required for the MA and also two additional courses in their area of concentration. In other words, at the end of their coursework, Ph.D. students should have taken at least five courses in their area of concentration. Students in the Literary Studies and Writing & Culture tracks will need to take an additional period course. (In other words, at the end of their coursework, students in Literary Studies will have taken at least five period courses, students in Writing & Culture at least three period courses.) Any student in any track who has not taken a course in literary, cultural, or rhetorical theory will be required to do so at the PhD level. All PhD students must also take ENGL 7020 (Proseminar) in their first year of graduate study.


English 7915 (Teaching College Composition) is required IF the student is a new teaching assistant teaching English composition. This course is taken concurrently with the first semester of teaching composition. Students who have taken an equivalent course elsewhere may petition the Director of University Writing to be exempted from this requirement.


You must also complete at least nine hours of English 9000 (Dissertation Research). These nine hours are not counted toward the minimum of 48 hours of graduate courses.


Courses to be counted toward the PhD degree must be at the 7000 level, except:

a very few 4000-level courses permitted with the consent of both your advisor and the DGS (e.g., some courses in linguistics and Old English)
Certain 4000-level courses taken outside the English department (assuming they are considered graduate courses by the department in which they are taken)


Minor Courses

In the case of course selection for a minor (which is optional), at least one of the 3-5 courses required in the minor field must be at the 7000-level or higher. If you choose a minor, you must do so before completing the Qualifying Procedure. Your choice may be:

A minor in another department
A split minor in two or more departments, one of which may be English (e.g., linguistics, American studies, comparative literature, critical theory, folklore, medieval studies, or gender studies)
An internal minor (e.g. creative writing or rhetoric and composition)
Students who choose minors often do so in order to gain knowledge germane to their dissertations. The program for the minor, including the actual number of courses to be taken and the nature of the examination (if any), is determined by the Graduate Faculty of the department(s) concerned.


PhD Foreign Language Requirement.

Every student must at a minimum earn basic proficiency in reading criticism in one foreign language or a reasonable equivalent (the latter to be determined by the Qualifying Procedure Committee and approved by the DGS).


Precise requirements should be based on the student’s scholarly needs. Therefore, a student’s foreign language requirement should be determined by the faculty in the particular field in which the student intends to work. The Qualifying Procedure Committee will determine a PhD student’s language requirement during the Qualifying Procedure. Students who have decided on an area or possible areas of concentration are encouraged to meet and consult with appropriate faculty members before their Qualifying Procedures so that they can begin work on fulfilling their language requirement. Faculty recommendations should be submitted in writing and signed by at least two faculty members in the relevant fields. The Qualifying Procedure Committee will honor such recommendations, though it can ask that the student learn additional languages. A committee that recommends more than two languages must submit a justification to the Director of Graduate Studies and a schedule for the student’s completion of the additional requirements. Students who feel unduly burdened may appeal to the Graduate Faculty through the Director of Graduate Studies.


Students must complete at least one language requirement before taking their General Exams. Any other language requirements should be completed within two semesters after the General Exam. (Extensions may be permitted if circumstances warrant.)


Students cannot be required to learn languages not taught on this campus; however, students can voluntarily fulfill their language requirement at other institutions with the approval of their committee.


The Qualifying Procedure Committee may require different degrees of proficiency in a foreign language or languages, which are reflected in the alternate methods of fulfilling the requirement:


Method 1: For basic proficiency in reading criticism (the minimum requirement), satisfactory performance (a grade of B or higher) in a foreign language literature course (fifth-semester course or higher) taken as a graduate student either at LSU or (upon approval of the DGS) at another institution.


Method 2: For more advanced proficiency in reading criticism and/or literature, satisfactory performance (a grade of B or higher) in a foreign language literature course at the 4000 or 7000 level taken as a graduate student either at LSU or (upon DGS approval) at another institution. (If the course is taken at LSU at the 7000 level, it can be credited as an elective toward the 48 hours of coursework required for the Ph.D.)


Method 3: If such 4000- or 7000-level courses are not available on campus, the student may choose to do an independent-study reading course in the language with either an English or other departmental faculty member who knows the language. This independent-study option requires the approval of the DGS.


After the Qualifying Procedure, the chair of that committee will inform the DGS of the student’s specific language requirement. When students have completed the foreign language requirement, they should notify the Graduate Program Specialist, who will place a certification of completion in their files.

General Exam

This is the two-hour oral examination required by the Graduate School for all doctoral candidates at LSU. It is to be taken within three semesters of having completed the Qualifying Procedure. The examination will be based on:


1. Three distinct bibliographies on three areas related to the student’s possible dissertation topic, areas to be chosen by the student in collaboration with the four-person examining committee required for every General Exam by the Graduate School. Copies of approved bibliographies should be signed by committee members and submitted to the English Graduate Office for filing.

Recommended Guidelines: The bibliographies should be created by committee members and the student. Lengths may vary, but each bibliography should include approximately 30-45 significant primary and secondary texts. As the student prepares for the General Exam, secondary bibliographies may be generated, building upon the original bibliographies. Together these lists should function in part as the beginnings of a bibliography that the student may use in writing the dissertation. Should the committee choose, it may ask the student to submit such secondary bibliographies with his or her essays (see below).

2. Three 15-page documented essays written by the student in response to questions developed by the student and the examining committee from these bibliographies. (Ordinarily, the General Exam Committee members writing the questions should all be members of the English Department; but exceptions may be made in certain special circumstances with the consent of the committee chair and the DGS.)


3. Two course syllabi written by the student, one for a commonly taught introductory course that would incorporate at least two of the three areas of interest, and another for a more advanced (e.g., 4000- or 7000-level) course in one of the specific areas of interest. The syllabi should contain the following: 1) course title 2) list of required texts, 3) list of writing assignments and examination schedule, and 4) schedule of reading assignments and discussion topics.


The areas on which the student will be examined should be general, such as these: 

Medieval Literature

Renaissance Literature

Restoration & 18th Century Literature

British Romanticism

Working-Class Studies

Media and Representation

Approved Open Area

British Victorian Literature

Early American Literature

19th Century American Literature


Science Fiction Studies

A Genre (such as drama, novel, poetry)

African-American Literature


Critical Theory

Cultural Studies

Composition Theory


The Literature of Women

Gender Studies

Postcolonial Studies

Global Anglophone Literature

Multi-ethnic American Literature

Transnational American Literature

Southern Literature

Rhetorical Studies

Analytical Bibliography 


The areas should be coordinated according to the research and teaching interests of the student.


General Exam Procedural Guidelines

General Exam Committees enjoy a high degree of autonomy, and students should consult extensively with their committee members to make sure that there is a clear understanding as to what seems most appropriate in each particular case. The following are only general guidelines: The examination schedule should be formally arranged by the committee and the student, taking into account the student’s responsibilities beyond the examination preparation itself (such as teaching duties). Sufficient time should be allotted for the student to complete the syllabi and essay assignments and for the committee to read the submissions.



Essay questions should be finalized approximately three to six weeks prior to the submission of essays to the committee for review. The essays and syllabi should be submitted to the committee two weeks prior to the General Exam. The preparation of the essays and syllabi should take place during the same semester as the General Exam.


The Graduate School recognizes only the grades of Pass or Fail for any General Exam, and such a grade should be submitted (on the Graduate School’s white cards) to the Graduate School through the English Department Graduate Program Specialist on the day of the Exam (or by the following business day). For in-house departmental purposes, the Exam Committee may decide to award the grade of Pass with Distinction. Students who fail the exam may take it again the next semester. A second failure is final.


Prior to the General Exam, you should check to make sure that you have taken the courses listed on your Program of Study. If not, you will need to submit a “Request for Change in Program of Study” form, approved by your Major Professor and the DGS. Financial support decisions may hinge on timely completion of the General Exam (see Department Policies on Financial Support below).


The General Exam committee, with the addition of a Dean's Representative appointed by the Graduate School, usually continues (often with some modifications) as your dissertation committee. It must include at least three Graduate Faculty members (plus the Dean's representative) meeting the following requirements:

All three committee members must be members of the Graduate Faculty.
The Major Professor, who acts as chair or co-chair, must be from English.
If either an adjunct or a non-tenure track faculty member is the Major Professor, a full-time tenured or tenure/track graduate faculty member must co-chair the committee.
At least one-half of the graduate faculty on doctoral committees must be full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty at LSU.
A minimum of two of those faculty members must be from English and at least one of whom must be a full member of the LSU Graduate Faculty.
The remaining members may be from English or may be from outside the department if pertinent to the student’s area of concentration, with the proviso that at least one of the remaining members must be a full member of the Graduate Faculty.
Any declared outside minors require representation, either among the first three members of the committee or by additional appointments to the committee.
The Dean of the Graduate School appoints a member or members of the graduate faculty to serve on doctoral general and final examination committees (known as the Dean’s Representative).
Pre-Dissertation Conference

A one-hour meeting of the doctoral candidate and dissertation committee members to discuss dissertation plans. This meeting should take place at the start of the semester following the General Examination. The dissertation committee may require a prospectus or other written materials before this meeting. Although the Graduate School considers a student to be officially ABD upon passing the General Exam, the department considers the pre-dissertation conference to be an important final step in satisfying all degree requirements prior to the dissertation itself. Note that the pre-dissertation conference, unlike the General Exam, is an in-house departmental procedure not required by the Graduate School; therefore, it is not mandatory that the Dean’s Representative from the General Exam be included. However, the committee chair may choose, as a matter of courtesy, to invite the Dean’s Representative to take part.

After the student has successfully completed the pre-dissertation conference, the chair and members of the student’s committee should submit a letter to that effect to the English Graduate Program Specialist, who will place it in the student’s file.


Your most important task as a PhD candidate—by far your most important task—is the preparation of your dissertation, the subject of which may come from any aspect of English studies. The General Catalog states that the dissertation “must demonstrate a mastery of research techniques, ability to do original and independent research, and skill in formulating conclusions that in some way enlarge upon or modify accepted ideas.” The dissertation is usually about 150-200 pages long, depending on the topic. Consult your Major Professor for advice concerning an appropriate length for your dissertation. In addition, read the Guidelines for the Preparation of Theses and Dissertations, which is available from the LSU Graduate School.

Dissertation Research

With the help of your Major Professor, select and focus your subject, then determine the research procedures appropriate to developing it and bringing it to conclusion. When registering for dissertation research (ENGL 9000) hours each semester, you will need to arrange a schedule with your Major Professor for expected work and progress.

Before embarking upon the dissertation, the student should meet with the Major Professor and each member of the Dissertation Committee in order to agree upon a procedure for submission and revision of preliminary drafts of written work. The student is responsible, throughout the course of the project, for communicating with Committee Members and for soliciting their response to drafts of written work. When a draft of the dissertation has been finished and no further revisions are required by the Major Professor, the student should submit a copy of the entire work to each member of the Committee and allow sufficient time for accommodating suggested revisions to the student in a timely manner; students are expected to address them in a completed draft before the Final Examination may be scheduled.


You should be sure to comply with the Residence Requirement (full-time registration for at least two consecutive semesters, not counting summers) and the Continuous Registration Requirement (registration for at least three credit hours every Fall and Spring semester from the semester in which you pass the General Exam until your dissertation is approved).


Dissertation Deadlines

When scheduling your General Exam and writing your dissertation, keep in mind the following Graduate School regulations: The program for the doctoral degree must be completed within 7 years from the time a student is classified as a doctoral student. The time limit may not be exceeded except by special permission (which is rarely given) from the Dean of the Graduate School. No less than one academic year may elapse between the passing of the General Examination and the completion of all requirements of the doctoral degree.


Final Examination

The last requirement for the PhD degree is the oral Final Examination. This is the traditional defense of the dissertation, conducted by your dissertation committee. Normally this committee is the one (often with modifications) that administered your General Examination. This exam should not be scheduled until your Major Professor has approved a final version of the Dissertation. The Graduate School defines the Final Exam as the occasion for the dissertation committee to make a Pass/Fail verdict on the dissertation as a completed work—not an occasion at which to suggest further revisions. All revisions (beyond fixing typographical errors and the like) should be complete before the Final Exam is held. The white cards on which committee members record that the student has passed or failed the Final Exam should be forwarded to the Graduate School (through the English Graduate Program Specialist) on the day of the exam (or at least by the morning of the following business day).


Final Examination Deadlines

Visit the Graduate School one semester before you plan to defend your dissertation. You will receive a packet outlining relevant deadlines and procedures concerning official requests for the exam and the degree. The Final Exam must be scheduled at least 3 weeks in advance through the filing of a form designed to confirm the members of the Final Exam Committee. This form should be filed through the English Department to the Graduate School.


You are responsible for distributing the final version of the dissertation to the members of your committee (including the Dean's Representative) at least two weeks before your Final Exam. This exam must be scheduled very early in the semester you plan to graduate (check deadlines in the General Catalog), or later in the semester before your semester of graduation. When scheduling your Final Exam, you should also be aware that many faculty may be unavailable during the Summer term.