Thesis and Non-Thesis Options
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This is an important decision within our English M.A. program, and it will be your decision.  You will be expected to make this decision early in your program when you fill out your formal "Program of Study" forms, although it is possible to change your mind and revise your "Program of Study" forms at a later date.

In order to begin a thesis, English M.A. students must submit the following documentation:

If you choose the non-thesis option, you will take two additional graduate classes. If you choose the thesis option, then, usually, the last six hours in your program will be thesis hours (ENGL 5990).  The thesis, as approved by your graduate committee, must be submitted to the Dean of Graduate Studies for review and approval at least three weeks before the end of the semester in which you expect to complete your degree requirements.  If you do not complete your thesis during the term when you enroll in ENGL 5990, you will receive an IP (In Progress). If you have not completed the thesis within a year of first receiving the IP, you will be assessed tuition and fees for one credit hour for each subsequent semester until you complete the thesis. (For the purposes of this policy, summer terms are not considered semesters.)

We would like you to decide whether you are likely to benefit more from the experience of two more graduate classes or from the experience of writing a thesis. The amount of work associated with both options is comparable; you may write more pages while taking two classes, but we expect even higher quality work in a thesis.  The process of working on a more in-depth project can be an important developmental experience, and we do encourage you to think carefully about the thesis option if you are thinking about applying to Ph.D. programs.  On the other hand, some students work best within the more structured expectations of graduate classes and may benefit more from taking two more classes.


The thesis in literary criticism should have three parts:

1. A 2-5 page statement of critical principles and influences.

2. A polished 20-30 page critical essay.

3. A 5-10 page annotated bibliography of major works that pertain to the subject of the critical essay.

Writing a scholarly thesis should be seen as an opportunity to delve into a subject which greatly interests you and to test your ability to write an in-depth, original study on that subject.  The First Reader or Major Professor on your thesis committee should be a professor with whom you are able to work closely and who is knowledgeable and shares an interest in that subject.  Your Major Professor should be involved in the planning as well as the actual writing stages of your thesis.  The Second and Third Readers on your committee should also approve your plan, although it is not assumed that they will be as involved in the stages of revision during the writing process.  The coordinator of the graduate program will help you pick out your three-person committee.


Like a scholarly thesis, a creative thesis is an opportunity to take your work beyond the level that is possible in the classroom.  A creative thesis will be composed of fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, or a combination of these genres.  Your First Reader should be a professor with whom you have a good working relationship, and who shares your interest in the kind of writing you wish to do.  You will work closely with this professor, taking your thesis through several drafts.  Your Second and Third Readers can be literature professors rather than creative writing faculty in the Languages and Literature Department.  The length of a creative thesis will vary, of course, due to the genre and other considerations.  Generally speaking, a poetry thesis should contain a minimum of 25-30 pages of poetry (not less than 20 poems), and a short fiction thesis or a creative nonfiction thesis should contain a minimum of 50-60 pages of prose (not less than four stories or essays).