Discipline Coordinator

Joan Dean, (816) 235-2555, deanj@umkc.edu

English faculty who are members of the doctoral faculty.

English is a discipline in the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program administered by the School of Graduate Studies.

Note: The discipline-specific requirements listed here are in addition to the requirements listed in Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Application Procedure and Minimum Criteria for Admission and Minimum Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Academic Regulations and Degree Requirements.

Discipline-Specific Admission Requirements

For new students selecting English as a discipline, admission will normally be for the fall term. Application dossiers must be complete by Jan. 15. Because the university closes over the winter holidays and classes may not resume until after Martin Luther King Day, prospective students should initiate contact with the department’s Discipline Coordinator and faculty in November.

Applicants who select English as their primary discipline will be expected to have the M.A. in English or equivalent coursework as determined by the English department doctoral committee. Applicants who select English as a co-discipline should have completed a master's degree or equivalent coursework. In most cases, students will be expected to have completed, with a grade of B or better, 12 hours of English courses at the 300- or 400-level (or appropriate equivalents) that are approved by the English department doctoral committee.

An applicant who plans to pursue a degree with English as a discipline is required to provide the English department doctoral committee with the names of three individuals who are academically or professionally qualified to assess the applicant's ability to pursue doctoral work. References submitted to the School of Graduate Studies for admission to doctoral studies may be judged by the English department doctoral committee as sufficient evaluation, but the department reserves the right to request further information.

Applicants also are required to submit samples of written work to the English department doctoral committee. The applicant must submit a sample of academic prose with a research component that demonstrates the applicant's ability to undertake graduate course work in English and to engage in a scholarly conversation, preferably on a subject closely related to the applicant’s proposed doctoral studies. The applicant's narrative statement, submitted with the application form, should provide a well-focused justification of the proposed course of study that is compatible with the department's resources. Applicants should consult with the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. coordinator in English for advice on the preparation of the narrative. Applicants may also seek advice on the narrative from doctoral committee members with special expertise in the applicant's chosen fields of study.

Applications will be evaluated by a committee of the doctoral faculty in the English department; the committee will recommend to the department chair and dean of the School of Graduate Studies whether the applicant should be admitted. These English-specific requirements apply to all applicants intending to have English as primary discipline or co-discipline.

Students who expect to write a dissertation that draws primarily on research in English must apply for English as their primary discipline.

In cases where an applicant has not yet met the foreign language requirement or GRE scores are still pending, provisional admission may be recommended.

Alternate Admission Criteria

The department's required GRE score is independent of, and takes precedence over, the School of Graduate Studies' minimum of 1500 points.

Qualifying Requirements for Full Admission

In addition to the below criteria, the committee considers the applicant's writing sample, letters of recommendation, personal statement, and the overall viability of the applicant's proposed dissertation project.

English as Primary Discipline

GRE scores

Either (1) a general verbal score in the 60th percentile or better; or (2) a score in the 60th percentile or better in the English subject examination.

Relevant Foreign Language Skills

Applicants must demonstrate facility in a foreign language relevant to study in English. The language requirement will ordinarily be met by two years of satisfactory college-level language study. Students may be required to demonstrate additional language skills to undertake or complete their dissertations.

English as a Co-discipline

GRE scores

A general verbal score in the 60th percentile or better.

Foreign Language Skills

Demonstrate foreign language competence in the same manner as students with English as the primary discipline.

Suggested Compatible Co-disciplines

Curriculum and instruction and history

Core Program Requirements

All students who list English as a discipline, whether as primary discipline or co-discipline, are required to take ENGLISH 5500 or its equivalent and to include two English doctoral faculty members on their committees. Students enrolling with English as their primary discipline are required to take a total of eighteen hours in English, including ENGLISH 5547 and ENGLISH 5500.  Students enrolling with English as their co-discipline are required to take a minimum of twelve hours in English, including English 5500 and one of the following: ENGLISH 5519, ENGLISH 5547, ENGLISH 5545, or HMNTY 5510.

Students admitted with English as the primary discipline are subject to the following requirements:

  • Only English courses numbered 400 or above will be accepted for the Ph.D. degree. Courses taken in other disciplines may be taken at the 300-level or above.
  • No grade below B in any course will be accepted to apply toward the Ph.D. degree.
  • In most cases, no more than one-third of coursework in English, exclusive of credit for dissertation work, that is classified as independent study will be accepted for the Ph.D. degree.
  • Students will be expected to complete the majority of their coursework at UMKC.
  • In certain cases, exceptions to these requirements may be allowed.

Other Discipline-Specific Special Requirements

For foreign language requirement, see "Qualifying Requirements for Full Admission" for this discipline.

Comprehensive Examination Guidelines

The examinations must be taken within a year of completing coursework. Prior to taking exams, students must have a supervisory committee, an approved plan of study on file with the School of Graduate Studies and have completed all required coursework. See Comprehensive Examination guidelines from the School of Graduate Studies for full details. 

At least six months before taking comprehensive exams, the student will submit a tentative reading lists of primary and critical works for all examinations. The supervisory committee will then meet to review the proposed reading lists and address any oversights or imbalances.


Before advancing to Ph.D. candidacy, students whose primary discipline is English will take a series of examinations: general examinations over two designated areas in English studies; the examination required by the co-discipline; and an oral interdisciplinary subject examination.

1. The General Area Examination
Areas for the general area examination will be designated at the time of the submission of the program of study. These may be changed only with the consent of the supervisory committee. The examination is designed to test the breadth of the candidate's knowledge in two areas of English studies whether periods of literary history (e.g., British 19th century, American literature from 1865, British and American literature since 1945) or other areas of expertise (e.g., linguistics, history of the language, rhetoric, genre studies, literacy studies). For students whose primary discipline is English, the examining committee for the general area examination must include at least three members of the graduate faculty in English. The reading lists, which are subject to the approval of the examining committee, should reflect interdisciplinarity. The general area examination consists of two parts, each receiving equal weight. The format of these examinations, designed in consultation with the student to reflect a sustained preparation (typically three to six months), will include a written component (e.g., a three-four hour sitting or a 72-hour “take-home” period for each area).

2. Co-Disciplinary Examinations
Students whose primary discipline is English will fulfill examination requirements of their co-discipline.

3. The oral interdisciplinary subject examination
The oral interdisciplinary subject examination will examine the student’s command of methodology and current scholarship as well as primary sources and standard scholarly works in the field and assess the student’s ability to integrate content, theory, and/or methods in the discipline of English and the student’s co-discipline(s). At least two weeks before the oral interdisciplinary subject examination, the student will submit a dissertation prospectus detailing chapters, methodology, and bibliography subject to the approval of the supervisory committee. The exam is typically administered in a single two-hour sitting.

For students whose co-discipline is English, an examination covering one of the areas described above in “The General Area Examination” will be designed in consultation with the coordinating discipline.

Doctoral Dissertation Requirement

The dissertation defense will be a one and a half hour discussion of the dissertation that includes all members of the Supervisory Committee. The majority of the committee must vote for approval of the dissertation in order for the student to graduate. See the School of Graduate Studies guidelines for further procedures and deadlines.