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PhD English

The Doctor of Philosophy in English is a limited enrolment program unique in Canada for its integration of literary studies with such fields as rhetoric, new media, and discourse analysis. The program draws students from across Canada, and has a very strong placement rate for its graduates, in high-quality academic and upper-level research positions.

The following is a brief summary of information about the program. Full program information and regulations are available in the Graduate Calendar. Requirements can be tracked with the help of our department checklists.


All candidates are to fulfil the following requirements to graduate;

Professionalization Training Requirement

A course on the development of research skills and professionalization, to be offered to second-year PhD students in the fall term of every year, that will meet weekly. The course will cover such topics as: preparation for area exams, preparation of a dissertation proposal, bibliographical skills, teaching strategies, the job market (academic and non-academic), conferences, writing for publication, c.v. preparation, interview technique, and writing of grant applications

Course work

Students must complete 6 term length courses as well as the Language requirement. 

  • 1 Literature (LIT)
  • 1 Rhetoric and Communication Design (RCD) or Experimental Digital Media (XDM)
  • 4 Elective (one may be extra-departmental, and only one may be a reading course)

Area Exams

Students sit two area exams, one in their primary area of study, one in a secondary area. One must be in a literary field, one in an area of broader language study. Students can write the exams in either order. Sittings are usually on the last Fridays of November and May.

The passing grade is 70%. Candidates who fail the written exam (primary or secondary) may be eligible to write it again at the next formal sitting. Candidates who fail the oral exam will normally have another exam within two weeks. 

Students are encouraged to consult the following pages to help them prepare for their area exams:

Dissertation proposal

Students must arrange for a supervisor and a dissertation committee, from members of the faculty, and under their guidance prepare a proposal. 

Dissertation proposal guidelines


All students are responsible for original research and study on a topic that has been approved by their dissertation committee and the English Graduate Committee. A completed Dissertation should be between 200-400 pages in length. 

The Library offers many electronic dissertation resources, including a word template, which are helpful for both students and supervisors.

Students are encouraged to consult the GSO's Thesis Regulations and Formatting Requirements.