Master’s Essay

The M.A. Master’s Essay requires revision of a scholarly essay of 25 to 30 pages, the approximate length of a journal article, and reformulation of this essay to the 7 to 8 pages appropriate for presentation at a conference, preferably a department colloquium. In both length and in level of scholarship, the long version of the paper should be modeled after articles published in specific scholarly journals in the field and the abbreviated version should reflect familiarity with conventions of conference presentation. In addition to the primary focus on revision, the process for this project involves research of appropriate publication venues, and a final oral examination of the project as whole. The project’s intent is to demonstrate that the student is able to engage in the process of and produce scholarly work at a level expected by the profession and consistent with the degree program.

The phases of the process are as follows: 

  1. Enrollment in ENGL 598. This is a one-semester course in which students will complete their projects under the supervision of a member of the degree program faculty. The supervising faculty member will also guide students in selection of two additional committee members: one additional member of the graduate English faculty and one member of the graduate faculty from outside the department as required by the Graduate School, to evaluate their project and to participate in their final oral examination.
  2. Selection of and revision of an essay to article length. Students engaged in this capstone process are expected to work closely with the supervising faculty member as the primary source of advice in the preparation of their essay, including approval of the selected essay. Students will give to the supervising faculty member a draft copy of their selected essay, which should have as its focus the student’s primary area of specialization. The supervisor will assess the essay and recommend revisions.
  3. Research of publication venue(s). Utilizing the MLA Bibliography, other appropriate indexes, and the suggestions of the supervising faculty member, students select two or more publications to which they could possibly submit their revised article-length essay and create an annotated description of each venue (including audience, range of content, typical length and discourse style and level of articles, and style requirements). Students will be encouraged, but not required, to submit their essay for publication.
  4. Revision of the essay to length appropriate for conference presentation. Students will identify, with suggestions from supervising faculty member, strategies for condensing the article-length essay, i.e., selecting a single facet of the argument to elucidate, maximizing their own argument in relation to primary and secondary source support, and creating an engaging presentation strategy. Students will be required to present their paper as participant in a department colloquium or other appropriate conference venue.
  5. Oral exam. Students will schedule an oral exam meeting in accordance with Graduate School deadlines and provide each member of their supervisory committee with a copy of their completed project materials (revised essays of article- and conference-length and annotated catalog of publication venues) at least 14 days prior to their scheduled exam. The committee will assess the materials and judge them (a) acceptable, (b) acceptable with further minor revisions, (c) acceptable with further major revision, or (d) unacceptable. The committee has the option of awarding an extraordinary project a “Pass with Distinction.” Committee members will come to the exam prepared with comments and questions for the student. Students whose projects are judged to be unacceptable will not be allowed to graduate that semester. 

Students are encouraged to undertake the Master’s Essay process in the first half of their third semester of full-time graduate work, or soon after completing 18 hours of coursework.