Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction: Concentration in Literacy Studies

Exams, Candidacy, & Dissertation

Qualifying Exam

Upon completion of coursework, doctoral students must complete a Qualifying Exam. The QE is a evaluation that represents each student's concluding performance and demonstrates their academic mastery of the field of study.

Students in the Literacy Studies program have two options available to complete the Qualifying Exam: (1) The Summative Test and (2) The Text Production Option

• The Summative Test is 12 hours in length, administered over a 3-day period in 4 hour segments, and integrates the work in the student's specialization area, the secondary concentration area, and measurement or foundations area.

• The Text Production Option is a process in which the student develops a text that reflects his or her ability to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate major areas of importance within his or her field of study. The text may represent emerging forms of scholarly, multi-media approaches reflecting standards of the field.


Upon successful completion of the qualifying exam, the student files the appropriate paperwork with the Dean’s office requesting admission into candidacy. Once the candidacy is approved, the student becomes a doctoral candidate (rather than a doctoral student). 

Dissertation Process

Beginning with the semester immediately following admission to candidacy, the student must be enrolled for a minimum of 2 dissertation credit hours each semester.

Students may elect not to register for dissertation hours during the summer semester if they are not using university facilities or other USF resources, including faculty and staff time. If such resources are being used, then enrollment in a minimum of two dissertation hours during the Summer semester is required. This includes the semester during which the dissertation is defended and the semester in which final submission of the dissertation is made to the Graduate School.

Proposal. During candidacy the doctoral candidate writes a proposal for the dissertation research. The proposal is an important document that outlines the doctoral candidate’s research plan. Throughout the proposal development process, the candidate should actively work with her or his major professor and consult the dissertation committee members for their expertise and feedback.

Research. Following the proposal defense, the candidate conducts the research, analyzes the data, and develops a written dissertation document. Options are available regarding the format of the document and the inclusion of multimedia and arts-based methods. Students work with their major professors and committees to determine the parameters for the

Defense. The dissertation is a summary of the complete research process. The Defense requires the student to present an oral summary of his or her research followed by rounds of questions from the dissertation committee.