Ph.D. Degree

The Graduate Program in Literature is a doctoral program, which means that all students enrolled prepare for the Ph.D. degree. The program does not grant M.A. degrees along the way. The typical time to completion for the doctoral program is 6 full years.

Requirements for the Ph.D.

Additional Course Guidelines

Undergraduate-level Courses - There are no restrictions on the number of undergraduate courses a student may take outside the Literature Program during their graduate career. The approval of the DGS must be sought in such cases, and in any case Graduate School Regulations do not allow courses below the 500 level to count toward the fulfillment of coursework requirements or to be included in a student's GPA calculation.  In general undergraduate courses tend to be limited to relevant language courses.

Independent Studies - Students can take up to three independent studies over the course of their careers. Students have to complete the “Independent Study Notification Form” every time they take an independent study and it must be signed by the DGS. Supplies of these forms are kept in the DGS Assistant’s office.

Inter-institutional Courses - The Registrar requires students to follow a special procedure when they register for courses at other Triangle universities (UNC, NCCU, NCSU). Forms and information are available at the Registrar's Office. You’ll need approval from Lit’s DGS & the professor of the course.

Typical Degree Timeline

What follows is a very general timeline that graduate students in the Program may use as a rough orientation for their six-year course of study. It is not meant to replace the guidance that you should actively seek, for your own specific circumstances and research field(s), from your mentors and advisors.

Year 1

During the first year, you will familiarize yourself with the department, the university, and the profession at large. The many colloquia and conferences offered at Duke, UNC Chapel Hill, NC Central and NC State, present great opportunities for you to get to know your peers, professors, national and international scholars.

Year 2

During the second year, you can start presenting your work at conferences in your field(s). You should by now identify your main advisor(s), and begin TAing so as to familiarize yourself with teaching duties. You may also begin to plan for a Certificate in College Teaching.

Year 3

During the third year, you will complete your preliminary exams and start to work towards your dissertation. Make sure to complete, by the end of this academic year, all the required coursework, including any language requirement related to your specific field. To be competitive in a specific field, you may well need more than one language besides English: please consult with your advisors about this matter.

Year 4

During the fourth year, your focus will be to complete, if not an entire first draft, at least a good part of your dissertation. This is also a good moment to make your work known in the profession by publishing a part of your dissertation and by presenting some of the other parts at professional conferences. Finally, you should attend the dissertation formatting training sessions offered by the Graduate School (either during the fall or the spring): this is very important, to avoid any last-minute surprises that could jeopardize your entire time-plan for the PhD.

Year 5

If possible, you should try to finish your dissertation during your fifth year at Duke. You should also keep a presence at professional conferences, and you may also want to consider the possibility of public humanities publications. Finally, this is the year to start applying for jobs.

Year 6

You should be ready to defend by the end of this year.