Master of Arts in English

The UW Oshkosh Master of Arts in English program is designed to foster creative and scholarly explorations of English language and literature. 

The MA in English is a 36-credit degree. Required courses include:

  • 704: Research Methods (3 credits)
  • 795: Graduate Capstone (3 credits)

Students must take a minimum of 18 credits at the 700 level.  Elective 700-level courses include: 

  • 701: Seminar in Literature (3 credits)
  • 702: Seminar in Linguistics (3 credits)
  • 703: Seminar in Theory and Criticism (3 credits)
  • 708: Special Topics in English Studies (3 credits)
  • 709: Seminar in Creative Writing (3 credits)
  • 714: Seminar in Rhetoric and Writing (3 credits)
  • 796 Independent Study (3 credits)

Students may take a course more than once with different optional content.

All MA students are required to take at least two cultural studies or literature courses (6 credits), at least one rhetoric/composition or linguistics course (3 credits), and at least one creative writing course (3 credits).

Up to six credits of 500-, 600-, or 700-level coursework can be non-English courses, but they do not have to be. Only three credits of non-English 700-level coursework may count toward the 18-credit minimum of 700-level coursework. The remaining three credits of allowed non-English credits, whether taken at the 500, 600, or 700 level, will be counted as 500/600-level credits.


Students must be admitted to candidacy before beginning capstone work. Admission to candidacy requires that the student be in full standing, have completed all deficiencies (if applicable), and have filed an Application for Admission to Candidacy Form (formal plan of study). Students are expected to submit a prospectus for the thesis or a proposal for the non-thesis capstone within one semester after reaching the stage of candidacy.

Each degree candidate will choose a thesis or non-thesis capstone project. The thesis is a substantial work of 60-80 pages in areas such as creative writing, linguistics, literature, or rhetoric. The non-thesis option requires a substantially revised seminar project of approximately 25 pages and a written exam. Both options include an oral defense for completion.

Requirements for the capstone options are available below:

Creative Thesis

Format and Content Requirements

Approval by thesis director

The prospective Creative Writing Thesis Director will assess Master of Arts in English students’ readiness to undertake a Creative Writing Thesis (i.e., competency and/or credit hours).

Students wishing to submit a Creative Writing Thesis must, like other master’s degree candidates, obtain approval from a thesis adviser and submit a prospectus. Students are encouraged to submit projects that have undergone a rigorous process of discussion with the Creative Writing Thesis advisor.

Note: If a student assembles an interdisciplinary committee, the thesis itself must still adhere to M.A. in English Creative Writing Thesis Guidelines.


Thesis Format

The Creative Writing Thesis must include an introductory chapter, of a minimum 12 pages but no more than 25 pages, giving the reader a scholarly overview of the literary traditions in which the student’s creative work participates; thus, it must do the following:

  • Analyze relevant genres, using critical sources
  • Situate the writer in relation to predominant craft-related challenges
  • Explain recurrent themes, the revision process, and/or influential authors/texts
  • Include a thorough bibliography for readers eager to conduct additional studies on the creative work and its tradition(s).



Acceptable genres of the Creative Writing Thesis include poetry, fiction, drama, and the literary non-fiction essay. Other genres and formats may be considered.


Thesis Length

The Creative Writing Thesis itself, not including the introduction, generally should range from 60 to 80 pages, plus bibliography. Appropriate manuscript length will be determined in consultation with specialists in each genre.


Thesis Format

The final result is an original manuscript. The format of the introductory chapter and bibliography must follow formal guidelines established by the UW Oshkosh Master of Arts in English program and The Graduate School and Research. These guidelines are published in the following manuals:

  • MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, 2nd ed. (New York: Modern Language Association, 2008)
  • Format Policy and Style Manual (The Graduate School and Research, UW Oshkosh).
Critical Thesis

Format and Content Requirements

Students wishing to submit a Critical Thesis must, like other Master’s degree candidates, obtain approval from his/her thesis advisor and submit a prospectus. Students are encouraged to submit projects that have undergone a rigorous process of discussion with his/her thesis advisor.

Note: If a student assembles an interdisciplinary committee, the thesis itself must still adhere to M.A. in English thesis guidelines, and the thesis advisor (the chair of the student’s thesis committee) must be a member (in good standing) of the English graduate faculty.

UW Oshkosh Master of Arts in English students are expected to show mastery of academic English language and literature. The critical thesis should allow student to demonstrate their abilities in the following areas:

Clear argument

Students should focus on a specific question or problem, avoiding miscellaneous observations on a topic and “octopus-like” discussions.


Original thinking

Students should treat their coursework as a starting point for their thesis, using their assigned reading and class discussions as a springboard for independent research and original argument.


Superior grasp of subject matter with sound critical evaluations

Students should research widely before writing, enabling them to make solid assessments and assertions. Thesis Directors should discourage students from committing prematurely to an argument and encourage them to read widely, to test their ideas, and to ask themselves what might be said against it. Requiring an annotated bibliography or bibliographic essay may be a good preliminary step in this process.


Evidence of extensive knowledge base/Capacity to analyze and synthesize

Students should review relevant scholarship and situate their own arguments within relevant criticism on the subject.


Use of quality (graduate-level) secondary sources

Students should use discretion and show initiative when choosing their secondary sources, using not only on-line texts but also quality sources available on microform and through universal borrowing/interlibrary loan.


Argument that is not only valid but significant

Students should write a thesis that can stand up to criticism and challenge, moving beyond work that is merely valid and solid to work that offers a unique and interesting contribution to a given field of study. Students should be encouraged to identify how their theses contribute to debate over their subject and/or why their argument is significant.


Familiarity with literary theory/critical approaches

While theory may not play a significant role in all theses, students are encouraged to demonstrate a familiarity with any appropriate theoretical/critical approach to their thesis area (literature, rhetoric, cultural studies, or film).


Precise mechanical and grammatical skills

Graduate-level work should demonstrate excellent grammar and writing skills.


The final result of the 3-credit critical thesis is to take the primary form of a written manuscript between 60-100 pages. The format of the thesis and bibliography must follow formal guidelines established by the UW Oshkosh Master of Arts in English program and The Graduate School and Research. These guidelines are outlined in the following manuals:

  • MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing,
  • Format Policy and Style Manual (The Graduate School and Research, UW Oshkosh).
Non-Thesis Option

Students may (after appropriate advising) revise a seminar project and take a written exam, followed by a defense-style conversation with their three-person committee.  


  1.  Working with the professor who originally assigned the essay/project (the project director), the student will revise an essay or creative project to publishable quality and length. Critical essays will be article-length (approximately 25 pages). A creative work will be approximately 25 pages of prose or 20 pages of poetry. Once the advisor approves the defense draft of the essay/project, the student may begin preparing for the exam. 
  2.  The student will then choose two additional faculty members to serve on the committee. These two faculty members will assist with exam preparations, consult on the grading of the exam, and participate in the defense-style conversation at the end of the process.
  3.  The student will formulate an exam reading list of approximately 10 texts, which will be submitted for approval to the full committee. The goal of the exam is to expand and to deepen the student’s knowledge of the subject, so the committee may adjust the list for breadth and representativeness before approving it. The subject of the exam should be related to the paper or creative work but significantly broader than the subject of the student’s written project. Ideally, the exam will cohere around the specific literary, historical, or generic context in which the written component is situated. Students and their committees should avoid including the texts cited in their projects on the list of texts for the exam. Full-length works by the same author, unabridged versions, or entire texts (as opposed to excerpts), etc. may justify an exception.
  4. The exam will consist of two essay questions and will be administered by the UW Oshkosh Testing Center.
  5.  The student will participate in a 90-minute defense-style conversation about their essay/project and the exam. At this point, the committee will decide whether the student passes or fails. As with a thesis defense, the committee may require the student to revise their exam answers and to submit those revisions to the advisor (by a date determined by the committee) for approval. 

Candidacy Admission

Students should complete and submit an Application for Admission to Candidacy the semester before they complete their coursework (other than ENG 795).  Students must submit three signed copies of the candidacy application to the Office of Graduate Studies no later than one semester before they plan to graduate. Please be certain to obtain all the necessary signatures before submitting it.

The Master of Arts in English program requires that candidates planning to write a thesis submit a 3-5 page thesis prospectus approximately six weeks prior to registering for English 795 (English Thesis). This prospectus must include the following:

  • An abstract summarizing the problem, issue, literary characteristic or theoretical approach you plan to discuss, and why;
  • A brief discussion of prior scholarly work done on this topic;
  • Your rationale for choosing this topic and a statement of what you hope to prove through the thesis;
  • A statement on the feasibility of your project and project timetable for completion;
  • A working bibliography.

Working with the thesis advisor and the two other committee members, the student will write and revise a prospectus. Five copies of the final draft of the prospectus, along with five copies of the completed Research Proposal form signed by the student, all members of the thesis committee, and the English graduate program director, is due in the Office of Graduate Studies about six weeks into the semester preceding the semester the student begins work on his/her thesis.