All doctoral students must take, here at Iowa, at least three seminars in English.
Numbered at the ENGL:7000-level, seminars are the most highly focused and specialized courses the
department offers and offer practice in the skills necessary for researching and writing the
dissertation. Normally these courses assume prior related work at a lower level and culminate in a
25-30 page (7500- 9000 word) research project aimed at publication. It is a good idea to start
taking seminars as soon as you begin to focus your field of concentration.
Seminars in other departments or in the Writers Workshop do not count toward the English Department
Students must receive a grade of B+ or higher in courses that satisfy the seminar requirement. The
seminar requirement must be completed before students are eligible to take the Comprehensive
Possibility for Substituting One Seminar
The advanced-level work represented by seminars is viewed by the department as crucial for
developing the expertise to write a dissertation, while taking a number of seminars within the
department provides the opportunity to become acquainted with a range of faculty necessary for exam
committees along with a range of approaches. However, in view of the department’s sometimes
streamlined graduate course offerings, some students find that it is hard to take three seminars
useful to their field within the time that they are taking courses. Such students can approach the
DGS requesting that they be allowed to take a ENGL:6000-level course for seminar credit (i.e., as a
ENGL:7000-level course). The point of the present clarification is to standardize a policy for
dealing with such requests.
Such substitutions, which need to be approved by the DGS, should be granted only in the following
• the instructor of the course agrees to the request;
• the topic is peculiarly appropriate to a student’s planned studies and no seminar in or close
to that field is currently on offer;
• the student writes a seminar paper for the course, along with any other special arrangement
agreed on with the instructor.
Only one such substitution may be counted towards the English Department’s requirement for three
To make such a substitution, the student should discuss the case with the course instructor and the
DGS. The student should write a very brief statement about the arrangement, outlining how he or she
will undertake seminar-equivalent work in the course, and the statement should be signed by the
instructor and the DGS and lodged in the student’s file during the semester in which the course is
taken. Such a statement will then be treated as evidence of the seminar-status of that course by
the Graduates committee in assessing the student’s progress through the program, by the Qualifications
Committee in considering a student for candidacy, and by the DGS in assessing a student’s readiness
for the Comprehensive Exam.