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Master's in English - Thesis Option


Required Coursework (30 credits total)

  •  ENGS 350: Survey of Literary Theory and Criticism
  •  21 more hours of graduate coursework (i.e. 7 seminars)
  •  6 credit hours in thesis research (ENGS 391)

Other Potential Coursework

  •  A student may opt to conduct an independent study with a member of the graduate faculty. Only one such study will count toward completion of coursework for the M.A. The independent study may not cover the same material as the thesis topic.
  • Students may take 1 100-level course for graduate credit with approval of the course instructor, the Director of Graduate Studies, and the Graduate College. Most     English department Senior Seminars—course numbers 201-282—are preapproved for graduate credit and may be taken with instructor permission.
  • A student may take up to 9 credit hours in graduate courses outside of English. These courses must be approved by the student’s advisor and the DGS.
  • ENGS 345: Practicum in Teaching Writing is required of Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) during their first semester of teaching.
  • GTAs may take ENGS 398: Practicum Continued up to two times after completion of ENGS 345


In January of their first year, full-time thesis students choose a comprehensive examination topic related to their thesis topic and assemble an exam reading committee. Each student chooses as first reader an English Department faculty member who will become the director of the thesis, as well as a second reader (both must be full-time and members of the Graduate Faculty).

During the spring semester, each student draws up a comprehensive reading list, which should focus on a particular work, author, genre, or interpretive problem, but should also include broader reading (in the historical period, writers commonly associated with the central writer, or other genres related to the central genre). Students must consult with their readers when assembling this reading list.

The reading list must include:
•    a 600-900 word description of the exam/thesis topic.
•    a short list of questions to be addressed in the reading.
•    a list of 25 to 35 primary texts.
•    a list of 10-15 literary critical works bearing on these primary texts.

Students must submit their final lists to the Director of Graduate Studies on the last day of classes for the spring semester. Students prepare for the exam over the summer and take it early in the third semester of full-time graduate study.

The first reader writes the examination in consultation with the second reader. The exam consists of three 75-minute essays. It is typical for students to type 4-5 double-spaced pages in response to each question. Exams are open-book and open-notes, but use of the Internet to retrieve information is prohibited. Students should consult with their advisers regarding appropriate editions of sources, and those wishing to use e-readers must make sure that the electronic versions of their texts conform to disciplinary standards and are properly paginated. In all cases, a student's committee must approve of the reading lists.

The first and second readers evaluate all three essays. If their assessments differ on any essay, the DGS will ask an appropriate third reader to break the tie. Students who fail one or more essays have failed the examination and may ask to be re-tested not less than one month after the examination date. The first reader, in consultation with the second reader, will determine what constitutes a fair re-examination. Both readers assess the re-examination essay or essays. Students who fail all or part of their re-examination must leave the Master's program.


PDF iconProspectus Form (PDF)

The thesis prospectus is due to the DGS four weeks following the comprehensive exam. It must include:

  • an overview of the proposed thesis project, including a clear articulation of its argument, methodology, and contribution to an existing critical conversation
  • a chapter outline
  • a bibliography
  • a copy of the above form, signed by the first and second readers (the third reader's signature is optional)

In the fall of the second year or early in the spring, students must find a Chair for the thesis defense. The Chair, who will serve as the third reader of the thesis, must be a faculty member outside of the English department. The DGS and thesis readers may help the student choose a Chair.

Students typically write the thesis between November and February. Most thesis projects are about 60 pages long. Students are responsible for arranging to meet with their advisers and second readers regarding the thesis and for meeting all departmental and Graduate College deadlines. Students should familiarize themselves particularly with the Degree Requirements and Dissertation/Thesis portions of the Graduate College’s website.

The thesis defense must be scheduled at least three weeks in advance (thus students should be scheduling defenses in February at the latest), and the student must submit a “Defense Notice Form” to the Graduate College. Thesis advisers should schedule rooms for defenses through the English Department’s main office. Defenses are open to the public and must be conducted on campus and in person.

Need more information?

Contact Professor Helen Scott, the director of the graduate program, at Helen.Scott@uvm.edu.

Follow the links below to the University catalogue for a printable version of degree requirements.


MA Catalogue

AMP Catalogue