MA Program


The MA program is a two-year program with 30 hours of coursework, including at least 15 hours in graduate seminars at the 8000-level. Coursework builds on a student's Bachelor’s-level knowledge of her or his field to provide a broad perspective on literature and culture while allowing for specialization and advanced research work.

Funded students receive tuition benefits and stipend each year. In their first year, funded students receive teaching training in their first semester, and teach one section of English 1000 while taking three courses per semester. In their second year they teach two sections of English 1000, complete coursework, and write an MA Thesis.  (Note: Admission to the funded MA program is temporarily suspended.)

Degree Timeline

First Year: 18 hours of coursework and a ¼-time assistantship in the fall with training to teach composition through shadowing in the Composition Program and through tutoring in the Writing Center. In spring semester, teach one section of English 1000.

Second Year: Complete coursework and teach two sections of English 1000 per semester. Write MA Thesis.

Throughout their time in the department, students will be advised on designing programs of study not only to achieve their personal goals but also to enter the job market as successfully as possible.

Course Requirements

30 hours total of coursework of which 15 hours must be at the 8000 level; the remaining hours may be either 7000 or 8000 level.

3 hours in critical theory (English 8050, English 8060, or English 8070)

Introduction to Graduate Study (English 8005): 1-credit class required in Fall semester of the first year

3 hours are required in 2 of the following 3 areas of literature at the 8000 level. However, for students concentrating in literature, 3 hours are required in each of the following 3 areas:

  • pre-1700
  • 1700-1900
  • 1900-present

9 hours at the 8000 level are required in one of the following concentrations (7000 level courses can be substituted with the approval of the DGS):

  • Literature
  • Creative Writing (6 hours must be in one genre, 3 hours must be in another genre)
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Folklore Studies

Students can take up to 9 hours outside the English Department with approval of the Director of Graduate Studies.

English 8090 is only available during the one or two semester(s) they are writing a thesis.

8010: The Theory and Practice of Composition is required in the fall of the first year for students who will teach English 1000. 

Selecting a Program Committee

A student's program committee - whether an MA thesis committee or a PhD examination and dissertation committee - provides the broad academic advising that will ensure success in the field. Committee members should be chosen in conjunction with the faculty advisor. Students should begin approaching potential faculty committee members by the end of their first year in the program. The committee is registered with the Graduate School with the M-2 form or the D-1 form. The M-2 form, for an MA thesis committee, should be filled out by the end of the first year in the program. The D-1 form is signed at the meeting between student and committee that meets the Graduate School's requirement for a qualifying examination. This meeting takes place by the end of the first year of the PhD program.

The MA Committee consists of at least three members, including two faculty members from the English department and one MU faculty member from outside of the English department.

MA Thesis

The thesis requires independent research at the graduate level in a sustained consideration of a critical or creative project. The MA thesis may build on work produced in coursework but must also include significant new work.

Students present and defend their theses to a committee (composed of two members in the department and one outside member) in an oral defense. 

Required length: 40-60 pages

The successful thesis in Literature will:

  • support an argument with insightful textual analysis.
  • show a command of clear academic prose.
  • demonstrate an awareness of current critical, theoretical trends and/or historical contexts relevant to the project.
  • use library resources to locate and select critical and/or historical sources, and connect them meaningfully to the central text(s).
  • show proficiency in documentation and bibliography.

The successful thesis in Creative Writing will:

  • constitute a polished piece or collection of creative work in the candidate's genre of specialization.
  • demonstrate a nuanced understanding and practice of the genre and/or form in question.
  • by including an annotated bibliography of at least 10 entries or a critical introduction of no more than 15 pages, demonstrate a critical engagement with the practice, history, and/or theorization of creative writing.

The successful thesis in Language and Linguistics will:

  • identify and investigate a problem or question that is relevant to current debates in the field.
  • situate the investigation within the relevant scholarship with appropriate citation of the literature.
  • demonstrate command of methodological and analytical tools suitable for the investigation.
  • demonstrate command of effective writing in an appropriate academic register.

In their first year, students should discuss possible thesis topics with the Director of Graduate Studies and faculty members likely to constitute the student's MA Thesis Committee.

The MA Thesis includes up to 6 hours of English 8090. Students generally take 6 hours of thesis credit in one semester while doing research and writing. Some will take 3 hours in the fall and then 3 more in the spring semester if they are working closely with an advisor at the outset of the second year. English 8090 counts towards the total number of course hours required for the MA, but does not count towards the required number of 8000-level courses. 

For instructions on how to format your thesis see the grad school.


The MA/PhD program is intended for especially well-prepared students who have BA degrees and know they wish to pursue the PhD. It offers enhanced financial support and an accelerated time to degree. In their first year in the program, students take three courses per semester. In their first semester, they receive teaching training through shadowing in the Composition Program and through tutoring in the Writing Center and in their second semester, they teach one section of English 1000, receiving a substantial stipend to ensure that they complete their work in a timely manner. In their second year, while writing the MA thesis, and seventh year, while writing the dissertation, and one additional year of their choice, MA/PhD students teach a reduced schedule of two classes in the fall and one class in the spring without a reduction in pay from our regular PhD package. Students complete MA requirements and begin taking PhD coursework in their second year in the program. Academic requirements for the two degrees are identical with the academic requirements for the separate MA and PhD degrees.

Self-funded MA in English

Students can be accepted into our MA program without the aid of a university fellowship or assistantship. If accepted, students must fulfill all degree requirements, but they do not have to take English 8010, the Theory and Practice of Composition, and do not teach English 1000.

Self-funded students will take seminars, workshops, and other courses with the rest of the graduate student population; permission will be required for participation in the creative writing courses.

Students can pursue the MA either part time or full time, but all students must complete the MA program in the eight-year time limit mandated by the Graduate School.


Emma Lipton
Director of Graduate Studies for Advising and Admission