Ph.D. Emphasis in Writing Studies Requirements



1. Application

The Ph.D. Emphasis in Writing Studies is open to graduate students currently pursuing advanced degrees in the affiliated UCSB departments of Comparative Literature, English, Feminist Studies, Linguistics, Gervirtz Graduate School of Education, or Religious Studies.

The Ph.D. Emphasis curriculum provides both an overview of Writing Studies and opportunity to specialize in areas congruent with a student's research interests. The course requirements include A) a proseminar (4 credits); B) three additional courses (12 credits) as described below; and C) completion of an advanced project.

Official applications will be considered at any time. However, during summer, all application materials must be submitted by August 1 for a Fall start time for the emphasis. During the school year, all application materials must be submitted by Friday of the 3rd week of the quarter prior to the desired start time for the emphasis. 

You may take emphasis courses before officially applying for the program.

Materials needed to apply for the Ph.D. Emphasis: 

 1) Contact information

 2) Your letter of application

 3) Your current CV

 4) A letter of recommendation from a UCSB faculty member.

The letter of recommendation should be sent directly by the faculty member.  Please send all application materials electronically to Prof. Karen Lunsford, You should receive a notice within a week acknowledging the receipt of your application materials.  If you do not, please contact Prof. Lunsford’s office phone at 805-893-8556 or the Writing Program office at 805-893-7488.

Download the Application Form.


2. Requirements

A. Proseminar in Writing Studies

The proseminar serves as the foundational sequence for the Writing Studies Ph.D. Emphasis. It provides an introduction to Writing Studies, as well as a place where participants in the Emphasis can regularly meet over common interests. The proseminar orients students to the disciplinary history, theories, and methods of Writing Studies; enables them to select appropriate subfields for their specializations; and engages them immediately in professional organizations, conferences, and conversations. 

The Proseminar comprises 3 quarters for a total of 4 credits: 2 credits in the Fall (502A, meeting 2 hours per week) and 1 credit each in the Winter and Spring (502B and 502C, meeting 2 hours for five weeks). The grading is P/NP. The quarters may be taken in any sequence. Quarters may be repeated for credit. 

In Fall (502A), students will learn to situate the discipline through readings about how to define and study writing, and readings about issues that animate contemporary writing research in classroom, professional, and civic spaces. 

In Winter (502B), students will learn methods used in writing research, such as textual analysis, interpretive/hermeneutic approaches, archival work, quantitative procedures, and qualitative or ethnographically-informed techniques. 

In Spring (502C), students and course visitors will present on and develop their ongoing research interests.  Students will engage in short writing assignments throughout the year to reflect on their own professional positioning in this field. 

B. Three additional courses (taken for a letter grade)

Students must take one course from each of the three areas of focus within Writing Studies listed below. In addition, each of the three courses must have a different prefix (WRIT, ED, FEM ST, LING, CLIT, or ENGL) to represent the different approaches of this field.  New courses will be added to the Emphasis as appropriate, and participants should check this page for updates. Note that all of these courses are also open to anyone interested in them, regardless of whether or not they are in the Emphasis.

Literacy, theory, and pedagogy

  • *WRIT 501 – Academic Writing: Theory and Practice
  • ED 202D – Writing Across the Curriculum/Writing in the Disciplines
  • ED 202H – Writing Program Administration
  • LING 212 -- Discourse Transcription
  • WRIT 252 – Teaching Technical Communication

Writing assessment, evaluation, and analysis

  • ED202C – Development of Writing Abilities
  • ED202I – Assessment of Writing
  • ED240A –Education Policy or ED250A Federal and State Higher Education Policy
  • ED221G – Textual analysis
  • LING 217 – Discourse and Grammar

Writing/literacies in specific contexts

  • CLIT260 -- Literary Translation: Theory and Practice
  • ED202F – Literacy in the Information Age
  • ED202E – History of Literacy
  • **ENGL 236 – Literature + 
  • ENGL 238 -- [a variety of digital humanities / new media courses]
  • ENGL 234 – Bookwork after New Media
  • FEM ST 250 --  Feminist Theories
  • LING 214 – Discourse
  • ***LING 292 – Linguistics in the Schools
  • RS 237A -- Muses, Spirits, and Deities: Social Cognition and Inspired Texts

* Students who are hired as graduate instructors of writing in the Writing Program are required to take Writing 501. If they were to also participate in the Writing Emphasis, this course would fulfill both requirements.

** In the English Department, this is the course number for special topics, so the course titles may vary.  Courses regarding the digital humanities taught by Emphasis faculty are eligible.  Please contact the Director of the Writing Studies Emphasis regarding the eligibility of other ENGL 236 courses.

*** Linguistics 292 is reserved for graduate students participating in the SKILLS Program (School Kids Investigating Language in Life and Society).

Students may also submit a course petition for another graduate course to substitute for ONE of the course requirements (excluding the proseminar).  The petition must be approved by the faculty member who teaches the course for which the student is seeking substitution, as well as by the Director of the Writing Studies Emphasis. 

C. Advanced Project Requirement

There are two choices for fulfilling the advanced project requirement. 

  1. Include one faculty member from the Emphasis to be on the PhD committee and include issues explicitly relevant to Writing Studies as a focus of the dissertation. 
  2. Working with an Emphasis member from the Writing Program as an advisor or co-advisor, complete a capstone project separate from the dissertation.  The capstone project should be a substantive research project on issues relevant to Writing Studies suitable for publication.


3. Completion

To finalize the process, participants must submit a Graduate Division Petition to add an Emphasis to the home degree and an unofficial transcript and abstract of the advanced project to Professor Karen Lunsford, Director of the Ph.D. Emphasis.