Loyola University Chicago

Department of English

The PhD Program

The PhD requires a total of 60 semester hours of coursework, a qualifying written and oral examination, and a dissertation. According to Graduate School regulations, work on the Ph.D. must be completed eight years from the time you have begun coursework applicable to the degree; if you entered with an MA, you will have six years from the time of beginning course work for the PhD.

Admission Requirements

I. Prerequisites

In order to be admitted to the PhD program, you must have an MA record of distinction or a BA record that holds genuine promise for outstanding graduate work. Most students entering the PhD program have grade point averages of 3.5 and above in their previous coursework. Although you need not have majored in English, thorough preparation is essential to success in the program. If you apply to the PhD program with the MA already completed, you may be able to transfer up to 30 hours of graduate coursework from another institution toward the 60 hours required by Loyola University Chicago. After you have been admitted, the Graduate School will evaluate your transcript and determine which of your MA courses will be accepted by Loyola University Chicago.


II. Admissions to our dual MA/PhD Program:

A student with a strong undergraduate record may be admitted to the PhD program directly after completing the BA if your undergraduate record is outstanding and if your qualifications are clearly above the average of students applying for the MA program. The graduate programs in English normally admit for the fall semester only.


III. Application Materials and Procedures:

Applications must be supported with a statement of purpose; transcripts of undergraduate work and previous graduate courses; GRE scores (the general test only); and three letters of recommendation. Applicants must also supply a writing sample. A grade average of "B" or better in undergraduate coursework is required.

  • GRE scores are never the sole determining factor in an application file. Your writing sample and statement of purpose are also important sources of information about your qualifications for undertaking graduate study. However, successful applicants to our PhD program typically have scored above above 160 in the verbal section of the GRE general exam. Please see the following for information about our GRE fee waiver program. For information on the GRE exam, please visit http://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/know/.
  • Applications for funding are due by January 15. For more information, please see our advice to applicants.


IV. Degree Financing: 

Each year, the department offers a number of graduate assistantships to new and continuing doctoral students. Assistantships pay a stipend (currently $18,000), cover the full cost of tuition, and provide health insurance as well. These assistantships are renewable for up to 5 years, provided students remain in good standing and fulfill the duties of the assistantship. 

At Loyola, we believe that both graduate assistants and undergraduate students taking composition deserve better treatment. A PhD student with little or no experience who is awarded an assistantship at Loyola enters a four-year program that offers preparation for teaching, experience in teaching composition, and opportunities to teach literature and cooperate with faculty members on research projects. (For students entering with the MA degree, the assistantship is normally renewable for a total of three years.)

Our assistantship program diversifies the training offered to graduate students. It is designed to allow graduate assistants to concentrate on their coursework as they acquire training in several different kinds of scholarly and professional activities:

  • First-year graduate assistantsentering with the BA tutor two 3.5-hour sessions per week in the Writing Center in their first semester, and participate in a workshop on the teaching of writing. In their second semester, graduate assistants tutor one session per week in the Writing Center and take a course in teaching composition (English 402). Each assistant also works with a full-time faculty member in a mentorship program in which he or she attends the faculty member's composition class and gains experience in making presentations to the class, in grading and in holding conferences with individual students.
  • Second-year graduate assistants, drawing on this preparation, teach a two-semester composition sequence (one course per semester).
  • Third- , fourth-, and fifth-year graduate assistantshave various assignments, but over the course of these three years normally work for two semesters as teaching assistants and for one semester as research assistants, and teach at least two literature courses (only ever one a semester). As teaching assistants to faculty members offering lower division literature courses, they make presentations to the class, grade some papers and in some instances lead discussion sections. In this way, they gain experience teaching literature as well as composition. As research assistants, they work on a faculty member's project, usually in a field of particular interest to the student.
    • Other opportunities for advanced (fourth-, or fifth-year) graduate assistants are to serve as Assistant Director of the Writing Center or (beyond the assistantship) to work as a site coordinator of the Literacy Center.

After students come off departmental funding, they are eligible to apply for a limited number of fellowships offered each year by the Graduate School. These include Crown Fellowships, Schmitt Dissertation Fellowships, and Pre-Doctoral Teaching Scholars Awards. These fellowships are competitive and may be held for only one year. For more information on these awards, please visit the Graduate School Financial Assistance and Funding webpage.


 Degree Requirements

A. Program Requirements:

  • English 400: Introduction to Graduate Study.
  • English 402: Teaching College Composition
  • English 502: Independent Study for Doctoral Qualification
  • Two courses in critical theory or textual studiesat least one of these two courses must be in critical theory


B. Field-Specific Requirements: 

Doctoral students in English who have completed the MA degree will enter one of the following three specialized fields and must meet the course requirements defined for that specialization. Students will be free to change their field at any time, provided that they are able to fulfill the course requirements for the new field.

Medieval and Renaissance Literature

  • At least six courses in Medieval and Renaissance Literature (numbered 440–459).
  • At least one course in Nineteenth-Century Studies (ENGL 460-478 and 490-493).
  • At least one course in Modern Literature and Culture (480–489 and 494–499).
  • Seven electives to fulfill the 60-hour requirement.

Nineteenth-Century Studies

  • At least six courses in Nineteenth-Century Literature (numbered 470–479, 490–493).
  • At least one courses in Medieval or Renaissance Literature (440–459).
  • At least one course in Modern Literature and Culture (480–489 and 494–499).
  • Sevenelectives to fulfill the 60-hour requirement.

Modern Literature and Culture

  • At least six courses in Modern Literature and Culture (numbered 480–489 and 494-499).
  • At least one course in Medieval or Renaissance Literature (440–459).
  • At least one course in Nineteenth-Century Literature (470–479, 490–493).
  • Seven electives to fulfill the 60-hour requirement.

Note that several of these requirements will be partly or wholly fulfilled by all students as a part of their MA study.

If a student has been required to take certain undergraduate courses as a condition of admission, those courses have priority over all other program requirements. No more than two undergraduate courses may count toward the PhD. Undergraduate courses cannot satisfy the specific distribution requirements outlined above: they will be counted as electives.


C. Research Tool:

Prior to taking the Ph.D. examination, students pursuing a Ph.D. must demonstrate a reading knowledge of a language other than English, by passing a translation examination, by taking a graduate-level course in a foreign language and receiving a grade of B or higher, or by showing proof that one passed a graduate-level course or an exam as a graduate student another institution. Languages accepted are French, German, Spanish, Italian and Latin (though others may be approved by the Graduate Program Director). Students are encouraged to discuss completion of this requirement with the Director of Graduate Programs soon after entering the program.


D. Responsible Conduct in Research and Scholarship:

The Graduate School requires all Ph.D. students to attend one of its workshops on Responsible Conduct in Research and Scholarship (RCRS) prior to completing the dissertation or thesis. Ph.D. students are encouraged to wait until their third or fourth year to fulfill this requirement. Workshops are offered throughout the year. 


E. The PhD Qualifying Examination:

The PhD examination includes a written and an oral component. The written exam consists of three three-hour papers covering fields chosen by the student in consultation with his or her examining committee and the director of graduate programs. With the approval of their examiners, students must define three fields of the following kinds:

  • An area of critical theory
  • An author
  • The literature of an historical period and/or genre, which may be additionally be focused on a particular subgroup

Students may include up to three fields of the last type, but only one field of any other type. Examples of fields of the fourth type might include:

  • 17th-century British poetry
  • Early modern women’s writing
  • Postcolonial drama
  • African-American literature, 1914–1959
  • Contemporary working-class fiction of the US
  • Modernist poetry
  • Women's autobiography

Any or all of the exam fields may be related to the student's dissertation topic; however, some breadth across fields is expected. And although the selection of texts within each field will be influenced to some extent by the student's particular interests and approach, he or she will also be expected to demonstrate a general mastery of the field.

Field descriptions and reading lists are worked out by the student in consultation with his or her examining committee and must be approved by the examiners and by the Director of Graduate Programs well before the written examination is scheduled. (Exams are given in November, February, and April each year.) The Director of Graduate Programs will provide you with a packet of materials detailing all exam-related procedures. Reading lists are due several months before the exam date, and field statements are due one month prior to the exam. Students cannot schedule their exam times until the field statements have been submitted. The written examination is followed by a two-hour oral examination that is based on, but not limited to, the written portion. 


F. Dissertation and Defense:

You become a Ph.D. candidate when you complete all course requirements (including English 502), fulfill the Foreign Language requirement, pass the Ph.D. Examination, establish a dissertation committee, and have your dissertation proposal approved (ideally within 6 months of completing the comprehensive exams).

The selection of dissertation topic, director, and committee (two additional faculty readers) is made in consultation with the Graduate Program Director. Once these decisions have been made, you must obtain a copy of the Graduate School’s forms regarding the dissertation (available on line), and then prepare a proposal for the approval of your committee. After your proposal and committee are approved, you are a PhD candidate (sometimes referred to as ABD short for All But Dissertation). Your progress now will be monitored by your dissertation director, who will report on your work to the GPD. (Note: You do not need to have the proposal approved by the entire committee to complete 502.)

When your dissertation is completed, you will give a Final Public Presentation and Defense of your project, followed by a question-and-answer session led by your dissertation committee. Reader’s copies are due to the committee one month prior to the defense, with a reader’s ballot for each member (available at this link). Once these ballots are submitted, the Graduate Programs secretary will announce the defense publicly. At the defense, students need to present the chair of the committee with the Graduate School ballot for approval of the dissertation (available at this link).

Students should check the Graduate School calendar for deadlines on format check and submission of the dissertation (now done electronically) for a December or May degree. See the ETD/Proquest link for electronic submission. Also see the Loyola's formatting website.