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Graduate Handbook for English Students


Carefully review the requirements checklist for your area and be aware of the course offerings for each year. During orientation week, you will consult with the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) to schedule courses for your first semester; thereafter you will meet with the DGS during advising periods each semester to plan coursework and your progress through the program.

  • The typical course load during any given semester is two 4-unit seminars.
  • Usually in the Fall of their first year graduate students take English 5890, Teaching College English.
  • Also during the first Fall students often take English 5950, Introduction to English Studies, an introduction to graduate school and the profession. (We sometimes waive these requirements for new doctoral students who have taken comparable introductory courses during their M.A. program.)
  • Additionally, every term that you teach a course in the department you must take English 7910, Professional Issues in Teaching College English, a 1-unit course that meets occasionally each term. Attendance at the meetings of this two courses is mandatory, but it requires little outside work.
  • Also, doctoral students must enroll each term in English 7770, Colloquium on the Profession of English, a 1-unit course on professional issues that meets two or three times each term. Attendance at the meetings of this two courses is mandatory, but it requires little outside work.

The enrollment cap in most seminars is 12 students, and you can enroll online (through the MyOhio Portal) in courses until they are full. If a course is full or requires permission to enroll, you should contact the professor to see if he or she will allow you to enroll in the course.

Registration and Units

It?s crucial that you sign up for the appropriate number of units (or credits or hours, as they are sometimes called). If you sign up for too few units, the University will revoke your tuition waiver and withhold your paycheck, and if you sign up for too many, the University will send you an extra bill.

  • Each semester, M.A. students must register for at least 15 and no more than 18 units; Ph.D. students must register for at least 12 and no more than 18 units. (Exception: Ph.D. students on fellowship, rather than teaching stipend, must register for 15 units.)

New graduate students register for courses during orientation week preceding the Fall semester; subsequently, students will register in the middle of each term for courses to be offered the following term. If you drop a class, remember to enroll in a new one at the same time so that you maintain your unit minimum for that semester. The system will allow you to drop and re-enroll only during the first two weeks of the term.

Use English 5930, Independent Reading, when you need to reach your unit minimum. You can register for 5930 for variable units (between 1 and 15).

  • For example: as a first-year M.A. student, in the Fall you take 5890(4 units), 5950 (4 units), and 7910 (1 unit): 4 + 4 + 1 = 9 units. You still need 6 more units to reach your minimum of 15, so you would enroll in 5930 for 6 units.
  • Another example: as a Ph.D. student, in the Fall you take a creative writing workshop (4 units), an American literature seminar (4 units), 7910 (1 unit), and 7770 (1 unit): 4 + 4 + 1 + 1 = 10 units. You still need 2 more units to reach your minimum of 12, so you would sign up for 2 units of 5930.

Teaching Stipends and Tuition Waivers

Bear in mind that teaching stipends are connected to tuition waivers. This means that if you opt not to teach in a given term you will not receive the waiver, and will have to pay for your units. Exception: students on non-teaching fellowships do keep their tuition waivers.

Independent Studies

Independent studies are special courses whose content is arranged between a student and a faculty member. Students usually do not use independent studies to satisfy their program requirements, but they may take them as a means to explore material not covered in the regular course offerings. Once a faculty member agrees to do the independent study, he or she should contact Barbara Grueser in the English office to create a section of English 5930, under his or her name, for the student to enroll in.

Overload Teaching

In general, the department discourages students from teaching more than three courses per year, and it usually will not allow them to do so, certainly never in the first year. This includes administrative duties as well as teaching. Overload teaching nearly always detracts from students? academic study. However, exceptions can be made for continuing students doing satisfactory work in the program, although even in these cases availability of classes will depend on department needs.

Travel Funding

The department has funds to help defray the cost of attending academic conferences to deliver papers. Travel grants are awarded over two separate periods (Fall and Spring). Early each term the DGS (or the Director of Creative Writing [DCW], in the case of Creative Writing students) will invite students to make funding requests for travel occurring in that period.

Once the invitation to apply goes out, students should complete the travel funding request form and submit it to the DGS or DCW for approval. Bear in mind that funds are limited, and a student will generally not receive more than one or two funding awards each year.

Progress to the Master's Degree

M.A. students must complete 7 or 8 seminars or workshops in four semesters and also write a master's essay or thesis during their final semester. Ideally, during that final semester you will take at most one course so that you have time to concentrate on your essay or thesis. See the section below on essays and theses.

Progress to the Doctoral Degree

Courses: Ph.D. students must complete anywhere from 8 to 10 seminars and workshops, which means that some students will finish coursework within the first two years while others will take courses into the third year. Students are encouraged to satisfy their language requirement in the first three years. When doctoral students finish taking courses and start to prepare for exams, they enroll in 7940, Research, rather than 5930, to maintain their 12-unit minimum. (No extra work is linked to these courses.)

Exams: At the end of the second year or beginning of the third, the doctoral student in Creative Writing and Literature forms an exam committee (a chair and two other faculty members) and consults with them about a reading list for the comprehensive exams. Devoting as much of the third year as possible to the agreed-upon reading list, you?ll take the exam over a weekend in early Spring of the third year (which is quick progress) or early Fall of the fourth year (the more typical option). (We especially encourage those doctoral students with only four years of financial support to progress through the exam and prospectus as efficiently as possible.) Students can take the qualifying exam a maximum of two times. Unlike the other students, Rhetoric & Composition students will receive the questions for their exam at the end of their second year, and have until the week after Spring Break of their third year to submit their responses. For specific details, see the section on comprehensive exams.

Prospectus: Not more than one semester after passing the exam, Literature and Rhetoric & Composition students must write a dissertation prospectus, form a dissertation committee (a Director and two other faculty), and defend the prospectus to this committee at a formal meeting. Once the prospectus is approved and the foreign language requirement satisfied, students will have officially "advanced to candidacy."

Creative Writing students, in most case, will substitute a post-exam workshop, which they use to organize their previous work and plan new work. They "advance to candidacy" after completing exams, finishing foreign language requirements, and forming their dissertation committee.

Dissertation and Defense: The bulk of the fourth and fifth years is devoted to writing the dissertation. Once you have advanced to candidacy, enroll in English 8950, Dissertation, to maintain your 12-unit minimum. You should remain in close contact with your committee, especially your Director, offering drafts of individual chapters as agreed upon by all participants. We strongly recommend that you submit all chapters individually to each committee member so that your committee may comment on your draft as it takes shape. It is also important that all committee members have the opportunity to see a semi-final draft well before the dissertation defense, so that they can ask for revisions while time remains. You must have a final draft of the dissertation to the committee at least two weeks before the formal defense of the dissertation, scheduled for no later than mid-March, for those planning a spring graduation.


M.A. students typically graduate in the Spring of their second year, Ph.D. students in the Spring of their fifth year. It is possible, however, to graduate any semester of the year, including Summer. Students apply for graduation online (there?s a $50 fee) at www.ohio.edu/registrar. Theses and dissertations must be approved well before graduation. For a Spring graduation, master?s theses must be submitted to the college by mid-April, and doctoral dissertations by late March. M.A. students writing essays need only obtain the approval of their essay adviser before the end of the term of graduation.

Temporary Withdrawal and Reduced Workload

If illness or personal circumstances oblige you to halt your studies for a time, you can simply not register for any units for the following term, re-enrolling when you are ready to resume work. Consult with the DGS beforehand to formulate a revised schedule. Take into account the fact that during your withdrawal you will not be able to teach, and so will not receive a paycheck from the University. Also, we cannot take the semester of financial support you forgo and reapply it as an extended semester of support beyond the regular two or five years of study. You can also opt to take on a reduced workload during any term, enrolling in only one course, for example. Again, consult with the DGS. However, keep in mind that if you choose to reduce your workload by not teaching for a term, the university will not maintain your tuition waiver for that term, and so you?ll have to pay for tuition out of pocket.

Performance-Related Removal from Program or Loss of Assistantship

Students must make satisfactory academic progress in order to remain in the program. Since a 3.0 GPA is required to graduate with an M.A. or a Ph.D. degree, sustained poor performance in a student?s coursework can justify removal from the program. Additionally, the failure to pass comprehensive exams after two chances will result in removal. The DGS also will periodically ask the faculty members teaching graduate seminars and workshops to report any significant concerns about student performance and ask the faculty with these concerns to write letters for the students' files. If two professors write letters expressing significant concern about a specific student, the DGS will meet with the student and relevant faculty to discuss options, which could range, depending on the severity of the student?s issues, from developing a list of progress goals that the student must meet in order to remain in the program to dismissal from the program.

Renewal of Teaching Assistantships from year to year is based on the department's continued satisfaction with a student?s teaching performance. If the Director of Composition (DOC) has significant concerns about a student's performance, these will be brought to the student?s attention and the DOC and student will discuss ways to address the concerns. If the concerns persist and efforts to correct the problems are unsuccessful, the student might lose his or her assistantship. In extraordinary cases, a student?s behavior or performance could even result in immediate removal from the classroom and non-renewal of the teaching assistantship.


While out-of-state graduate students are not required to become Ohio residents during their time in the program, some students might want, for individual reasons, to change their residency to Ohio. Students can petition for a change in residency after living in Ohio for 12 months.