RCID, as a doctoral program, is actively involved in research, following both cultural-humanistic and social-science protocols, separately, through sampling, or in hybrid form, through cross-samplings and remixings. Research is conducted not only in libraries, labs, studios, and computer archives but also in the world of peoples variously informed by their own culture mixed with other cultures.

It is a platitude to say that research contributes to the growth of knowledge; while this platitude is, nonetheless, true, it is true in as much as we recognize that this knowledge is theoretically, rhetorically, and repetitively produced and yet perpetually revised. In this light, research is an updating of what we "know" by way of a justified true belief but also by way of a perpetual verification and revision of what we know, whether the grounding is in certainty, probability, or, as the poet Wallace Stevens says, "supreme fictions."

Research, therefore, is not only the growth of theoretical-practical knowledge but also the production of knowledge. For RCID, research is, as Richard McKeon would claim, "an architectonic productive art."

Exams as Preparation for the Dissertation

The Clemson University Graduate School requires:

"Prior to taking the comprehensive examination before admission to candidacy, the doctoral student must have selected an advisory committee and filed an approved graduate degree curriculum (form GS2) with the Graduate School." See

A student's advisory committee, then, is composed of a Chair and three Readers—possibly a fourth reader—whose initial responsibility is to help the student prepare for his or her examinations (written and oral). If the student selects a Chair and three Readers, the committee must be constituted with faculty from at least two, if not three, different departments. If the student selects a Chair and four Readers, the committee must be constituted with faculty from, at least, three departments. .

The RCID Examinations are closely linked with the dissertation prospectus and the dissertation project itself. The examiners will require that students select pertinent, yet "comprehensive" scholarly material (books, articles, other media) and expect that students assimilate this material in a critical manner. The purpose of the exams, therefore, is to test a student's preparedness to continue the degree through independent study in an area of specialization, with two support areas, and on a specific dissertation research project.

The student should first attempt to draft, as completely as possible, a serious and fully revised prospectus, with extensive bibliography, and then submit the prospectus to his or her Chair for recommendations and revision. (This enterprise should be begun no later than when the student first enrolls in the Studios. The facilitators of the two studios will work closely with the Chairs of students' committees.) This is the point at which the student officially begins to prepare for exams in writing and in an oral presentation on his or her ability to think through the various historical, critical thought experiments, conversations, and problems that previous scholars have confronted and undergone. The students should equally demonstrate the promise of advancing that knowledge further.

There are four exams: three written, one oral-multimodal presentation.

The three written exams include

one exam in a student's primary area that is tied to the dissertation project and two in support areas. These exams are based on selected, yet comprehensive scholarly material that is commonly cited or in need of inclusion and approved by the student's committee, and that is commensurate in selection and numbers of articles, books, etc., with the student's dissertation project itself. For the three written exams, this material may be approximately 75-100 books, with three to four articles being approximately equal to one book. The exact number, however, is not the issue; rather, the exact scholarly works on the project of interest, their quality and importance in an on-going historical scholarly conversation on the project, is the issue. In as much as the exams are diagnostic, they are, nonetheless, comprehensive in terms of the primary and secondary areas. The three written exams must be done within the time limit of seven days, with any variation such as M, W, F; or W, F, Tues.

The oral-multimodal exam is

a 30 minute presentation to the dissertation committee and other interested RCID faculty and students. The oral exam should be comparable to a conference presentation or an on-campus interview with presentation on the dissertation project, but must be in both oral and multimodal formats. Since the RCID program prepares students to develop their thinking across a number of different media, traditional and new, it is necessary that the student demonstrate his or her fluency in a variety of oral and new media formats. After the presentation, there will be Q&A discussion examination of the project and its manner of presentation with all faculty and RCID students present. After the discussion—the time is to be determined by the Chair—all will be asked to leave the room so that the Chair and the committee can question and deliberate with the student.

Here are select Possible Paradigms for Four Exams—each by an RCID student whose dissertation is in the general area of

Example 1: Information Design
a. Area of Support: Visual Rhetorics/Communication
b. Area of Support: History of Rhetoric (say, since Ong on Ramus, et. al, "geometric patterns of thought")
c. Dissertation Primary Project Area: "Information Design"
d. Oral exam as conference presentation of specific area and support areas for "information design" (30mins, multimodal presentation)

Example 2: Postmodern Ethnography: Stephen Pfohl
a. Area of Support: Anthropology (revisionary, Geertz, Wagner, Clifford)
b. Area of Support: New Media
c. Dissertation Primary Project Area: "Postmodern Ethnography"
d. Oral exam as conference presentation of specific area of and support areas for "Ethnography" (30mins, multimodal presentation)

Example 3: Rhetorical Invention
a. Area of Support: Electronic discourse
b. Area of Support: Critical theory
c. Dissertation Primary Project Area: "Rhetorical Invention"
d. Oral exam as conference presentation of specific area of and support areas for "Rhetorical Invention" (30mins, multimodal presentation)

Example 4: The Sister Arts
a. Area of Support: History of Art in Rhetoric (ut pictura poesis, ecphrasis)
b. Area of Support: Visual Rhetorics and New Media from a feminist perspective
c. Dissertation Primary Project Area: "The Sister Arts"
d. Oral exam as conference presentation of specific area of and support areas for "The Sister Arts" (30mins, multimodal presentation)

Once the exams have been satisfied, the student is to prepare the final prospectus, approved by the student's Chair and committee (with signatures), and submit it to the Director of RCID. The final approval of the prospectus is determined solely by the student's Chair and committee. However, the RCID AC, for the sake of oversight, may make recommendations to the Chair and committee. The original copy will be kept on file by the Director of RCID.

Dissertation Prospectus Outline

The Dissertation Prospectus must follow and include this outline of topics:

A. Statement of Research Problem, Question, Issue

Research, at the stage of a needed rationale, begins with the discovery and statement of a problem, question, or crucial issue. Therefore, the student should state, as clearly as possible in at least one page, what his or her research problem, etc., is. So as to avoid the exclusive use of high-level abstractions, the student should give, if need be, several examples of how the problem manifests itself.

B. Review of Scholarship

The student should summarize as succinctly as possible the major as well as minor or even tangential researchers who have worked on the problem, question, or crucial issue that will be investigated. In a phrase, the student is to report comprehensively What has been done. This review should include accounts of the approaches and results. The student should explain how his or her assumptions and approach might be different from previous researchers, or investigators.

C. Significance of the Research

The student should explain Why the research project is important to him or her and How the project will contribute to the growth of knowledge. The student should not assume, however, that others will necessarily see and agree that there is a problem to work on. The student may have to spell out in detail Why and How there is, in fact, a problem worthy of investigating and offering a solution. (To emphasize: The student must argue for both a statement of fact and a statement of value.) If the problem is a common, on-going and a valued one acknowledged in research community, the student should simply move to a discussion and justification of a particular or combination of methodologies to be used.

D. Methodology

The student should indicate How he or she will "research" the problem, question, crucial issue, and show Why this is an appropriate method or methods. The student should call on the methodologies studied in Core Seminars in research (RCID 802 and 803), either empirical or cultural methodologies or perhaps both. The student should be specific in terms of method and expected outcomes.

E. Tentative Organization

In outline form, the student should list chapters with titles and give brief, yet informative, summaries of what will be covered in each chapter. The structuring and sequencing of the chapters should unfold in a systematic, logical manner.

F. Preliminary Bibliography

The student should provide a comprehensive list of works that he or she will have read and studied critically for both the qualifying exams and this project. The student should get as much help as possible from his or her Chair as well as other faculty and students, perhaps in the proper colloquia, and should take care to determine what might be needed that is not presently available in the Clemson libraries. But the compilation of works to study should come out of the student's actual reading and studying of the works themselves. The student should look for the scholarly "conversation" often signaled within books/articles in each publication/report that the investigator is having with previous scholars.  Any work that is not pertinent to the over all project will be considered padding. The actual bibliography in the prospectus should be composed of three separate, yet complementary bibliographies in the primary and the two secondary areas.

In general, a complete, well-thought out prospectus can run around 20-30 pages.

Dissertation, Preparation of Manuscript

For the dissertation requirements—including electronic formatting—in preparation for submission to the CU GS, see

Graduation Deadlines:

The GS7 is the form used to indicate whether a student passed his/her final comprehensive exam, and is now also used to indicate committee approval of the student’s thesis or dissertation (where applicable). You can see the new GS7 at

Collaborative Research Between Students/Faculty

It is a common practice in many Graduate Research Programs for a graduate student to work with a faculty member who is a Primary Investigator on a major, funded research project. As long as the student's contribution is a major, yet separate, part of a funded project, this part may function as his or her separate dissertation. The student is expected to write, submit, and defend the dissertation as normally defined by the graduate school policy.
All research is finally the result of collaboration. The RCID program encourages collaboration not only at the level of the dissertation project but also at the level of journal and book publications as well as in terms of papers presented at scholarly conferences. Collaboration, however, is not to be confused with plagiarism, which manifests itself in many forms. Please study plagiarism.php

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