PhD in Literacy Overview

The foundation of the PhD in Literacy program is organized around three broad and overlapping domains of study:

  1. The nature and acquisition of literacy across the lifespan.
  2. Literacy and schooling.
  3. Literacy and society. 

From this foundation, individual students take up their own research directions under the guidance of the faculty.  Faculty interests are broad, and past students in the program have undertaken a wide range of forms of research within a range of different theoretical frameworks, and their research frequently wins awards.


Applications to the program are accepted at any time during the academic year. Official transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate study, at least three letters of recommendation, an example of academic writing, and a written response to the Departmental Questionnaire are all required. At least one letter of recommendation (and preferably more) must address the candidate's academic abilities and potential for graduate study.  Additionally, scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GREs) or Miller's Analogies (MAT) are required. An on-site interview may be necessary as part of the application process. Applications are reviewed by the Department faculty. Typically, it takes about a month from the time that a completed application is received in the Department until a decision is reached. 

In addition to the general university requirements for admission to doctoral study, the Department of Literacy Teaching and Learning values: teaching experience, knowledge of classrooms and schools, and some form of teaching certification; evidence of academic preparation for doctoral study in literacy; and evidence of commitment to learning, research and making a difference.

CAS To PhD Admission Application

Successful graduates of the CAS program may opt for a streamlined admission application process if he/she meets specific criteria. The student must consistently perform at a high level throughout the CAS program and must successfully complete the Comprehensive Exam (not the Inquiry Project). If these criteria are achieved, the student may submit 3 letters of recommendation and the departmental questions found on the PhD admission application through the online application via Graduate Admissions. The requirement for a GRE score and a writing sample will be waived. Once these items are submitted, the application will be reviewed by the department and the student will either be accepted or denied. The student will not be able to submit a new application via traditional methods if denied.

Statute of Limitations

All requirements for the PhD in Literacy degree must be completed within eight calendar years from the date of initial registration in the program. These requirements can be extended, but extensions have to be formally requested, and approved by both the Department and the Graduate Academic Council. These statutes apply equally to students who enter with or without advanced standing and to students who formally change their area of specialization after admission and study in one advanced program.

Students enrolled in the PhD in Literacy program will complete their studies without a break in the sequence of coursework, residency (if undertaken), comprehensive examinations, and dissertation. This involves registering for at least 3 credits in each fall and spring semester. Summer enrollment is not necessary to be considered "in continuous registration." If you have to take a break in this sequence, regardless of the reason, you must make a written request to the Department. A leave of absence has to be approved both by the Department and the University. When a leave is granted, it is normally for one year. Multiple requests are not viewed favorably, except under exceptional circumstances. To make a request for a leave of absence, first consult your advisor or dissertation chair, and then complete the Leave of Absence Request Form.


The Department recommends, but does not require, a period of full-time study. Full-time study is the best way to be mentored into the practices of the academy, especially into the process of doing research. This is particularly important if your goal is to work in a research university. If you can be in full-time residence for one year, or even a single semester, you should talk over the timing of this residence very carefully with your program advisor. If possible, it should be taken after completion of at least 36 semester hours (including those applied to the program).

Priority is given in awarding fellowships and assistantships to students who have committed themselves to extended periods of study. During your residence study you should participate in the intellectual community, taking courses, or serving as a research or teaching assistant alongside the faculty, participating in ongoing research discussion groups, conducting independent or collaborative research projects with faculty members, assisting a faculty member in writing a research paper, or a combination of these.

Annual Review

Each spring, the department undertakes a review of all students in its advanced programs to ensure that they make good progress, and are well advised. The foundation of this review is a student self-evaluation which is distributed to students and must be completed by the announced deadline.  Faculty will review each student during the annual review process. Students may receive a letter from the department with comments on progress, as appropriate.