Typically, 30 semester hours are required for the Master of Arts in English. Every applicant in literary studies who, after completing 12 hours of graduate work, and has attained a grade point average of at least 2.75, will take a Diagnostic Examination. On the basis of this exam or the completed writing or research assignment, as well as other materials pertaining to the student's graduate performance, the evaluating committee will make recommendations to the department chair about the candidate's graduate program. Among these recommendations will be the total number of hours that the candidate needs to complete the degree. Exceptionally well-qualified students may earn the master's degree in fewer than 30 hours; students with deficiencies may be required to take up to 36 semester hours of graduate study.
Because the Masters of the Arts is not a specialist degree, candidates must take a balanced program of courses. For students of literature, such a program will normally include a balance of early and later literature and of English and American literature. For students in the writing concentration, such a program will normally include 12 hours of writing courses and 12 hours of literary studies.
For students of literature, a thesis on an approved topic, for which either 3 or 6 semester hours of credit are granted, can be accepted if the Diagnostic Examination committee has agreed. For students in the writing concentration, a writing project approved by the graduate committee of the department for which 3 or 6 semester hours of credit may be granted, can be accepted if the writing or research assignment committee has agreed.
Graduate assistantships are offered to qualified students in the M.A. program. The assistantship is essentially an apprenticeship in teaching, and assistants gain experience in a traditional freshman composition curriculum using the writing process for basic expository, argumentative, and research essays. Competent assistants making satisfactory progress toward the degree normally renew their assistantships for a second year.