The Guide to Graduate Studies in English (before Fall 2011)

Download this guide as a PDF
Graduate Studies in English
The graduate program in English is a six-year course of study leading to the Ph.D. degree.  Students will ordinarily earn an M.A. degree in the course of fulfilling requirements in their first two years in the program.  Students who enter the program with an M.A. in English or its equivalent are admitted directly to doctoral study and normally complete their Ph.D. in four years.  Only students who intend to proceed to the Ph.D. should apply for admission to the graduate program in English.
The Ph.D. at Chapel Hill emphasizes specialization in a particular field grounded in extensive coverage of British and American literature. 
During the first two years of the M.A. program, students advance general knowledge of that literature while defining their scholarly interests.  By the second year, they begin intensive work in their special fields of interest, which may include a historical period, a genre, composition studies, or literary theory and criticism.  By the end of the second year, students must complete a Master’s thesis or an equivalent scholarly project.  When students finish their M.A., they apply for permission to proceed to the Ph.D. program. By the end of the third year, they complete the greater part of course work.  They ordinarily take written and oral examinations in their major and minor fields in their seventh semester.  Students present a dissertation prospectus the semester following their Ph.D. exams, and devote their fifth and sixth years to writing the dissertation.
Majors and Minors
For the Ph.D., many students choose a major in one of seven literary periods or in African-American Literature, Southern Literature, Critical Theory and Cultural Studies, or Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy, and a minor in one of these specified areas of specialization:

The following are the English Department's specified areas of specialization:

I. The English Language
II. English Literature from the Beginning to 1485
III. English Literature from 1485 to 1660 (including Milton)
IV. English Literature from 1660 to 1789
V. English Literature from 1789 to 1900
VI. American Literature to 1900
VII. American Literature from 1900 to the Present
VIII. British Literature from 1900 to the Present
IX. Critical Theory and Cultural Studies
X. Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy
XI. African-American Literature
XII. Southern Literature

Students may also elect to create an alternative major or minor, organized by a different chronology, geography, or category than the areas described above.

Alternative Major:
With the support of three faculty mentors, students may petition the Director of Graduate Studies to allow an alternative major.  They should submit that petition with the form they submit when declaring their intention to take the Ph.D. exams.  In order to petition for an alternative major, students should write a letter to the Director of Graduate Studies that includes:

  1. A description of the major field, justifying its necessity in terms of the candidate's projected teaching and research. How might it further future dissertation work? In what ways will it prepare the candidate for the job market?
  2. Descriptions of all courses taken or expected to be taken that emphasize this field. Candidates should also indicate how they will satisfy the required two seminars in the major field.
  3. A reading list for the major, which the candidate has compiled through consultation with appropriate faculty.
  4. Letters of support for the alternative major (sent to the Graduate Director) from three faculty members.

Alternative Minor:
With the support of two faculty mentors, students may petition the Director of Graduate Studies to allow an alternative minor within the English department.  Students should include that petition with the form they submit when declaring their intention to take the Ph.D. exams.  No petition is needed for minors in the novel, poetry, or drama.
It is possible to minor outside the Department in other areas with permission of the Director of Graduate Studies.  For many minors, such as American Studies, Renaissance Studies, or Women’s Studies, established programs outside the department have their own set of requirements. 
If a student elects to pursue a minor in an area of study outside of English in a program that does not set its own minor requirements, students can still minor in that area if they take at least fifteen credit hours of approved work (listed outside of or cross-listed with English) and are tested in this minor via the standard three-hour written Ph.D. examination followed by an oral examination in conjunction with the Major.  Two members of the faculty representing the outside minor must serve on the student’s written and oral examination committee.
Graduate Curriculum
The structure of course requirements, departmental examinations, and research projects is designed to help the student acquire (a) a broad basic knowledge of the field of literature in English, and (b) a detailed knowledge of a particular area of the field.
Graduate courses, which carry three semester hours of credit, are offered on three levels:  Survey, Pro-Seminars, and Seminars.
Courses Numbered in the 600 series, help graduate students learn about areas their previous training has omitted.  These courses should be taken early in the program.  Can be taken as elective courses.

These courses, designed for M.A. students, are introductions to professional work; they often compare texts that cross standard chronological or regional boundaries.  They aim for breadth in both the literary texts read and the questions, methods, and secondary material covered.  If we do not offer sufficient pro-seminars offered in a given year, please see the DGS about alternative ways to fill this requirement.
With an enrollment of not more than fifteen, these courses are designed for an intensive, detailed, and professional investigation of a focused area of study.  These courses are recommended for students who already have some grounding in the period, genre, authors, or topic presented.
Course Work Evaluation:

The grading system in graduate courses is as follows:  H for work that is clearly excellent, P for work that is entirely satisfactory, L for work that is marginal but passing, and F for work that is failing.  Plus and minus grades are recorded by the Department but not by the Graduate School.

If a student earns 3 or more “P”s or one “L” in the first year, the Graduate Advisory Committee (GAC) may meet to evaluate the student’s record.  Students who receive 2 incompletes in the first year will also be evaluated. The GAC and the faculty who have taught this student will meet to discuss his or her progress and determine whether they should continue in the program.

A doctoral student who receives a single grade of F or nine or more semester hours of L is ineligible to continue in the Graduate School.  A master's student who receives a single grade of F or fifteen or more semester hours of L becomes ineligible to continue in the Graduate School.  Further, a master's student becomes ineligible if both of the following occur:  L hours received are greater than 7 and are greater than 25% of hours taken.
Students will be allowed to take only one “Incomplete” per semester. While the Graduate School policy states that students have a full calendar year to finish incomplete work, the department stipulates that faculty will accept work for an incomplete no later than 2 weeks before the exam period in the semester that the Incomplete work is due. Temporary grades of Incomplete (IN) or Excused Absence from final exam (AB) must be removed by the deadline or the course grade becomes F.  IN and AB grades must be removed before a student can graduate or request a Leave of Absence.
Requirements for the English Master's Degree

  • Two semesters residence credit.
  • 30 hours of coursework.  Including: ENGL 606 for those planning to teach. Students not planning to teach must request a waiver of this requirement.
  • Two ProSeminars
  • Two distribution courses. With the year 1800 as a chronological dividing line, students whose area of interest falls primarily on one side of 1800 will take two courses on the other side of the chronological divide.  A ProSeminar that fits this description can fulfill both the ProSeminar requirement and the distribution requirement at one time.  Please check with the director of Graduate Studies if you have questions about whether a particular course will satisfy your distribution requirements.
  • 992 [thesis option] or 993 [thesis]
  • One English language course
  • One foreign language (see the Ph.D. program requirements on ways to meet this requirement)
  • Portfolio of two research papers written in the first year of the program 
  • Thesis or Thesis Option paper
  • Oral defense of thesis/thesis option

The M.A. in English requires thirty semester hours of graduate work (nine courses plus a thesis or thesis option registration for 3 hours credit).  Degree candidates are required to complete the following courses:

  • ENGL 606 (Rhetorical Theory and Practice). Students not planning to teach must request a waiver of this requirement (3 hours)
  • ENGL 992 (Thesis Option) or ENGL 993 (Master's Thesis) (3 hours) 
  • An English language course: one of the following:  613, 719, 814, 720, or with the permission of the Director of Graduate Studies:  a class in linguistics, theory of the language, or philosophy of language (3 hours)
  • Two ProSeminars taken in the first three semesters of the program (6 hours)
  • Two distribution courses. With the year 1800 as a chronological dividing line, students whose area of interest falls primarily on one side of 1800 will take two courses on the other side of the chronological divide.  A ProSeminar that fits this description can fulfill both the ProSeminar requirement and the distribution requirement at one time.(Up to 6 hours)
  • Three to five additional courses in an area or areas of interest to the student, which may include literary theory, genre studies, etc. (9 - 15 hours)

TOTAL: 30 hours Three courses per semester constitute a normal graduate load for full-time graduate students who are not working.

The Writing Program generally requires that students teaching two courses register for no more than six credit hours in that semester, and students teaching one course register for no more than nine. Unless students are enrolled in 992, 993, or 994, if they are taking only 6 hours because they are teaching two courses, they must fill out a WAIVER OF HOURS FORM to be considered by the Graduate School as a full-time student.

Portfolio of two research papers:
During the first year of the program, students must write at least two 18-25-page research papers (these can come from ProSeminars or from other courses).  Students will submit two of these (with instructors’ comments on them)--the ones they judge to represent their strongest work in the program--to the Director of Graduate Studies at the end of their second semester in the program to be placed in their files.  One of these papers will be revised over the summer to become the student’s thesis option. 
Thesis Option:
Every M.A. student who elects to write the thesis option must enroll in English 992 for three credits. Because tuition for twelve hours and nine hours is the same, it is usually financially advantageous to register for 992 (Thesis Option) for three credits when taking three additional regular courses.  In some cases, it makes sense to register for only 992, which confers full-time registration by itself.  Be sure to register for your advisor’s section of 992.
The thesis option should represent the results of an independent research project of value to the student and the scholarly community and should reveal the student's command of the appropriate bibliography and research methods.  The model for the thesis option is the professional journal essay, usually 20-30 pages in length.  In developing the topic of a thesis option, the student should consult the scholarship to make sure no one has dealt with that topic exhaustively and discuss the project with a member of the graduate faculty who specializes in the field of the topic.  The student should decide on a director by the end of the second semester of graduate work, so that from then on (until the student chooses a dissertation director), the thesis option director may advise the student about courses and research.
Students must submit their thesis options to their thesis advisors and the Director of Graduate Studies by the mid-October of their second year in the M.A. program.  An informal defense must be scheduled by the student with the advisor and reader before mid-October.  By the date specified on the academic calendar, final copies of the thesis option should be turn into the DGS.
The thesis option should be filed in the Graduate Studies office (GL 207) before permission to proceed will be granted.
Oral defense of the thesis option:
In the course of writing the thesis option, the student (in consultation with his/her advisor) should identify and meet with a second faculty member who will serve as a reader.  In anticipation of the oral defense of the thesis option paper, the student will submit copies of the thesis option to his/her advisor and reader at the end of the summer.  In the fall semester, at a mutually convenient time, the advisor, reader, and student will meet for an hour to discuss the paper.  In this conversation, the student will be assessed in terms of his or her ability to talk intelligently about both the content and the methodological approach presented in the paper.  This oral defense should be scheduled no later than mid-October (check the current calendar of deadlines to ascertain the last day of scheduling).  Any student failing the exam will not be asked to rewrite the paper, but to re-take the oral examination.  (In the rare case of a thesis, the student will take a comparable oral examination on the thesis.)  
Residence Credit Requirement:
“Masters’ candidates are required to complete a minimum residence credit of two full semesters, either by full-time registration, or by part-time registration over a large number of semesters.  The residence credit hour requirement requires UNC-Chapel Hill registration (i.e., transferred credit will not be included in the residence credit calculation), although not necessarily physical presence on campus (the student may be doing field research, for example).”  Please see The Graduate School Handbook for more information (
Transfer of Credit:
A maximum of six semester hours of graduate credit may be transferred from another accredited institution, or may be awarded for graduate courses taken at this institution before admission to the Graduate School.  Grades earned on transferred work must be equivalent to B or better.  Transferred credit will be accepted by the Graduate School only upon recommendation by the student's major department.  Transfer credit does not reduce minimum residence credit requirements for a master's degree.  According to Graduate School regulations, courses taken at foreign universities transfer only in exceptional cases.
To receive transfer credit a student must submit a written request to the Dean of Enrolled Students of the Graduate School.  The student should include course number and title, semester and year taken, final grade, and institution where the course was taken.  An official transcript must be on file with the Graduate School reflecting satisfactory completion of course work.  The student should meet with the Director of Graduate Studies and request that the English Department support the request.  The Director of Graduate Studies may then submit the Department's recommendation to the Graduate School.  The student will receive written notice from the Graduate School, approving or denying transfer credit.
Completing your M.A.:
Early in the semester in which the candidate expects to complete the degree, an application to graduate must be submitted and approved by the Director of Graduate Studies, and then submitted to the Graduate School.  The Application to Graduate must be submitted no later than the deadlines posted on the Academic & Deadline calendar.  The forms can be found at  Please note if you do not graduate in the semester you expected to, you must submit another application for graduation in a future semester.
Time Limit:
Under normal circumstances, the M.A. can be earned in three or four semesters.  Graduate School regulations allow five calendar years from the date of first registration for completion.
Proceeding Beyond the Master's Degree:
Students must apply to proceed beyond the master's degree.  Forms are available on our web site. The Graduate Advisory Committee judges a student's suitability for the doctoral program on the basis of coursework and grades, teachers' evaluations, the portfolio of two papers, evaluations of the thesis option (or thesis), and performance on the oral defense of the thesis option. The Graduate Advisory Committee evaluates petitions to proceed only after all M.A. degree requirements, including the thesis option or thesis, have been fulfilled. When a student is given permission to proceed beyond the master’s, the student must register for doctoral studies in the following regular semester (fall or spring). Leaves of Absence are not permitted between degrees.  For students whose native language is not English, a terminal master's program with a concentration in American literature is available with the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies.
Doctoral Program in English Literature

  • English 606 (Students not planning to teach must request a waiver of requirement.  Direct-Admit Ph.D.s who have had similar training elsewhere may petition for exemption from English 606.)
  • One seminar in the minor and two in the major
  • One additional seminar in any area (including one’s major or minor).
  • Further coursework in the major and minor
  • Two foreign languages (one of which satisfied the foreign language requirement for the M.A. if earned at UNC)
  • Written examination in the major and minor
  • Oral examination in the major and minor
  • Prospectus for the dissertation
  • Dissertation
  • Oral defense of the completed dissertation
  • Four semesters of residence credit
  • The department strongly recommends that candidates for the Ph.D. have supervised classroom teaching experience.  Any students electing to refuse this experience must have permission of their advisors and written permission from the Director of Graduate Studies.

No specific number of hours of coursework is prescribed for the Ph.D. degree (except for a minor outside of the Department).  Students normally complete course work with sixteen to eighteen graduate courses beyond the B.A.  The following courses are required: two seminars in the major; and one seminar in the minor; one seminar in any area, English 606 (Rhetorical Theory & Practice); at least three hours of dissertation work (English 994).
Although no further coursework is required, it is assumed that doctoral students will continue to take courses relevant to their professional development.  In consultation with their advisors, students concentrate in field-specific training in their majors and minors, leading to the production of the dissertation; at the same time they may choose to pursue training in genre, literary theory, or further generalist study.  As interdisciplinary studies may also be appropriate to some research projects and career plans, students should consult the availability of appropriate courses in other departments via the Graduate Course Clearinghouse on the web. The address is
Residence Credit:
A minimum residence credit of four full semesters which must be spent in continuous registration on this campus is required of all Ph.D. students.  Two of these semesters must comprise contiguous registration of at least six hours each; the remaining two may be earned over a longer period of time, and during noncontiguous semesters, if so desired.  All must be earned through UNC-CH registration—transfer credits can not be applied.  Residence credit earned on work for a master’s degree at UNC-CH is applicable as residence credit for a doctoral degree.  The residence credit requirement should be completed before the doctoral written and oral examinations are taken.  (Please see for more information). 
Transfer of Credit:
A doctoral student may transfer required teacher training, philology, and foreign language courses from accredited institutions with the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies. Grades earned on transferred work must be equivalent to B or higher.  Normally, required seminars do not transfer.  Students may transfer a maximum of 6 hours credit.
Foreign Language Proficiency:
The English Department considers a reading knowledge of foreign languages essential to the educational and professional aims of its degree programs. Ph.D. candidates must show proficiency in two foreign languages. (The language used to satisfy M.A. requirements counts as one of the two required for the Ph.D.) The Department recommends Latin, French, German, Italian, or Spanish, with the choice to be made on the basis of scholarly appropriateness and in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies or a faculty advisor. The use of other languages to fulfill the requirement must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. 
Ways to satisfy this requirement are:

  • An undergraduate major in an approved language automatically satisfies the requirement. 
  • By passing an examination supervised by the Graduate School and administered by the foreign language departments
  • For non-Western languages, four semesters of undergraduate language classes may fulfill the requirement.  Please consult with the Director of Graduate Studies on this issue.
  • By completing the second of two special reading courses for graduate students offered by the Classics, German, and Romance Languages Departments (601 and 602)  (Please note:  the Graduate School will not count credit earned in 601 or 602 toward the residence credit requirement)
  • By completing with at least a grade of B an undergraduate literature course in a foreign language taken after the B.A. is awarded. 

Students whose native tongue is not English may use English to fulfill the foreign language proficiency requirement. 
The foreign language requirement must be satisfied by the semester in which a student intends to earn each degree.
Ph.D. Examinations:
 Candidates for the Ph.D. must pass three examinations administered by the Department: a written examination in the major and minor, an oral examination in the major and minor, and an oral defense of the completed dissertation.
Ph.D. Written Exam: 
The written examination in the major and minor consists of three hours of writing on the minor and six hours on the major.  Each student will take an individualized exam, composed by a five-member committee (three in the major, two in the minor), one of whom the student has designated as his or her anticipated Dissertation Adviser.
Students should take their written examinations no later than the third semester of their doctoral studies (their seventh semester in the graduate program—or the fourth semester for students admitted directly into the Ph.D. program after earning an MA elsewhere).  A student should submit a formal request to take his or her exams to the Graduate Program one year before he or she plans to take them. 
The major written exams are scheduled for the first Monday of October and the minor written exams are scheduled for the second Tuesday of October.  If a student takes exams in the spring semester, the exam dates are the first Monday of February for the major and the second Tuesday of February for the minor.
Please download your Exam Request form from our website: ( 
Before submitting the exam request form, students should approach faculty members to ascertain their willingness to serve.  The student will then work with that potential committee to prepare major and minor reading lists for his or her examinations.  Students are welcome to look at exam reading lists from past exams, available in the Graduate Program Office.   Often reading lists have a component geared towards anticipated dissertation work.  While the individual lists do not entirely constitute the exam, they give the student a focus of study during the year preceding the exam and provide a focus for discussion between the student and committee.
Once the exam request form has been submitted, the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) will formally invite the selected faculty to serve.  While the DGS will make an effort to ensure that the committee meets the student’s requests, the final choice of the committee will be determined by the DGS.  For the purposes of coordinating the exam process, the Director of Graduate Studies will also designate a faculty member to act as Chair of the examining committee.  The chair will be responsible for gathering exam questions at the appropriate time for the written exams and helping to coordinate the paperwork and process of the orals examination.
The entire examination committee and the student will meet as a group a year before the scheduled exam (after the student has submitted their exam request form).  In this meeting, the committee will come to a consensus on the final reading list, and the student will have the opportunity to ask questions about the examination format.  Students can obtain the form for arranging this meeting from our web site (  You can view this form in Appendix B.  It is the responsibility of the student and the Dissertation adviser to arrange this meeting and any other meetings needed prior to the exams.
The examinations are graded as Pass with Distinction (H), Pass (P), or Fail (F); pluses or minuses, while sometimes awarded, make no difference in the student’s official grade.  Students taking the examination for the first time shall fail if they do not receive a grade of P or H on both the major and the minor portions of the examination.  Such failure will be reported to the Graduate School on the appropriate form as failure of the examination.  Failing students shall be required to retake only the part or parts on which they received an F, however.  As a rule, they will not be allowed to substitute a major or minor different from the one they have failed.  Graduate School regulations require that at least three months elapse before a second taking of an examination.  On retaking, students must pass all remaining parts of the examination with a grade of P or H or they will be judged to have failed the examination for the second time.
Student Responsibilities in Preparing to Re-Take Examinations:
A student who has failed an examination is responsible for making an appointment with the faculty member named in the letter from the Director of Graduate Studies within a month of receiving the letter or by the end of the semester, whichever is earlier.  After this meeting, the student is urged to consult other members of the examining committee.
The student should bring to the meeting a list of course work in the area of the failed examination and a brief description of the way in which he or she had prepared for the examination, including his or her focused reading lists as well as the comprehensive list for the field(s).
After the conference, the student is encouraged to make up a revised study plan, incorporating suggestions from the faculty member.  This plan may be presented to the faculty member for review at the student's initiative.
The student should keep the Director of Graduate Studies informed of the progress being made in preparing for the retake so that a second examination can be scheduled in a timely manner.  Graduate School regulations require that at least three months elapse before the second taking of an examination.
A student who fails an examination for the second time becomes ineligible for further graduate work.  Upon request from the student’s director of Graduate Studies, The Graduate School may grant a student a third and final opportunity to take the examination.  No student may continue in a program or take an examination a third time without approval by the Administrative Board of the Graduate School.
Oral Exam in the Major and Minor:
After passing both the major and minor written examinations, students will take, within the same semester, a two-hour oral examination on the major and minor.  It is the student’s responsibility to consult his or her committee members to find a mutually convenient time to hold the oral examinations.  The administrative assistant to the graduate program should be consulted on securing a location for this scheduled exam.
Graduate School regulations stipulate that students must have fulfilled, or will have fulfilled by the end of the semester in which the oral doctoral examination is to be taken, all of the required course work.  The minimum residence credit requirement for the doctorate should also be satisfied at this time. The student’s appointed committee will examine in both the written and oral portions.  The oral examination will use the student's written examinations as a point of departure but may cover any aspect of the major or minor.  A majority of the five committee members must judge the candidate’s performance acceptable for a passing grade.
The oral examination includes a twenty-minute area of questioning on a well-defined research subject designated by the student and his or her presumed dissertation director as the general topic of the dissertation. This research area would necessarily be a subset of either the major or the minor.  Possible areas of study might be:  nineteenth-century travel literature, slave narratives, medieval saints' lives, etc. This area would be reflected in the student’s focused reading list.  The student might begin this section of the oral exam with a brief presentation of issues he or she explored while working through the focused reading list.

Dissertation Prospectus:
Within one academic semester after having passed the Ph.D. oral, a doctoral student, in consultation with an advisor, should provide a written prospectus (including a copy for the Director of Graduate Studies) that demonstrates (1) knowledge of scholarship in the area, (2) an awareness of the scope of the subject, and (3) a provisional approach to the problem. 
The names of the members of a dissertation committee must be submitted by the Director of Graduate Studies to the Graduate School for approval.  This committee is usually set up in consultation between the dissertation advisor and the candidate.  The Ph.D. examination committee and the dissertation committee need not be the same, although some overlap of membership is probable.  At least 3 members of the Committee must be on the tenured or tenure-track faculty of the UNC-CH English Department.  The prospectus scheduling form is available here on our website:
The Committee meets to examine the prospectus, and its members are available for consultation throughout the writing of the dissertation and will constitute the committee for the oral defense of the completed dissertation.  All five members of the committee must be present at the meeting. 
Once the committee and the date of the prospectus have been determined, the student should notify the Administrative Assistant in Graduate Studies so the appropriate memos and forms can be prepared.
Dissertation Progress:
The Department expects the completed dissertation to make a significant contribution to its field and to prove that its writer has mastered the research methods of the discipline. A student is expected to consult with members of his or her dissertation committee at frequent intervals and is required to submit a progress report to each member at least once a year, around May 1.
Dissertation Defense:
Early in the semester in which students expect to defend their dissertations, they must file applications for graduation.  At this time they must also reserve a date for the defense after consulting committee members.   Please use the form available on the website:
The final oral defense of the dissertation may take place only after all members of the committee have had adequate opportunity to review the draft of the dissertation that the student and the dissertation director are prepared to submit for final typing.  The dissertation director is responsible to members of the committee for ensuring that the draft is in a form appropriate for their evaluation.  The draft of the dissertation must be submitted to members of the committee one month prior to the scheduled defense. 
The final oral is in the strict sense a defense of the dissertation, but the student may also be asked questions relating the dissertation to its field.  Interested students and faculty are invited to attend and participate, if they choose, in the questioning.  At the time of the defense but no later, the committee may require alterations in the dissertation.  The dissertation advisor will be responsible for ensuring that the required alterations have been made, but may delegate that responsibility to the committee members who proposed the requirement.  When the requirement has been met, the Report on the Final Oral Examination is submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies.
Dissertation Submission:
The dissertation, in final printed form designed to meet the standards defined in A Guide to the Preparation of Theses and Dissertations, ( is registered with the Graduate School.  If you are submitting your dissertation electronically, follow these guidelines:  Deadlines for submitting a dissertation to the Graduate School and registering for graduation are inflexible and are given in the "Calendar of Events" in the Graduate Bulletin and the Summer School Bulletin.  A graduation checklist is available in the Graduate Studies Office.
University Microfilms International publishes Dissertation Abstracts International which includes a copy of every UNC doctoral student's dissertation abstract.  University Microfilms International will not publish doctoral abstracts that exceed 350 words.  A longer abstract may be included in the body of the dissertation, provided a shorter version is submitted for University Microfilms International.
All students writing dissertations are required to have a Prospectus on file in the Graduate Studies Office.  After the student has defended the dissertation, a copy of the abstract should be submitted to the Graduate Studies Office to be included in the student's permanent file.
Time Limit:
Normally, the Ph.D. program is completed in four years of study beyond the M.A.  The Graduate School requires that the Ph.D. be earned within eight calendar years from the date of the receipt of the master’s degree.  Direct-admit Ph.D.s have eight years from first registration in the doctoral program.
Graduate Courses:
Descriptions of courses are available on our departmental website here: Since it takes time to determine the graduate curriculum from year to year, you may wish to consult with the Director of Graduate Studies to find out what may tentatively be on the agenda for the next semester.

UNC registration is done by Web registration.  Students receive a registration notice by mail from the Registrar’s Office which provides dates and instructions on when and how to register.  All of this information is also posted on the web at the registrar’s web site.  All graduate students are strongly urged to register during the early registration period set by the University. 
Each student taking an exam or holding a University fellowship of any sort, teaching fellowship, or research assistantship, must be fully registered in order to hold that award.  Unless the award requires presence at another campus or at a research center, this registration must be as a student "in residence." 
Full-time registration can be achieved in one of the following ways:  1) Registering for 9 or more hours.  2)  Registering for 3 hours of ENGL 992, 993 or 994 with or without credit hours for other courses.  3) When teaching, registering for 6 credit hours of course work and completing a Waiver of Hours Form.  The Graduate School requires that a student register for at least 3 hours in the Fall and Spring semesters.
Keeping Full Time Status:
In order to maintain eligibility for teaching assistantships and tuition remission, students must be considered full time.  You can achieve this in three different ways:  

  1. Take 9 hours of course credit (3  3-credit classes per semester). 
  2. Take 3 credits only of thesis option (992) or dissertation hours (994).  Only 3 credits are needed to be full time of 992, 993, or 994. 
  3. Take 2 classes and fill out a waiver of hours form while teaching ( ).  Form is also available at our website:

Occasionally students do not register for classes during a given semester.  Any time students do not register, they must apply for readmission.
Auditing of courses is permitted but discouraged.  A student who wishes to audit a course should do so only with the professor's consent.  Seminars may not be audited.
Students will log-in through MyUNC portal (  You will be able to get into the Registration System using your ONYEN/PASSWORD starting on the date and time of your registration appointment.  After this time, the Registration System under ConnectCarolina will operate on a 24/7 schedule.  For a Quick Reference on How To Register, please visit this web site:
Registering for Thesis Option/Dissertation/Directed Readings:
Thesis Option = ENGL 992  Dissertation = 994 Directed Readings = 990
Unless you need residency credits, you need only register for 3 credits in these classes.  You may register for dissertation hours for multiple semesters. You may register for dissertation hours even before you are writing your dissertation if you are in need of more hours to attain full-time status.
It is important to register under the appropriate instructor’s section number when registering for any of these three classes. Please contact the Graduate Studies Office's administrative assistant to obtain your faculty adviser's number for registration.

Dropping Classes:
Students who are receiving tuition remission/in-state tuition awards are responsible for dropping any unwanted classes by the last day to drop a course for financial credit.  This is usually two weeks after the first day of classes.  See the Registrar’s calendar to find the deadline for each semester: Remember:  Students who drop after this date are responsible for paying for the dropped classes.
Inter-Institutional Registration
Students registered for at least three credit hours on this campus may take graduate courses at North Carolina State University, UNC-Charlotte, UNC-Greensboro, North Carolina Central University, and Duke University.  Students must fill out the Inter-Institutional Approval form (, get it approved by the DGS (Director of Graduate Studies), turn in form to the registrar’s office (105 Hanes Hall).  Tuition will be charged as if the registration were for a course offered on this campus.  For more information on Inter-Institutional Registration please go to
Time Limit:
The Graduate School requires that the Ph.D. be earned within eight calendar years.
Residence Credit:
A minimum residence credit of four full semesters which must be spent in continuous registration on this campus is required of all Ph.D. students. Two of these semesters must comprise contiguous registration of at least six hours each; the remaining two may be earned over a longer period of time, and during noncontiguous semesters, if so desired. All must be earned through UNC-CH registration—transfer credits cannot be applied.  Residence credit earned on work for a master’s degree at UNC-CH is applicable as residence credit for a doctoral degree. The residence credit requirement should be completed before the doctoral written and oral examinations are taken. (Please see for more information). 
Contact Information:
It is the responsibility of every graduate student to have on file in the Graduate Studies Office a current address and phone number.
Students MUST have a current e-mail address in the Graduate Studies Office at all times. To keep up to date about deadlines and procedures, students must check their e-mail announcements from the Graduate Studies Office whether or not they are in residence. If you fail to notify the Graduate program of a change in your email address, you may miss critical notices about deadlines, funding opportunities, and job openings.
All Graduate Students are assigned mailboxes in the mailroom located in the Bain Staff room (GL 219). Students are urged to check their boxes at least once a week.  Departmental notices and other important information are placed in these boxes. Students who cannot locate their mailboxes should notify the departmental mailroom supervisor.
Graduate Student Life

For initial advising during Orientation each new graduate student is assigned an advisor for registration and other academic matters Once the student has determined a thesis or dissertation topic, the director of the thesis or dissertation becomes the student's academic advisor, responsible for registration and other academic matters.  The student is responsible for notifying the Graduate Studies Office of any change of advisor.  In addition, students are encouraged to take any questions about degree requirements and the program to the Director of Graduate Studies.  All students will have an advising session with the Director in their third semesters in order to review their programs.
Graduate Student Parental Leave Policy (From the Graduate School Handbook):
The UNC-Chapel Hill Graduate Student Parental Leave Policy is designed to assist a full-time graduate student who is the primary child-care provider immediately following the birth or adoption of a child. See The Graduate School Handbook:

This policy will ensure the student's full-time, registered status and will facilitate their return to full participation in class work and, where applicable, research and teaching in a seamless manner. All matriculated, full-time graduate students are eligible to apply for this leave. A Parental leave application form (available here must be completed and submitted to the Graduate School at least eight weeks prior to the anticipated birth or adoption of the child.
Extension of the Time Limit:
When circumstances warrant, The Graduate School may grant, upon recommendation of the student’s home department, an extension of the degree time limit.  The student initiates the process by filling out a form (available here: and submitting it to the Director of Graduate Studies.  Support from one’s advisor is helpful when these extensions are being considered.  If the Director approves the leave, it will then forward it to The Graduate School.  Not all extensions are granted. 
The same procedure should also be followed if a student requests an extension of time to remove an incomplete grade.
Leave of Absence:
A graduate student, within the time limit of their program (8 years to complete Ph.D.), may request a leave of absence from graduate study for a definite, stated time (up to one year) during which the student does not plan to make academic progress.  In advance of (or near the beginning of) the desired leave period, the graduate student should submit a Request for Leave of Absence Form (found at to the DGS.  Once approved by the DGS, it will be forwarded to the Graduate School for final approval.  Readmission to the Graduate School following an authorized leave of absence is a formality, but students must still complete a form.  Ordinarily, a leave of absence may not be renewed.  A leave of absence between degrees is not allowed. 
If time to degree is not a concern, students may simply not register for a semester and complete an Application for Readmission form (found at before the due date of the semester they wish to return.
Deadlines for readmission are: 

  • July 1 (Fall Semester),
  • December 1 (Spring Semester),
  • April 1 (First Summer Session), and
  • June 1 (Second Summer Session). 

Job Placement
Students who seek employment with the M.A. degree are best served by using the University Career Service (UCS). However, they should also give copies of their résumés to the Department's Placement Officer, in the event that a suitable opening comes to his or her attention.  Doctoral students finishing dissertations and seeking academic jobs will be advised by the Department’s Placement Officer.  He or she will call a meeting of job seekers early in the Fall semester and will explain the procedures.  Do not miss this meeting.  The Placement Officer also holds useful workshops on professional issues throughout the year; all students at whatever stage in their programs are encouraged to attend these.  Students should begin to learn as much as they can about the professional requirements of a career in English as soon as possible.
Study Carrels
Graduate students are eligible for study carrels located in the book stacks of Davis Library. Students may obtain applications for carrels at the Circulation Desk of Davis.  These applications should be filled out and signed by the student's advisor or the Director of Graduate Studies.  In order to receive priority consideration for a carrel request, the applications should be returned by the deadline.
Comparative Literature and English Association of Graduate Students (CoLEAGS)
Every graduate student in the English Department (and Comparative Literature) is automatically a member of the CoLEAGS.  Please visit their website here: Officers of CoLEAGS are elected each spring and serve as unofficial advisors to the Director of Graduate Studies on matters concerning graduate student life.
CoLEAGS Officers for 2011-2012
Co-Presidents: Lindsay Starck (CMPL), Jameela Dallis (ENGL)
Co-Vice Presidents: Elise Harris (CMPL) and Adra Raine (ENGL)
Furst Forum Chairs: Sarah Parker (CMPL), and Sam Riley (CMPL)
Social Chairs: Nate Young (CMPL) and Sarah Workman (ENGL)
Boundaries Chairs: Krista Turner (ENGL), Melissa Pojasek (ENGL)
Webmaster: Emily Bunner (ENGL)
Treasurer: Doreen Thierauf (ENGL)
GPSF Senator: Caitlin Watt (CMPL)
Colloquium Coordinator: Maria Obando (ENGL)
Mentoring Coordinator: Leslie McAbee (ENGL)
Grad Forum Coordinator--Erin Allingham (ENGL)
Financial Aid
For enrolled students, financial aid from the Department is limited to Research Assistantships, Teaching Fellowships, limited travel support, and competitive dissertation fellowships.
Research Assistantships: Any available Research Assistantships are awarded by the department Chair, in consultation with the graduate program, on the basis of merit and Departmental needs.  All students in good standing are automatically considered.  The award calls for approximately ten hours of work per week in specific research functions.
Teaching Fellowships:  Students who hold an M.A. or who complete the first year of the M.A. program by the end of the Spring semester are eligible to apply for Teaching Fellowships (TF).  TF applications are available from the Writing Program Office and should be submitted by February 1.  In evaluating an application the following criteria are considered:
1) Academic excellence.
2) Teaching excellence or potential.
3) Professional responsibility.
4) Timely progress toward the degree.
5) Completion of English 606 or its equivalent.
For a copy of the Department’s “Policies and Procedures for Appointing Teaching Fellows,” please stop by the Writing Program Office (GL 202).
Travel Support:
The Department sometimes has money to support travel to conferences (when students are presenting papers) or to research facilities.  Students will receive an announcement from the Graduate Studies Office of deadlines and requirements for application when such awards are available.  The Graduate School also sometimes provides one-time travel support.  Students should check with the Fellowship Office at the Graduate School for more information or their web site: .
Dissertation Fellowships:
The department offers a limited number of competitive dissertation fellowships with the aim of releasing students from teaching to concentrate on their writing during a semester or a summer.  Applications will be invited in the Fall and Spring for the following term.  The principal criterion considered is the quality of the project description, with some consideration given to the excellence of the applicant’s overall academic record and timely progress toward the degree.
Other forms of financial aid, including work study and student loans, are handled by the Student Aid Office in Pettigrew Hall (962-8396).

Additional Sources Of Information

Information in this guide should be supplemented by two publications available from the Graduate School, the Graduate School Handbook and The University of North Carolina Record: The Graduate School, which describe University regulations, degree schedules, and courses.  The Graduate School Handbook is available on-line: Students with questions about the program should consult the departmental web page and the Graduate Studies Office. 
Resources on the Web:
For conferences, calls for papers, list-servs, mailing lists, journals, primary texts, etc, check out the following websites (they are organized by areas of specialty):
“Voice of the Shuttle”
For Conferences, also see listings in the PMLA.
The English Department at the University of Pennsylvania hosts a call for papers website:
Lots of journals are available online at the UNC library site (under subject “English)”:

English Department Faculty/Staff

Beverly Taylor
209 Greenlaw
Associate Chair
Dan Anderson
401 Greenlaw
Director of Graduate Studies
Mary  Floyd-Wilson
205 Greenlaw
Director of Graduate Admissions
Jane Thrailkill
417 Greenlaw
Administrative Assistant
Erin Kalbarczyk
Graduate Studies 207 Greenlaw
Directors of Ph.D. Job Placement
Megan Matchinske
534 Greenlaw
Eliza Richards
415 Greenlaw
Director of the Writing Program
Jane Danielewicz
201 Greenlaw
Assistant to the Writing Program
Karen Sardi
202 Greenlaw
Director of Undergraduate Studies
Pamela Cooper
211 Greenlaw
Administrative Assistant
Tara Cowan
Undergraduate Studies 210 Greenlaw
Department Manager
Mark Richardson
208 Greenlaw

(For students accepted into the program Fall 2010 and before)


1ST Semester

¨     Begin taking ProSeminars and other required courses, fulfilling Graduate School residence credit requirement.
¨     Take 606 this year, if teaching next.
2nd Semester
¨     Continue taking ProSeminars and required distribution courses, fulfilling Graduate School residence credit requirement.  Take 606 if you did not take it in the Fall.
¨     Identify the paper that you will develop into your thesis option and meet with faculty about prospective thesis advisor.
¨     Revise paper for your thesis option.

3rd Semester
¨     Finish taking ProSeminars and continue taking other required courses, while beginning intensive work in your special fields of interest (the major and minor fields for your Ph.D. exams).
¨     Turn in Thesis Option.
¨     Defend Thesis Option.
¨     Meet with DGS for advising to discuss your progress in the Program.
4th Semester
¨     Finish required courses:  ENGL 606, 1 Foreign Language, 1 English language.
¨     Complete paperwork for graduation.
¨     Apply for Permission to Proceed (if applicable)

¨     Review reading lists in potential major and minor and begin compiling your own list.

Suggested Calendar for Timely Progress for Ph.D. Students

Semester 1 of Ph.D. Program

  • Take (or continue to take) major and minor seminars and other appropriate coursework, including enough credit hours to fulfill the Graduate School residence credit requirement
  • Returning students register for Ph.D. written exams for next year by the deadline posted.
  • Returning students submit petition for alternative major or minor with exam registration.
  • Returning Students: Once your exam committee is approved, meet with the faculty on your exam committee to discuss the reading list.  Please fill out exam meeting form (found in the Graduate Studies office).

Semester 2:

  • Continue with coursework
  • Returning students should meet with prospective dissertation advisor.
  • Direct Admits should register for written exams to be taken the following spring semester (one year later).
  • Direct Admits, once exam committee is approved, set up a meeting with the committee to discuss the reading list.  Please fill out the exam meeting form found in the Graduate Studies office. 
  • Direct Admits if you want an alternative major or minor, submit a petition with your exam registration.
  • Don’t forget about residency credits. 


  • Read for your exam.

Semester 3:

  • Finish seminars in your major and minor areas if not already completed.
  • Continue working on residence credit if not fulfilled.
  • Returning Students take written and oral exams.

Semester 4:

  • Direct Admit students take written and oral exams.
  • Returning Students:  Choose dissertation committee and schedule and have prospectus meeting.
  • Remember foreign language requirement.

Semester 5:

  • Returning students work on dissertation – finish up loose ends as far as course work, residency credits, foreign language requirement.
  • Direct Admits  Choose dissertation committee, schedule and have prospectus meeting.

Semester 6:

  • Work on dissertation
  • Direct Admits finish up loose ends as far as course work, residency credits, foreign language requirement.


  • Continue work on dissertation.

Semester 7 and Semesters from here on out:

  • Work on dissertation
  • Start attending Job Placement Workshops if you haven’t already.  
  • Talk to faculty about letters of recommendation.
  • Prepare Job Letters and CV. 
  • Make sure faculty letters are on file.

Final Semester:

  • Complete application to graduate. 
  • Defend Dissertation (you must be registered in the semester you defend)