Overview

The Master’s Program in English accommodates the varied interests of students pursuing graduate study in English, including literary and cultural studies, electronic media and film, writing and pedagogy. It is closely linked with the Ph.D. Program, making it ideal for those interested in more advanced graduate work. For those whose primary objective is secondary school teaching, the Master’s program provides the opportunity to specialize in literary and writing studies along with selected coursework oriented to pedagogy. Students interested in writing–creative or critical, aesthetic or practical, print-based or digital—will find a number of courses, including workshops and seminars, devoted to the practice, theory, and teaching of writing. This makes the Master’s in English a good option for students seeking professional advancement in any field involving writing and communication, research, the arts, or administration.

Requirements for Admission

Applications to the M.A. program should be submitted by the appropriate deadline, so that students may begin coursework in the first semester after they are admitted to the program. Students wishing to start in the Fall semester should submit complete applications by August 1; those who wish start in the Spring semester should submit complete applications by November 1st. Consideration will not be guaranteed for applications arriving after these deadlines. Applicants wishing to be considered for all forms of financial assistance should have completed applications to the Office of Graduate Studies by January 15. While the Department gives priority for assistantship funding to Ph.D. students, it has offered such support to a limited number of M.A. students. Decisions are based on an open ranking of the application folders of all students who indicate that they wish to be considered for an assistantship. These folders normally include transcripts of all previous undergraduate- and graduate-level work, GRE scores, letters of reference, the applicant’s statement of purpose, and writing samples.

Program of Study

The program of study, planned with the English Department’s M.A. Adviser, is directed toward the student's interests and specific career objectives. It consists of the following:

Advanced Standing

A student may apply for up to 8 hours of previous graduate credit in English toward the 32-credit hour requirement in the Master of Arts Program. The precise credit value of previous graduate coursework will be determined during the student's initial interview with the M.A. Adviser. Courses presented for advanced standing are subject to all the requirements and restrictions described in the University’s Graduate Bulletin.

Coursework

In English: At least 24 of the minimum 32 credits must be taken in English. All students must take one course:

ENG 500, Textual Practices I (4 credits).

In addition, students must take the following courses in English:

  • One course numbered 600 or above (4 credits) in addition to ENG 698 or 699 (see below);
  • and ENG 698, Master’s Research Tutorial and Examination
    or:
    ENG 699 (4 credits), Master’s Thesis.

In Supporting Field(s):

Students may take up to 8 of their 32 credits in a related field or fields. Under this option, students must seek approval from the M.A. Adviser to take courses in other departments that support but also extend their work in English. Expertise developed in a supporting field will ordinarily be incorporated into the M.A. examination or thesis.

Master’s Research Tutorial and Examination OR Master’s Thesis

All students must complete either ENG 698, Master’s Research Tutorial and Examination or ENG 699, Master’s Thesis, and must have registered for this within twelve months of completing all other coursework for the degree. Both courses involve an independent research project that has been approved by the M.A. Adviser and that is directed by a committee consisting of a Director or first reader who is a full-time member of the Department of English faculty, and a second reader who may be outside of English but must be a full-time UAlbany faculty member. The project will ordinarily grow out of, but must not be identical to, coursework the student has completed for the degree.

 

ENG 698 culminates in what is usually a 48-hour take home written examination, followed by a one hour oral examination arranged by the committee. See Part II, Section 2

ENG 699 culminates in a thesis that may take the traditional form of a critical or a creative project, but may also challenge such distinctions by pursuing projects of comparable scope in such experimental forms of academic inquiry as electronic writing or mixed media. See Part II, Section 3

Guidelines for the M.A. Research Tutorial and Examination (ENG 698)

The Master’s Research Tutorial and Examination consists of an independent research project, culminating in what is usually a 48-hour take home written examination, followed by a one hour oral examination arranged by the committee.

The topic of the research tutorial should represent an approach to English studies that grows out of the student’s experience in the Master’s program. As such, it is typically very much influenced by, but cannot be identical with, the content of coursework completed for the degree.

Students planning to take the research tutorial and examination should begin to formulate a research project as early as possible in their course of study, and should choose their individual courses accordingly. They may also find it useful to compile and revise annotated bibliographies as a way to help define their area of study. Students who complete their coursework without having formulated a tutorial project will likely find themselves at a distinct disadvantage.

Students may not register for ENG 698, Master’s Research Tutorial and Examination, until both their faculty committee and the English Department’s M.A. Adviser have formally approved their research tutorial prospectus. It is therefore imperative that students submit the prospectus during semester before they expect to take the examination. 

Forming the Tutorial Committee

The student begins this process by consulting with the M.A. Adviser to identify faculty members who might direct the research. Ultimately, the tutorial committee must consist of at least two full-time faculty members, one of whom will serve as the director, the other(s) as second reader(s). The director must be a full-time member of the English Department.

In the semester prior to registering for ENG 698 the student should present prospective committee members with a draft of a 500- to 1000-word research prospectus, along with a draft of a bibliography of at least 20 to 30 book-length titles (or their equivalent) that includes both literary and theoretical/critical texts, and which will constitute the basic subject matter of the tutorial and the examination. Working with the committee, the student then revises both the draft prospectus and the bibliography as necessary and, when the committee has approved both, submits them to the M.A. Adviser with a memorandum from the committee members. The proposal and memorandum must be submitted to the M.A. Advisor at least one week prior to the first day of classes for the semester in which the student wishes to register for ENG 698. When the M.A. Adviser approves the prospectus, he or she formally constitutes the committee, names one member as director and notifies all others of their appointment, then allows the student to enroll for ENG 698, Master’s Research Tutorial and Examination (4 credits).

The Tutorial Process

Once the committee has been constituted, the student begins work on the reading list. The student is expected to work independently, but also to communicate regularly with committee members to discuss progress and problems and to determine the direction of further work. The director is charged with supervising this process: being accessible to the student, establishing and maintaining the protocols governing the student-committee relationship, compiling all relevant correspondence, calling any meetings of the group, setting the examination date, and so on. The student is charged with keeping the director informed of his or her progress, but should also remember that faculty members have classes during the school year and may have research plans for the summer. Deadlines and turnaround times for preparatory materials therefore need to be both very explicit and agreed upon well in advance, as does the date for the examination itself.

Taking the Examination

At the end of the semester (or no later than twelve months after completing coursework for the degree), the student arranges with the committee to complete a take-home written examination. On the day scheduled, the student will be given one or more questions by the committee chair, and will then have 48 hours to write an approximately 3000-word response, drawing upon whatever texts, notes, or other materials he or she finds useful. Further, a one-hour oral examination with the student and the faculty committee will be scheduled no sooner than one week, and no longer than one month following the submission of the written examination. This examination will be based on the student’s written examination and the submitted bibliography.

Should the committee judge either portion of the examination to be unsatisfactory, the student is allowed one chance to re-take either or both portions examination on the same tutorial reading list.

In either case, the director of the examination committee must make a written report of the examination results to the M.A. Adviser, and submit copies of the examination materials (i.e., questions and answers) for the student’s file.

Guidelines for the M.A. Thesis (ENG 699)

The Master’s Thesis is an independent research project that may take the traditional form of a critical or a creative project, but students may also challenge such distinctions by pursuing experimental forms of academic inquiry in such non-traditional formats as electronic writing or mixed media. While length will vary with the nature of the project, critical projects should ordinarily run about 15,000 to 20,000 words; creative projects 15,000 to 25,000; and mixed media projects an equivalent length as determined by the committee. The thesis project ordinarily grows out of students’ experience in the M.A. program. As such, it is typically very much influenced by, but cannot be identical with, the content of coursework completed for the degree; the final product must consist of substantially new research and writing.

Students planning to write an M.A. thesis should begin to formulate a project as early as possible in their course of study, and should choose individual courses accordingly. Students who complete their coursework without having formulated such a project will likely find themselves at a distinct disadvantage. In addition, students pursuing the thesis option need to review carefully the relevant University regulations published in the Graduate Bulletin.

Students may not register for ENG 699, Master’s Thesis, until both their faculty committee and the English Department’s M.A. Adviser have formally approved their research tutorial prospectus. It is therefore imperative that students submit the approved prospectus during the semester before they expect to write the thesis, ideally at the time of pre-registration.

Forming the Thesis Committee

The student begins this process by consulting with the M.A. Adviser to identify faculty members who might direct the research. Ultimately, the thesis committee must consist of at least two full-time faculty members, one of whom will serve as the director, the other(s) as second reader(s). The director must be a full-time member of the English Department.

The student should present prospective committee members with a draft of a 750- to 1500-word prospectus that describes the project and that includes, when appropriate, a bibliography. Working with the committee, the student then revises the draft prospectus as necessary and, when the committee has approved it, submits it to the M.A. Adviser with a memorandum from the committee members. When the M.A. Adviser approves the prospectus, he or she formally constitutes the committee, names one member as director and notifies all others of their appointment, then allows the student to enroll for ENG 699, Master’s Thesis (4 credits).

Writing the Thesis

Once the committee has been constituted, the student begins work on a draft of the thesis. The director is charged with being accessible to the student, and for establishing and maintaining the protocols governing the student-committee relationship: setting deadlines for the submission and return of drafts, coordinating the committee members’ responses, compiling all relevant correspondence, calling any meetings of the group, and so on. The student is charged with keeping the director informed of his or her progress, but should also remember that faculty members have classes during the school year and may have research plans for the summer. Deadlines and turnaround times therefore need to be both very explicit and agreed upon well in advance.

Once the thesis has been completed and approved by the thesis committee, it should be prepared in accordance with the guidelines established by the University Library and the Office of Graduate Studies, and submitted to the M.A. Adviser for final approval.