Qualification for Doctoral Candidacy
At the time of admission to the PhD program, you become a "doctoral student." After about a year's
work in the department (see below for details about timing), you will be invited to apply for
Qualification as a "doctoral candidate." For this process, the Graduate Steering Committee reviews
your progress to date through the program, your skills as a critical writer, and your progress in
planning for the Comprehensive Examination. After its review, the Graduate Steering Committee makes
one of two decisions: to admit you to candidacy for the degree or to deny admission to candidacy.
After admission to candidacy, you become a "doctoral candidate" and begin formal preparation for
the Comprehensive Examination. If your application is denied, you may re-apply one more time in the
following academic semester.
A. Choosing an Adviser
If a student has not already done so, Qualification is the moment to specify a field of
concentration and select an interim adviser. The adviser will confer with you about your academic record, including
future plans within the program, and any academic problems perceived by the student or the adviser.
At the time of Qualification, the adviser needs to approve the completed Application for Candidacy.
After Qualification, students may change advisers if they wish. Such changes should be registered
with the GPC.
B. Timing of Qualification
Students will be invited to apply for Qualification after 12-15 s. h. of work in literature and/or
criticism at or above the ENGL:5000-level (12 s. h. for students holding an MA, 15 s. h. for students holding a
BA). Because this tally does not include language courses, course work in other departments,
courses taken at the 3000-level, and independent studies, this point will vary, but for most
students it will occur during the third or fourth semester of graduate study. There may
occasionally be reasons for a student to delay an application for candidacy beyond this point,
which may be done by a request to the DGS. Because it is vital that students maintain an active
commitment to finishing the degree expeditiously, however, if application for Qualification is not
made in the semester after a student has completed 21 s. h. of work in literature and/or criticism
at or above the ENGL:5000-level, the student must switch from the PhD program to the MA program or,
if the student already has an MA in English, resign from the doctoral program.
C. Process of Qualification
The department requires that a student fill out online an Application for Candidacy (see Graduate
Webforms at https://www.english.uiowa.edu/graduate-program/graduate-webforms ). This provides an
opportunity to reflect upon progress so far through the degree program. You will use the form to
indicate your progress towards the language, distribution, and seminar requirements and to explain
how you plan to complete these requirements. This is also an opportunity for you to formulate your
plans for the Comprehensive Examination. While plans may be tentative at this stage, students must
include the names of at least two faculty members, including one designated as “interim adviser,”
with whom they have discussed the Comprehensive Exam and who have expressed provisional agreement
to work with them.
Students must also submit a sample paper of at least 15 pages, written in an English course at the
ENGL:5000-level or above. The sample paper may be revised, based on the professor’s comments at the
time of the course, as long as the original graded paper with the professor’s comments accompanies
it. Revision is an option, however, not a requirement. We do not intend to encourage students to
polish an already strong paper but, rather, to address certain challenges that may arise regarding
the essay requirement. As examples, the following two circumstances might render revision an
a) The student's strongest work was written for a readings course and is shorter than fifteen
pages. The student can use the revision option to lengthen the essay.
b) The student's best work meets the page requirement for qualifications and has potential but
also has substantial problems. The student can use the revision option to address some of those
The sample paper need not concern your expected area of expertise. However, it should demonstrate
promise regarding such literary critical skills as: pursuing a lucid argument, drawing upon
sustained research, providing nuanced and careful readings, engaging with theoretical
methodologies, and contributing to ongoing scholarly debates.
You will be evaluated on your progress through the PhD program as indicated by your course grades
(candidates should have a GPA of 3.67 [A-] or above in graduate English literary studies courses
with no outstanding incompletes), by your progress toward the requirements, by the feasibility of
your plan for future work, and by faculty evaluations of your course work, added to your file after
each course. Your abilities at PhD-level research and writing will be assessed through faculty evaluations of
course work and through the sample paper.
The Graduate Steering Committee—comprised of the directors of admissions, qualifications, the MA Program,
finances, placement, and the director of graduate studies—judges the applications for
candidacy. It renders one of two decisions: pass or deny. If passed, the student turns his or her
attention to further coursework and preparation for Comprehensive Exams. If denied, a student must
reapply the next semester in order to remain in the doctoral program. A student who has been
denied should meet with the Director of Qualifications and the DGS to discuss the committee’s
assessment and recommendations, and to plan strategies for strengthening the student’s case for
reapplication. If a student is denied a second and final time, the student is dismissed from the
doctoral program. She or he does retain funding through the current one-year funding cycle. The
MA option remains open to students denied doctoral candidacy.
D. After Qualification
Formal admission to candidacy marks the department's intention to see a student through the
Comprehensive Examination and the completion of a dissertation. Regardless of the semester in which
you qualify, you must take your Comprehensive Exam within five semesters from the semester in which
you reach 24 s. h. If at the time of Qualification you have fewer than 24 s. h. of total graduate
credit at Iowa, you will have five semesters after the 24th semester hour within which to take the
Comprehensive Examination. If this deadline is exceeded, you must re-apply to the Graduate Steering
Committee for admission to candidacy. Where progress toward the degree has been sustained, the
department may grant an appropriate extension (normally of one calendar year) for completing the