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English M.A. Information

The Master of Arts in English at MSU provides a comprehensive overview of advanced literary study as well as courses in creative and technical writing and linguistics.

English M.A. FAQ

MSU's Graduate School has open enrollment, so prospective students may apply to the online MA at any time.

No. Registration, unlike graduate admissions, is not perpetually open. It is restricted to periods that are outlined on the Registrar’s site. Students who are admitted before the advanced registration period for a given term are able to secure courses for the forthcoming semester. Students who are admitted after those dates may have to rely on waitlists or plan to attend the following semester.

No. When we first made the MA in English available online, we spent a great deal of time and energy discussing how we could render our admission standards both flexible and fair. We decided to abide by the most basic admission standards we could generate. We realize that even these basic standards are not always ideal in all situations, but we found no other way to remain consistent and ensure that all students were given the same opportunity to enroll.

We stress undergraduate coursework and GPA because we want to make sure that students have the preparation they need to do well in our rather traditional degree. The best way to gauge that is to look at their performance in a range of undergraduate English courses.

If students have successfully completed the equivalent of our minor, they should have the requisite knowledge needed to succeed in the program.

The English program has only two admission requirements, and only one of those two requirements directly addresses a student’s performance within the field of English studies. When we decided to allow for conditional admission to the program, we opted to make the condition contingent upon the non-discipline-specific standard: the GRE score. We were not willing to allow students to temporarily circumvent the requirement of undergraduate coursework because that would be tantamount to stating that students do not need to demonstrate a basic understanding of English studies before they enter the program.

Conditional admission grants students extra time to achieve an admission standard. Waiving requirements remove a particular standard for admission. Our program allows for the former but not for the latter. Students conditionally admitted to the MA in English program still have to meet the “special requirements for admission to [our] particular program” (graduate catalog); they are able to take up to 12 hours of English coursework before they have to achieve the requisite score on the GRE. If they meet the score requirement, they are unconditionally admitted. If they do not, they are denied entrance to the program.

The aforementioned distinction may also help to explain why we do not offer conditional admission to students who lack undergraduate coursework in English. If we were to grant this “temporary status” to students, we would then have to request that they complete the undergraduate coursework that they lack while they are working on their graduate degrees. Most students are understandably loath to do so, and we ourselves see no point in asking students to complete their undergraduate training while they try to earn graduate credit in English. We, therefore, require students to come to the program with the necessary undergraduate coursework.

Unlike undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees have no basic core that renders them fundamentally similar or makes the credit earned within them easily transferrable. Discipline-specific concerns shape both form and content, and individual programs necessarily utilize the modes of instruction and methods of assessment that are best suited to their subject matter. Given this wide and necessary divergence, it is impossible to say that successful performance in one program will guarantee successful performance in another. To gauge general graduate performance, we look at a nationally-normed test that has long been a graduate school standard, the GRE.

Yes. The student just needs to make sure that the Graduate School receives an official record of the scores (either from ETS or from a school that has the student’s GRE scores on file). We do not set time limits, but we do insist that scores must be officially documented by a testing or academic institution.

No. Although all of our classes are worthy of graduate credit, they cannot (and should not) be considered microcosms of the program. Students who excel in Linguistics may struggle in Literature classes, while those who triumph in Creative Writing may find that Literary Criticism is a challenge they can't quite master. To give the most obvious example, we have a number of students who do well with methods that are embedded in specific classes but struggle with the general research methods in ENG 603. In consequence, we do not consider performance in one or two classes alone as an indicator of a student's ability to successfully complete the program. We look to more holistic markers, such as the range of undergraduate coursework and performance on a general, standardized test. 

Yes. Unclassified students can take up to 12 hours in any discipline, so even students who do not meet the program’s admission requirements can still take up to four graduate English classes at MSU.

Thesis FAQ

To qualify for the thesis option, you must complete the following steps before they have completed 24 hours in the program (note: hours toward completion include any transfer credit): 

  1. Identify and define a clear research/creative project.
  2. Secure a graduate faculty member from MSU’s English department willing and able to serve as the thesis chair.
  3. Work with the thesis chair to secure a full committee (comprised of three graduate faculty).*

*Students who wish to include an outside reader on MSU thesis committees may petition the thesis chair and the graduate coordinator to do so. Approved outside readers must (a) hold a terminal degree, (b) serve as graduate faculty in their home institutions, and (c) possess an area of specialization that relates directly to the student’s thesis topic. Outside readers must also be willing to abide by the rules, regulations and scheduling decisions of the MSU thesis director. 

No. Faculty will only consider thesis projects they can productively oversee. If chosen projects are too far removed from the expertise of the existing faculty, if students are unable to demonstrate independent research and writing skills, and/or if faculty are already serving on a number of active thesis committees, faculty reserve the right to deny individual thesis requests. 

You should pursue the thesis option if you wish to complete a sustained writing project that will aid in your intellectual development. A thesis is an option for motivated self-learners. It is not a requirement for the degree. As many of our graduates have demonstrated, students can earn an MA degree, teach at the collegiate level, and even go on to doctoral programs without completing a thesis.

A critical thesis is an extended exploration of an important issue in English or American literature, rhetoric and composition studies or linguistics that engages with current research in the field. Literary analyses should be roughly 80-100 pages in length, rhet/comp and linguistic theses anywhere from 50-75 pages. Examples of successful critical theses are available in our library.

A creative thesis may be an independent novella or a compilation of poems or short stories, or another creative project similar in scope. Its length and scope depend on the genre and style of writing adopted, but creative theses are usually 30-70 pages long. A compilation would typically contain 20 or more short poems (or the equivalent) or around 5 short stories. Examples of successful creative theses are available in our library. 

After securing a thesis chair and committee, and at least one semester before enrolling in thesis hours, you must submit a thesis prospectus or formal outline of the proposed project. If the prospectus is approved by the thesis committee, you may enroll in thesis hours (ENG 699) the following semester.

The thesis prospectus is your articulation of the plan and structure of the thesis. The overall shape and length of each prospectus will be determined by your focus, but each prospectus should include the following: 

  • A title page that lists the working title of the project, your name, and the make-up of the thesis committee.
  • An articulation of the research question being asked (critical thesis) or the aesthetic issue being addressed (creative thesis, whether critical or creative, the prospectus should show an awareness of what has already been produced in the field and an understanding of the way the project will fit into the existing discourse.
  • A general overview of the project (i.e., a postulated answer to the research question or a full description of the new aesthetic material that will be produced). 
  • An explanation of methodology (for critical theses, this includes a description of the relevant body of published criticism and the critical methodology to be employed; for creative theses, this includes a description of the preparation and drafting processes, for creative theses, this includes a description of the preparation and drafting processes).
  • A timeline toward completion.
  • A working bibliography.

In order to receive credit for the six hours of ENG 699, you must complete and successfully defend the thesis. Ideally, this defense happens at the end of the semester in which thesis hours are taken. Upon completion of the thesis, you must submit the finished project to the members of the committee and schedule a defense. At the thesis defense, you will offer an oral overview of the project and answer any questions that the committee members pose. If the committee members find the written work and oral defense acceptable, they will approve the thesis. Once the thesis is approved by the committee, and the committee chair submits a grade for the thesis hours, you must submit a properly formatted copy of the thesis to the graduate office.

M.A. Course Descriptions

Designed to meet National Council of Teachers of English and Kentucky Department of Education guidelines to prepare candidates for the clinical semester in the areas of disposition, content knowledge, pedagogy, curriculum and assessment. The course may include up to 15 clock hours of Level III field experiences.

A linguistic approach to the study of meaning in language.

Principles of grammar from current theoretical perspectives.

An invitational, intensive institute for practicing educators and administrators that focuses on their development and training as writers and writing teachers. Includes a yearlong follow-up obligation.

An invitational, intensive institute for practicing educators and administrators that focuses on their development and training as writers and writing teachers. Includes a yearlong follow-up obligation.

An in-depth study of composition theory and research with a heavy emphasis on the analysis and critique of important sources in the field of composition and rhetoric.

Advanced study of representative writers, texts, genres, and themes of the American Renaissance.

Advanced study of representative American poetry.  

Advanced study of representative American novels.

An advanced thematic study of American literature.

A survey of literary theory from the twentieth century to the present.

The study of themes, movements, or modes in British Literature that span multiple literary periods; or of clusters of authors. May be taken only once for credit.

Advanced study of representative British novels and the development of the genre from its beginnings to the present.

Old English culture, epic and lyric poetry, and prose will be studied in translation. Selected passages from Old English literature will be read in the original language.

Intensive study of Chaucer’s early poetry, Troilus and Criseyde, and The Canterbury Tales (in the original Middle English). Fulfills the Major Author requirement for the MA in English.

Prerequisite: previous study of Shakespeare or consent of instructor. Intensive study of Shakespeare’s works. Fulfills the Major Author requirement for the MA in English.

Intensive study of a significant American author (about whom there exist reference resources and a substantial amount of critical commentary). Fulfills the Major Author requirement for the MA in English.

Intensive study of a significant British author (about whom there exist reference resources and a substantial amount of critical commentary) excluding Chaucer, Shakespeare and Milton. Fulfills the Major Author requirement for the MA in English.

Intensive study of Milton's poetry and major prose. Fulfills the Major Author requirement for the MA in English.

Advanced study of representative writers, texts, movements and themes in African-American literature and culture.

Advanced study of selected major writers of the English Renaissance with an emphasis on Spenser, Shakespeare (excluding drama), Donne, and Jonson. 

Advanced Study of representative British writers, texts, literary forms, and themes, 1660 to 1798.

Advanced Study of representative British writers, texts, literary forms, and themes, 1789-1832. 

Advanced study of representative British writers, texts, literary forms, and themes, 1832-1901.

Advanced Study of representative British writers, texts, literary movements, literary forms, and themes, 1901 to the present.

Advanced study of representative dramas and the development of the genre from the advent of Realism to the present.  

Advanced study of representative dramas and the development of the genre from the Greeks to the mid-nineteenth century.  

Advanced study of representative writers, texts, genres, and themes focusing on an American literary period.

Advanced study of representative American fiction from its beginnings to the present.

Advanced study of contemporary literature in English or English translation. 

Advanced study of the relationship between literature and film.

Individual study in any area in English under the direction of the graduate English faculty. Requirements: a written proposal approved in advance of starting the work; a copy of the final report for the departmental files. May be taken only once to count toward degree requirements

Stresses syntactical studies primarily in the English language, and specifically in the use of American English structures.

Advanced instruction in poetry writing: organic and traditional structures; tone and persona; the sentence and the line; the lyric, dramatic, narrative, and meditative stances; and other concerns of poetics. An intensive writing workshop format with emphasis on poetry in the contemporary idiom.

Advanced instruction in fiction writing: plot, conflict, characterization, point of view, atmosphere and other concerns of contemporary fiction. An intensive writing workshop format with emphasis on contemporary fiction and the audience and market for literary fiction.

Both theoretical and practical applications of all psychological aspects of language.

Principles of analysis, process, and definition; program, recommendation, and research reports; proposals and memoranda; visual aids; transitions, mechanics of clear and precise statements. 

Theory and practice involved in individual and institutional language patterning.

M.A. Course Rotations

Note that ENG 636 (Major American Author) and ENG 637 (Major British Author) are courses that may only be taken once for credit. If you enroll in either course a second time, your first grade will be canceled out, even if the author is different.

These courses will be complemented by summer offerings. Some winter term offerings may also be available.

  • ENG 636 (Major American Author)
  • One British Literature course TBD
  • One Linguistics course TBD

  • ENG 637 (Major British Author)
  • One American Literature course TBD
  • One Writing course TBD

Course Substitution or Transfer

Eligible students may substitute or transfer a maximum of nine semester hours of graduate credit earned at another institution. Further, Students must have earned this credit at an accredited graduate institution within 10 years of the date on which the graduate program requirements are completed.
The earned credit must have been accepted as credit towards a comparable program at the institution from which the transfer is sought.
Students must have completed each course with a "B" or better.

Students with coursework that meets these conditions can and should submit a Graduate Program Course Substitution or Transfer Request Form for each course they seek to transfer. Each substitution/transfer form must be accompanied by an official transcript documenting the date the course was completed and the grade earned. Should the need arise, the English Graduate Coordinator (and/or the Associate Dean) will request more information, such as graduate catalog course descriptions, course syllabi, etc. 

Completed course substitution/transfer forms, official transcripts and other supporting documents (if necessary) should be emailed to the English Graduate Coordinator at

Additional Criteria and Pointers Regarding Course Substitutions and Transfers

  • No coursework can be substituted until the student has successfully completed 3 hours of graduate English credit at MSU.
  • Students need not include Social Security numbers, even if the form requests it. Only the MSU ID is required.
  • A separate form must be completed for each course the student is seeking to transfer. Failure to submit individual forms means the transfer will not be processed.
  • In applying for transfer credit, students do not have to designate a specific class in the MSU program for which the substitution is sought. Rather, students need only note the requirement covered by the transfer credit. (For example, a transferred course in screenwriting from an accredited school could count toward MSU’s 3-hour writing requirement in the English MA.)
  • Only one official transcript is necessary when submitting multiple course substitution forms. In such cases, requests for multiple substitutions must be submitted with the transcript, as one packet.
  • Students must ensure the Graduate Coordinator receives official transcripts. If students are not able to submit official transcripts with completed transfer request forms, they must contact the department to guarantee official transcripts have been received.
  • Students must submit any supplementary supporting materials in a timely fashion upon request. Failure to do so means the transfer will not be approved.

Ultimately, students must be able to justify why a course from another institution should count toward degree completion at MSU. Submitting a request for substitution/transfer credit and official transcripts only begins the course substitution/transfer review process; it does not guarantee transfer credit. The Graduate Coordinator and Associate Dean will evaluate the application and supplementary materials and render an appropriate decision regarding course substitution/transfer.

English M.A. Exit Exam

Information on the English M.A. Exit Exam

Contact Us

Department of English & Modern Languages

111 Breckinridge Hall
Morehead, KY 40351

PHONE: 606-783-9448