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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).

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