Upcoming Events

  • Conferences
  • ATTW: 3/19/2014
  • CCCC: 3/19-3/21/2014


1. How do I apply? [+/-]

Applications are accepted for entrance in fall semester only and must be submitted no later than February 15. Late applicants not applying for financial assistance may be considered until March 15, but only if openings remain after the first round of decisions on those who submitted on time. No application will be considered for the following fall if it is submitted after March 15. Applicants residing in other countries should mail materials well in advance of those dates. All required forms and documents should be sent directly to the Office of Graduate Admissions. Applications packets are available online at the Office of Graduate Admissions website. The following should be submitted along with the appropriate applications forms:

  1. a 1500-word statement of the applicant’s academic and professional goals and discussion of how the PhD in English will contribute to the achievement of those goals;
  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 20 double-spaced pages on a topic related to the applicant’s expertise (we prefer a single piece of writing but will accept two shorter pieces that total 20 pages);
  4. GRE general exam (taken within the last five years). The GRE score is not optional nor can it be substituted with another test.

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.

2. What are the admissions Requirements [+/-]

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.

3. What kind of references will help make my application stand out? [+/-]
The best reference writers provide a letter (in addition to the reference form) in which they outline how they know a candidate, the kind of work that the candidate has produced or exhibited under their supervision, and the details of that work that indicate the candidate is ready and able to engage in the rigors of a doctoral program. Such references ideally would come from professors or work supervisors who have an opportunity to evaluate a candidate’s written or digital work; occasionally, peer colleagues can provide similar information. Although character is often a part of an overall reference, character references alone do not give us the fullest picture of a candidate’s appropriateness. For candidates who have been away from school or a work environment in which text production is crucial may wish to enroll in graduate English courses ahead of applying for the PhD in order to update credentials and to seek potential references.
4. What about grades and board scores? Is there a minimum? [+/-]
The established minimum grade point average for a candidate’s master’s degree work is 3.5. Candidates who apply with a GPA less than 3.5 will only be considered in unusual circumstances. Although we do not have a stated minimum GRE, we hope to see candidates with a 1100 or above combined score on the verbal and quantitative portions and 5.0 or above on the analytic. Our practice is to consider the whole application, including writing samples and references, and look for students with the best combination of positive indicators for success.
5. How do I meet the residency requirement? [+/-]
Residency requirements are met either through on-campus enrollment or through the Summer Doctoral Institute. Please see the Admissions page for more information.
6. Is there a foreign language requirement? [+/-]
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. Please see the Foreign Language section of the Admissions page for more information.
7. What are the course, field exam and dissertation requirements? [+/-]
Information about courses, exams and dissertation requirements can be found on the Curriculum page.
8. How do I become a distance learner? [+/-]
Distance students apply the same way as prospective on-campus students. Once accepted, a distance student must establish a link with the Norfolk campus via home-installed equipment that allows for two-way video or make arrangements to attend video classes at a designated Old Dominion University distance site, usually found at one of several Virginia community college campuses. Because most of our distance courses are live, distance students should calculate the time differential, if any, to determine if they can meet classes that begin at 4:20 or 7:10 p.m. Eastern time.
9. How are the two tracks differentiated? [+/-]
There is much overlap between the two tracks. Students in both tracks share a core of 5 classes that focus on research methodologies, rhetorical theory, pedagogical practices, and textual analysis. The tracks allow students to develop specific research interests and proficiencies. Students interested in workplace studies, new media, usability, or similar topics will find their needs met by the Professional Writing and New Media Track. Students who wish to do research in composition studies, rhetorical theory, or textual analysis will likely choose the Rhetoric and Textual Studies track. More information can be found on the Curriculum page under "Field Concentration".
10. What is the Summer Doctoral Institute (SDI)? [+/-]

Designed as a way in which distance students may fulfill the university residency requirement (one year of full-time study), the Summer Doctoral Institute offers courses during the summer school session that will enable part-time students to schedule a full-time load, which is 6 hours in the summer. Full-time students are also eligible to take courses in the institute on either a part-time or full-time basis. By taking two such institutes, a part-time student, either local or at a distance, can complete the university requirement for a year of full-time study.

The institute operates as follows: for each course, students participate online for two weeks, followed by two weeks of on-campus instruction,, followed by two additional weeks via electronic means.


All students entering the program will be advised by the GPD. After matriculation, students may continue to consult with the GPD or seek advising from other members of the PhD Advisory Council or other doctoral-certified faculty members. However, all students must file a Program of Study form and discuss it with the GPD before advancing to candidacy. Following successful completion of the candidacy exams, the student’s dissertation supervisor becomes the advisor for the remainder of the student’s career.

Student Conference Papers and Publications

Because the doctorate is a professional degree, we expect students to engage in the full range of professional activities including presentation of research at conferences and submitting essays (print and/or multimodal) to peer-reviewed scholarly publications. Faculty will wish to call students’ attention to upcoming conferences and publication opportunities, and students will want to take advantage of this information by submitting proposals and completed essays whenever feasible. The College of Arts and Letters provides support money for student attendance at conferences at which they present their research; in addition, some scholarly societies offer scholarships or other forms of incentive to attend conferences. We urge students to join appropriate societies and take an active part in them for the opportunity to interact with other scholars, obtain feedback on research, and enhance credentials when they enter the job market.

Student Conduct

All students in the program are expected to exhibit ethical and professional behavior in and out of the classroom. Students who are convicted of Honor Code violations (especially for cheating and plagiarism) or whose behavior is deemed by the department to be unduly threatening or harmful to individuals or the program will, upon review of the PhD Advisory Council and the department chair, be dismissed from the program.

Career Assistance

The program and the department work with the university Career Management Office to provide opportunities for students to seek appropriate job possibilities, develop dossiers, participate in practice interview sessions, and other activities that will help students enhance their position in the job market.