Retention and Graduation Requirements

The Literacy Studies Ph.D. Program is designed to be completed in four years of full-time study. Coursework and the preliminary examination could be completed in six semesters. Dissertation research and preparation of the document could be completed over two to three additional semesters. This time frame is consistent with guidelines that traditionally have been associated with availability of assistantships and fellowships for doctoral study. Completion within four years assumes that prerequisites (3 credit hours) for entry into the statistics sequence are satisfied. Throughout the program, students will be engaged in raising viable research questions, designing studies, analyzing data sets, and professional writing. Collectively, these experiences will prepare students to undertake the dissertation research project.

Pre-Dissertation Advising

Upon admission to the Ph.D. program, each candidate will be assigned an acadmic advisor. Advisors are members of the core faculty. Guided by the mentorship model, this advisor, in consultation with other faculty in the program, will advise the student on an appropriate program of study, will provide any other required academic advisement, and will conduct a written annual review of student progress toward the degree. A written evaluation of progress by the student's advisor will be incorporated into the student's academic file.

Literacy Research Conference

Faculty and students will participate in presenting research at the one-day conference.  All students are required to attend.  A keynote speaker will be invited.  More information will be distributed annually.   This year the conference will be held on January 28, 2017.

Degree Plan

In consultation with the program advisor, each degree-seeking student must file a formal outline of the degree program on a degree plan available at The College of Graduate Studies on the website (Ph.D. in Literacy Studies Degree Plan). Degree plans should be completed at the initial advising meeting after admission.  

Research Tools, Techniques, and Methodology Requirements

The Literacy Studies Ph.D. Program requires students to demonstrate proficiency in the application of research skills. Doctoral seminars will involve reviews of model studies for the purpose of evaluating the research design methodology selected to address the specific hypothesis. Statistical methods and tools will be acquired in the required course in advanced statistics (this builds upon an additional graduate level course in statistics as a prerequisite for a total of two graduate courses in statistics). Students with professional interests in statistics and measurement can take additional courses as part of the specialization in literacy measurement & analysis.

Ethical Development

Issues of professional ethics as well as obligations of researchers to ensure confidentiality of research subjects, and to protect data collected from the dangers of misuse, will be addressed directly in the doctoral seminars, the practica experiences, and in the research core. Students will assist in preparing requests for IRB approval for any studies in which they participate. They are required to successfully complete the HIPPA training course prior to approval of the dissertation proposal and will prepare a request for IRB approval to conduct the dissertation research project.


To ensure that students in the Literacy Studies Ph.D. Program will have the opportunity to be fully immersed in the intellectual and research climate that will characterize the program, a period of residency is required. To fulfill residency requirements, Ph.D. students must be enrolled in full-time study (nine [9] credits per semester or six [6] credit hours with GAship) a minimum of two consecutive Academic Year semesters or two summer semesters. During the residency semesters, students are expected to assist faculty members with their teaching and research responsibilities. This time should also be dedicated to other enrichment endeavors, such as the submission of one paper for publication, engagement in service-learning, and participation in professional development beyond the opportunities provided in the program.

Residency requirements must be satisfied no later than the semester during which a student writes the comprehensive examination. Students entering the program on a part-time basis must plan for ways to meet this requirement. In addition, all students in the program must maintain continuous enrollment (at least one course per semester) from admission until graduation. In extenuating circumstances, students may apply to the pre-dissertation committee for a leave-of-absence.

Preliminary Examinations

When coursework is completed, the student will be required to pass a preliminary examination. Students can choose either an examination format or a research project format within the first two weeks of each semester and notify their decsion to the academic advisor.  Upon receiving the academic advisor's approval, the students will submit the registration form to the program director for approval.

Advancement to Candidacy

Once the student has successfully completed the written comprehensive examinations, the program director will file the Results of Preliminary Examination and Advancement to Candidacy Form with the College of Graduate Studies in order for the student to be admitted to candidacy and to enroll in dissertation credits. No more than seven [7] credit hours of C grade will count towards the requirement of a Ph.D. degree. Grades of D and F will not count towards degree requirements but will be computed in determining the GPA. The student must have a GPA of at least 3.25 in the program of studies to advance to candidacy status. They must also have filed a degree plan with appropriate approvals.

Dissertation Committee

Candidates for the Ph.D. in Literacy Studies will be required to conceptualize, formally propose, and independently carry out an original research project, which will add to the knowledge base in an area of inquiry that is integral to Literacy Studies. The study will be defended orally before a committee of peers who are familiar with the field of inquiry. Following advancement to candidacy, the student must formally establish his/her dissertation committee. The committee should include a minimum of three graduate faculty with current status as full members; the chair and at least one member must be from the program committee and one or more may be from outside the program. The chair of the committee must be a current member of Middle Tennessee State University‚Äôs graduate faculty and must be recommended by the Program Director.  The dissertation committee should consist of faculty from different disciplines in order to reflect the interdisciplinary nature of the program.  Once the committee is established, the student may then draft the research proposal.  The proposal may take either the traditional dissertation format or the article format.  The dissertation proposal should propose an original research study developed by the student. Whereas pilot studies are appropriate for the formulation of research hypotheses, pilot data cannot be included as part of either dissertation or article format.  After the proposal conference, the student must follow through and address all issues and suggestions raised by each member of the committee and redistribute the revised proposal within three weeks of the proposal conference.  Upon successful defense of the proposal before a committee, which will be comprised of the dissertation advisors and other experts in the field of interest (e.g., speech/language, learning, teaching, etc.), the final proposal must be approved by the Program Director.  Then, the student will be allowed to initiate the research study. Finally, consultation and advice will be provided by the dissertation committee as the student develops and prepares to defend the document as well as during the post-defense revision process.

Defense of Dissertation

Upon submission of the completed dissertation, the doctoral candidate who has successfully completed all requirements for the degree will be scheduled by the chair of her/his dissertation committee, in consultation with other advisory members, to defend the dissertation.  The College of Graduate Studies will publish the dissertation title, date, time, and location of the defense at least two weeks prior to the defense.  The defense is open to all members of the University community who wish to attend.  The dissertation defense is administered by the advisory/dissertation committee according to program guidelines.  Successful defense of the dissertation must be attested to in writing by all members of the advisory/dissertation committee, the Program Director, and the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies.

Intent to Graduate

An Intent to Graduate Form, available on the College of Graduate studies website (Doctoral Intent to Graduate and Hooding Form), must be filed by the student by the end of the second week of the semester in which the student plans to graduate or no later than the end of the first week of S2 June term (for August graduation).

Time Limit

There is a ten (10) year time limit for completing all Ph.D. degree requirements; i.e., all doctoral coursework as well as the dissertation must be completed within ten years of the first semester of enrollment.