Thesis and Non-Thesis Options

Thesis Option

A master's thesis in English should be a work of 50 or more pages demonstrating competent and substantial research coupled with an innovative approach to the subject matter. The thesis will be directed by a faculty member and a committee of two other faculty members (one of whom must be from outside the English Department). Once the thesis has been submitted, students will have a defense covering both the thesis and their coursework.

Students following this option must complete a minimum of 36 hours of coursework (including 3-6 hours of thesis credits), in addition to completing the foreign language requirement. Deadlines of submitting the thesis are printed in the Graduate Bulletin.

Students choosing to write a thesis should adhere to the following timeline:

  • Second semester of coursework: Students should meet with an advisor whose area of expertise is appropriate to the intended area of study. With advisors, students will work on developing topics and selecting two other members of their examination committees. Students interested in writing a creative thesis or one in rhetoric and composition should request specialized guidelines from the graduate coordinator.
  • Third semester: Students should prepare the preliminary written work required by the committee, which may include an annotated bibliography and a prospectus (a four- to five-page discussion of the proposed thesis, outlining the content of each proposed chapter and containing a preliminary bibliography). This prospectus must be approved by the committee.
  • Fourth semester: Students should draft the thesis, circulating copies to the committee members for their suggested revisions. The thesis should be submitted in the final semester of coursework. The thesis should conform to the latest MLA style sheet and should follow the schedule and format guidelines printed in the Valdosta State University Thesis and Dissertation Guide. A copy of this guide is available in the Graduate Coordinator's office.
  • Once the committee members read the thesis, each student will defend it in an oral examination. This examination will also pose questions about the breadth of the student's studies. The committee may ask the student to rewrite portions of the thesis and/or to make a brief presentation on some aspect of his or her studies.


Non-Thesis Option: Comprehensive Examination

Students following this option must complete 36 hours of coursework, in addition to completing the foreign language requirement.

Comprehensive Examination:

  • Students will develop, in consultation with their committee, a reading list representative of a currently recognized sub-field or specialty in their area of emphasis.  This list should consist of no fewer than 20 secondary sources (articles and/or book chapters), excluding material that students have already studied in their classes.  In the literature emphasis, the list should consist of no fewer than six primary sources and no fewer than 20 secondary sources (articles and/or book chapters) and should seek depth of coverage in no fewer than two recognized periods in British and/or American literature.  Committee chairs should ensure the list is coherent and meets the above requirements.  Students will then take a three-hour written examination over this reading list and a one-hour follow-up oral examination over that written test and their coursework.  These examinations should be taken during or immediately after the final semester of course work.  Students following this option must complete 36 hours of coursework.

The examination committee may require students to retake one or both components of their comprehensive examinations. Before retaking the examination, students must schedule meetings with their committees to determine areas requiring special attention. If they do not pass after the second attempt, they must wait one semester and complete whatever remedial work their committees suggest. They may retake the examination a maximum of four times.