MA Handbook 

The Master of Arts (MA) program in English equips graduate students with the knowledge and skills necessary both to the outstanding teacher and to the well-prepared candidate for further graduate study. The graduate committee of the department accordingly requires its master's candidates to follow a course of advanced study that leads to a comprehensive knowledge of English and American literature. Candidates are also given training in the principles of literary criticism and in the use of bibliographic tools so that they will have a general competence in criticism and research.

Applicants must meet the general requirements of the Graduate School, with the additional requirement that they have a 3.000 grade point average in their previous work in English courses. The coordinator of graduate studies in English will then evaluate the applicant's transcript, prescribing additional undergraduate hours for those who have fewer than 24 credit hours in English and American literature or in other work acceptable to the department of English. Courses in freshman composition, grammar, teaching methods, journalism, speech, etc., may not be included in the required 24 hours. Exceptions may be made for outstanding students who have majored in related fields.

In addition to Graduate School application materials, applicants to the English MA program should submit a 500 word statement of purpose explaining their goals or reasons for pursuing an MA in English as well as their skills, accomplishments, or experience that suggest they will be able to succeed in the program. The English department Master of Arts program accepts applications for admission on an ongoing basis.

Applicants who have earned degrees at institutions in countries in which English is not the standard language of instruction must score at least 600 paper­based, or 100 Internet-based on the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) Examination, or an overall band score of 7.5 on the IELTS before being admitted to the MA degree program in English.

All MA candidates in English are advised by the Graduate Coordinator in English. The Coordinator and student establish a plan of study that takes into account the student’s interests and future vocational plans.

Transfer of Credit. Students must complete 24 hours of credit at Wichita State within the English department. Students may transfer up to 9 hours of credit on the Plan A and Plan C programs and up to 6 hours of credit on Plan B. If the credit to be transferred comes from a program in which the student took a graduate degree, the time limits imposed by the Graduate School on other transfers of credit will not apply. Credit for transfer courses will not count toward the required number of courses at the 700 level or above unless the transfer hours are of appropriate level from Kansas Board of Regents institutions.

Master's degree candidates in English may fulfill the department’s foreign language requirements in any one of the following ways:

  1. By submitting a transcript showing the completion with a grade of C- or better of at least 15 hours of undergraduate work in a single foreign language or the equivalent as defined by Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
  2. By completing the required 15 hours of undergraduate work in a single foreign language.
  3. By taking a test administered by the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literature in the elected foreign language, with a successful score determined by the English department.
  4. By taking at WSU or submitting a transcript showing completion of 6 hours of Linguistics with a grade of C- or better.

ENGL 700, Introduction to Graduate Study in English, normally should be included in the student’s first semester of graduate study. At least seven courses towards all degree plans must be at the 700 level or above. The remaining hours may be taken at any level 500 or above. Candidates offering 500-, 600-, or 700-level English courses for graduate credit must satisfy a higher differential of performance relative to undergraduate students in the same courses, with the nature of this differential set by professors.

There are three programs leading to the degree. Plan A, which emphasizes literature, composition, and pedagogy and consists of 33 units, is especially designed for teachers. Plan B, a 30 unit plan which requires the student to submit a master's thesis, places more emphasis on research, scholarly writing, and the independent study of literature. Plan C, which emphasizes comprehensive and cohesive study of literature, also requires 33 units and is designed for students who wish to pursue advanced study of literature through coursework.

All three degree plans require the following core literature coursework: ENGL 700, Introduction to Graduate Study in English; two major author(s), genre or special topics classes (ENGL 508, 512, 513, 514, 515, 516, 520, 536, 540, 546, 580, 712, 713, 714, 715, 816, 840, 860); two courses from British Literature before 1900 (521, 522, 524, 526, 527, 720, 721, 722, 724, 726, 730, 814); one course in American literature before WWI (503, 504, 703, 704); and one course in 20th/21st century studies—British, American or Anglophone (532, 533, 705, 728, 733).

With graduate coordinator approval, courses with a minimum of 80 percent the content meeting a requirement can occasionally be used to satisfy a requirement other than the one for which they are listed. No single course can be used to satisfy more than one requirement. A major author(s) course cannot be used to satisfy a period requirement. With approval of the graduate coordinator, a course can be repeated once for credit if at least 80 percent of the content is different. At least seven courses must be taken at or above the 700 level. All English Department classes at the 500 level or above not taken to meet another requirement can earn credit as an elective provided that student has sufficient coursework at the 700 level or above. With graduate coordinator approval, one elective may be taken in another department or college, such as the College of Education.

In addition to the above core requirements, each degree plan has additional requirements as follow:

Plan A requires the completion of the core requirements plus one course in composition theory and pedagogy (680, 780); and three elective classes in Linguistics, Literature, or methods of teaching English. A Master’s thesis is not required, but students must take a comprehensive examination guided by their coursework and a standard suggested reading list. A Plan A student will be examined on two literary periods, one American, one British. At least one of the two literary periods must cover literature before 1900. Students in Plan A will also be tested on a question drawn from composition and rhetoric pedagogy. Students may take either the December or May comprehensive examination by informing the graduate coordinator of intent to do so.

Plan B requires the completion of the core requirements plus two elective classes in Linguistics, Literature, or methods of teaching English; and a Master’s thesis (ENGL 890). A maximum of 3 hours of ENGL 890 can be applied toward the degree. Plan B also requires a written comprehensive examination and an oral thesis defense. The oral defense committee includes the director of the thesis, a graduate faculty member from the English department, and a reader from outside the English department who is a graduate faculty member. The written comprehensive examination will be guided by their coursework and a standard suggested reading list. A Plan B student will be examined on three literary periods, with at least one each from American and British. At least one of the three literary periods must cover literature before 1900. Students may take either the December or May comprehensive examination by informing the graduate coordinator of intent to do so.

Plan C requires the completion of the core requirements plus four elective classes in Linguistics, Literature, or methods of teaching English chosen in consultation with the graduate coordinator. Plan C students must take a written comprehensive examination guided by their coursework and a standard suggested reading list. A Plan C student will be examined on three literary periods, with at least one each from American and British. At least one of the three literary periods must cover literature before 1900. Students may take either the December or May comprehensive examination by informing the graduate coordinator of intent to do so.

SPECIAL NOTE: Graduate students who are also teaching assistants must take English 780, 581, and 681. English 681 and 780 may be used for degree credit. English 581 may not be used for degree credit.

Written Comprehensive Examination     (For all degree plans): All degree plan students must take a written comprehensive examination. The exam divides British and American literature into seven historical fields or periods surveying authors, genres, and works from each period. These periods include: I. Medieval British Literature; II. Renaissance British Literature; III. Restoration and 18th Century British Literature; IV. Romantic and 19th Century British Literature; V. Modern British Literature; VI. Early and 19th Century American Literature; and VII. Twentieth Century American Literature. An additional exam area for Plan A addresses the field of composition and pedagogy. Students may take either the Spring or Fall comprehensive examination (typically held in April and November) by informing the Graduate Coordinator of intent to do so in writing by a deadline date that normally falls mid-semester.  Further information on MA Comprehensive Examinations appears below.



The Graduate Coordinator is available to advise students regarding their degree plans and to sign their registration materials. Graduate student registration materials should be approved only by the Graduate Coordinator or the Department Chairperson. Other kinds of counseling such as that related to more advanced study can be arranged by appointment with the Graduate Coordinator.

In order to define a program of study for a graduate degree, students must submit the Plan of Study form leading to admission to candidacy for the degree no later than the semester following the completion of 12 semester hours of graduate credit or the semester prior to the semester of graduation, whichever comes first. After approval by the Graduate Coordinator, the Plan of Study is submitted to the Graduate School for approval. Students may make changes by filing a Plan of Study marked “Revised Plan,” approved by the Graduate Coordinator and the Graduate School.

English 850 is intended for the qualified student as an opportunity to do further work beyond the regular courses in the Department of English.

In order to undertake a Directed Reading, the student should first discuss with the Graduate Coordinator the suitability of the directed reading for the student’s plan of study. If appropriate, the student then solicits the efforts of an instructor who is willing to direct the course. In consultation with that instructor, the student develops a prospectus that includes a statement of purpose, the method of evaluation, and a preliminary bibliography. The student submits the completed prospectus, signed by the proposed instructor, to the Graduate Coordinator for approval. The prospectus must be approved prior to the student’s enrollment in English 850 (preferably during the semester preceding the one in which the student intends to enroll). Under most circumstances, no more than one directed reading would be approved as part of a student degree plan.

Upon completion of the course, the student must file a statement with the Graduate School. Forms are available on the Graduate School portion of the university web site.

All candidates for the MA degree must pass a final written comprehensive examination, as specified above in the description of degree plans. Students are urged to consult their advisor or advisors concerning the scope of the examination and the items on the book list. Students should have a record of course work in their comprehensive examination fields. Course syllabi are not designed toward the comprehensive examinations, so students should pursue additional reading beyond course requirements. Recommended reading lists are available to help guide student reading. 

Students should take the comprehensive examination in the last semester of their course work or as close to that time as is feasible. The comprehensive examination is given twice a year (in the fall and spring semesters); no comprehensive examination is given during the summer session.

Four weeks in advance of the scheduled date of the examination, students are required to give to the Graduate Coordinator written notice of their intention to take the comprehensive examination. The scheduled date of the examination will be posted each semester. The MA Comprehensive Exam is divided into three fields, and candidates must pass all three fields to be eligible to receive their degree. Candidates who fail one section of the exam may repeat that section of the exam once. The candidate must answer a question based on the same literary period as the original failed section.  Any exceptions to this policy require approval of the Graduate Studies Committee or other appropriate faculty body.

Guidelines for MA Comprehensive Exam Essays: A strong comprehensive exam essay should demonstrate: knowledge of specific literary texts; knowledge of literary terms and historical concepts; understanding of major modern literary critical issues; ability to write a coherent essay in a grammatically correct and lucid style.

Students should prepare for the comprehensive exam during an extended period, preferably the two semesters that precede the exam.  They should be familiar with the major texts assigned in the relevant course syllabi, and with the reading lists suggested by the coordinator of graduate study. An effective way to review literary periods and historical concepts is to read the introductions and headnotes included in the Norton, Longman, or Heath anthologies and in other reference books such as the Cambridge histories of English and American literature.


  1. ARGUMENT.  Does the writer address the question asked? Is the response guided by a clear thesis or central idea that is directly relevant to that question?  Does the writer understand the critical issues raised by the question?
  2. RANGE.  Is the writer familiar with appropriate critical, theoretical, and/or historical contexts?  Has the writer demonstrated suitable breadth of knowledge of texts while attending to nuances of meaning?
  3. EVIDENCE.  Has the writer selected appropriate textual examples from the correct historical time period?  Has the writer offered a sufficient number of examples and discussed them in an appropriately balanced way?  Does the writer pay close attention to details when analyzing texts?
  4. COHERENCE.  Do the examples support the argument of the essay?  Is the essay coherent and organized?  Have all parts of the question been considered?
  5. STYLE.  Are there a minimum of grammar and style problems?


  1. PREPARE TO WRITE.  Read the question carefully and understand what is being asked.  Plan your response and write down a brief formulation of a proposition and at least a rough outline of the essay's principal parts and the chief examples you will use.
  2. BUILD YOUR ARGUMENT.  Do not repeat the question, but do state your thesis and then explore it in a series of points.  Address the issues raised by placing them in a theoretical, historical, and/or literary context. Answer all parts of the question.
  3. DEVELOP EACH POINT.  Demonstrate understanding of key critical terms used in the question.  Discuss examples from literary texts in some detail, using more than one example when necessary.  Conclude your essay with a strong, substantial paragraph.
  4. REMAIN FOCUSED.  Get right to the point.  Keep your main focus on the literary texts, avoiding vague language and broad, unsupported generalizations.  Avoid retelling stories, plots, or narratives.

The Master’s Thesis is intended to be a demonstration of the student’s ability to formulate a problem in literary study, to pursue its solution through appropriate scholarly, critical, and analytical techniques, and to present the results in suitable written form. Although the essay need not be thought of as a publishable contribution to knowledge, it should develop a new interpretation, reinterpret available information, present a new approach to the given material, and/or refute or modify some interpretation(s) previously appearing in print. It must demonstrate the author’s ability to assemble and evaluate pertinent materials from primary and secondary sources. In final form the essay must develop a central thesis. The writing must be clear, free from solecisms, and suited to the occasion. The Master’s Thesis would normally extend to a length (exclusive of title page, preliminaries, bibliography, appendices, etc.) of 25 to 50 pages. Though work on a thesis may extend beyond one semester, students are expected to progress significantly toward a finished thesis during the semester for which they receive three units academic credit. Students are encouraged to use semester breaks and summer as needed for research and academic enrichment, including work on a thesis. However, they should not expect that faculty will be available to guide or evaluate projects during those times.

Preliminary Steps: The candidate may select an essay which he/she has written in an English course granting graduate credit and which he/she feels is worthy of further development, or he/she may select another topic altogether. With the Graduate Coordinator and/or a chosen thesis director (first reader), the candidate will discuss the possibilities of converting such a paper or another topic into a thesis. The Graduate Coordinator is available for consultation regarding the choice of an appropriate faculty director (first reader) for the project. Normally the student should choose a director from whom he/she has taken courses or who is otherwise familiar with the student’s work. The student approaches the prospective director, and if that person agrees to serve, the student and the director determine a potential second reader drawn from the English department faculty and third reader drawn from another department of the university. The student approaches and obtains agreement from these two additional readers. Prior to enrollment in English 890 (thesis hours) but after obtaining agreement from a second reader, the candidate will submit to the Graduate Coordinator a prospectus—devised in cooperation with his/her director and second reader—which contains the following information: the name of the student, the director and the second reader, the tentative title, and a 3-5 page research statement explaining a) the research problem, including a clear delimitation of the subject and definitions of important terms; b) the hypothesis or main idea (may be under development at this stage); c) the relations between the project and published scholarship or criticism; and d) a sense of the importance of the project. A preliminary bibliography of primary and secondary sources, including recent and important scholarship must be attached.

After examining the proposal, the Graduate Coordinator will approve or disapprove the project. He/she may also offer specific suggestions about the future development of the essay.

The Director and the Second Reader: The candidate and his/her director will work together to fulfill the requirements for the essay. When the director feels that the essay has been adequately completed, the candidate will submit it to the second reader. Depending on candidate, director, and reader preference, the second reader may review the essay in parts (such as after completion of each chapter) or as a whole. The second reader is empowered to make suggestions which he/she thinks will improve the thesis in terms of any scholarly form, style, content, and/or organization. When the candidate has appropriately addressed the suggestions of the second reader, the essay is ready to be submitted to the third reader, who is also empowered to make suggestions which he/she thinks will improve the scholarly form, style, content, and/or organization of the thesis. Each reader individually may decide whether the defense needs to wait until suggestions are addressed, or whether the defense can go forward while revisions are being completed. 

The Full Committee and the Oral Examination: When the director and the second reader accept a version of the essay, the student may apply for a date for his/her final oral examination (though completion of revisions may be required before the defense takes place). The final date to submit a request for an oral defense date is normally a month before the end of the semester. Final dates for completion of the oral examination are available from the Graduate Coordinator, and usually fall approximately two weeks before the end of the semester. No oral examinations will be given during summer session.

Upon receipt of the student’s application for an examination date, the Coordinator will confirm a committee to be appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School. The committee consists of the student’s Director, the second reader, and the third reader. The examination is open to all members of the faculty and to graduate students in English. The Graduate Coordinator will notify the Graduate School of the date, time, and location of the oral examination.

At least ten days before the scheduled date for the oral examination, the student must submit a typewritten copy of his/her thesis incorporating all revisions to date to each member of his/her committee. (See the Graduate School Bulletin for mechanical requirements). The copies of a thesis presented to the orals committee should be “printer ready,” including free from errors. The thesis director will be responsible for the enforcement of this rule.

The candidate will be expected to defend the thesis and to demonstrate knowledge of the areas of learning related to the subject of the thesis. Such knowledge would include extensive acquaintance with appropriate primary and secondary sources such as works of the author(s) studied, biographical and historical detail, the topic’s position in literary and intellectual history, and the criticism and scholarship on the topic.

If two members of the committee accept the thesis and approve the candidate’s performance in the oral examination, he/she will be granted up to three hours of credit. A unanimous committee vote shall be required before a thesis can be awarded “distinction.” Votes by members of an oral examination committee may be cast by secret ballot, if requested by any member of the committee.

Regulations Concerning Rejection of an Essay: If an essay is rejected, the candidate will be advised by his/her committee to carry out one or more of the following suggestions:

  1. Do further research and re-write the essay (form and content unacceptable).
  2. Re-write the essay (content is satisfactory, but not form).
  3. Do further reading in areas related to his/her essay (paper is acceptable, but oral examination is weak).
  4. Take additional course work in prescribed areas (he/she is not yet prepared to do the essay properly).

The candidate must wait at least ninety days before re-submitting the essay or retaking his/her oral examination.

A FINAL NOTE: It is the student’s responsibility to be aware of and to comply with all deadlines, including the deadline to file for degree, which normally falls very early in the semester in which the degree is to be awarded.

Occasionally students become inactive in the program for a wide variety of reasons. Although we recognize that any number of personal or professional causes might interrupt your studies temporarily, the Graduate School expects to see students making “satisfactory progress” toward completion of a Master’s degree within six years. Course work older than 6 years but not 10 years from the time of graduation must be validated if the work was done at WSU. Students who have remained inactive for a significant period of time without remaining in contact with the Graduate Coordinator will be moved to non-degree B status. Should the student wish to return to degree-seeking status at a later date he or she would have to reapply to the program.

Course Revalidation: The purpose of course revalidation is to certify that the student retains sufficient competency in the subject matter to achieve a grade of B or higher (B- is not accepted by the Graduate School) as the course is now taught to warrant crediting the course toward a graduate degree. Appropriate requirements for course revalidation might include producing an annotated bibliography on the topic of the original course paper and revising the original course paper to reflect the current state of scholarship, writing a new paper or papers on course subject matter not to exceed 5,000 words (20 pages), and/or taking a rigorous written exam to demonstrate broad competency on the course content as it would now be taught. If the revalidating professor knows the student well and has strong reason to be confident that the student has current competency in the subject matter (as, for example, in a case where the student has recently been working with the professor on a directly related, good quality thesis), requirements might be modified, substituting, for example, additional thesis research and/or an oral examination for other written assignments. The faculty member and the student should develop a written contract for the methods and standards for revalidation. This contract should be submitted to and approve by the Graduate Coordinator. Graduate courses should only be revalidated by graduate faculty with expertise in the course field.

Revalidation is a courtesy to students, not a duty. Faculty are never obligated to agree to assist a student with course revalidation even if no other faculty member is available. Students always have the option to request an exception to the course time limits from the Graduate School, to retake the class, or to take a new class to substitute for the expired one.