Doctor of Philosophy in English (Rhetoric, Composition, and Linguistics)

This PhD degree program has recently been renamed to PhD English (Writing, Rhetorics, and Literacies).   Students who entered the program prior to fall 2015, can use the course requirements listed below or those under Writing, Rhetorics, and Literacies.

Program Overview


Course Requirements

Supervisory Committee

Doctoral Examinations

Doctoral Procedures and Timeline

Doctoral Admission Requirements


Program Overview

The PhD in English, concentration in rhetoric, composition and linguistics at Arizona State University promotes the study of the production, distribution and interpretation of oral and written texts. Using classical and contemporary theories, methods and contexts, rhetoric and composition courses emphasize rhetorical strategies of oral, written, material and digital texts. Linguistics courses focus on the structure, function and acquisition of language and on its cognitive, oral, social and textual contexts. Requirements are designed to encourage a full understanding of theoretical and applied aspects of rhetoric, composition and linguistics and their intersection. The program encourages interdisciplinary study, and its flexible requirements enable students to pursue those aspects of the disciplines that interest them the most. The program prepares students for entrance into the field as teachers, scholars and professionals.


All applications for admission to the program must be approved by the doctoral admissions committee in the Department of English and by the Graduate College. There are several requirements for admission, none of which will be arbitrarily disregarded, and the best applicants will meet or exceed all of these criteria. However, the Admissions Committee will consider the individual aspects of each application.

For more information on how to apply, see the Department of English Application Procedures.

Apply Online!

Deadline: January 15th. (Note: There is a September 15th deadline for international students who are not seeking funding from the Department of English or ASU).

  1. Undergraduate and graduate majors: Given the interdisciplinary nature of work in rhetoric, composition, and linguistics, faculty will consider applicants with bachelor's or master's degrees in fields such as anthropology, applied linguistics, cognitive science, communication, comparative languages and literatures, English literature, education, history, law, linguistics, modern languages, philosophy, political science, psychology, religion, rhetoric, composition, sociology and speech and hearing science.
  2. Cumulative grade point average: The Graduate College requires a GPA of 3.00 or better in the last two years of work leading to the bachelor's degree and the recommendation of the academic unit in which the applicant plans to study. In addition, the Department of English requires that applicants have at least a 3.50 GPA in all previous graduate work.
  3. Graduate Record Examination: Applicants must submit scores on the GRE. Normally, they should achieve a score in the 85th percentile or higher.
  4. Letters of recommendation: At least three letters of recommendation from professors familiar with the applicant's academic performance.
  5. Statement of Purpose: A well considered, one to two-page, single spaced statement of purpose in which candidates explain how their experience and training—either in school, out of school, or both—have prepared them for the program. Candidates should indicate their career goals and explain how these goals relate to our graduate program in rhetoric, composition, and linguistics.
  6. Sample of scholarly work: Applicants should submit a critical paper or research paper prepared in a recent course.
  7. Vitae: A professional vita that outlines educational background, relevant work experience, honors and publications.
  8. Official Transcripts:   Official Transcripts should be sent to ASU Graduate Education - Admissions.
  9. A Graduate College application. An application fee is required.
  10. International students must have an official Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or IELTS score report sent to the Graduate College. Please refer to this webpage for English Proficiency Score requirements:

Core Requirements for the Ph.D. in Rhetoric, Composition, and Linguistics

The Doctor of Philosophy is a total of 84 hours. In general, a student with an appropriate master's degree must complete a minimum of 54 credit hours of approved graduate work, which includes 12 hours of dissertation. Research hours may be used towards course work in consultation with the advisor. A student without an appropriate master's degree usually must complete 84 hours of work at ASU. At the advisor’s discretion, students may include up to 12 hours of appropriate, graduate-level course work undertaken at another university, and not previously counted towards any other degree.

A. Research Methods (3): Students must take ENG/LIN 500 or its equivalent.

B. Foundational Distribution (12): Foundational courses are offered at the 500 level, but also may include courses completed as masters' level work at other universities. Students must complete at the 500 level (or equivalent):

one course in rhetoric
one course in composition studies
two courses in linguistics

C. Advanced Studies Distribution (12): Advanced studies courses are offered at the 600 level or above. Students may choose to take 600-level courses required by the distribution from one area of study (rhetoric, composition or linguistics) or a combination of areas in which they would like to concentrate. It is assumed that a student will have taken a foundational level course, prior to taking an advanced studies course, especially when the area of study is new for the student.

All advanced courses may be repeated for credit when topics vary. Thus, two classes with the same course number (e.g., LIN 610 or ENG 651) may count toward two of the requirements for distribution. At least three of the advanced courses must be taken in the doctoral program at ASU.

D. Continuing Concentration: Students may choose to take other foundational (500 or equivalent) and advanced (600 and above or equivalent) courses in any one of the areas of concentration or a combination of areas in which they would like to concentrate. Students should consult with an advisor when selecting additional courses for concentration. It is expected that some of these continuing courses will include ENG or LIN 790 and 792's used in preparation for the doctoral examination.

Note: Special topic courses (ENG 598, LIN 548, LIN 598) and seminars (ENG 591, LIN 591) may fulfill some of the distribution requirements at the foundational (500-level) and advanced studies (600-level) levels. Students should consult with an advisor when choosing these courses.

E. Interdisciplinary Option (up to 12): Students are encouraged to take up to 12 hours of courses outside the department to count toward the degree. Those courses may fulfill some of the foregoing requirements at the foundational and advanced studies distribution, or be taken in addition to those required by the distribution. Students should consult with an advisor when choosing these courses.

F. Language: Students must demonstrate evidence of a competent knowledge of a natural language other than modern English, to be selected by the student, subject to the approval of the chair of the dissertation committee. The language requirement must be completed before the student is eligible to take the doctoral examinations. This requirement may be met by any of the following:

  • Earning a “B” (3.00) or higher in a 400- or 500-level course in an appropriate (approved) language.
  • Demonstrating comparable proficiency by taking a language examination, administered by the School of International Letters and Cultures, in a language approved by the student’s supervisory committee.
  • Demonstrating native speaker proficiency, as determined by the School of International Letters and Cultures, in a language approved by the student’s supervisory committee.
  • Earning a “B” (3.00) or higher in both ENG 530 Old English and ENG 531 Old English Literature or their equivalent.
  • Holding a bachelor’s degree in an approved foreign language.
  • Having fulfilled a foreign language requirement towards a previously awarded master’s degree that has been completed within five years of the semester for which the student has been admitted to the doctoral program. This foreign language must be in a language approved by the student’s doctoral supervisory committee.
  • For languages which the School of International Letters and Cultures does not offer or does not offer above the 200 level, two years (4 semesters) of successfully completed college level coursework at least at the 100 and 200 level with a C or better would fulfill the requirement. The coursework must have been successfully completed no more than six years prior to admission to the degree program.

G. Dissertation: Students must include 12 (and only 12) credit hours of 799 on the doctoral plan of study.

Miscellaneous: Students have the option of taking ENG/LIN 792 Research, on an individual basis, for the purpose of working independently in preparation for the doctoral examination. This is an alternative to be selected by the student with the approval of the advisor and supervisory committee. Satisfactory completion of ENG/LIN 792 is indicated by the grade of "Y."

The Graduate College also requires that students be enrolled every semester, excluding summer sessions, until they have completed all requirements for the degree. Continuous enrollment may be satisfied by registration for one hour of ENG 799, or, in cases where dissertation or other credit hours are not needed, continuous registration (ENG 595 or 795). If students wish to interrupt their programs of study for one or more semesters, they may apply for leave status, not to exceed one year. Failure to obtain leave status for the semesters in which they are not enrolled may result in dismissal from the program.

Doctoral Supervisory Committee

The doctoral supervisory committee consists of a minimum of three members from the graduate faculty selected at the time the student files a program of study. In consultation with the director of the doctoral program, the student will select the committee chair, who also serves as the student's advisor. Once a graduate faculty member has agreed to serve as the student's chair, the student and chair will then consult before recommending two other members to the director of the doctoral program. Ideally another member of the supervisory committee in addition to the chair should be in the area of specialization. It is the responsibility of each student to form a supervisory committee very early in the program so that the chair and members of the committee may be involved in shaping the course of study, for example, in determining such matters as the choice of foreign language(s) and in specifying courses that will be required for the student's particular area of concentration.


Important Notice to Current International Students: In order for international students to maintain good standing for their VISAs, they must take a minimum of 9 credit hours per semester (i.e., 3 classes), 6 of which should be face-to-face classes.