Program Requirements

When completing the Master of Arts in English, Master of Arts in Writing and Master of Science in Education in English you will perform guided and independent work both inside and outside the classroom.

Your core English courses include literature, writing, linguistics and theory, but you will be able to customize your degree by choosing a specific track to pursue.

In addition to coursework, you must also do the following:

  • Demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language
  • Complete a research component, either a thesis or degree paper(s)
  • Participate in academic conferences
  • Take a comprehensive examination

Core degree requirements

These courses come from a variety of English disciplines and provide a solid background for your program.

Core requirements   (18 hours)

All students in the MA program in English must complete the following 18-hour core:

Additional degree requirements   (minimum of 15 hours)

  1. Track Options & Requirements.  The different tracks described below outline 15 additional hours of graduate-level course work.  Students should choose electives with an awareness that at least half the credit hours applied toward the 33 hour requirement must be in courses numbered 700 or above.  
  2. Language Proficiency.  The language requirement may be met through one of the following options:  (a) completion of 12 hours of undergraduate course work in a foreign language with at least a "C" average; (b) completion of the second intermediate foreign language college course with a grade of "C" or higher; (c) completion of 6 hours of undergraduate course work in one foreign language with at least a "C" average and completion of 6 hours of undergraduate course work in a second foreign language with at least a "C" average; (d) passing a reading competency test equivalent to the level of the second intermediate foreign language college course administered by the Department of World Languages and Cultures; or with advisor's permission; (e) completion of an additional 3 hours of graduate-level linguistics course work (raising the student's degree minimum to 36 hours).  M.A., English student in the TESOL track must meet this requirement through a, b, c, or d above.  Any M.A., English student whose native language is not English will be considered to have met the language requirement.
  3. Research Requirement
    Thesis:  The thesis will ordinarily involve research on an original subject or an original approach to a subject.  When appropriate, the thesis may be a creative work.  Credit for the thesis (ENG 799), up to 6 hours, may apply to the minimum 33 hours required for the degree.  A student must submit, and have approved, a formal thesis proposal before embarking on a thesis project and enrolling in ENG 799, Thesis.
    Degree Papers:  The paper may be a critical, interpretive, or investigative study of an original topic or an original treatment of a subject, based on primary sources.  When appropriate, the paper may be creative work.  The project must derive from a course taken to satisfy a degree requirement
  4. Colloquia.  Students are expected to attend and participate in academic and professional activities.  These may be scheduled by the department or may include university and community events (scholarly conferences, professional workshops, lectures, and presentations).
  5. Comprehensive Examination.  The graduate student in English takes the comprehensive examination during the last semester of course work or later. 
    The comprehensive examination for the MA in English is based on reading lists that reflect the student’s particular degree emphasis.  Each student will prepare for two examination areas, and write two, two-hour essays.  Students should begin preparing for the examination early in their graduate studies.

Research requirement

You will need to complete either a thesis or a degree paper.


You will typically research an original subject or take an original approach to a subject. You may also, if appropriate, submit a creative work.

Two faculty readers and a graduate faculty advisor must approve your thesis. If you are considering doctoral work, we typically recommend you write a thesis. It will give you extensive experience in independent research.

Creative thesis

If you are working toward an MA in English in creative writing, you will usually write a creative thesis. This may be a collection of poetry, a collection of short fiction, a novel, a novella, a collection of personal essays, a memoir, a graphic narrative, or a work of mixed genre. The thesis should also include a critical introduction with a bibliography.

Degree paper

As a graduate student, you will typically write seminar papers for your 600-level courses. These papers can serve as the source material for your degree paper. When appropriate, they may also be creative works.

For more information about the specific research requirements, please contact the graduate program director.


You are expected and encouraged to participate in scholarly conferences, professional workshops, lectures and presentations. 

Comprehensive exams

You should plan to begin studying for your comprehensive exams as soon as you begin your graduate coursework. Exams for Master of Arts in English candidates contain two, two-hour essays. Exams for Master of Science in Education in English candidates contain two, one-hour essays. The exam for the Master of Arts in Writing candidates consists of two, 90-minute essays and an oral component.

Comprehensive exams are offered in October, March and June each year.

For more information about comprehensive exam requirements, please contact the graduate program director.