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Applying to the PhD in English

Application and Admissions [+/-]

Applications are accepted for entrance in fall semester only and must be submitted no later than February 1. Applications packets are available online at the Office of Graduate Admissions website. The following should be submitted along with the appropriate application forms and transcripts:

  1. A 1500-word statement of the applicant's academic, research, and professional goals and how the PhD in English will contribute to the achievement of those goals (please also identify which two emphases you plan to pursue; whether you will take courses on-campus or at a distance; and whether you will be full time or part time);
  2. Three letters of reference from sources capable of commenting on the applicant's readiness for advanced graduate study in English;
  3. A writing sample of at least 15 double-spaced pages on a topic related to the applicant’s expertise (this should be a single piece of writing);
  4. GRE general exam scores (within the last five years);
  5. A resume or curriculum vitae.

The PhD Advisory Council makes decisions on admission, which are final. The Council also determines the size of each year’s cohort, based upon faculty and course availability, the quality of the pool, and externally generated factors, such as finances. Currently, a typical entering class might be 8 to 10 persons, but the actual number of admitted students depends on a variety of factors. Decisions on admission will be based on academic merit and quality of match between student-declared interests and the program, but the Council reserves the right to allocate a certain number of slots for part-time and full-time students, as well as slots for particular fields, and to take those factors into account when selecting applicants for admission.

Admission Standards [+/-]

Admission standards include the following, which are required, unless otherwise stated:

  1. A completed master’s degree (or its equivalent) in English or in an appropriate field (such as rhetoric, composition, English education, communications, journalism, linguistics, science, or technology) from a regionally accredited institution of higher education;
  2. A minimum grade point average of 3.5 (on a 4.0 scale) overall for the master’s degree;
  3. A score above the 70th percentile on the verbal and writing sections of the GRE General Exam (recommended);
  4. For students whose first language is not English, a current score for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) of at least 600 on the paper version, 250 on the computer-based version, or 80 on the iBT version.

Note: Students without at least some significant background in an English-related field are encouraged to take master’s level coursework in English before applying.

Research Competency Requirements [+/-]

Because the PhD is a research degree, all students are expected to present evidence of mastery of a basic research competency over and above the usual English or related-field course work. This is most readily achieved through demonstration of expertise in a foreign language. However, the program also offers other options, one of which a student can petition the program to accept in lieu of a foreign language.

Foreign Language

To enter candidacy for the doctoral degree, students must present evidence of mastery of a foreign language equivalent to second-year undergraduate facility. This can be done by transcript, by demonstration of native language proficiency (for those who speak English as a second language), taking coursework at Old Dominion or elsewhere equivalent to second-year language facility (at Old Dominion University, through language courses numbered 202), passing a standardized test at the appropriate level, or passing an examination administered by the Department of Foreign Languages geared to second-year language mastery. A grade of B or above in both semesters of second-year instruction will demonstrate competency in that language. Evidence of completion of the foreign language requirement should be presented to the GPD as soon as possible in the student’s career and is necessary before enrolling in the Dissertation Seminar.

New Media Application

Students may choose the option of presenting evidence of mastery of computer and new media applications beyond the usual knowledge of word processing, spread sheets, projection applications (e.g., PowerPoint), portable document format (pdf), and similar, common applications and software. This evidence would include programming languages such as:

  • ActionScript
  • JavaScript
  • PHP
  • Ruby

Students choosing this option must submit a multimodal, new-media project in which demonstration of one of the allowed programming languages is paramount. Students should submit a statement describing the applications or programs used and level of expertise. Students should be prepared to demonstrate facility before members of the PhD Advisory Council, who shall have final say on whether the option has been satisfied. Projects should be multimodal and interactive. As with seeking credit in a foreign language, students should submit evidence of completion of the requirement to the GPD as soon as possible in their careers and before enrolling in the Dissertation Seminar.


Students whose research requires knowledge of quantitative research design and statistics may show mastery of statistical methods through the following:

  • Successful completion of one graduate-level course in statistics with a grade of B or higher (courses completed at the master's level may count for this requirement). Or. successful completion of two undergraduate-level courses in quantitative research design and statistics with a grade of B or higher in both.
  • Providing evidence to the GPD that they designed and completed a project, using statistical methods (e.g., a course project, conference paper, or journal article).
Academic Continuance [+/-]

PhD students will be graded in all content courses with the traditional A, B, C, F scale and with pluses and minuses (there is no A+). Pass/Fail evaluations will be utilized only in the case of registration for internships or dissertation research, for the Dissertation Seminar, or when specifically approved by the GPD. Graduate students whose grade point averages fall below 3.00 (B) will be placed on a probationary status. After two consecutive semesters below this average or the accumulation of two grades of C or below, the student will be dismissed from the doctoral program.

Enrollment and Residency

Students should stay registered continuously for every major academic term (fall, spring) during their enrollment in the program; however, a student may take time off during the pre-candidacy period without penalty, provided all other guidelines are met (see university Graduate Catalog). However, once past the candidacy exams, a student (by university rules) must stay continuously enrolled for every major academic term or be dismissed from the program. The doctoral program must be completed within eight years of entry into PhD coursework.

As explained elsewhere, university residency requirements can be fulfilled by two semesters of full-time study on campus or by attending two Summer Doctoral Institutes.

Program at a Distance [+/-]

An effort is made each year to recruit at least part of the new cohort from candidates who will take the program part-time either via distance (through distributive media) or on-campus. Students at a distance will be required to meet the same admissions standards and have the same course requirements and program expectations as on-campus students. Students are expected to obtain the requisite web cam and specialized video conference and other software necessary to engage in two-way video classes, access Blackboard, and otherwise participate as fully in class life as electronic means will allow.

Old Dominion University requires that all doctoral students have one year of full-time, on-campus study to complete the degree. To accommodate that requirement, part-time students attend two Summer Doctoral Institutes.