PhD in Rhetoric and Writing


We have faculty members with a broad range of interests including language diversity, second language writing, writing program administration, K-12 composition, public rhetorics, community writing, multimodal composition, and technical communication. With a limited amount of core requirements, our students are able to select courses that best suit their research and teaching interests. In addition to gaining valuable face-to-face and online teaching experience at a diverse flagship Hispanic-serving institution in courses ranging from first-year writing to technical writing and professional communication, students have the opportunity to engage in program building efforts via a variety of administrative positions connected with first-year writing, online writing instruction, and technical writing and professional communication. Please contact Program Faculty if you have any questions.

About the Degree

The PhD concentration in Rhetoric and Composition requires 51 hours of coursework, comprehensive exams in three areas, a Foreign Language requirement, and a doctoral dissertation. Typically, PhD students have recently completed a Master’s degree in English with something in excess of 30 semester hours. The English department accepts up to 24 of those hours toward the PhD degree, leaving students 30 hours of regular course work to complete from the time of matriculation.  The PhD requires a minimum of four years of extended study to master a specific subject completely and to extend the body of knowledge about that subject. Applicants should already possess a Master’s degree in English or a related discipline. 

Note: Students who did graduate work in a discipline other than English likely will not transfer the full 24 hours to the PhD program. Such students will need to complete more than 30 hours of regular course work before moving on to the dissertation. The Associate Chair of Graduate Studies (ACGS) and the Committee on Studies (COS) determine the number of hours students are able to transfer to the PhD.

Required Coursework (51 hrs)

(for complete requirements, see the Graduate Handbook)

As explained above, PhD students must take 51 hours of course work before taking the Comprehensive Examinations and moving on to the dissertation. These hours must be distributed as follows:

Core Course (3 hrs)

  • Engl. 542: Major Texts in Rhetoric (3 hrs)

Distribution Requirements (15 hrs) 

Students must take 15 hours of coursework in Language, Theory, and Pedagogy, as described below.

Language and Theory (9 hrs) 

Students must take a total of nine hours from Language and Theory courses, at least three of which are from Language and three from Theory courses.

Language (at least 3 hrs from the following)

  • Engl. 541: English Grammar (3 hrs)
  • Engl. 545: History of the English Language (3 hrs)
  • Engl. 547: Old English (3 hrs)
  • Engl. 548: Beowulf and Other Topics (3 hrs)
  • Engl. 549: Middle English Language (3 hrs)

Theory (at least 3 hrs from the following)

  • Engl. 510: Criticism and Theory (3 hrs)
  • Engl. 511: Special Topics: Criticism and Theory; Literacy and Cultural Movements (3 hrs)
  • Engl. 540: Topics in Language or Rhetoric (3 hrs)
  • Engl. 542: Major Texts in Rhetoric (3 hrs)
  • Engl. 543: Contemporary Texts in Rhetoric (3 hrs)
  • Engl. 610: Studies in Criticism and Theory (3 hrs)

Pedagogy (6 hrs) 

Students must take six hours of pedagogy courses from the following or from approved substitutions in other departments. (All new Teaching Assistants, including those who have previous teaching experience or similar course work elsewhere, are required to take Engl. 530, which is offered every Fall semester, in the first semester they begin teaching at UNM.)  In addition to the courses here, we also offer practica in online writing instruction and stretch/studio writing instruction.

  • Engl. 530: Teaching Composition (required of all new TAs) (3 hrs)
  • Engl. 533: Teaching Professional & Technical Writing (3 hrs)
  • Engl. 534: Composition Theory (3 hrs)
  • Engl. 592: Teaching Literature (3 hrs)

Seminars (9 hrs) 

All PhD students must take at least three seminars offered in the English Department. RW students typically take three versions of ENGL 640, which are offered at least once a year and which vary in topic. Recent topics have included New Media Literacies for the 21st Century, Teaching Diverse Student Populations, and The Sociopolitical Contexts of Writing Instruction.

  • Engl. 610: Studies in Criticism and Theory (3 hrs)
  • Engl. 640: Studies in Language and Rhetoric (3 hrs)
  • Engl. 650: Studies in British Literature (3 hrs)
  • Engl. 660: Studies in American Literature (3 hrs)
  • Engl. 680: Studies in Genre, Backgrounds, Forces (3 hrs)

Electives (24 hrs) 

The required courses above total 30 hours; students who have transferred 24 hours from the MA into the PhD will have fulfilled the minimum course requirements, excluding dissertation hours, required for the degree. Students who need more course credits, should fulfill their remaining hours with approved graduate courses in English or related disciplines under the advisement of the COS and the ACGS.

All 54 regular course requirements must be completed before enrolling for dissertation hours, Engl. 699.

Dissertation (no fewer than 18 hrs)

  • Engl. 699: Dissertation (3-12 hrs, no limit).

Language Skill Requirement

With the approval of the ACGS and COS, PhD students may satisfy the language skill requirement in one of three ways.

  1. By demonstrating competency in two language skills. “Competency” can be demonstrated with a grade of B or better through a second semester, second-year level undergraduate course or through a graduate-level reading course in a language other than English. Students may use English 547 (Introduction to Old English) and 548 (Advanced Old English) to fulfill competency.

  2. By demonstrating fluency in one language skill. “Fluency” can be demonstrated in one of several ways with a grade of B or better: through the second-semester, third-year level undergraduate course in a language other than English; or through two graduate-level reading courses in a language other than English. Students may use English 547 (Introduction to Old English), 548 (Advanced Old English), and an Old English 650 or another 548 to fulfill fluency.

  3. By combining competency in one language skill with a similar competency in a research skill such as a computer-programming language or Statistics. Competency in the research skill can be established by the completion of a second-semester, second-year course with a grade of B or better or two graduate courses.

Competency and Fluency can be demonstrated through coursework from previous institutions, coursework at UNM, or tests administered either by UNM or CLEP. The decision as to which research skills courses such as a computer-programming language and Statistics will satisfy the Department’s language requirements will be negotiated between the ACGS, COS, and appropriate faculty from other departments; other research tools may be approved in exceptional cases in which similar provisions must be made for rigorous academic study in the subject.

Note: Course credits for classes used to complete the language skill or research requirement cannot normally be counted toward the 51 credit hours of regular course work required for the degree..

Comprehensive Examinations

To ensure a thorough and broad knowledge of English as a discipline, the Department of English requires PhD students to take comprehensive examinations in three different fields. Under the advisement of the COS, PhD students should select their three fields of study early in the course of their doctoral program, so that they can take course work that enhances their understanding of their three fields. 

Dissertation Prospectus and Its Defense

After passing the Comprehensive Examinations, PhD students must organize a Dissertation Committee, write and submit a Dissertation Prospectus, and successfully defend the prospectus before the Dissertation Committee. The prospectus defense must be completed no later than six calendar months after passing the Comprehensive Examinations.

The PhD Dissertation

A dissertation is a formal, scholarly document, seldom less than 150 double-spaced pages and often much longer, which makes an original contribution to its field and shows a professional mastery of academic methods and materials. Few dissertations are written in less than a calendar year. PhD students who are also Teaching Assistants commonly find that the process takes two years. UNM requires that students must complete all degree requirements, including the dissertation and defense, within five years of advancing to candidacy (i.e. passing the Comprehensive Examinations). 

Department of English Language and Literature
Humanities Building, Second Floor
MSC03 2170
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001

Phone: (505) 277-6347
Fax: (505) 277-0021