MA/PhD Program

MA/PhD Program

Advanced
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Ohio State's PhD Program in English trains students in advanced research, writing and teaching skills in a number of areas in English studies. With over 60 faculty members and 90 graduate students, our program hosts one of the largest, most vibrant intellectual communities in English studies in the country. While engaged in their advanced study, our graduate students make significant contributions to the department’s intellectual community: they teach courses, participate in department-sponsored scholarly activities and present their research in publications and at internationally-recognized conferences. Our program has trained noted scholars specializing in a range of areas in English, including rhetoric and composition, narrative theory, folklore, U. S. ethnic and postcolonial literature and all historical periods of English literature — from the Anglo-Saxon era to present day.  We have also trained a number of students who have gone into a variety of non-academic careers, including in nonprofit administration, software development and corporate training and strategy.

The Ohio State University's MA/PhD program in English welcomes applications from students who have earned a bachelors or masters degree and who wish to specialize in any of the many fields in English studies that the Department of English covers.


PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS

All students pursuing their PhD in English must complete the following major components of our MA/PhD program. The accordions below provide information about how students may fulfill each of these components. For an overview of the program, please see the representative timelines below that show roughly when in a graduate student’s career they can expect to pass each milestone. 

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Each student must take a minimum total of 36 credit hours to earn an MA in English on the way to the PhD. Students who enter the program with a BA typically earn the MA at the end of their second year. Specific course requirements include the following:

  • Eight graduate-level courses taken for letter grades (24 semester credit hours). These must include:
    • English 6700.01: Introduction to Graduate Study in English (three credits)
    • A course in critical theory (three credits)
    • Two courses to fulfill the breadth requirement (six credits)
  • Four graduate-level courses taken for S/U grades (12 semester credit hours). These can include:
    • English 6781: Introduction to the Teaching of First-Year English (three credits)
    • English 8903: Teaching College English (three credits, repeatable)
    • English 6998: Research in English: Portfolio Preparation (variable credit hours)
    • English 8193: Graduate Workshop (one credit)

A note about letter grade and S/U class numbers

When you register for courses on Buckeyelink, you will find that each course has been decimalized and has a ".01" and ".02" number.  The ".01" number is to be used to register for the graded section of the course, and the ".02" number is to be used for the S/U section of the course. The decimalized versions are available so that students can choose whether to take the course for a grade or S/U designation. For example, there are two listings for English 6746: Introduction to Graduate Study in British Literature of the Romantic Period. English 6746.01 is the graded section and English 6746.02 is the S/U section, but the course meets on the same day(s) and at the same time(s).


Critical theory requirement

Students must take at least one course in critical theory (three credits); this course must be taken for a letter grade. The critical theory requirement can be fulfilled through English 6760, 6761, 6776.01, 6776.02, 6790, 6791, 7861, 7876, 7890, 7891, or 8888. Additional courses in English or other departments can be petitioned to count.


Breadth requirement

Each student must complete two courses to add breadth to the student’s program (six credits total). These courses must be taken for a letter grade and conform to the following guidelines:

  • Students concentrating on literature or theory after 1800: Two courses in pre-1800 literature, rhetoric, folklore, etc.
  • Students concentrating on literature or theory before 1800: Two courses in post-1800 literature, rhetoric, folklore, film, etc.
  • Students concentrating in non-literary fields: Two courses to add breadth as determined in consultation with the faculty advisor and the director of Graduate Studies

Graduate workshop requirement

In addition to their regular coursework, MA/PhD students must complete two graduate workshops by the end of their fourth year in the program (preferably before candidacy).

The graduate workshops provide opportunities to enrich the department's formal graduate curriculum by regularly bringing in scholars from other institutions to discuss their recently-published and current work with students and faculty. Typically, the department is able to offer three to five workshops per academic year, which rotate among fields. Each workshop is organized by a faculty coordinator, and students enroll by signing up with the Graduate Studies office.  

The visiting speaker participates in two events: a public lecture or other kind of formal presentation, open to all members of the department and university community; and a closed session with graduate students who have enrolled in the workshop. For the smaller workshop, the visiting speaker assigns a text or group of texts for discussion (their own work or some other work relevant to the speaker's current interests). Students read the assigned texts on their own and submit short position papers to the faculty coordinator. The completion of these short essays, in combination with student participation, determine whether a student receives a grade of "S" (satisfactory) or "U" (unsatisfactory) for the workshop.


S/U grading guidelines

Individual faculty set the specific guidelines for S/U versions of graduate courses. The typical expectation for a grade of "S" (satisfactory), however, is that students complete readings, contribute meaningfully to class discussion and satisfactorily complete readings-related assignments that enrich discussion (e.g., writing brief reading responses, posting comments to Carmen discussions and/or leading in-class discussions on readings). Students taking a graduate course for S/U credit will typically not be expected to write longer papers or to complete and present on independent research projects.


Independent study

Graduate Independent Study courses require the approval of the director of Graduate Studies. Students interested in pursuing an independent study should consult with the appropriate faculty member at least a semester in advance. The faculty member should then prepare a one-page request that briefly outlines 1) the rationale for the independent study (e.g., why the student is unable to pursue similar work in regularly-scheduled courses) and 2) the syllabus for the independent study (e.g., list of readings, schedule of meetings, specific assignments or projects to be completed).

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Students who enter with an MA from another program or another institution will typically transfer 30 hours, which means they will typically need to earn a minimum of an additional 56 credit hours for the PhD. Specific course requirements include the following:

  • Four graduate-level courses taken for letter grades (12 credit hours). If the following requirements are not met during the MA, these courses should include:
    • English 6700: Introduction to Graduate Study in English (three credits)     
    • Critical theory requirement (three credits)
    • Breadth requirement #1 (three credits)
    • Breadth requirement #2 (three credits)
  • Two additional graduate-level courses taken for S/U grades (six credit hours total). These can include:
    • English 6781: Introduction to the Teaching of First-Year English (three credits)
    • English 8903: Teaching College English (three credits, repeatable)
    • English 8996: Research in English: Candidacy Exam (variable credit hours)
    • English 8999: Research in English: Dissertation (variable credit hours)

A note about letter grade and S/U class numbers

When you register for courses on Buckeyelink, you will find that each course has been decimalized and has a ".01" and ".02" number.  The ".01" number is to be used to register for the graded section of the course, and the ".02" number is to be used for the S/U section of the course. The decimalized versions are available so that students can choose whether to take the course for a grade or S/U designation. For example, there are two listings for English 6746: Introduction to Graduate Study in British Literature of the Romantic Period. English 6746.01 is the graded section and English 6746.02 is the S/U section, but the course meets on the same day(s) and at the same time(s).


Critical theory requirement

Students must take at least one course in Critical Theory (three credits); this course be taken for a letter grade. Students may fulfill this requirement through coursework completed at their MA institution. The critical theory requirement can be fulfilled through English 6760, 6761, 6776.01, 6776.02, 6790, 6791, 7861, 7876, 7890, 7891, or 8888. Additional courses in English or other departments can be petitioned to count.


Breadth requirement

Each student must complete two courses to add breadth to the student’s program (six credits total). These courses must be taken for a letter grade and conform to the following guidelines:

  • Students concentrating on literature or theory after 1800: Two courses in pre-1800 literature, rhetoric, folklore, etc.
  • Students concentrating on literature or theory before 1800: Two courses in post-1800 literature, rhetoric, folklore, film, etc.
  • Students concentrating in non-literary fields: Two courses to add breadth as determined in consultation with the faculty advisor and the director of Graduate Studies

Students may fulfill this requirement through coursework completed at their MA institution.


Graduate workshop requirement

In addition to their regular coursework, MA/PhD students must complete two graduate workshops by the end of their fourth year in the program (preferably before candidacy).

The graduate workshops provide opportunities to enrich the department's formal graduate curriculum by regularly bringing in scholars from other institutions to discuss their recently-published and current work with students and faculty. Typically, the department is able to offer three to five workshops per academic year, which rotate among fields. Each workshop is organized by a faculty coordinator, and students enroll by signing up with the graduate studies office.  

The visiting speaker participates in two events: a public lecture or other kind of formal presentation, open to all members of the department and university community; and a closed session with graduate students who have enrolled in the workshop. For the smaller workshop, the visiting speaker assigns a text or group of texts for discussion (their own work or some other work relevant to the speaker's current interests). Students read the assigned texts on their own and submit short position papers to the faculty coordinator. The completion of these short essays, in combination with student participation, determine whether a student receives a grade of "S" (satisfactory) or "U" (unsatisfactory) for the workshop.


S/U grading guidelines

Individual faculty set the specific guidelines for S/U versions of graduate courses. The typical expectation for a grade of "S" (satisfactory), however, is that students complete readings, contribute meaningfully to class discussion and satisfactorily complete readings-related assignments that enrich discussion (e.g., writing brief reading responses, posting comments to Carmen discussions and/or leading in-class discussions on readings). Students taking a graduate course for S/U credit will typically not be expected to write longer papers or to complete and present on independent research projects.


Independent study

Graduate Independent Study courses require the approval of the director of Graduate Studies. Students interested in pursuing an independent study should consult with the appropriate faculty member at least a semester in advance. The faculty member should then prepare a one-page request that briefly outlines 1) the rationale for the independent study (e.g., why the student is unable to pursue similar work in regularly scheduled courses) and 2) the syllabus for the independent study (e.g., list of readings, schedule of meetings, specific assignments or projects to be completed).

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Language Proficiency Coordinator: Galey Modan (modan.1@osu.edu)


The graduate program in the Department of English requires that students demonstrate current proficiency in a natural language other than English. (Natural languages are all languages, including ASL, that have evolved naturally among humans through use and repetition; natural languages do not include constructed languages such as Klingon or computer programming languages.) There are multiple reasons that language proficiency is required. These include the following: 


  • Extensive and technical familiarity with a language other than English constitutes a powerful way for graduate students to gain an understanding of the distinctive characteristics of English language structure. 
  • Proficiency in a language other than English allows students access to primary and secondary texts composed in that language. Graduate students in all areas of English studies with even a modest level of proficiency benefit from this access.
  • To fulfill our department’s commitment to diversity, it is vital for students to gain proficiency in languages other than English. To gain a basic understanding of multilingual and non-English-speaking communities requires a familiarity with the languages of those communities.
  • As English itself is an increasingly culturally- and geographically-differentiated language, deep familiarity with the languages that English comes into contact with is vital to an understanding of English’s global manifestations.

Doctoral research in some specialties (such as Medieval, Renaissance or U.S. ethnic literatures) may require proficiency in additional languages beyond the one that satisfies the departmental requirement. Students therefore must discuss the language requirement with faculty in their chosen area of specialization as soon as possible.

There is no set list of languages approved for PhD candidates in English. The expectation is that students will choose a language pertinent to their research interests.

Native speakers of languages other than English may use their native languages to fulfill the departmental requirement, unless their area of study requires knowledge of other particular language(s).

For doctoral students, the language requirement(s) should be met by the end of the first year of enrollment beyond the MA and must be met before any part of the candidacy examination may be scheduled.



Students can fulfill the language proficiency requirement in any of the following six ways: 

Method #1: Multimedia computer-adaptive placement test

Students wishing to fulfill the requirement with Spanish, German, French, Arabic, Hebrew, Italian or Swahili may take a multimedia computer-adaptive placement test administered by the Center for Languages, Literatures, and Cultures. These exams test both comprehension and production. To fulfill the language requirement through a placement test, students must do one of the following:

  • If the student and their advisor decide that both comprehension and production are necessary for their further research, the student must achieve a score sufficient for placement into a 2000-level language class on both sections.

  • If the student and their advisor decide that comprehension alone is suitable, the student must achieve a score sufficient for placement into a 2000-level language class on the comprehension portion of the exam. Please note: Students will need to be in contact with the language proficiency coordinator prior to taking the exam if just a “comprehension” score is necessary, as the exams do not automatically produce a score solely for comprehension. The coordinator will need to confirm with the Center for Languages, Literature and Cultures that the exam is set up correctly for the student. This option involves more paperwork to set up, so the comprehension and production option above is preferred.

Method #2: Department-administered placement test

If the requirement is to be met with a language not listed above, students may take a placement test administered by an Ohio State department that teaches the language in question. As with the CLLC option, students must place into a 2000-level class. This is the method of choice for ASL and other signed languages. If the language in question is not taught at Ohio State, the student will meet with the language proficiency coordinator to set up a testing process. (Note: if the language is one tested through the CLLC, that option must be chosen.)

Method #3: Year of university-level language classes

Students may take a year's worth of university-level language classes and get at least a grade of 'B' in both semesters. Students must consult the appropriate language department for course offerings. Since sequences often begin only in the autumn semester, students should be sure to check well ahead of time when the courses will be offered. 

Method #4: Graduate reading course

Students may complete a graduate reading course offered by an Ohio State language program with a grade of 'B' or higher (see below for more information on departments offering reading courses).

Method #5: Translation test

In consultation with the student’s advisor and the language proficiency coordinator, students may take a translation test (typically a translation with the aid of a dictionary) administered by an Ohio State language program, qualified faculty member of the English department or qualified faculty member at another university, as approved by the language proficiency coordinator. Students intending to take a translation exam administered by another department should note that each language department has its own set of deadlines that must be met in order to enroll for the exam. Students should contact the relevant language department during the semester before they intend to take the exam in order to ensure that they do not miss the exam registration date. 


Method #6: Oral proficiency test

Students may take an oral proficiency test. Students can show proficiency based on the following the criteria:

  • Comprehension: The examinee understands the content of an oral text such as a radio or broadcast news story. The content may be on current events or on a topic relevant to a student’s research. The examinee must show ability to 1) summarize a given text in a cohesive and coherent manner without prompting, 2) produce a statement summarizing their own view, and 3) answer follow-up questions in a cohesive and coherent manner. 

  • Production: The examinee shows ability to describe the text in a comprehensible way, producing extended, connected discourse in all major time frames (past, present, and future). The reference point for ‘comprehension’ is a speaker who does not speak other languages that the examinee is proficient in. Vocabulary may be primarily generic in nature. However, if the examinee must use the language under examination for their scholarly work, they must also show command of relevant vocabulary when dealing with topics of interest. This will be decided in consultation with the student's advisor. Circumlocution and rephrasing are to be expected. Speech must be clear and not lead to confusion. Pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar and discourse structure should not be so faulty as to prevent comprehension by a speaker not proficient in the other languages in which the examinee is proficient. Discourse may reflect the information structure of the examinee’s own language/s, rather than that of the target language.

In cases where an examiner cannot be located, students can take the Oral Proficiency Interview, as administered by Ohio State Testing Center and described here. The department may pay the fees associated with the OPI upon approval. 


Reading courses and exam information for common language choices

Below you will find information about German, French, Spanish and Italian reading proficiency classes and testing procedures. In the past, these have been the most common choices made by students, and these departments have the most structured systems for assessing proficiency. If another language is more appropriate for your research, see above for assessment procedures.

  • German: Courses that satisfy graduate reading proficiency include German 6102 and German 6202. Contact Natascha Miller (miller.521@osu.edu) with questions about coursework prerequisites. If you choose to take the reading exam to demonstrate proficiency, you must schedule it in cooperation with your advisor and the English department’s language proficiency coordinator. Your advisor should select a passage for you to translate and submit it, along with a completed exam scheduling form, as directed on the exam website. Information about testing dates is usually updated the third or fourth week of the semester; visit the exam website to view testing dates and download the exam scheduling form.
  • French: Courses that satisfy graduate reading proficiency include French 6571 and French 6572. Contact Joan Obert (obert.1@osu.edu) with questions about coursework prerequisites. If you choose to take the reading exam to demonstrate proficiency, you must schedule it in cooperation with your advisor and the English department’s language proficiency coordinator. The Department of French and Italian provides a detailed overview of the test, as well as information on exam preparation, evaluation, dates and registration on their website.
  • Spanish: The Department of Spanish and Portuguese does not offer courses to demonstrate reading proficiency in Spanish. If you would like to take a translation test, you must schedule the reading exam in cooperation with your advisor and the English department’s language proficiency coordinator. The Department of Spanish and Portuguese provides a detailed overview of the test, as well as information on exam preparation, dates and registration on their website
  • Italian: The Department of French and Italian does not offer courses to demonstrate reading proficiency in Italian. If you choose to take the reading exam to demonstrate proficiency, you must schedule the reading exam in cooperation with your advisor. The Department of French and Italian provides an overview of the test on their website. Contact Joan Obert (obert.1@osu.edu) to schedule the exam and to request more detailed information on testing dates and procedures.
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English 8903 is a teaching internship with a faculty member, which students must complete before they can be assigned to teach any of the 2000-level literature, language or folklore courses. English 7881.02: Teaching Basic Writing, 7881.03: Teaching of College Composition in English as a Second Language and 7881.04: Teaching Business and Professional Communication may be substituted for English 8903 by students whose teaching interests include basic writing, ESL and/or business and professional writing. However, English 8903 will be a prerequisite for teaching the relevant 2000-level courses (just as the English 7881 series is now a prerequisite for teaching the specialized writing courses).

English 8903 carries one to three credit hours. The course may be repeated. In order to coordinate their teaching interests with scheduled courses, students planning on taking English 8903 should also consult the undergraduate course offerings and faculty teaching them.

Faculty and students will have considerable flexibility in constructing the day-to-day details of the apprenticeship, but a typical pattern would look something like this:

  • Student and professor agree to do English 8903 in an upcoming semester.
  • When the book order requests are distributed, the professor and student meet to discuss which books they will use and why. 
  • At some point before the course starts, the professor and student meet to discuss the course syllabus. They consider such matters as the objectives of the course and how best to design the schedule of readings, the students' writing assignments and the classroom atmosphere so that those objectives can be met.
  • Before each class, the professor and student meet to talk about the session's goals and the pedagogical means they will use to meet them. In addition, they consider how the goals of the upcoming session fit in with the overall goals of the course. (For all class sessions but the first, this meeting might occur an hour or so before walking into the session.)
  • Before each writing assignment (including exams), professor and student discuss what they want to achieve and how they might design the assignment to reach those goals.
  • The professor must take responsibility for all grades assigned in the course, but the student may assist in grading by reading, commenting and assigning possible grades to a subset of the papers or exams. Since the student is an apprentice and not a TA, however, the point of this work is not to lighten the faculty member's load but rather to provide the occasion for discussion of criteria for different grades, how to address students in commentary and so on. In all cases, the professor must read the papers marked by the apprentice and assign the final grades.
  • The student takes primary responsibility for some teaching, in the range of four to six hours of instruction over the course of the semester.
  • After the course is over, the professor and student read the student evaluations and discuss them as well as their own assessments of what worked and what didn't.
  • The course is graded S/U. The faculty member should also be prepared to write a letter of recommendation for the student's dossier.
  • The student writes a report on the apprentice experience, reflecting on how their thinking about pedagogy has been influenced by English 8903.

In general, the idea of the internship is to give the student the opportunity to work closely with a faculty member on everything from the design of a course to its day-to-day operations, from its goals and purposes to its grading and evaluation.

Students may work with a professor in any undergraduate course. No more than two students may sign up for English 8903 with the same professor and the same course in any one semester. Students must take English 8903 before they are assigned their own sections of 2000-level courses, but they need to take English 8903 only once as a general preparation for that teaching. In other words, students do not have to take a new English 8903 for every new 2000-level course they teach.

Of course, students will generally gravitate toward courses in their areas and in the areas where they would most like to teach. Below are the usual links between English 8903 experiences and the assignment of undergraduate courses, but graduate students should have considerable leeway in choosing their apprenticeships and those assigning graduate students to 2000-level courses should have some flexibility in making those assignments. For example, English 4520.01 will count for 2200 and 2201; English 4560 for 2260; English 4561 for 2261; English 4550 and English 4551 for 2290.

When students are assigned their own 2000-level class, they will consult with a faculty mentor (ideally the person whose class they observed, but possibly the course director or their advisor) on the preparation of the syllabus and other issues relating to the class. The faculty member will observe the class at least once and write a report for the course director.

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The advising meeting is a critical step in the process toward the PhD and, for students who enter the program with a BA, it is the formal mechanism for awarding the MA. Typically, the advising meeting will take place at the end of the spring semester of the second year for all students who enter with a BA and at the end of the spring semester of the first year for all students who enter with an MA. 

The advising meeting will include a faculty committee composed of the student's selected advisor, who serves as chair; a second faculty member chosen from a list of three submitted by the student; and a third member selected by the director of Graduate Studies or their designee. The advising meeting will last for at least one hour but for no longer than two hours. During the meeting, the student and faculty committee will consider the student's plans for completing the PhD as reflected in the Preliminary Program of Study. Students will also answer and ask questions about items included in the portfolio project.

After the advising meeting, the chair of the faculty committee will write a brief report of the meeting for the student's file. In addition to a short summary of the conversation, for students who enter with a BA, this report will include the committee's recommendation to award the MA degree based on satisfactory completion of all MA requirements. For all students, the report should also include recommendations about the composition of the student's committee for the candidacy exam and dissertation.

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By week seven of the spring semester, the student will prepare a portfolio that includes:

  1. A Preliminary Program of Study, signed by the student’s advisor.
  2. A short statement about the student’s pursuit of interests outside the regular curriculum and the major field (e.g., attendance at workshops, lectures, readings and other such activities).
  3. A research project, which can be a traditional academic essay, a new media composition and so forth, as determined in consultation with the student's faculty advisor.

Typically, the research project will have begun in a course and been subsequently revised with a broader academic audience in mind and with a clear articulation of how its argument and methodologies fit within ongoing conversations in the relevant field or fields. The student should be working toward potential publication of the project, and/or toward its integration into her or his dissertation.

Students who enter the program with an MA may use a project begun in a course in their MA program.

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The Preliminary Program of Study consists of three components:

  1. A description and short rationale for the student’s intended major field and minor field or fields for the candidacy exam. (See description of Final Program of Study for explanation of field areas.)
  2. A summer reading list of about 15 works related to one or both of these areas.
  3. A brief discussion of teaching and other GA work, completed and planned.

The Preliminary Program of Study should be designed in consultation with the student's faculty advisor and must be signed by the advisor in preparation for the advising meeting.

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A copy of the Final Program of Study and letter of endorsement from the advisor should be submitted electronically to the graduate program coordinator (griffin.328@osu.edu) by 4 p.m. on the due date. 

The Final Program of Study has two main purposes: to establish parameters for the candidacy examination and to present a detailed map of the student's path toward earning the PhD. The Final Program of Study must be completed, approved by the student's candidacy examination committee and then approved by the Graduate Studies Program and Policy Committee before the student may schedule their exam. It is important to keep in mind that the POS has multiple audiences: the student's exam chair and exam committee, but also the Graduate Studies Program and Policy Committee, which is made up of faculty who represent the various areas of specialization in the department as a whole. The POS needs to be written so that it is accessible to non-specialists in the student's specific area.  


Program of Study components

  1. A list of the chair and other faculty members of the student's candidacy examination committee. The Graduate School requires four members, and the chair must hold "P" status (typically, this means a tenured associate or full professor). This committee is formed specifically to administer the candidacy exam and is not the same as the dissertation committee.
  2. A brief description and rationale for the student's major field of study and reading list. This description should be limited to about one single-spaced page. Part of the task is to describe the major field and the student's particular interest in succinct terms.
    1. The major field should be broadly rather than narrowly defined. Typically, the major field will be an academic job category.
    2. The reading list for the major field should consist of between 75 and 85 works (primary and secondary) and should both provide coverage of the broad field and locate the student’s specific interests within it.
    3. The reading list should not include works of criticism authored by any member of the student's exam committee as it is difficult for students to be examined impartially about material written by an examiner.
  3. A brief description and rationale for the student's minor field of study and reading list. (A student may have two minor fields with the approval of their faculty advisor.) This description should also be limited to about one single-spaced page.
    1. The minor field can be primarily a supplement to the major field (e.g., a second academic job category), or
    2. The minor field can partially overlap with the major field, or
    3. The minor field can be a body of theory that is broader than but relevant to the student’s location within the major field.
    4. The reading list for the minor field should consist of between 40 and 45 works (primary and secondary). For two minor fields, the lists should consist of between 22 and 25 works for each.
    5. The reading list should not include works of criticism authored by any member of the student's exam committee as it is difficult for students to be examined impartially about material written by an examiner.
  4. A draft of the dissertation prospectus
    1. The draft of the dissertation prospectus should be submitted to the committee one week before the student begins the written portion of the candidacy exam.
  5. A concise list of completed coursework for the MA/PhD, organized by date of completion, including grades received. Please provide a one-sentence description for independent study projects.
  6. A concise statement of the student's teaching experience thus far, plans for taking English 8903 and plans for future teaching in the department.
  7. A concise timeline for the student's progress toward graduation. The timeline should be organized by year and semester, and it should indicate the projected dates for the completion of all PhD requirements, including coursework, language requirement, English 8903(s), graduate workshops, candidacy exam, dissertation prospectus, dissertation research and writing, and the job application process.
  8. Reading lists for the major and minor fields.

Letter of endorsement

The Final Program of Study must be submitted to the Graduate Studies Program and Policy Committee with a letter of endorsement from the student's chair for the candidacy exam committee. The letter of endorsement should confirm that the student has worked with the entire committee and that the entire committee has approved the POS; briefly contextualize the membership of the committee, with more context if the committee includes faculty from outside the department; and articulate the chair's confidence in the student's rationales for the major and minor fields.

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Candidacy exam

The candidacy examination must be taken no later than two semesters after the completion of required coursework. Students must register for English 8996 with the chair of the exam committee while preparing for the candidacy exam.

The candidacy exam consists of a take-home written portion and a two-hour oral portion. The Application for Candidacy must be filed with the Graduate School at least two weeks before the oral examination. The application can be filled out on the Graduate School's forms webpage. The written portion is a three-day take-home exam, with an upper limit of no more than 5,000 words total. Failure to adhere to the word limit constitutes failure of the entire candidacy examination. No notes of any kind are permitted (i.e., no footnotes or endnotes), but in their answers to the exam questions, students should cite relevant primary and secondary works from their reading lists and use parenthetical citations.

  • Written exam: The written portion of the candidacy exam should address two questions, one of which is dedicated to the student's major field and one of which is dedicated to the student's minor field or fields. The questions are written by the student's exam chair in consultation with the other members of their committee. The questions are given to the student only at the time the written exam is administered. The written exam must be taken over a seventy-two hour period; it can be sent via email or picked up by 4 p.m. on the first day and turned in to the committee and the English Graduate Studies office via email by 4 p.m. on the last day of that period. Students may opt to start the exam on a Monday, Tuesday or Friday so that it is due in the English Graduate Studies office, respectively, the following Thursday, Friday or Monday.
  • Oral exam: The oral portion of the exam must follow no sooner than one week but within two weeks (i.e., 7-14 days) after the written portion is completed and turned in. The written exam should be regarded as the beginning of a discussion that will be continued during the oral exam. Prior to the oral, the student should meet with the candidacy exam chair to clarify expectations for the oral exam; at this meeting, it is expected that the chair will ask a few sample questions to assist the student with their preparations. The oral exam lasts two hours, and it covers both the candidate's major field and minor field or fields. The chair of the committee should ensure that at least 60 minutes are devoted to the major field. The final 30 minutes of the exam can include a discussion of the draft dissertation prospectus.

Candidacy Examination Committee

The Candidacy Examination Committee consists of four faculty members, chaired by a member of the graduate faculty who holds "P" status (typically, a tenured associate or full professor). The student selects the members of her or his committee in consultation with the chair. The committee must include faculty representation for both the major field and the minor field or fields. Typically, this will mean two faculty members representing the major field and two faculty members representing the minor field, or two faculty members representing the major field and one faculty member representing the first minor field and one faculty member representing the second minor field. Only in unusual circumstances should a faculty member represent both the major and a minor field for the purposes of the candidacy exam. The committee meets with the student prior to the exam to discuss the reading lists for the major and minor fields.

Students are responsible for distributing the following materials to all members of the Committee at least one week before the written exam:

  • The draft Dissertation Prospectus.

Students are responsible for distributing the following materials to all members of the Committee at least one week before the oral exam:

  • The Final Program of Study
  • The written exam
  • The student's Major Field and Minor Field or Fields reading lists (if updated from the POS)
  • The official description of the Candidacy Exam; please refer faculty to the information on this page (optional).

Candidacy exam assessment

Failure of the candidacy examination occurs if the committee considers either of the following to be the case:

  • The written and/or oral portions of the exam indicated that the candidate is not ready to proceed to a dissertation, owing to insufficient knowledge of the field, 
  • The candidate is insufficiently focused on a dissertation project, which makes it unlikely that they will be able to submit an approved prospectus within two months. In case of failure, the committee can specify the nature of a repeat examination, but it, too, must contain a written and an oral portion. A second failure means dismissal from the PhD program (see Graduate School Handbook).

A successful pass must be a unanimous decision of the committee. The chair of the committee is required to submit a written report on the candidacy examination to the director of Graduate Studies. Failure, in whole or in part, may occur if any one member of the committee is not satisfied with the results. In the case of failure, each individual faculty member of the committee may specify areas or material on which a re-examination must take place and so instruct the student. The chair of the committee will then submit a written account of what will be required of the student to repeat the exam. The Graduate School will assign an outside representative for all second examinations.


Time limits for candidacy

If a candidate fails to complete the dissertation and final oral examination within five years after the candidacy examination, admission to candidacy is canceled. To be re-admitted to candidacy, the student must take a supplemental candidacy examination. The examination committee is comprised of the advisor and at least three other authorized graduate faculty members, and the examination must include a written and an oral portion that last approximately two hours. A graduate faculty representative is appointed if a prior unsatisfactory examination result is on record. All other rules pertaining to candidacy examination must be followed. 

The supplemental examination will typically be tied to the student's dissertation and may consist of the presentation and oral defense of a chapter or a substantial part of a chapter. In short, the purpose of requiring the supplemental examination is not to punish the student but to help move them along to completion of the PhD and to ensure that they have kept up with the current scholarship in the field. On passing the supplemental examination, the student is readmitted to candidacy and must complete the dissertation and final oral examination within two years.

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Dissertation prospectus process

There are three steps in the dissertation prospectus process:

  1. The student presents a draft of the dissertation prospectus to their candidacy exam committee at least one week prior to the written portion of the exam.
  2. The student then presents a revised dissertation prospectus to their dissertation committee in a prospectus conference, typically no more than six weeks after the completion of the candidacy exam.
  3. The student presents a final version of the dissertation prospectus, approved by their dissertation chair, to the director of Graduate Studies, typically no more than two weeks after the prospectus conference. The approved final version of the prospectus should be submitted together with a Prospectus Approval Form.

Dissertation prospectus content

The Dissertation Prospectus should:

  • State the problem that the candidate proposes to solve;
  • Explain the significance of the project and its relation to current scholarship in the field;
  • Describe the candidate's current knowledge of the subject;
  • Indicate the direction the candidate's investigation will take;
  • Reflect the candidate's familiarity with relevant bibliographical materials and critical methods.

Students and faculty should keep in mind that the prospectus is a preliminary project, not a mini-dissertation. It is meant to help students move on to the dissertation writing stage of their programs. Typically, the prospectus should be no longer than eight to twelve double-spaced pages, plus a working bibliography.


Dissertation committee

The dissertation committee consists of three faculty members, chaired by a faculty member who holds "P" status (typically, a tenured associate or full professor). This committee is constituted separately from the candidacy exam committee and can include faculty members who did not serve on the examination committee.


Prospectus conference

The prospectus conference is a meeting of the student and all members of their dissertation committee to discuss the revised prospectus and the student's plans for researching and writing the dissertation. The prospectus conference also provides an opportunity for the student and the committee to set guidelines for their working relationship.

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Because graduate students pursue a wide range of research and writing projects in the Department of English, there are no department-wide guidelines for the dissertation. Students should work with their advisors and committees to determine the relevant parameters for projects in their specific fields and areas of interest.


Finalizing the dissertation manuscript

All doctoral candidates must submit the final draft of the dissertation electronically; students are no longer required to submit a final paper copy to the Graduate School. However, hard copies of the dissertation are still required for distribution to the student's committee and to the outside representative. For more details about the electronic submission process, including how to delay internet dissemination of the dissertation (strongly recommended) and how to format the dissertation, visit the Graduate School website.


Final approval

Final approval of the dissertation cannot occur until the final oral examination has been passed. Each dissertation committee member must sign the Final Approval Form. This form must be submitted no later than one week before commencement.

Students should be aware that the deadlines imposed by the Graduate School do not always allow enough time for their committees to evaluate their work.  Most committees will need to have a complete draft of the dissertation at least two or more months before all formal requirements are met, so that sufficient time for revision will be assured. A student who does not present a draft of the dissertation until the semester of anticipated graduation may encounter obstacles and delays. No faculty member is obliged to sign the Draft Approval Form until they are satisfied that the work is ready for scrutiny at the final oral examination.

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This two-hour examination is held after the dissertation committee has approved the dissertation by signing the Draft Approval Form, available from the Graduate School. The Draft Approval Form must be submitted to the Graduate School no later than two weeks before the date of the final oral examination. At the time the student submits the Draft Approval Form, they must also present a hard copy of the approved dissertation draft to both the Graduate School (for the purposes of format check) and the dissertation committee members.

The oral examination deals intensively with the candidate's field of specialization and need not be confined exclusively to the dissertation defense. A successful examination is one that is awarded a "pass" by the entire examining committee, including the outside representative, who is appointed by the Graduate School. This representative must receive a hard copy of the approved dissertation draft at least one week in advance of the examination.


Time limits for candidacy

If a candidate fails to complete the dissertation and final oral examination within five years after the candidacy examination, admission to candidacy is canceled. To be re-admitted to candidacy the student must take a supplementary candidacy examination. This supplementary examination will typically be tied to the student's dissertation and may consist of the presentation and oral defense of a chapter or a substantial part of a chapter. In short, the purpose of requiring the supplemental candidacy examination is not to punish the student but to help move them along to completion of the PhD and to ensure that they have kept up with the current scholarship in the field. On passing the supplementary candidacy examination, the student is re-admitted to candidacy and must complete the dissertation and final oral examination within two years.

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APPLICATION INFORMATION

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The Department of English makes every attempt possible to provide funding to students who are admitted to the MA/PhD program. The number of years of funding is based on whether the student is admitted with a bachelor’s or master’s degree.  Funding is renewed on a yearly basis as long as the student maintains satisfactory academic progress.

  • Graduate Teaching Associateships: Departmental funding is most often in the form of a Graduate Teaching Associateship, for which the student receives a stipend of at least $17,000 for the nine-month academic year. The Department of English also subsidizes 85% of the student health insurance premiums and provides a tuition waiver for all GTAs. Students are responsible for the COTA bus, student activity, Student Union and Recreation Center fees. Students on GTA appointments teach one course per term during the regular academic year.
  • Graduate School Fellowships: In addition to the funding provided by the Department of English, the Graduate School awards University and Enrichment Fellowships on a competitive basis to students who are new to graduate education at Ohio State. The Department of English's admissions committee submits nominations to the Graduate School’s competition, and a selection committee reviewing nominations from across all graduate programs in the university awards the fellowships. Students may not apply directly for fellowship support. Each graduate program has a limited number of students who may be nominated for fellowship consideration. All Graduate School fellowships provide a monthly stipend, academic tuition and fees and a subsidy of 85% of the student health insurance premiums. These fellowships are nonrenewable and may not be deferred.
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Application materials

Submit all following items through the Graduate Admissions Office:

  • Application form and fee.
  • Three letters of recommendation (preferably from faculty members): Please have your recommenders submit letters electronically using the link that will be provided when you select this option in the online application.
  • Transcripts or record of marks for each university-level school attended (transfer credit from another institution appearing on the same transcript is not sufficient): Visit the Admissions Office FAQs and click on "Transcripts" for more information. Send transcripts to the Office of Graduate and Professional Admissions; do not send transcripts to the Department of English. Include English translation of each of any foreign documents. Please do not send transcripts of course work taken at Ohio State as the Office of Graduate and Professional Admissions will obtain them directly from the Office of the University Registrar (at no cost to you).
  • Personal statement (one to two single-spaced pages) that describes your background in English studies and your purpose in pursuing graduate work; this statement should address both your scholarly interests and your interest and/or experience in teaching.
  • Writing sample: A short essay or portion of a longer work is appropriate. This essay should demonstrate your abilities as a critical reader of a literary or related text, as well as your ability to use current scholarly sources; it is the most important part of the application. Applicants should submit a clean copy of the sample (i.e., not a copy that includes an instructor's comments).
  • Curriculum vitae/resume of no more than two pages with a clearly stated sentence at the beginning of the CV that declares your scholarly area of interest(s), for example: American literature and queer theory, 18th-century poetry or postcolonial theory and women writers.

Please note: As of autumn 2018, the Department of English at Ohio State no longer requires GRE scores for applications to its PhD or MFA programs. Incomplete applications will not be considered.

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All admissions to the integrated MA/PhD and PhD programs are made for autumn semester only; the application deadline for autumn 2020 is December 2, 2019. NOTE: If you are an international applicant and wish to be considered for a University Fellowship, the application deadline for autumn 2020 is November 30, 2019.

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The Graduate Admissions Committee for the Department of English will accept applications to the integrated MA/PhD program from students with a bachelor's degree in English or a minimum of 40 quarter hours (27 semester hours) of English coursework from an accredited college or university. They will also accept applications from students with an MA degree in English from an accredited college or university. Course work in a second language is preferred (20 quarter hours or 15 semester hours) but not required. Students with an MA degree in another field will ordinarily be considered in the same group of students who apply to the program with a bachelor's degree in English. 

International applicants who have completed an English MA in a language other than English will also ordinarily be considered in the same group of students who apply to the program with a bachelor's degree in English. For more information, please visit International Applicants: Additional Information.

The Graduate School requires that those admitted have an undergraduate grade point average of at least 3.0 on a scale of 4 (where 4.0=A) and at least a 3.0 on all previous graduate work. Our departmental criteria are higher. Normally, applicants should have a GPA of at least 3.4 overall and 3.6 in English courses (undergraduate or graduate).

PhD program applicants should also understand that the Graduate Admissions Committee decides to admit or reject by looking carefully at each student's record as a whole — at the profile that emerges from the transcripts, the letters of recommendation, the writing sample and the personal statement — rather than by applying a pre-established formula of admissible grades.

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By Amanpal Garcha, associate professor and director of Graduate Studies


English admissions process

After receiving applicants’ admission materials, we almost immediately categorize each applicant according their primary areas of research interest. We then send all the applications to the appropriate teaching area groups to allow faculty in those area groups to determine which applicants are best qualified and best suited to study here.

Here’s how that process works. I look at each application; if an applicant declares that they are interested in feminist criticism as well as Renaissance literature, that applicant’s materials goes to our gender studies faculty and our Renaissance faculty. Similarly, if an applicant expresses their intention to study rhetoric, that applicant’s materials go to our rhetoric faculty; and if an applicant wishes to study postcolonial literature, that application goes to our US ethnic and postcolonial group.

By some time in February, the area groups make their final decisions as to their top applicants, and in March, we notify applicants of their admission status and any offers of financial aid.

There are two points I’d like to emphasize that follow from our process: 

  1. It’s very much to an applicant’s benefit if they can articulate a clear intention to focus in a particular era of literature or on a particular area of English studies.  As the above suggests, we are not really set up to evaluate students who are interested in English generally – our process works to find students who wish to focus their energies on a particular set of literary texts or on a particular approach to literary or cultural study.
  2. Each area group will be able to admit only a few students – possibly as few as one or two.

Writing the personal statement

The name 'personal statement' is unfortunately a misleading one for the kind of document that applicants should prepare, but as it is term that English departments commonly use, we’ve chosen to keep it. Really, the document is less a 'personal statement' and more a statement of an applicant’s academic and intellectual background and of their academic goals for graduate study. Given what I outlined above about our particular admissions process, it is a document that is often most effective when it lays out an applicant’s intention to study a particular area – and the reasons why the applicant wishes to study that area.

Still, this statement might not be solely focused on the applicant’s research intentions. Our faculty will want to know some of the courses applicants took as undergraduate or graduate students and how those courses helped the applicant develop a good background for study in English. They may also wish to know what non-academic experiences helped develop applicants’ intentions to do research. Finally, they will be interested in any major research work applicants have already completed, whether that work took the form of a thesis, a presentation or a substantial essay for a course.

Often, personal statements end with applicants’ articulation of what they would like to study in graduate school, some of the research methods they might use and the reasons why Ohio State is an appropriate place for them to do their work.


Selecting a writing sample

As our guidelines state, we require a 10-20 page paper as a writing sample. There are several reasons why we require a writing sample. The most important reason has to do with the degree requirements for our graduate program: because almost all of our graduate classes ask students to complete long research papers and because the ultimate requirement for the PhD — the dissertation — is a long-term writing project, we need to be sure that our students already possess the ability to write an academic paper that is clear, rigorous, well researched and original. There are other reasons, too: almost all of our students will be teaching academic writing, so we wish to ensure they have a good writing skills, for instance.

Again, because applications are assessed by the area groups, it’s to an applicant’s advantage that they submit a writing sample that is fairly closely associated with the area of study on which they wish to focus. The topic of the writing sample does not have to be an exact match: an applicant in rhetoric, for instance, might gain admittance if they submit an essay about a film — but almost certainly, the essay would have to use rhetorical analysis in interpreting the film. A Renaissance applicant who submits an essay on medieval literature might be successful — but a Renaissance applicant who submits an essay on twentieth-century American literature might have a harder time.

Because each area group can only select a few applicants for admission, they are usually very rigorous in their assessments of writing samples. Generally, a successful writing sample shows that the applicant can use recent (or fairly recent) critical essays in the field to support and refine their argument and shows that the applicant can persuasively advance an original thesis.

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For questions that can't be answered by the information above, the English Graduate Studies Office can be reached by email (graduateenglish@osu.edu) or phone (614-292-7919).

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