Learn more about how to apply to the PhD in Rhetoric and Composition at Ball State or request more information. You can also read about one current doctoral candidate on the Graduate School blog.

Students in Ball State’s PhD in Rhetoric and Composition gain a broad understanding of rhetorical and writing studies: histories, pedagogies, research strategies, technologies, and administration. Students investigate the influences of digital and multimodal writing alongside rhetorical history, research methodologies, and composition pedagogies. Additionally, graduate coursework in Writing Program and Writing Center Administration prepares students for future faculty administrative appointments.   

Our flexible program encourages students to combine studies in rhetoric and composition with courses in other fields, both within the Department of English and outside of it, producing doctoral students with wide-ranging knowledge and skills. We offer both a doctorate and a master’s in English with a concentration in rhetoric and composition.

Weaving throughout this program are two commitments: the first to the importance of pedagogy and of the teaching moment, the second to the importance of technology in its myriad guises and contexts.

  • Historically, the study and performance of rhetoric has been united with the teaching of rhetoric.
  • Students receive a solid grounding in the practice of rhetorical instruction, the administration of writing programs, and the integration of writing centers into those programs.
  • Effective teaching of rhetoric and composition is emphasized, and the program is organized so that teaching assistants receive a full semester of teacher preparation before entering their own classrooms. Their teaching is supported through teaching circles and close mentoring.

Because of our commitment to technological literacy and digital rhetoric, you also will offered both instruction and practice in the use of technology in the classroom as well as in the creation of discourse (i.e., hypermediated environments). Whether literary, political, or private, discourse has always formed through a medium by means of a technology. So, we take into account the tools that people use to create meaning in their cultures. This course of study increases your awareness of and possibilities for various media and technologies.

The graduate program is deliberately structured to maintain a small circle of highly motivated students. This enables a close collegial relationship between candidates and faculty already established in their areas of professional expertise. It also affords numerous opportunities for graduate students to explore the many and varied aspects of rhetoric and composition, including Writing Program, the Writing Center, and Writing Project participation.

By working intensively with faculty, you will present at national conferences, publish within print and electronic venues, and write internal and external grants. This active participation boosts your growth as a teacher, as a member of an institutional community, and as a professional. Further support for graduate students is offered through scholarships, grants, and assistantships.

Degree Requirements

PhD in English—concentration in Rhetoric and Composition, 90 credits

ENG 601 Research in English Studies
ENG 604 Teaching with Technology


ENG 692 Writing Technologies
ENG 688 Writing Program Administration
ENG 689 Writing Center Research & Admin     3
ENG 693 Writing in the Profession     3
ENG 694 Classical Rhetoric     3
ENG 699  Contemporary Theories Comp.     3
Students must choose either ENG 688 or ENG 689 to fulfill a core requirement.

21-27 additional hours from


ENG 604 Teaching with Technology               3

ENG 692  Writing Technologies                     3
ENG 605  Teaching in English Studies            3-9    
ENG 609  Indiana Writing Project                  3    
ENG 688  Writ Program Admin                      3    
ENG 689  Writing Cntr Res and Admin            3    
ENG 690  Seminar in Composition                  3-18    
ENG 695  Medieval and Early Mod Rhet          3    
ENG 696  19th Century Rhetoric                    3    
ENG 701  Independent Study                         1-3    
ENG 702  Directed Study for Comp Exams      3-6    
ID    601  Tchng Pract in Hi Ed                       3    
Other Courses as approved by advisor.           21-27    


Courses from Master's degree or addition electives  32
DISS 799  Doctor's Dissertation (1-24)            16    
                                                                  90 hrs    
For purpose of advising, enrollment in all graduate courses in the Department of English requires permission of the department.    

Comprehensive Examinations
At the completion of coursework, students take comprehensive examinations covering the concentration and cognates. Oral examinations follow the written exam.

Candidates for the PhD must complete a dissertation on an original topic under the guidance of a committee of faculty. The dissertation requires 16 hours of credit in DISS 799.

Foreign Language
Before writing their comprehensive examinations, candidates must establish competence in one language, other than English, relevant to their research.


Recent Dissertations


Carie Ann King                     
A National Study of the Relation of Rhetoric-Composition to Other English Studies’ Disciplines and the English Departments in Higher Education



Matthew Balk                      
Primary Materials and Historical Narratives: A Case Study of the Ball State Writing Center


Elisabeth Buck                     
Archives, Access, and Authorial Agency: The Visibility of Digital Inquiry in Writing Center Scholarship


Nicki Litherland Baker    
Rhetoric of Place Branding on Local Residents: A Case Study of the Our Story Project



Elmar Hashimov                 
Immersive Learning, Multiliteracies, and Reflective Practice through Scrum


Erin Banks-Kirkham          
Reagan, Rhetoric, and Women Voters: Women’s Representation Through Language in the 1980 Reagan Campaign for President