PhD

General Information | Academic PhD Programs | Creative Writing PhD Program | Courses | Comprehensive Examinations | Language Requirement | Thesis

PhD Program - General Information

The English Department at UNB offers three PhD programs: Creative Writing, Academic, and Direct-Entry Academic.  Each program offers small class sizes, intensive contact with supervisors and examiners, and a supportive environment for rigorous intellectual investigation.  Candidates will be accepted into a PhD program only after supervision in their indicated thesis areas has been confirmed.  Each program consists of course work, comprehensive examinations, demonstrated proficiency in at least one foreign language, and a thesis.

Academic PhD Programs

The principal focus of our academic PhD program has traditionally been Canadian literature and textual/editorial studies, but current and recent doctoral theses explore other areas: American, Post-Colonial/Commonwealth, modern British, 19th-Century British, and early modern.

Academic PhD

Students admitted to the Academic PhD Program will complete 15 credit hours (ch) of academic graduate courses after the Master’s degree, in addition to any courses taken to make up omissions in the candidate’s background.  They will also complete the 6 ch Research Methods course, the Teaching Apprenticeship (6 ch), the language requirement, and a dissertation. 

A minimum of four terms (two academic years) of study and research in residence is mandatory.  The degree is designed to be completed in four years; the time limit for completion is seven years.

Direct-Entry Academic PhD

Beginning in Fall 2018, we offer exceptional undergraduate students the opportunity to proceed directly into our PhD Program.  Admission to the Direct-Entry PhD requires a GPA of at least 4.0 in the final two years of the BA in Honours English.  A 4.0 GPA does not guarantee admission.  The standard for continuing in the Direct-Entry PhD is a 4.0 GPA at the end of the first year of study.  Students who do not achieve this standard but receive above 3.7 (the normal standard for continuing) will in the second year of the program be required to take the number of courses normally required of first-year PhD students; such a student would then follow the schedule for the regular PhD in completing the language requirement, comprehensive exams, and Teaching Apprenticeship.  Any student who wishes to leave the Direct-Entry PhD without graduating with the doctorate, but has completed the requirements of a one-year MA, can apply to graduate with the MA.

In the Direct-Entry PhD, students in Year 1 will complete 7 academic seminars (21ch), the Research and Methods course (6ch) and the Advanced Research Project (3ch).  Students automatically continuing in the PhD will in the first term of Year 2 complete their course work by taking 3 academic seminars (9ch).  They will complete all comprehensive exams in January of Year 3.  Also in Year 3, students will undertake the Teaching Apprenticeship.  This schedule will permit students to begin full-time dissertation work in January of Year 3.

For this degree, a minimum of six terms (three academic years) of study and research in residence is mandatory.  The degree is designed to be completed in five years; the time limit for completion is eight years.

Creative Writing PhD Program

Students in the Creative Writing PhD program take a combination of academic and creative writing courses and complete a creative writing dissertation.  The course work for the Creative Writing PhD degree consists of 15 credit hours of courses after the Master’s degree, in addition to any courses taken to make up omissions in the candidate’s background.  Candidates will also complete the Methods course (6 ch) and the Teaching Apprenticeship course (6 ch).  Students must take two creative writing workshops (6 ch) as part of the 15 credit hours of elective course work (these workshops will be in two different genres).

A minimum of four terms (two academic years) of study and research in residence is mandatory.  The degree is designed to be completed in four years; the time limit for completion is seven years.

Courses

By the completion of their PhD course work, all students are expected to have coverage, at either the graduate or undergraduate level, in at least six of the following areas: Middle English, Renaissance, 18th-Century British, 19th-Century British, 20th- and 21st-Century British, American, Canadian, Post-Colonial, and Literary Theory. Candidates will not normally be allowed to take more than 50% of their course work in any one area of literature. Academic and Creative Writing PhD students must obtain a GPA of 3.7 in courses taken after the MA, with no grade below 3.0 (B). Students in the Direct-Entry Academic PhD program must obtain a GPA of 4.0 in their first year of course work. 

Comprehensive Examinations

By the end of April of the first year (the beginning of January of the second year for the Direct-Entry PhD), doctoral students are required to have chosen a supervisor, submitted a draft thesis-proposal for approval by the Graduate Committee, and chosen the fields in which they will write their comprehensive examinations, subject to approval by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Exam Schedule. Students beginning an Academic or Creative Writing PhD program in September will normally begin writing their exams in the September of their second year. The schedule will be as follows:

The first exam will be written during the second full week of September; the second will be written during the first full week in January; and the third will be written during the second full week of May.

Students beginning a Direct-Entry Academic PhD program in September will normally begin writing their exams in May of their second year. The schedule will be as follows:

The first exam will be written during the first full week of May; the second will be written during the second full week of September of Year 3; the third will be written in the first full week of January of Year 3.

Exact dates and times in these periods will be set from year to year. The only exception to writing exams at these dates will be official deferrals based on serious medical or compassionate grounds, granted upon written application before the exam to the Director of Graduate Studies and to be approved by the Graduate Committee. A student who does not sit a scheduled exam will be deemed to have failed.

Written Component. All candidates must pass three comprehensive examinations. The first two examinations will be in fields relevant to the student's research and teaching interests. Each examination will be based on a set list of primary and secondary readings in one of the following fields: (1) Medieval; (2) Renaissance Dramatic; (3) Renaissance Non-Dramatic; (4) Restoration and 18th-Century British; (5) 19th-Century British; (6) 20th- and 21st-Century British; (7) American; (8) Canadian; (9) Post-colonial; (10) Narrative; (11) Poetry; (12) Drama; (13) Prose Non-Fiction; and (14) Theory. Students may propose substitutions of no more than ten percent of the texts on the set lists, which are on file with the Graduate Assistant. The written examination will be devised and graded by two Graduate Academic Unit Members with expertise in the area in question. A third comprehensive examination will be based on a customized list of texts in the student's thesis area, drawn up by the student in consultation with his/her supervisor and one other examiner and approved by the Graduate Committee by the beginning of February of the student's second year (October of the third year for Direct-Entry students).

All examinations will be three hours in length with the exception of students with disabilities who will be given 4.5 hours to write each exam in addition to periods of rest, as per University policy. All examinations are "closed-book" and may be written by hand or on computer in a controlled setting. Students are entirely responsible for any work that is lost or not saved during the exam. The exams are designed to test advanced knowledge of a field in a broad and comparative fashion and may consist of between two and three essays. The question papers of past examinations are kept on file by the Graduate Assistant for consultation beforehand, by students and faculty. Students are strongly urged to consult with their supervisors and with the professors setting these examinations so as to ensure a common awareness of the requirements. Examiners and students will each be given a photocopy of the written exam and questions by the next day. The examining board will inform students if the written exam is a pass, fail, or a provisional pass. There will be no take-home exams. Students who fail the written exam do not proceed to an oral.

Oral Component. After each of the three comprehensives have been written, the two GAU Members who prepared the exam and the Director of Graduate Studies will conduct one-hour oral examinations within one week of the written portion. The oral will enable the examining board to ask the candidate to elaborate on the written portion as well as to demonstrate knowledge of texts on the reading list that were not discussed in the essays. Students are allowed to bring a copy of the written exam and questions into the oral, but the reading lists are not allowed.

Failure and Appeal. Students will be permitted one failure on each comprehensive exam; a second failure on any exam will lead to withdrawal from the program. A student sitting an exam for a second time will have his or her exam read and his oral witnessed by three members of the department, one of whom will be the Director, whether or not she or he is already on the examining board. The student has a right to appeal the results of his/her exam. The procedure for appeal is outlined in the Undergraduate Calendar.

Normally, then, students will finish their comprehensive reading and writing in just over a year (May-May for Academic and Creative Writing students, January-January for Direct-Entry students). This will leave over two years for students to complete their degree requirements. Any exceptions to the above schedule must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Language Requirement

All doctoral candidates must demonstrate reading competence in one relevant language other than English. The choice of language for each candidate must be approved by the candidate's supervisor and submitted by the candidate to the Graduate Committee for approval by the beginning of the candidate's second year (May of Year 3 for Direct-Entry students).

The purpose of the language requirement is to ensure that students have the necessary expertise to facilitate their doctoral research. Students may meet the requirement in one of two ways:

  1. By translating into English two or three substantial paragraphs (approximately 500 words) of intermediate-level literary or critical prose (e.g. from a scholarly journal or book). The translation will be done in a three-hour written examination set and graded as pass or fail by a faculty member in the relevant language department. The translation will be evaluated for the reading comprehension it demonstrates. Use of a bilingual dictionary is permitted. The exam will normally be taken by beginning of the student's third year of doctoral study. A student who fails an examination will be permitted to take it again.
  2. By passing, with a grade of B or higher, at least six credit hours of approved third-year level or higher university courses in the language. Coursework taken at UNB must be completed by the end of the student's fourth year of doctoral study (fifth year for Direct-Entry PhD). Students who have passed six credit hours of such courses in a relevant language no more than two years prior to the beginning of doctoral study, and with a grade of B or higher (or equivalent), may request credit for that coursework in lieu of a translation examination or further courses.

Guidelines, Regulations, and Procedures

The major emphasis in the program of study for the doctorate in English will be on the thesis. By the summer of his or her second year (January of the third year for the Direct-Entry PhD) a student, guided by the Director and with the aid of an appropriate supervisor in the Department, should begin work on the thesis. The proposal (a draft of which will have been submitted in April of the first year for Academic and Creative Writing students, January of the second year for Direct-Entry students) must follow the Guidelines for the Preparation of Academic Thesis Proposals. This information is available from the Graduate Assistant and also available online at the School of Graduate Studies website. Each proposal has to be approved by the Graduate Committee before thesis work is begun. In choosing a thesis topic, the candidate must consider the resources of the library and faculty. Otherwise the process of selecting a thesis supervisor is similar to that described above under “MA Thesis.”

The academic PhD thesis, according to the Graduate School Calendar, must demonstrate the candidate’s competence to undertake independent research work and must contribute significantly to knowledge in the candidate’s field of study. That contribution must be of sufficient quality to merit publication (in whole or in part) in appropriate scholarly journals or as a book. The thesis must show that the candidate is fully aware of the pertinent published material and it must be written in a satisfactory literary-critical style. Its length should be 200-250 pages, and it should be free of typographical and other mechanical errors. Information about technical requirements of thesis presentation (number of copies, print, paper, etc.) can be obtained from the School of Graduate Studies and is posted on the SGS’ website.

The creative writing dissertation must meet the standard of excellent imaginative writing, normally fiction, poetry, drama, screenwriting, or creative non-fiction, and be of sufficient quality to merit publication (in whole or in part) in creative journals, as a book, or as a play or film. The thesis will consist of the creative project and an analytical introduction of 30-50 pages that shows that the candidate is fully aware of the pertinent published material in the genre, and it must be written in a satisfactory literary and critical style. While dissertation length can vary considerably depending on genre, the overall dissertation must be substantial in both quantity and quality, and it should be free of typographical and other mechanical errors.

Every doctoral thesis will be considered first by the supervisor and two readers from within the Graduate Academic Unit. If passed, it will then be read by a committee struck by the School of Graduate Studies and consisting of the supervisor, members of Graduate Academic Units from within the University, and an external examiner who is a recognized authority in the field of research. This committee will hold a final, oral examination of the candidate and his or her thesis. This examination will be chaired by the Dean of Graduate Studies and will be open to the university community.

The procedures involved in reading and examining the thesis are time-consuming. The whole process from submission to examination may take up to 12 weeks. If modifications to the thesis are required by the Examining Board, it may, of course, take considerably longer. Clearly, it is desirable to have the approved thesis in the hands of the School of Graduate Studies as soon as possible, but in no case later than April 21st for graduation at Spring Encaenia, or September 16th for graduation at Fall Convocation. A detailed time-line is available from the Graduate Assistant.