The M.A. in English: Plan I (Thesis)

Plan I includes successful completion of both the writing and the oral defense of a critical or creative thesis. Writing takes place under the supervision of the chair of the student's GSC. Prior to beginning the thesis, a student requests departmental approval by writing a prospectus.

The Prospectus

The prospectus is a formal proposal or offering, ranging from 4-7 pages in length with an appended bibliography and, for the creative prospectus, a writing sample.

A critical (rhetoric and composition or literature concentration) thesis prospectus makes an original argument.

  • Identify whether the work proposed has never been done, has not been done correctly, or has not been done thoroughly. Back this statement by a thorough search of historical and current secondary sources.
  • State exactly what is to be proven (your thesis or claim).
  • Explain why the work proposed should be done. If the thesis will have some larger significance for its field, explain this significance.
  • Outline how the thesis will break down into chapters. To get ideas about the typical size and structure of an M.A. thesis in English, consult the collection of theses housed at Sterne Library.
  • Minimally, examine each item in the bibliography. In the event that the bibliography includes something you have not yet seen, use square brackets to annotate this fact.

A creative thesis prospectus may be more descriptive.

  • Identify the genre and describe the organizing principle for the creative work.
  • Project the length of the finished thesis project. Typically, a creative thesis contains 20-30 poems or 8 short stories. To get ideas about extent, consult the collection of theses housed at Sterne Library.
  • Explain how much of the thesis project has already been done and where. The preponderance of writing should occur in EH 699.
  • End the prospectus with a bibliography of collateral reading—theory; influences; necessary background in history, geography, and so forth. Minimally, examine each item in the bibliography. In the event that the bibliography includes something you have not yet seen, use square brackets to annotate this fact.
  • Append a writing sample of a sufficiently high standard that the committee will be convinced of your work's quality and significance. Typically, the writing sample will consist of 3-5 poems or 10 pages of prose.

A prospectus is reviewed by all members of the GSC before being submitted by the Graduate Program Director to the departmental graduate committee. Consult the graduate calendar (available in the English Information Center) for the date by which the Graduate Program Director must receive a prospectus. Departmental graduate committee approval is required before students are allowed to enroll in EH 699.

EH 699

Successful completion of two sections of EH 699 is required for all Plan I degrees. In order to register for EH 699, Plan I students must have secured departmental approval of their prospectus and have processed paperwork to establish their GSC and their candidacy. Ideally, students schedule the oral defense of their thesis during their second term of EH 699. Students are required to be registered for one or more courses during the term when the oral defense occurs and during the term when they graduate.


While every effort is made to keep information on the Department of English web site as accurate and up-to-date as possible, students are responsible for verifying course requirements and program status by seeing the appropriate university advisor(s) and program director(s).