English MA Exam and Thesis: Two Options for Completing Your Degree
In order to complete a Master of Arts in English, students must select one of two options, either taking a comprehensive exam or writing a thesis.
Comprehensive Exam for the MA in English
To satisfy degree requirements, MA students in English who have selected the non-thesis option must pass a two-part comprehensive examination at the close of their studies; they apply to the Graduate School for a comprehensive examination date after earning 24 SCH toward the degree. The examiners are a committee of three graduate English professors at the University.
The two parts of the comprehensive exam include the following: 1) the submission of a fully revised, highly polished seminar paper of at least fifteen pages originally written for a course in the M.A. program; and 2) a one- to two-hour oral exam based on a reading list devised by the department and the student. The student should be prepared to discuss the revised seminar paper with the examination committee at the oral exam, which also requires students to demonstrate understanding of texts from major periods in the history of British, American, and world literatures; draw parallels and demonstrate differences among literature; support claims with textual evidence; and use standard terminology and appropriate theoretical applications.
The reading list includes fifteen works selected by faculty and three texts added by the student in an area chosen as a specialization or area of interest. Students receive the list when they enter the program; it is available in the M.A. Student Handbook. To prepare for the exam students should take classes in as many periods as they can and supplement course work with additional preparation on their own.
Two of the three examiners must assign a passing grade. Otherwise, the examinee will be asked to retake the examination at a later date. Failure the second time will cause dismissal from the degree program.
Thesis for the MA in English
The MA Thesis option allows students to prepare a major writing project in an area of personal interest, whether literature, rhetoric and composition, film, or creative writing. Students demonstrate the ability to conduct advanced academic research and scholarly writing, while receiving guidance from three senior members of the department. Students selecting the thesis option make a formal request for a thesis advisor and committee using a form available from the Graduate Director. The remaining two committee members are selected by the student's nomination and nomination of the thesis director respectively.
Upon approval, the student enrolls in ENGL 5133: Seminar in Thesis Writing. After completion of the thesis, generally between 70-100 pages, the student undergoes an oral thesis defense. The candidate will present an overview of the project and answer any questions posed by the committee in a defense generally lasting one to two hours. After successful completion of the defense, the student makes any necessary changes to the thesis and submits the final and properly formatted version to the graduate office. Students selecting the thesis option do not take the comprehensive examination.
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