Ph.D. Program in French and Francophone Studies

Ph.D. Program in French and Francophone Studies

Program Description

The Department of French and Francophone Studies offers a Ph.D. degree with specializations in culture & society and literature as well as dual degrees in French and Francophone Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, in French and Francophone Studies and African Studies and in French and Francophone Studies and Visual Studies. Graduate students accepted into the Department’s Ph.D. program are expected to acquire a broad factual and theoretical background in French Studies, advanced proficiency in oral and writing skills, and a thorough grasp of research and teaching methodologies. Students select one specialization and may add other subspecialties.  Many of our graduate students also pursue Minors, such as the Social Thought minor.

Admission Requirements

Students interested in the Ph.D. program in French may apply for admission directly into one of the two specializations (Culture & Society or Literature) or under general status with the specialization to be determined after arrival at Penn State. No admissions preference is given to either category of students; all prospective students are judged according to the admissions criteria outlined in the handbook the student receives when he or she begins graduate studies in French at Penn State.

Requirements for All Specializations

Requirements listed here are in addition to requirements stated in the DEGREE REQUIREMENTS section of the Graduate Bulletin.


Students must earn a minimum of 33 to 36 credits (or equivalent) beyond the Master’s degree in French.

The Ph.D. degree prepares candidates for careers in teaching and research at the college or university level. Between 33 and 36 credits beyond the M.A. in French (or equivalent) is required in course work at the 400, 500, 600, or 800 level.  Candidates who have not taken these courses while completing their M.A. at Penn State must take FR 571 French Literacy Theory and Criticism (3), FR 580 Approaches to French Civilization (3), FR 581 Theory and Techniques of Teaching French (1-6), FR 501A Pro-Seminar in French Studies I (1.5), and FR 501B Pro-Seminar in French Studies II (1.5). Credits must be distributed in one of two areas of specialization: culture & society or literature.

A maximum of 12 credits may be earned in teaching methodology (French 581) and in supervised teaching (French 602). Such credits are supplementary to the 33 to 36 credits required for a doctoral specialization, except in applied linguistics where FR 581 is required for the specialization.

Occasionally, the acceleration of course work is possible where a student has a significant academic background in a designated area. Acceleration should be requested by the student’s advisor in consultation with the student’s graduate committee. Acceleration requires the approval of the director of graduate studies and the department head. Candidates whose prior training does not include courses prerequisite to one of the doctoral specializations are required to complete such courses.

The Chair of the Committee responsible for the specialization, in consultation with other members of the Graduate Faculty and the Department Head, evaluates the graduate training and teaching experience completed at other institutions. A record of any credit to be transferred or of course equivalencies is placed in the candidate’s file, with a copy to the candidate. Waiver of any coursework can only be granted with the approval of the advisor, the instructor of the course being waived, and the Department Head.

All students are required to take the Pro-Seminars in French Studies, FR 501A and FR 501B, within the first two years of entering the program whether at the M.A. or the Ph.D. level.  (The Pro-Seminar is offered every other year.)  Doctoral students who are preparing for the job market are required to take the Pro-Seminar a second time.

Ph.D. Committee and Examinations

All doctoral students must pass a Candidacy examination and a Comprehensive examination.

Examinations will be written and defended in French.  Exceptions are occasionally made for dual-title Ph.D.s, if serious efforts to find outside members who can read and comprehend French fail, and the DGS, Head and advisor are convinced the student does not need to prove their ability to write or speak French.  If outside members know only some French, the exam will be written in French but the oral exam will be bilingual.  Every effort should be made to locate outside and special members with some knowledge of French.

The Ph.D. Thesis

The thesis (also called “Ph.D. or Doctoral Dissertation”) is a formal demonstration of a student’s ability to conduct high-quality research that poses significant questions and proposes new approaches, implications, and insights. It should represent the culmination of work as a student and, at the same time, demonstrate a student’s expertise to colleagues and peers.

Chapters of the thesis should be submitted to the advisor as they are written. Committee members may prefer to read the thesis chapter by chapter or they may wish to review only the full draft version. This should be decided in consultation between the student and the committee members, preferably at a meeting with the full committee. Both the thesis advisor and the student are responsible for ensuring the completion of a draft of the thesis and for adequate consultation with all committee members well in advance of the oral examination.

Each member of the committee will make any suggestions he or she may have within two weeks of receiving the completed draft. If, at the end of these two weeks, no committee members request major revisions to the thesis (editing suggestions do not qualify), the final oral examination date may be set. The request for examination must be submitted to the dean of the Graduate School for approval at least three weeks prior to the date of the exam.

The Thesis Guide

Students should consult the Graduate School Thesis Guide for the thesis format. This guide, available online, through the Thesis Office or in Pattee Library, contains complete and updated information regarding the thesis format, preparation, appendices, etc. The Graduate School also provides special thesis formatting templates for use on word-processing systems:

Normally, the thesis defense may not be scheduled until at least three months have elapsed after the completion of the Comprehensive Examination, although the dean of the Graduate School may grant a waiver in some cases.

The final oral exam must take place ten weeks before the end of the Semester. Please check the calendar of deadlines posted every semester by the Graduate School.

Please note that this is a basic outline of the major steps leading to the award of a Ph.D. in French and Francophone Studies.  For more details and information, please see the Graduate Handbook.