Comprehensive Examinations and Thesis for the M.A. Degree

Students may elect to write a thesis or take a comprehensive examination in one of the seven M.A. areas of study.

Comprehensive Examinations

View the upcoming exam schedule (PDF).

Students write essay responses to questions in a take home format. These exam periods would be, usually, the first weekend in October and a weekend in late February/early March. Reading lists are emailed to the graduate student list-serve with the application two months before the exam. The list of texts changes with each offering of the exam. Below, students will also find statement of expectations for each exam area. See the Graduate Student Handbook, section 3.5, for more information on the M.A. exam process.

British and American Literature

English Education

Film and Literature


Literature and Rhetoric/Writing

Rhetoric and Writing

TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages)

M.A. Thesis

The M.A. thesis fulfills the comprehensive examination requirement for the degree. 

The thesis project is an original work of scholarship that makes a contribution of knowledge to the field. It is written with the guidance of a committee of three members of the graduate faculty, one of whom will serve as the director of the thesis. 

The thesis requires the following steps:

  • Formation of a committee;
  • Writing of a thesis proposal, which must be approved by the committee (and sometimes defended before the committee);
  • Submission of paperwork to the Institutional Review Board (IRB);
  • Research and writing of the thesis. under direction of the committee; 
  • Deposit of thesis at the Graduate School, meeting university deadlines for graduation.

Work on the thesis should begin no later than one calendar year before the anticipated graduation date. You can find forms and deadlines at the Graduate School's Student Resources.