CRES PROGRAM INFORMATION
The CRES graduate curriculum provides a solid foundation in English studies as well as elective opportunities for
those who wish to develop secondary specializations in literary theory, creative writing, African-American rhetoric
and literature, linguistics, and other areas. CRES students have opportunities to teach first-year writing,
advanced expository writing, technical writing, and sophomore literature surveys.
We also offer opportunities to gain experience in writing center work and
writing program administration work through our Composition Committee. In fall 2006, the program began
collaborating with the College of Commerce and Business Administration (CBA) to offer opportunities to teach
professional writing and pursue directed studies in professional writing pedagogy.
OUR GRADUATES have obtained tenure-track positions at community colleges and four-year institutions such as
Judson College (Marion, AL), Charlotte School of Law (NC), Stillman College (Tuscaloosa, AL), the University of Houston,
Itawamba Community College (Fulton, MS), Chattanooga State Community College (TN), Hinds Community College
(Jackson, Mississippi), Marion Military Institute (Marion, AL), Louisiana Tech, Murray State, the University of
Alabama-Birmingham, the University of Texas-El Paso,
Alabama A&M, St. Louis Community College (Meramec Campus), LaGrange College (GA),
East Tennessee State, the University of South Alabama, Eastern Illinois University,
and the University of North Alabama.
Doctoral students in other areas of the department may wish to pursue composition-rhetoric as a secondary area of
interest. Students who complete twelve approved hours of CRES coursework and the written section of the CRES
preliminary exam can request a letter from the program documenting their successful completion of this option.
The Master's concentration in CRES requires the following distribution of courses for a total of 30-32 hours. Students are required to take at least 15 hours in 600-level courses.
- 6 hours in CORE English requirements
- 3 hours in EN 537: Introduction to Graduate Studies (Research & Bibliography)
- 3 hours in EN 538: Research and Critical Prose (generally taken in the fourth semester to satisfy the Master's graduate requirement)
- 9 hours in CRES requirements
- 3 hours in EN 532: Approaches to Teaching Composition
- 3 hours in history of composition-rhetoric (either EN 638: History of Composition Rhetoric, Part I, or EN 658: History of Rhetoric, Part II)
- 3 hours in EN 512: Computers and Composition
- 3 hours in linguistics (EN 620: Introduction to Linguistics or other)
- 12 hours in approved general electives
- These courses may include CRES electives or courses in literature, linguistics, creative writing, or interdisciplinary fields related to English Studies.
- 2 hours in teaching practicum (for teaching assistants)
- 1 hour in EN 533: Teaching English 101
- 1 hour in EN 534: Teaching English 102
A student writing a thesis (Plan I) will take 6 thesis hours (EN 599) and in consultation with the field advisor, drop 6 hours of coursework from his or her concentration. A student not writing a thesis (Plan II) will satisfy the graduation requirement by completing EN 538 with an oral defense of a paper generated in that course (See Exams).
The PhD specialization in CRES requires a total of 48 hours coursework, 24 dissertation hours, and two hours of teaching practicum (for teaching assistants). Students with previous graduate work may transfer in up to eighteen hours of applicable coursework, with approval from the CRES field advisor and graduate studies director. Students may not transfer graduate credit that is more than six years old. There is a minimum of 30 hours credit required beyond the master's degree (earned here or elsewhere), of which no more than 15 hours can be at the 500 level. The PhD course requirements are as follows:
- 12 hours in Core English Requirements
- 3 hours in EN 537: Introduction to Graduate Studies (Research and Bibliography)
- 3 hours in critical theory (normally EN 535, 536, or 635)
- 3 hours in EN 538: Research & Critical Prose
- 3 hours in EN 637: Workshop in Academic Writing
- 15 hours in Core CRES Requirements
- 3 hours in EN 532: Approaches to Teaching Composition
- 3 hours in EN 652: Theories of Teaching Composition
- 3 hours in EN 653: Composition-Rhetoric Research Methodology
- 3 hours in history of composition-rhetoric (EN 638: History of Rhetoric Part I OR EN 658: History of Rhetoric Part II).
- 3 hours in EITHER EN 512: Computers and Writing OR an additional history (EN 638 or 658)
- 9 hours CRES Electives
- 9 hours Approved General Electives (can include courses in literature, linguistics, creative writing, or interdisciplinary areas related to English Studies)
- 3 hours EN 620 or other linguistics
- 2 hours in EN 533/534 Teaching Practicum (for graduate teaching assistants)
In addition to the core courses listed above, students have the opportunity to take elective
and special topics courses in CRES. Elective courses in past semesters have included
Visual and Digital Rhetoric, Community Literacy, Democracy & Literacy, and the
Interdisciplinarity of Composition. We offer a directed studies in professional writing,
in which students do a teaching internship in the College of Business and Administration
and study professional writing pedagogy. Newly developed electives offered during 2007-08 include
Politics and Teaching Writing and Teaching Basic & Developmental Writing.
Click below for descriptions of 500 and 600 level classes in CRES.
CRES Program Mentoring
Upon entering the CRES program, whether on the M.A. or Ph.D. level, students
will be assigned a faculty mentor who can provide unofficial guidance about the
program, i.e. attending colloquia, suggesting guest speakers, choosing journals
for publication, and so on. The mentor is not to be confused with the CRES field advisor,
who handles all official advising regarding graduate work, course credit, time to degree,
and official paper work.
PhD students should schedule a meeting once a semester with the CRES field advisor for course approval and advising for the following semester. New students with previous graduate credit will work with the field advisor during their first semester to evaluate previous courses and fill out the Graduate School's transfer of credit paperwork. Doctoral students in their last semester of coursework will meet with the field advisor to work out a reading list for the comprehensive exams.
The master's graduation requirement (for those not writing a thesis) is an oral
examination and defense of a seminar paper. Students will choose one their strongest
seminar papers from a CRES course for the capstone experience and will work with
the professor of that class to revise the paper, do additional reading on the topic,
and defend the work at the end of the semester in which they plan to graduate.
To begin the process of the MA capstone, students should contact the CRES professor
who taught the seminar and ask if the faculty member would be willing to chair. In
consultation with the chair, students will choose two additional faculty members to
complete the committee. The chair and student will work together to form a timeline for
revising the paper. Students should generally expect to complete a revised draft early in
the final semester to allow sufficient time for consultations with the chair and further
revisions. The chair will notify the student when the revised paper is ready to go to
the committee, and from there the student can schedule the paper defense.
In addition to completing the MA paper, students will generate a reading list of 20-25 items
on the paper's topic. Many of these readings will already be listed in the bibliography of
the seminar paper, but the student and chair may add additional reading items to round out
the list. The list may include articles as well as books, primary as well as secondary texts.
This list should place the paper's focus within the broader context of English studies/rhetoric
& composition. The student will be responsible for these works during a one-hour oral defense
of the paper.
To successfully complete the MA capstone requirement, students should:
- Produce a well developed seminar paper of approximately 20-30 pages that effectively
covers the topic, places it in the context of an ongoing conversation in composition-rhetoric
or English studies, and has the potential to become a publishable project.
- In the oral defense, be able to
- 1) discuss the paper fluently, addressing broader questions about the importance of
the research and its relationship to enduring debates in the field.
- 2) demonstrate an awareness of possible venues for presentation or publication of
- 3) field questions about the reading list, showing familiarity with the individual
works and understanding of how their ideas relate to the published authors'.
- 4) discuss the pedagogical applications of the work and practical
consequences/implications for teachers & scholars.
The oral defense is also an opportunity for students to talk with the committee about
their experience in the program, future goals for teaching/research, and questions
regarding professional or academic goals.
PhD Candidacy Meeting
Toward the end of coursework completion, Ph.D. students will meet with CRES faculty
as a group to discuss compiling reading lists for the written comprehensive exams,
selecting possible areas for dissertation research, and understanding what they can expect
in both the written and oral exams.
CRES doctoral students must pass both the written and oral components of the preliminary examination.
Students will work with the entire CRES faculty to compile a reading list covering four topic areas in
the field and will be responsible for all items on each list. Reading lists must be approved by
all CRES faculty members; students will obtain a sign-off list from the CRES field advisor and will be
responsible for getting signatures. A committee of three CRES faculty members will read students' written
exams and conduct the oral examination. Exam committee members need not necessarily continue as members
of the dissertation committee.
Creating a Reading List for the Exam. The first step in preparing for the comprehensive exam
is to create a list of four exam topics. For all students the first area will be a general or
"canonical" list in rhetoric-composition, but like the other three areas, this list will be student-generated.
The second and third areas should focus on matters directly related to composition-rhetoric studies,
such as the history, theory, and practice of writing instruction; digital or visual rhetoric, technology
and writing; literacy studies; writing across the curriculum; basic writing, ethnography and writing research,
assessment, etc. The fourth topic can concern itself with any other matter related to the study or
teaching of English or an interdisciplinary area with connections to English.
Students will submit their list of the four exam topics to the field advisor for approval by
the CRES faculty. Once the topic areas are approved, students may compile the reading list for
the exam. Each of the four areas on the reading list should be clarified in a brief background
statement of about 150 words that introduces the topic and explains its significance to the field.
The explanatory paragraph should be followed by a list of readings that contains 12-15 sources,
at least four of which should be books. Thus, students will have a list comprised of 48-60 works.
The bibliography should include books, collections, monographs, or articles that have been
widely cited. Students will send their reading list to the field advisor, who will solicit
feedback from the CRES faculty and notify students of any required changes.
Students should feel free to speak with any graduate faculty in composition studies regarding
their topic ideas and core bibliography, but should do so well in advance of the deadline for
submission of their materials. Students should also consult the "CRES PhD Reading List" document
on our resources page, which provides a provisional bibliography of the field. This document is
a good starting point for assembling the exam; however, candidates should not restrict themselves
to the items on the list In most cases it will be essential for students to look beyond the
provisional bibliography in order to access the most recent scholarship in a given area.
In addition to consulting the CRES reading list, students should also look through recent
issues of the relevant journals for their topic areas.
Students must submit the final reading list no later than twelve weeks before the exam, but
they are encouraged to submit it even earlier to allow ample time for preparation and study.
Students must get signed approval from each CRES faculty member. Once students submit the final
version, they should select a date and time for the exam. At least ten days before the exam,
students should see Carol Appling to schedule a room for the written and oral portions of the exam.
Once students have compiled the reading list for the exam, they should select a committee of
three faculty readers for the written and oral portions of the examination. Students should contact
those faculty members to see if they are able to serve. In many cases, the exam committee will go on
to form the core of the dissertation committee.
Candidates may petition for exceptions to the guidelines for choosing topic areas and compiling
the reading lists.
The Written Component. The written preliminary examination for
candidates in CRES will be four hours in duration and will require candidates to
respond to two questions from four areas. The exam commitee will compose the
questions that will constitute students' written preliminary examination. While these
questions will deal with issues central to the four topic areas,
the questions may require students to look at material from a new perspective, to
refocus their concerns, or even to re-examine their assumptions. The goal is for
candidates to demonstrate their ability to write with a seasoned, mature
understanding of the topic as a whole, demonstrating both a conceptual grasp of the topic
and the ability to identify and refer to relevant sources.
Effective responses should answer the question as fully as possible, taking the role
of an expert and addressing a high-level audience that may not be well informed in the
particular area--for example, experienced teachers of college composition who have not
yet read the texts that candidates have studied. Candidates may want to argue for their
own points of view or instead provide a more even-handed critique, but in either case,
they should show an understanding of multiple perspectives. Effective responses will be
well organized and demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the readings.
The Oral Component. If the candidate passes the written preliminary
examination, the committee will conduct an oral examination at the
first convenient opportunity for both the candidate and the faculty. For the oral
examination, the candidate will be responsible for material from all four topics,
the two not covered on the written examination as well as the two that were. CRES
candidates must pass the oral exam in order to move on to the dissertation stage.
Students who fail the written preliminary examination may take it a second time.
Students who fail the examination a second time will not be allowed to finish doctoral work.
MA students must demonstrate a reading knowledge of one foreign language to satisfy the
department's MA language requirement.
CRES PhD students must satisfy the English PhD requirement demonstrating a
reading knowledge of two foreign languages or advanced proficiency in one.
CRES students who have passed the preliminary examination are free to form a dissertation committee consisting of a director from the CRES faculty, three other faculty members of the English department, and a faculty member from outside the department. The candidate's dissertation prospectus must be approved by his or her dissertation committee and then defended in an oral examination conducted by the committee.
The CRES dissertation prospectus should provide a thorough overview of the proposed dissertation topic and an explanation of how the proposed research will build on existing knowledge in the field and contribute new findings. Students should work with their director to establish a viable topic and preliminary bibliography for the project. The prospectus should cover the following topic/areas, although students may adapt or change this suggested outline in consultation with the chair. Students can obtain a sample of a CRES dissertation prospectus from the field advisor.
- This introductory paragraph should summarize the prospectus.
- Defense of Topic
- This section should introduce the project and set out the research question that it seeks to address. It should explain why the proposed project is important to the field at large and how it fills a gap in existing research.
- Literature Review
- This section should thoroughly review relevant findings on the topic.
- Discussion of Theoretical & Methodological Framework
- This section should overview the research methods, materials (or data sources) and theoretical framework for the project.
- Chapter Overview
- This section should give a chapter-by-chapter preview of the dissertation, devoting at least one well-developed paragraph to each chapter.
- This section should provide a detailed plan for researching, writing, and revising the project, including the time needed to collect data and conduct additional research as necessary. A table or bulleted format will be acceptable for this section.
- Bibliography/Works Cited
- The bibliography should include works cited in the prospectus itself and works that will be consulted during the writing of the dissertation. Students may choose to divide the bibliography into works cited and research remaining to give the committee a sense of the research agenda.
PhD Time line
For students who already hold the master's degree, the PhD specialization is generally completed on a 5-year timeline:
Year 1: Students will work to complete required courses. In consultation with the field advisor and/or graduate studies director, students will decide on a course of action for completing the foreign language requirement. Students should think of course papers as possible bases for dissertation topics, conference presentations, and publishable essays, and should discuss these possibilities with faculty. Students should work with the field advisor to complete the transfer of credit process.
Year 2: Students should continue with coursework and look ahead to the dissertation, to conference participation, and to possible publications. Students who have not earned the Master's degree should take EN 537 in their fourth semester to satisfy the graduation requirement for the Master's Degree (except for students who have opted to do a thesis project). Students should be finishing the foreign language requirement and assembling a reading list for the PhD exams.
Year 3: Students should finish coursework and complete the PhD exams in the semester following the last semester of coursework. After completing coursework and the exam, students may register for dissertation research (24 hours required). Students who have completed the exams should form a dissertation committee and work on a prospectus. Students will advance to candidacy after completing the exam and dissertation prospectus defense.
Year 4: Students who have not completed a dissertation prospectus should finish this document (ideally by the fall of the fourth year) and meet with the committee to discuss the prospectus. Students should be working on data collection and/or literature review and drafting the body of the dissertation.
Year 5: Students should continue revising the dissertation and plan to go on the academic job market, having completed more than half of the dissertation by the beginning of the fall semester. Students are not eligible for a teaching assistantship beyond Year 5.
Graduate College policy requires that PhD students complete the degree within a seven-year time limit (eight years if entering the doctoral program with a BA, not a master's degree).