Carnegie Mellon University
Ph.D. in Rhetoric

Ph.D. in Rhetoric

The Doctor of Philosophy in Rhetoric at Carnegie Mellon University is one of the oldest Ph.D. programs in rhetoric in the United States and one of the most prestigious. The program focuses on how people produce and understand discourse across a variety of social, cultural, and material contexts, in schools, workplaces, and communities. The program familiarizes students with the history and theory of rhetoric and language study and with a variety of methods, qualitative and quantitative, for systematically exploring their interests in research projects and dissertation work. The program prepares students for academic careers centered on the history and theory of rhetoric, research about the writing process and communication design more generally, or rhetorical approaches to discourse and cultural studies. Among our areas of inquiry are these:

  • How do rhetors shape the resources provided by history, culture, and the nature of the human mind and of human language, for the purposes of inquiry and change?
  • How do cultural and disciplinary assumptions about language and language users influence the choices people have available for how to act, how to talk, how to be, and how to influence others?
  • How are people's perceptions and discourse strategies shaped by literacy, broadly conceived, and by technologies for writing and other modes of communication design? How do people use literacy to construct meaning for personal and public purposes.
  • How has the study of rhetoric and writing instruction functioned historically in the academy and how does it function now?
  • How can scholars and students use resources from rhetoric to reach out into the non-academic world, to learn to learn from others and facilitate communication across cultural boundaries?
  • What methods do discourse scholars have for studying processes of communication in academic and other professional settings, and for proposing and implementing effective and ethical ways of improving such processes?