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Our PhD Program

Our top-tier PhD program focuses on the individual scholarly and career development of our students; we prioritize mentorship, professional development, and intellectual exchange, and maintain an abiding excitement about our students’ programs of research. The department is small enough that students get to know our faculty yet large enough to offer expertise in major historical periods and a wide array of approaches to literary study. Students are also assigned a faculty mentor within the first year of the program.

Opportunities for professional and pedagogical development proliferate throughout the program, including:

  • Participation in our departmental colloquia
  • Publishing Practicum to develop a paper for publication by the end of their first year of study.
  • Funded conference travel for graduate students
  • Research Forums with professionals in diverse fields and specializations
  • Opportunity for the potential to teach your own course as a Teaching Fellow

Graduates of our doctoral program have excellent rates of success in securing tenure-track appointments and can be found in broad spectrum of rewarding careers throughout the knowledge economy. Learn more about our Alumni.

All of our students are supported with a combination of grants and teaching assistantships, for more information about funding please visit our funding and awards page.

Milestones in the Program

  • YEAR 1: Completing coursework
  • YEAR 2: Comprehensive Exams & Special Topics Presentation
  • YEAR 3: Dissertation Writing & Conferences
  • YEAR 4/5: Teaching your own course (Teaching Fellow)

For information on how to apply visit our applications page.

PhD Program at a Glance

The Doctoral Program is designed as a 4-year funded program. Some employment is typically available to students registering for additional terms of study. To learn more about our funding, please visit the funding and awards page.


In their first year of study, students enrolled in the Doctoral program normally take the following graduate courses:

  • Professional and Pedagogical Skills seminar in the fall term
  • Research Forum with visiting speakers from a variety of fields and career levels in fall and winter terms
  • 2 elective seminars in the fall term
  • 3 elective seminars in the winter term

PhD students must take courses from any of the three periods that they have not covered in previous graduate level work:

  • Course Group 1: Medieval to 1660
  • Course Group 2: 1600 – 1900
  • Course Group 3: 1900 to present

One of the courses may be an individual Directed Reading arranged with a supervisor, rather than a seminar. Students are strongly encouraged to take the Publishing Practicum seminar to collaboratively develop writing for publication in winter term.

One of the courses may also be taken in a Queen's graduate program other than English, such as Gender Studies, Philosophy, Art, History, Global Development Studies, or Cultural Studies with approval from the Graduate Coordinator and School of Graduate Studies.

Comprehensive Examinations

At the end of the first year and throughout the second year, students establish their expertise in a major field of study and academic employment as well as a foundation in special area studies relevant to their research interests. This is the Comprehensive Examination process, which consists of two parts:

  1. The Field Examination covers one major field of literary study in English—historical, national, or theoretical. This written examination involves one four-hour sitting and one take-home paper written in the Fall term of the second year. A reading guide is supplied to assist students in their preparation. Students meet with examiners during the preparatory period.
  2. The Special Topic Presentation is based on a customized reading plan devised by the student to address a broad issue or cluster of issues of importance to the student's dissertation work. Students work on the STPs during the Winter term of second year and make their presentations to the Department as part of a two-day celebratory event in early May.


In their second year, students submit a Thesis Proposal that maps out their research plan and formalizes their supervisory committee, which consists of a supervisor and second reader. Subsequent years are devoted to writing the dissertation, and with the mentorship of their supervisor and in collaborations with their peers, to a range of opportunities for research presentations and to publication. When complete, the dissertation is defended at an oral examination, which is normally led by a visiting scholar with special expertise in the field.


Doctoral students in Queen's English enjoy an unparalleled introduction to undergraduate teaching in a series of steps with increasing responsibility. In first year, during coursework, doctoral Teaching Assistants grade assignments and meet individually with students, but do not teach regular tutorials; instead they deliver two or three apprenticeship lectures under the supervision of their faculty instructor. In subsequent years TAs have the opportunity to teach their own tutorials for a larger course and, towards the end of the program, there are opportunities to design and instruct their own course as a Teaching Fellow.

Learn more about our graduate courses

Language Requirement

All candidates must demonstrate a reading knowledge of either two languages other than English at a basic level or one at an intermediate level, either by passing a departmental examination or by successfully completing 1) one full year (two terms) of an approved university-level language course for the basic level 2) two full years (four terms) of a university-level language course for the intermediate level.

Publishing Practicum

The Publishing Practicum is an initiative of the English Department designed to foster the early professionalization of our MPhil and PhD students and to provide a competitive advantage in the academic job market and national scholarship competitions.

This seminar takes students through the revision and submission stages of scholarly publishing from draft essay to academic article with the goal of achieving a publishable piece by the end of the student’s first year of doctoral study.

Jesse GauthierJesse Gauthier, PhD Candidate

“I did not expect the publishing practicum to be a pivotal point in my development as a writer, but it was. The collaborative process required a vulnerability and openness to critique that made me a better writer and thinker, and I was inspired and educated by my classmates’ varied approaches to their work every week.”

Robyn Carruthers, PhD Candidate

“Queen’s Publishing Practicum served as a key learning experience in my ongoing professional transition from graduate student to scholar and researcher. The course’s combination of theoretical and practical components effectively allowed me to familiarize myself with the academic publishing landscape in a fashion tailored to my own research interests… Participating in the practicum demystified the academic publishing process for me and concluded with concrete output that sets me up well for pursuing publication of academic articles going forward.”

More testimonials for the Publishing Practicum can be found on the MPhil page.

Department of English, Queen's University

Watson Hall
49 Bader Lane
Kingston ON K7L 3N6

Telephone (613) 533-2153


Telephone (613) 533-6000 ext. 74446 extension 74446


Telephone (613) 533-6000 ext. 74447 extension 74447

Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.