Doctor of Philosophy in Rhetoric


 Rhetoric provides the coordinating force for the study of composition, linguistics, literary theory, and literature within the field of English. The doctoral program in rhetoric prepares graduate students to be scholars and leaders of discourse and technology which utilizes language to inform, persuade, and explore ideas. In keeping with the university's mission of empowering women, the program also encourages scholarship on gender issues in the field of rhetoric. Graduates are qualified to pursue professions in both academic and non-academic settings: teaching and research in institutions of higher education, administering writing programs, using technology to teach writing; or pursuing careers in writing and editing in business, government, or non-profit settings.  

Coursework consists of a core set of rhetoric classes, a self-designed area of specialization, and electives to ensure students have both a broad knowledge base and a deep understanding of their desired sub-field(s). Comprehensive exams in the history/theory of rhetoric, applied rhetoric, and a self-designed area take place at the end of formal coursework. Students can expect a minimum of 12 credit hours to complete the dissertation, including 3 hours to craft the dissertation prospectus. 

We offer a range of face-to-face, online, and hybrid graduate courses to allow our working, commuting, and parenting students the opportunity to balance rigorous academic coursework with their busy lives. Our face-to-face graduate courses are offered one day per week, typically in late afternoon or evening.

Prospective and current students may apply for a Distance Learning designation that allows for the Ph.D. in Rhetoric to be completed fully online. A limited number of virtual seats in face-to-face courses will be guaranteed to Distance Learners. For more information, please contact the Graduate Program Coordinator.

Marketable Skills

Defined by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board's 60x30 Strategic Plan as, "Those skills valued by employers that can be applied in a variety of work settings, including interpersonal, cognitive, and applied skills areas. These skills can be either primary or complementary to a major and are acquired by students through education, including curricular, co-curricular, and extracurricular activities."

  1. Proficiently organize large amounts of information and analyze complex ideas in order to communicate key concepts via concise and compelling oral and written statements.
  2. ​Effectively design and conduct research projects that challenge existing knowledge and provide needed answers or solutions to problems.
  3. ​Formulate and defend sophisticated arguments while employing clear, articulate, professional-quality prose.
  4. ​Lead teams of writers and content producers to create and edit rhetorically effective communications by setting clear goals, encouraging creativity and innovation, and providing targeted feedback.


All students must meet the University requirements as outlined in the Admission to the TWU Graduate School section of the catalog.

The academic program may have additional admission criteria that must also be completed as outlined on the program's website.

Degree Requirements

Total SCH Required

At least 90 semester credit hours (SCH) beyond the baccalaureate, including at least 12 SCH for dissertation.  Applicants to the program are expected to have earned a master's degree prior to beginning the doctoral program.  At least one degree, either the bachelor's or master's, should be in English, Writing, Rhetoric, or a closely related field.  The number of hours from the master's degree that may count towards the 90 SCH required for the Ph.D. depends on the age and content of the courses completed.  Applicants are encouraged to discuss the transfer of courses with the Graduate Program Coordinator.

Rhetoric Core
Minimum of 24 SCH in historical, theoretical, and applied rhetoric
ENG 5343Rhetoric and Composition: Theory and Practice3
ENG 5353Rhetoric and Composition: Multimodal Pedagogy3
ENG 6203History of Rhetoric I3
ENG 6213History of Rhetoric II3
ENG 6223History of Rhetoric III3
ENG 6083Research Methods in Rhetoric and Composition3
Rhetoric Electives: 6 SCH in rhetoric, writing, or linguistics6
Area of Specialization15
Minimum of 15 SCH chosen in consultation with the advisor and advisory committee
Theory Component3
Choose one from
Literary Criticism and Theory
Studies in Critical Theory
Studies in Rhetorical Criticism and Discourse Analysis
Major Rhetorical Theories
Additional courses, including those from other departments, may be substituted with prior approval.
Introduction to Graduate Studies in English (required of all doctoral students who have not already had a similar course)
Independent Study Option3
In consultation with the advisory committee chair, a student may elect to take a three hour indpendent study course to prepare for comprehensive exams. If a student perfers not to take this option, they may take an additional course in the area of specialization. Only one independent study course may be counted on the degree plan.
To complete 90 SCH beyond bachelor's degree.
Students can expect to enroll in a minimum of 12 SCH on the dissertation.
Total SCHs90


A minor is optional (six to nine SCH). It must be in a discipline in which TWU offers a graduate degree. 

Residence Requirements

Students are strongly encouraged to enroll full time for at least two consecutive semesters.

Qualifying Examination

The Qualifying Examination is administered at the close of course work. Students must be enrolled at TWU in order to take the exam.  The examination may be taken only during April, July, or November of each year. The written examination has three parts: Historical/Theoretical Rhetoric, Applied Rhetoric, and the student's Area of Specialization. For the Area of Specialization, the student may choose a literary period, a topic, a practice, or a question that crosses texts and artifacts (in the broadest sense) and remains grounded in the social, historical, cultural, critical, and theoretical texts that inform them.  Students submit a formal written proposal for the Area of Specialization, which requires approval by the Graduate Studies Committee at least six months prior to the exam date. Within one month of successfully completing all three portions of the written examination, an oral examination is held. Students may attempt the exam (in whole or in part) twice. Failing the qualifying exam (in whole or in part) twice will result in the student being removed from the program.

Dissertation Defense

A public oral examination covering the area of the completed dissertation and areas related to it is required.

Research Tools

Doctoral students are required to take two research tools, each equivalent to a minimum of 6 SCH at the graduate level or 12 SCH at the undergraduate level.

  1. Required Research Tool (6 graduate SCH)
    The following courses from the Rhetoric Core make up one research tool: ENG 5343 and ENG 6083
  2. Required Research Tool (6 graduate SCH or 12 undergraduate SCH)
    Students may choose two courses from the following English courses to make up their second research tool: ENG 5083, ENG 5283, ENG 5363, ENG 6283ENG 6313, ENG 6323ENG 6343, or ENG 6403
    Courses listed above may be repeated when the specific topic of investigation varies.
    Students may also choose 1-2 research courses taught in other disciplines, such as information retrieval, ethnography, or statistics, as approved by the advisory committee and department chair; or 6 SCH of graduate-level or 12 SCH of undergraduate-level language courses.

Students are advised to select research tools that complement their Area of Specialization.

Students must receive a B or higher in all corusework. English and non-English courses may count toward the 90 SCH of the degree, at the discretion of the advisory committee and department chair. Undergraduate courses taken as research tools may not be used in the SCH that count toward the graduate degree.

Graduation Requirement

To allow for program-level assessment, Ph.D. candidates must submit a copy of the dissertation to the Graduate Program Coordinator at the time of final submission to the graduate school. Submission of the dissertation to the coordinator is required for graduation.