PhD Program

The English Department offers a robust and challenging Ph.D. Program in Literature. The deadline to apply for Fall 2019 is December 15, 2018.

In the Ph.D. program students first establish a solid background in British and American literature and critical theory (years one and two) and then focus on their special field of study (years three through five). After fulfilling a limited number of distribution requirements, each student fashions an Individual Program of Study with the assistance of her or his Individual Faculty Advisor, who is a specialist in the appropriate field. Students who want to pursue a Ph.D at the University of Oregon should apply directly for a Ph.D. Students in the doctoral program who have not earned an M.A. prior to being admitted may receive the M.A. at the appropriate stage of their course of study, typically at the end of the second year (subject to the fulfillment of department and university M.A. requirements). The number of places in the Ph.D. program is limited, and admission is competitive.

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  • A bachelor of arts (B.A.) or a master of arts (M.A.) in English or a related field, with at least a 3.50 (A-/B+) grade point average (GPA).
  • Graduate Record Examination scores must be submitted for the verbal section of the general test; the subject test score in Literature in English is optional.
  • For international students whose native language is not English: a minimum score of 600 on the paper-based Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), a minimum score of 100 on the IBT TOEFL exam, or a minimum score of 8.0 on the IELTS.


The Graduate School requires at least three years of full-time work beyond the bachelor’s degree for the doctorate, with at least one year spent in continuous residence on the Eugene campus. For graduate students in English this means enrollment in at least two formal English graduate courses (excluding independent study courses [English 601, 603, 605] and training classes [English 608, 611, 612, 613]) per term for one academic year. This on-campus requirement is usually satisfied during the first full year for which the student has been admitted. Note that Graduate School regulations specify a minimum of nine credits a term for three consecutive terms to fulfill the doctoral year of residency requirement, and that two courses a term may or may not equal this minimum. Note also that although the Graduate School allows the inclusion of a summer session among these consecutive terms, the English Department’s regulations specify a fall-through-spring academic year.


  • 18 approved graduate seminars (equivalent of two courses per quarter for three years) Six of these seminars must be in required areas:
    • Introduction to Graduate Studies
    • Introduction to Theory
    • Pre-1500
    • Renaissance
    • 1660-1800, British or American
    • 19th century, British or American

    The twelve remaining seminars may be distributed among any areas, but must be determined by a program of study to be approved prior to the second year of study by the student’s Individual Faculty Advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies

  • Foreign Language Requirement. Doctoral students must demonstrate reading competence in two foreign languages or high proficiency in one.
  • Teaching. Doctoral candidates must have experience as classroom teachers in the department before they receive the degree.
  • Minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.50 in graduate course work.
  • Residency requirement of nine approved graduate seminars taken in the University of Oregon Department of English.


The Ph.D. Breadth Examination includes written (take-home) and oral components.  It is based on reading lists, generated by the student and her examining committee and then approved by the Graduate Committee.  Doctoral students take the breadth exam at the beginning of their fourth year of study, or at the beginning of the second term after they finish course work (if they enter with transfer credits).

Both exams are to be completed sequentially within the space of one week during the first half of September.  48 hours will be allowed to prepare the written part of each examination, with a length limit of 10 pages (12 point, double spaced).  If the student achieves a grade of Pass or High Pass on each written exam, it is followed by an oral evaluation, administered within the first two weeks of the fall term.  This constitutes more than just a defense of the written portion: it is an opportunity for faculty to ask additional questions on the reading list.  Each written exam is graded, and the oral exam administered, by the student’s advisor along with the examiners in the “breadth” fields; i.e., the oral exam committee consists of the adviser and the two examiners in the respective fields.  The oral exam length is two hours, divided evenly between the two fields.

Students who fail either part of the written exam do not take the oral portion until they have retaken the failed written part.  Retakes will take place no later than the end of Fall term of the fourth year.


After a student in the Ph.D. program has satisfied the language requirement, completed course work, and passed the Ph.D. Breadth Exam, they take a two-and-a-half-hour Major Field Examination in the chosen area. It is divided into two parts:

  1. A prepared presentation by the student on a topic or problem related to the student’s dissertation, followed by a discussion of that topic, and
  2. A discussion of a special field that provides a context for the issue examined in part one.


After passing the Ph.D. Major Field Examination, the student prepares a twenty-page dissertation prospectus under the guidance of his or her dissertation advisor.  When the prospectus is approved by the dissertation committee and the Director of Graduate Studies, the student officially advances to “candidacy” (becomes a Ph.D. candidate) and is ready to write the dissertation.  This is a substantial work of scholarship on a single subject, based on original research, which contributes substantially to knowledge in the field.  Upon completion, the Ph.D. candidate must undergo a formal, public dissertation defense.  This is an oral examination in which the student fields questions from the committee about the subject, methodology, research findings, and knowledge of the field.