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 committee should be comprised of three faculty members, two from the department of English (one of whom serves as chair) and one faculty member from outside the department who serves as third reader. Submission of the written thesis is followed by an oral defense.

Students choosing the thesis option must complete a minimum of 36 hours of coursework (including 0-6 hours of thesis credit. Deadlines for submitting the thesis vary each semester and are set by the graduate school.

  1. It is recommended that students complete a minimum of approximately 21 credit hours by the start of the semester in which they wish to register for thesis hours.  A student’s academic preparedness for beginning the thesis, however, is ultimately at the discretion of the thesis chair.
  2. No later than the drop deadline of the semester immediately prior to the term in which the student plans to defend the thesis, he or she must submit a formal proposal to the GSC outlining the nature and scope of the project.  The proposal must include the following:

    1. Copy of the Thesis Committee Appointment Form with all required signatures.
    2. Working title.
    3. Six-page minimum overview of the project describing the background/critical context of the topic area and working thesis.
    4. Working bibliography.
    5. Timeline for completion of the project including the number of credits left to be completed before thesis hours begin and number of courses left to take to complete the degree, if applicable.                                                                                                                                                                                                                
  3. Upon receipt of the completed proposal, the GSC will forward a memo to the head indicating that the student has been approved to register for thesis hours.

Sample Timelines for Completing Degree Requirements and Thesis within Two Years: actual timelines may vary and are subject to approval by the thesis chair

Sample Timeline I: thesis hours taken in final semester only

Term(s) Objectives

Semesters one through three                                    (Fall I, Spring I, Summer) 

  • Complete up to 27 hours of course work
  • Identify topic area
  • Assemble thesis committee
  • Submit Application to Graduate to Registrar 
Semester four (Fall II)
  • Complete any remaining course work
  • Submit thesis proposal by drop day of current semester
  • Register for thesis hours for ensuing semester
Semester five (Spring II)
  • Begin thesis hours
  • Defend thesis no later than two weeks prior to submission deadline set by graduate school 

 

Sample Timeline II: thesis hours taken over final two semesters

Term(s) Objectives
Semesters one through three (Fall I, Spring I, Summer)
  • Complete a minimum of 21 hours of course work
  • Identify topic area
  • Assemble thesis committee
  • Submit Application to Graduate to Registrar
  • Submit thesis proposal by drop day of semester three (Summer)
Semester four (Fall II)
  • Begin thesis hours
  • Complete any remaining course work
Semester five (Spring II)
  • Complete thesis hours
  • Complete any remaining course work
  • Defend thesis no later than two weeks prior to submission deadline set by graduate school

Non-Thesis Option: Comprehensive Examination

Students following this option must complete 36 hours of coursework, in addition to completing the foreign language requirement. The examination should be taken during the final semester of coursework.    

Comprehensive Examination:

In either track, students will develop in consultation with their committee a reading list representative of a  currently recognized sub­field or specialty in their specific 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.

Students will then take a three-­hour written examination over the reading list as well as undergo a followup oral examination over the written test and their coursework. 

In the literature emphasis only, the list should consist of no fewer than six primary sources 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 the list is coherent and meets the above requirements.  

In the literature emphasis only, the exam must contain at least three questions or question categories as  described below:

• One question or category must cover breadth of knowledge in the field or area.

• One question or category must require in­depth discussion of a particular work or perspective  using key facts, concepts, or contexts. 

• One question or category must require the ability to employ various theoretical and/or  pedagogical perspectives. 

Finally, question categories can provide options.

Students who plan to take the comprehensive examination in either area of emphasis may take up to three credits of exam reading hours (ENGL 8995). Students should submit a formal request to the graduate  coordinator briefly outlining the scope of the exam and must include with the request the reading list  assigned to them by their exam committee chair as well as a copy of the  committee appointment form  including all required signatures. The three credits of reading hours can count toward the 36 hours of  coursework required for the degree. Exam reading hours cannot be repeated for credit.