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Doctor of Philosophy Degree Program: Chinese Studies

The Ph.D. program in East Asian languages and literatures is designed to provide students with a high level of competence in their area of specialization and a familiarity with applicable methodologies and theories. The program has four components: course work, comprehensive examination, prospectus for the dissertation, and the dissertation itself.

Specific courses and projects used to fulfill requirements must be approved by the student’s advisor, who works with the other faculty members to develop the student’s program.

The Ph.D. degree in East Asian languages and literatures with a specialization in Chinese literature requires completion of a minimum of six 4 credit graduate-level courses beyond those required for the M.A. degree. Depending on the student’s background or preparation at the time of admission to the Ph.D. program, the number of required courses may be nine or twelve. Courses must be chosen in consultation with the student’s adviser.

Course Work

  • 1. Complete successfully:
    • Six courses in Chinese literature or film
    • Three methods courses:
      Issues in Early Chinese Literature (CHN 523)
      Issues in Medieval Chinese Literature (CHN 524)
      Issues in Modern Chinese Literature (CHN 525) or equivalents-if the student has already taken these courses
  • 2. Choose one of the following options:
    • Demonstrate the ability to use a second foreign language substantively in research or pass a translation examination in the language
    • Demonstrate advanced knowledge of a particular methodology or theory by taking three graduate-level courses, including one course in Reading and Conference (CHN 605) for which the student writes a paper applying the methodology to Chinese literature
    • Complete three courses in a secondary literature

Additional Course Work
Depending on the student’s background when admitted to the Ph.D. program, additional course work may be required.

Admits beginning Fall 2014

Students in the EALL Ph.D. track must successfully complete a comprehensive examination and prospectus defense (culture students) or qualifying paper (linguistics students) in order to advance to candidacy (ABD, all but dissertation) status. By the end of their second year in the Ph.D. program at the very latest, each student should identify a committee of three professors who will oversee their training for the comprehensive examination. Since each person’s needs and interests may be different, students are expected to work closely with their primary advisor at all stages of the process.

Comprehensive Examination:

The goal of the comprehensive examination is to make sure that students are broadly enough trained that they are qualified to teach beyond the narrow research focus of their dissertation.  The comprehensive examination is composed of a written and an oral component.

In conjunction with their primary advisor, students will choose three fields: a major field and two minor fields, each to be advised by a professor in that area. Cultural fields may be determined by genre, time period, or methodology; Linguistic fields may be determined by theoretical orientation, language orientation, and methodology. In conjunction with their advisors, students will develop a reading list of 20-40 items for each field. For culture students these items may include both primary and secondary texts; the composition of each reading list will be tailored to the individual student’s needs. It is expected that reading lists will develop organically from graduate seminars and readings and conferences.

For each field, the student will submit a comprehensive examination paper. The papers may be developed from a term paper written for a seminar, or written for the sake of the examination, as determined by the advisor. These comprehensive examination papers should demonstrate the student’s broad knowledge of a field. Ideally, for the major field, this paper will be the basis for a dissertation chapter. In some instances, students may be asked to develop a syllabus rather than write a research paper.

Advisors have two weeks to read and approve each comprehensive examination paper. After the three comprehensive examination papers have been approved by the field examiner and the primary advisor, the student will schedule an oral examination. The oral examination, to last one to two hours, is an opportunity for the three examiners to engage the student in a broad conversation about the items on the reading lists. The goal of the oral examination is to ensure that students have enough familiarity with both the critical and primary works in the field to teach at the post-secondary level. The oral examination is not open to the public.

Both parts of the comprehensive examination should be completed by the end of the student’s third year in the Ph.D. program. It is at the discretion of the committee to determine if students should have a second opportunity to sit for an oral examination if the first attempt is not successful. At the discretion of the committee, those students whose performance is deemed unsatisfactory may be granted a terminal M.A.

Prospectus Defense (for Culture Track)

Before scheduling the prospectus defense, students need to notify the graduate secretary of the membership of their dissertation committee (three faculty from EALL and one outside member). The prospectus defense is the first meeting of the entire dissertation committee to provide feedback on the dissertation research project. The prospectus, a document of 20-30 pages, should introduce the research question, the methodology, and a basic outline of the dissertation, as well as include a bibliography. Once the advisors approve a draft of the dissertation prospectus, basically certifying that in their opinion the project is well-conceived and viable, the student will schedule a meeting of the entire committee. A defense is an opportunity for the committee to ask questions and provide advice and direction for the research project. The prospectus defense is public.

In order to leave enough time for the dissertation research and writing, the prospectus defense should take place during the third year of study and no later than the winter term of the fourth year. Students who are unable to complete a viable prospectus by spring of their fourth year in the Ph.D. program will be granted a terminal M.A.

Qualifying paper (Linguistics Track)
As the equivalent of the prospectus defense for culture track students, linguistics students are expected to produce an original publishable paper, of substantial length and quality, in a subfield of linguistics. This qualifying paper should demonstrate the student’s ability to carry out an empirical study and to write an analytical research paper. The unmodified M.A. thesis cannot serve this purpose.

A committe consisting of the advisor and a second faculty member familiar with the sub-field will referee the qualifying paper. The student may be asked to revise the qualifying paper before it is accepted as satisfactory work. Upon documented completion of the paper, the student needs to identify a dissertation committee (three faculty from EALL and one outside member) and notify the graduate secretary. At this point the student will confirm the dissertation topic and present a prospectus, which for linguistics students constitutes a short abstract detailing their research topic. This should be done within one term of completing the qualifying paper. After the prospectus has been approved, the student will advance to candidacy.

In order to leave enough time for the dissertation research and writing, the qualifying paper and prospectus should be completed during the third year of study and no later than the winter term of the fourth year. Students who are unable to complete a viable qualifying paper by spring of their fourth year in the Ph.D. program will be granted a terminal M.A.


The comprehensive examination is distinct from the dissertation prospectus (culture) or qualifying paper (linguistics). The comprehensive examination papers and oral examination involve general perparation and give the student an opportunity to show broad knowledge of a field. The prospectus defense for culture-track students is more narrowly focused on the dissertation project and demonstrates the student’s ability to identify and define a research project. Similarly, the qualifying paper for linguistics students is focused on the student’s main research area and demonstrates the ability to undertake a research project. The comprehensive examination and prospectus defense or qualifying paper enable students to demonstrate that they can be successful as teachers and researchers. Students will advance to ABD status after the successful completion of both comprehensive examination and prospectus defense (culture) or qualifying paper (linguistics) in addition to completion of all required coursework.

Comprehensive Examination (admits prior to Fall 2014)
Candidates for the Ph.D. in Chinese must pass a comprehensive examination that consists of six questions covering three fields. The student, in consultation with his or her advisor, will choose a committee consisting of three faculty members, at least two of whom are members of the department. With input from the student, each committee member will submit two questions based on an approved bibliography. The student will take the three sections of the examination over a period of five days; three hours is given to submit an answer to one of the two questions in each field. Students may use notes and their own laptop or a University laptop. Please make arrangements with the graduate secretary to reserve a room and arrange for the delivery of the questions. If the committee finds that the student has not performed adequately on one question, the student may, at the discretion of the committee, be allowed one opportunity to retake the examination in that subfield before the end of the following term. Students who fail more than one question may have their status as doctoral students terminated.

Prospectus and Dissertation
Immediately following successful completion of the comprehensive examination, a dissertation committee is formed by the student and the graduate secretary. This committee advises the student on writing the dissertation and approves the completed dissertation. The student presents to this committee, within one month, a dissertation proposal with a bibliography. After approval of this prospectus, the student becomes eligible to enroll in Dissertation (CHN 603).

Timeline for Completion of the Ph.D. Program

Course work: two years
Comprehensive examination and prospectus approval: one year
Dissertation writing and defense: two years