Graduate Student Handbook


  1. Student Learning Outcomes
  2. Organization of the Graduate Program
  3. The Five M.A. Tracks
  4. Student Association of Graduates in English
  5. Advising
  6. Applying to be a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA)
  7. GTA Employment
  8. Full-Time and Part-Time Coursework
  9. Time to Degree and Deadlines
  10. Normal Progress
  11. Grades and the Grade of Incomplete
  12. Probationary Standing
  13. Loss of Assistantship
  14. The Writing Project
  15. Proposals for Final Writing Projects or Theses
  16. Departmental Expectations for the Writing Project
  17. Thesis Option
  18. The Final Oral Examination
  19. Courses for Graduate Credit
  20. ENGL 797 Professional Writing Internship
  21. ENGL 799 Problems in English (Independent Study)
  22. ENGL 801 Introduction to Graduate Studies
  23. Major Professor and Supervisory Committee
  24. Program of Study
  25. Language Proficiency
  26. Language Requirements for Non-Native Speakers of English
  27. Revalidation of Credits for the Master's Degree


Appendix A: The Five M.A. Tracks & Requirements
Appendix B: Program of Study Form
Appendix C: Approval to Schedule Final Examination Form
Appendix D: Sample Cover Sheet for the Writing Project

Revised November 2014 (updated 11/11/21)

The Master of Arts Program

1. Student Learning Outcomes

The Master of Arts Program in English at Kansas State University is an academic community of professors and graduate students who are intellectually engaged, committed to creative and critical work in English, and dedicated to advanced research in the discipline as well as the primary goals of a liberal education: the ability to reason, think critically, communicate effectively, and appreciate excellent writing and thinking.

The Program values:

  • Critical writing, carefully honed and revised, informed by current research in the problem or field, and aware of its own critical assumptions
  • Creative work, carefully honed and revised, informed by the reading of other writers, including contemporary authors, and aware of its own exigence and aims
  • Careful explication of texts
  • Breadth of reading and breadth of historical and cultural knowledge
  • Critical engagement with expressions of cultural diversity and underrepresented experiences
  • Collaborative, interactive, and meaningful learning and instruction

It is the expectation of the Program that its students will join this academic community and share these intellectual and disciplinary values. Though no specific pieces of knowledge can define the Master of Arts in English for every student, upon completion of the Master of Arts degree, graduate students in English are expected to demonstrate the ability to do the following:

  • Read carefully, with historical and contextual perspective
  • Conduct research within the field of English
  • Think analytically and critically about literature and language
  • Recognize and analyze the perspectives and assumptions that they and other readers and critics bring to texts and interpretations
  • Write well, with an understanding of audience and purpose
  • Exhibit substantial knowledge about literature and language in the context of specialization
  • Demonstrate integrative and independent thinking, originality, imagination, experimentation, problem solving, or risk taking in thought, expression, or intellectual engagement
  • Think analytically and critically about diversity, equity, and inclusion in relation to literary texts and other cultural productions.

2. Organization of the Graduate Program

The graduate program in English is administered by a Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) and a Graduate Advisory Committee (GAC), which is divided into two functions, the Personnel Committee and the Curriculum Committee. The Personnel Committee is responsible for admissions, for the selection of teaching assistants, and for all matters of private record; the Curriculum Committee reviews programs and policies. A graduate student serves as a full voting member on the Curriculum Committee.

The responsibility for graduate policy is shared by all members of the English Department's Graduate Faculty. These faculty members, identified in the Graduate Catalog , also serve as Major Professors and members of Supervisory Committees.

Many of the rules and procedures in the following pages—for example, those on course credit, probation, and revalidation of credits—are those of the Graduate School, and may not be changed or waived by the English Department. More information on these rules and procedures is available in the Graduate Handbook on the Graduate School website ( Others, such as seminar requirements, originate within the Department and remain under its control.

3. The Five M.A. Tracks

Master's students specialize in one of five academic tracks: Literature; Children's Literature; Creative Writing; Cultural Studies; or Composition and Rhetoric.

All master's candidates must take a minimum of 30 credit hours, complete a thesis or a final writing project, pass a final oral examination, and establish a language proficiency (as defined by Section 25). Each track requires:

  • three credit hours in a seminar
  • nine credit hours in literature
  • nine credit hours in the chosen emphasis or track
  • nine credit hours of elective work

Elective courses will most often be additional courses in English. They may include ENGL 799 credit (see Section 21). Students may take, if they choose, one course outside the Department, provided the Supervisory Committee believes that such a course is an important, consistent, and legitimate addition to a student's Program of Study (see Section 24).

Each graduate student isrequired to take at least one course that meets the Diversity Overlay requirement.

Courses that meet the Diversity Overlay include substantive engagement with systemic inequities, and particularly consider the histories, challenges, and agency of racially marginalized groups. This content may intersect with analyses of gender, sexual orientation, language, class, culture, and immigration histories of marginalized groups.

Such courses:

  • signal a focus on systemic inequities in course SLOs;
  • engage with critical work on systemic inequities, including secondary material by scholars/writers of color;
  • include at least one assignment that assesses student understanding of systemic inequities;
  • include a majority of non-white authors and/or scholars.

The various requirements for each track are outlined in Appendix A.

Note on Terms: Traditionally within the Department, the term "course in literature" has applied broadly. In cases where it seems unclear if a course should count as a course in literature, the DGS and the Head of the Literature Track will determine for practical purposes what counts as a "course in literature." The term "cultural studies course" should also be construed broadly. It might include a course in Marxist, feminist, or psychoanalytic theory; in American ethnic literature or women's literature; in media or popular culture; a course that focuses on a non-dominant cultural tradition; etc. In cases where it is unclear, the DGS and the Director of Cultural Studies will determine what counts as a "cultural studies course." The terms "course in literature" and "cultural studies course" are not mutually exclusive.

4. Student Association of Graduates in English

Graduate students are invited to join the Student Association of Graduates in English (SAGE), an organization dedicated to improving and promoting the English Department's graduate program. SAGE's activities include sponsoring the Department's colloquium series, the Cultural Studies Symposium, and visiting lectures.

SAGE is funded by the Student Governing Association through the Graduate Student Council, by an annual book sale, and by dues. Its membership is open to graduate students, faculty, and others interested in literature and language. It is governed by graduate students, who vote on its operation and activities. Its executive officers are a President, Vice President, and Secretary/ Treasurer. There is also a Faculty Advisor. The Constitution of SAGE is on file in the Student Government Office in the Student Union.

5. Advising

The DGS will serve as the advisor for first-semester students and will continue as the primary advisor until the student selects a Major Professor (MP) who then becomes the primary advisor. The student is responsible for conferring with the appropriate advisor before each enrollment and at other times as circumstances require.

In the first semester of the second year, students should schedule a professional conference with the MP. This conference provides an opportunity for the student to discuss options, questions, and plans about the student’s professional future.

6. Applying to be a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA)

Most GTAs receive their appointment when they are accepted into the M.A. program. However, it is possible for a student to become a GTA after completing some course work in the program. Such students should apply in January to the Director of Graduate Studies for a GTA position. They will enter the pool of applicants for an assistantship along with students applying for fall admission, from which pool the GAC makes its selection.

Students applying for a GTA position should be aware that the selection process is competitive: the number of positions available is limited by departmental needs and funding. Thus, simply being qualified does not assure one of receiving a position. Furthermore, students applying for a GTA are judged not only as students, but also as potential teachers of expository writing. A strong academic record, while necessary, is not sufficient to assure one of receiving a GTA.

7. GTA Employment

The Graduate Program in English strongly supports the University policy that limits graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) to no more than a .5-time appointment, a policy that encourages GTAs to balance their teaching duties with their studies and progress toward their degrees. First-semester GTAs are strongly discouraged from taking on any additional employment.

In certain, limited circumstances, however, there may be types of additional employment beyond the GTA position that contribute to the professional development of graduate students without interfering with their studies or degree attainment. In general, those types of employment would be related to the professional goals of the students (tutoring, editing, and professional writing would be examples of such employment), and they would take no more than 2-5 hours per week during the semester.

Thus, the Graduate Program in English permits its GTAs to take on such additional employment if those GTAs meet all of the following requirements:

  • They have regular academic standing. GTAs with provisional standing and GTAs on academic probation are ineligible.
  • They have a GPA of 3.3 or higher.
  • They have no Incompletes (except in ENGL 899, where Incompletes are typical until the completion of the degree.)
  • They are making normal progress toward the degree. GTAs who are not earning adequate numbers of credit hours to ensure graduation within two-years and GTAs who miss key Graduate Program deadlines (as outlined in the Graduate Student Handbook) are ineligible.
  • They take only additional employment related to their professional goals.
  • They spend no more than 2-5 hours per week engaged in this additional employment.

8. Full-Time and Part-Time Coursework

The University requires Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) to take at least 6 hours of coursework in order to hold their appointments, and allows them to take as many as 10 hours. Although a graduate student who is not teaching may enroll in as many as 16 hours per semester, the English Department considers a full-time load to be a combined total of 12 hours of coursework and teaching. For non-GTAs, 9-16 hours of coursework per semester is considered a full load.

In summer school, the normal load is 3-6 hours of coursework; the maximum for full-time students is 9 hours. The university's "full tuition waiver" does not apply in the summer, though students who have held teaching assistantships during the regular academic year are entitled to reduced fees. Summer GTAships (along with possible summer tuition waivers) may be available, for which separate application is necessary.

9. Time to Degree and Deadlines

Students pursuing full-time study normally take two years to complete the degree. Students pursuing less than full-time study may take longer. Full-time students without GTA responsibilities or with transfer credits may complete the degree in under than two years.

Students planning to graduate in two years might follow this typical timetable:

Second Semester. The student selects a MP (see Section 23). The DGS appoints two other members of the graduate faculty to serve as readers on the Supervisory Committee. Student files Program of Study (see Section 24).

Third Semester. During the third semester (or earlier if possible), the student presents a writing project (see Section 14) proposal to the Supervisory Committee and schedules a 30-40-minute meeting with all committee members. At this proposal meeting, the committee either approves or rejects the proposal and offers suggestions about the project. Students should have the proposal approved and on file in the graduate studies office by the eighth week of the third semester.

Fourth Semester. The student finishes the project and submits it to the MP. If the MP considers the project passable, it is forwarded to the readers for comments. After receiving readers' comments, the student may schedule a final oral examination (see Section 18) or pursue further revisions based on the readers' comments. If the student and committee agree to schedule an exam, the student submits an "Approval to Schedule a Final Examination" form and schedules an examination period. Following the oral examination, the committee submits its ballot to the Graduate School.

All graduate students should note that while it may be possible to complete the M.A. in the summer, completion is often made more difficult by such factors as availability of faculty or needed courses.

Students must be enrolled in at least one credit hour of English (e.g. ENGL 799) during the semester they graduate, even when they plan to graduate during the summer. Moreover, students must be enrolled in at least one credit hour in English to receive feedback from faculty on a project or thesis, even if they plan to hold their final oral examination during a later semester.

Note about Deadlines: Committees and students should keep in mind the deadlines governing the student's final semester. For instance, for students graduating in the spring semester, final examination ballots are due in the Graduate School by mid-April in order to have the student's name listed in the commencement program. Because readers must have at least two weeks to read a project and because students might be asked to do revisions, students should aim to have polished, passable projects to readers by the eighth or ninth week of the semester (that is, before spring break during the spring semester). Likewise, committee members should be ready to read projects and participate in oral examinations during the eighth through twelfth week of the semester (that is, late March and early April during the spring semester).

10. Normal Progress

Every year the DGS reviews and documents the progress toward degree completion for all graduate students. The Annual Progress Report is intended to facilitate timely degree completion and allow the graduate program to monitor how well student progress meets program expectations. The Annual Progress Report includes a self-assessment by the student, input from the DGS in their role as academic advisor, a record of the student’s GPA, and note of any incomplete provisions. The original progress report with the DGS’s signature is placed in the student’s permanent file. Copies are distributed to the student and Major Professor by the DGS. Students who wish to appeal any part of the evaluation may do so in writing to the DGS.

Assistantships are renewed or awarded to students who are making normal progress toward the degree. Priority in assigning teaching assistantships is given to those students who have good academic and teaching records and who maintain normal, full-time progress toward the degree. For a GTA, normal progress is illustrated in the chart below.

A Typical Two-Year Progression for Graduate Teaching Assistants


Year 1

Year 2


Take 3 courses, including ENGL 801

Enroll in ENGL 805

Teach 1 course

Take 2 courses

Enroll in ENGL 805

Teach 2 courses

File M.A. writing project (or M.A. thesis) proposal by end of eighth week


Take 2 courses

Enroll in ENGL 805

Teach 2 courses

Select MP

Select M.A. Supervisory Committee

File Program of Study

Take 3 courses

Enroll in ENGL 805

Teach 1 course

Consult M.A. calendar for important dates

Finish writing project (or thesis)

Take oral examination

File necessary forms and pay graduation fee

File writing project


Take 1 course if needed to finish in 2 years



11. Grades and the Grade of Incomplete

Graduate work is graded A, B, C, D, F, Credit/No-credit, Pass/Fail, Incomplete, or Withdrawn. For graduate credit, the letter grade in a course must be C or higher. For the student to remain in good standing, 75 percent of all letter-graded credit hours taken at Kansas State must have a grade of A or B, and a grade-point average of 3.0 must be maintained. In courses for graduate credit in the English Department, the only fully acceptable grades are A and B. Although up to six hours of C may be counted for credit in the Program of Study (see Section 24), a C indicates inadequacy. See also "Probationary Standing" (Section 12). A student may request and, at the professor's discretion, receive an Incomplete in a graduate course. Although Incompletes may sometimes be unavoidable, they are dangerous to a student's progress, and the faculty cautions against them. All Incompletes automatically revert to F at the end of the following semester. An Incomplete can be extended for an additional semester only by written petition from the professor to the Registrar.

GTAs hold their appointments with the understanding that they are to make normal progress toward a degree. Circumstances may sometimes oblige a GTA to request an Incomplete, and the Department accepts this as legitimate, provided that the deficiency is promptly made up and Incompletes are not allowed to accumulate. Clearly, however, a student who abuses the privilege is not making normal progress and cannot expect to continue as a GTA. Please note the following:

a. A GTA who receives an Incomplete in one or more courses during the first semester of teaching will be retained for the second semester, but on the understanding that he or she must finish the first year with no more than one Incomplete on the record.

b. A GTA who finishes the first year of appointment with more than one Incomplete must reduce the number to one before a reappointment can be made. Thereafter, a GTA with a total of more than one Incomplete may not continue in the appointment except on the joint recommendation of the professors in the courses concerned, the Director of Expository Writing, and the DGS.

12. Probationary Standing and Academic Dismissal

Every semester the DGS reviews the academic standing of each graduate student in English, soliciting judgments from all members of the department who are acquainted with the student's work. A student whose average is above 3.00 continues in good standing. One whose average falls below 3.00 at the end of any semester, including the first, is placed on academic probation by the Graduate School, and may be advised not to continue. A GTA whose cumulative average is not raised above 3.00 by the end of the next semester will not qualify for reappointment.

Students on probation as a condition of admission will acquire good standing if they achieve a cumulative GPA of 3.0 in the first 9 credit hours of graduate level course work.

From the time a student has been placed on probation for deficient grades, full-time students have two semesters, and part-time students have twelve credit hours, to achieve a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0.

Academic dishonesty, such as plagiarism or falsification of research, is also cause for academic dismissal. Graduate students in the program who are sanctioned with the XF grade may be dismissed. Likewise, a recommendation for suspension or expulsion by the Honor Council is also a reason for academic dismissal from the Graduate Program in English. For more information about the K-State Honor and Integrity System, please see

13. Loss of Assistantship

A GTA will not normally lose his or her assistantship at midyear. For sufficient reason, however, such as too many Incompletes or manifest incompetence in teaching, the assistantship may be withdrawn at any time.

Students may not hold a GTA for more than two years.

14. The Master's Project

Students will work with their Major Professor and a Supervisory Committee of two faculty to approve the form that the project will take.

  • In many cases and for any of the tracks, the writing project will present the results of an original investigation in the form of an article-length piece of scholarly criticism. The emphasis will be on producing a piece of writing that has a defined, real world audience within the field of English.
  • In the case of students within the creative writing track, and with the unanimous approval of the Supervisory Committee, the project may take the form of a creative writing project.
  • Alternatively and with the unanimous approval of the committee, the student may do a project that is neither a critical essay nor a portfolio of creative writing—for example, a review of scholarship, the preparation of a critical edition of a text, an applied or professional project.

Most projects will emerge from a graduate course. However, in select instances, and with the support of the Major Professor, students may take up to three hours of ENGL 799 (see Section 21) for the purposes of researching and writing the final project. Students will usually register for this course in their final semester, but may register for it in an earlier semester in which they research and write the project.

For a critical essay to pass, it must meet the departmental standards with regard to purpose, form, scope, and length (see Section 16). For a creative writing master's project to pass, it must meet the departmental standards regarding creative writing projects (see Section 16). Students wanting to do an alternative master's project will negotiate with their committees a clear set of criteria defining an acceptable project. These criteria must be in writing, approved by the committee and the student, and placed on file with the DGS before the student's proposal is approved.

After completing the proposal, it is very important for the student and committee to continue to communicate with each other regularly. Communication during the earlier stages of a writing project may prevent disappointments, confusions, setbacks, and delays during the later stages.

The exact duties of each committee member during the drafting and revising stages of a final Master’s project will vary from committee to committee and may depend on such factors as the fields of expertise or the schedules of each committee member. Nevertheless, most committee members will want some kind of regular update of the student's progress, and many will want to review and offer responses to drafts of the writing project. There are no rules governing the details of such communication, duties, progress updates, or circulation of drafts. It is assumed that the student and committee members will make such arrangements as suits the needs of the writing project, the student, and the faculty members involved.

Once the student and MP believe the project nearly finished and passable, the student will present a final draft to the committee. Generally, the student and MP will not forward the project to the rest of the committee for evaluation until the student and MP believe the project meets the department's guidelines or the previously approved alternative guidelines.

Each member of the committee will review the project and provide the student a response that identifies the strengths of the project and its weaknesses or needs. Each response should indicate whether or not the project meets departmental standards and whether or not the project would pass. Readers might also want to provide ideas about the future of the project (for example, revision possibilities beyond what is necessary for a pass, other avenues for research that stem from the project, possible venues for this work, etc.). Students must give readers at least two weeks to respond.

After the student receives responses from the readers, with the advice of the MP, the student should decide either to schedule a final oral examination or to pursue further revisions based on the readers' comments. If the student and committee agree to schedule an exam, the student will need to schedule an examination date, time, and place with all committee members and then submit to the Graduate School an "Approval to Schedule a Final Examination" form (see Appendix C).

Generative AI

As the University of Utah explains, “Artificial intelligence refers to software or machines that exhibit abilities normally associated with human intelligence, such as understanding natural language, recognizing patterns, making decisions, and solving complex problems. However, artificial intelligence tools cannot mirror the complexities of human reasoning especially when it comes to moral and ethical considerations. Generative AI tools make predictions based on vast amounts of existing content rather than creating original work, and they cannot replace human creativity. These tools can help enhance productivity, but they will not replace the role of a human-centered approach” at Kansas State University.

The purpose of the capstone project is to demonstrate your own work, as a writer and thinker. That is what is being assessed in the “final oral examination” and that is what you are both practicing and demonstrating through your work. At the core of this work is the principle that writing is a form of thought. It is one of the main ways that we work through our ideas, that we consider other sources, and that we engage, in detail, with texts of all different kinds. In other words, writing is a process and a method rather than just a product. Given our goals, the use of Chat GPT or other generative AI technology detracts from the project’s purpose. That said, new tools can offer new ways to engage with the process of writing. Therefore, generative AI can be used within the following guidelines:

  • During the proposal meeting, all students will use the following contract template to draw up an AI contract. The contract must be signed by all committee members. The contract allows students to declare that they will not use AI on the project. If the student would like to use AI in any way on the project, the contract must designate, in detail, the specific uses for AI during the course of the project. Any uses beyond the scope of the contract are prohibited. If a student wants to use AI in a way not covered by the contract, the contract must be revised and once again signed by all committee members. If any committee member does not approve of the use of AI in the way the student requests, then AI is prohibited to the student. The contract must be submitted to the DGS with the final draft of the project.
  • The student must maintain, and submit to the DGS with their project, a complete paper trail of any AI use. This paper trail must include all prompts AND all outputs from any generative AI tool.
  • The Master’s Project must include a detailed footnote explaining all ways in which generative AI was used during the course of the project, including specific references to which specific parts of the paper were fully or partially generated in any capacity. Generative AI must be properly cited throughout the paper as designated by MLA guidance.

None of the above should be construed as discouraging the study of Generative AI as an object of study or as an element of one’s creative practice. Those uses will continue to be developed within projects in consultation with one’s MP, and the scope of use of the tool for those projects would be covered by the AI contract, as detailed above.

Uses of generative AI outside of these policy guidelines will be considered academic dishonesty, and will be grounds for dismissal per the process outlined in section 12.

15. Proposals for Final Writing Projects or Theses

What the proposal does.

  • The purpose of the proposal is twofold: you need to articulate your purpose and communi­cate it to your committee. Writing the proposal should help you focus your project. Consult with your Major Professor in this early stage of focusing the project/drafting the proposal. At the proposal meeting in your third semester, the proposal allows your Supervisory Committee to make specific suggestions for your project and to give you a good idea of whether the project is workable or needs some rethinking.

What the proposal does not do.

  • The proposal does not lock you into one idea or one approach.

What the proposal should contain.

  • For critical/scholarly projects the following is recommended as a general guideline:
    • a concise description of a critical or scholarly problem
    • a concise description of how the project attempts to address that problem or issue
    • a very brief indication of the significance of such an endeavor
    • a short, preliminary bibliography of primary and secondary works
  • For creative or professional projects, the following is recommended as a general guideline:
    • a concise description of what you want to write (genre, subject matter)
    • a concise description of how your project relates to other writing you have done or to writing that is relevant to your work
    • a brief discussion of how the project relates to your goals as a creative or professional writer, which may include an artist's statement
    • a short bibliography of primary and secondary works relevant to your project
  • Alternative master’s projects (e.g. a digital humanities project) and theses should include a concise description of the scope of the final project or thesis, including length expectations.

What the proposal should look like.

  • Proposal should be no more than 1000 words, typed, with a separate attached bibliography. At the end, include lines where your Supervisory Committee and the DGS may sign and date your approved proposal.

16 Departmental Expectations for the Writing Project

For a critical essay project to pass, it needs to meet the following standards regarding:


  • The project should enter a conversation about a particular work or group of works by clearly stating what problem, issue, dilemma, or question the paper is addressing.
  • The project should contribute to the critical or scholarly conversation around that problem, issue, dilemma, or question.
  • The project should demonstrate an awareness of its methodology and approach and the implications of that methodology and approach.


  • The project should conform to MLA, Chicago, or APA documentation style.
  • The project should have a readable prose style, lucid organization, sufficient detail and evidence to back up claims and assertions.
  • The project should present a supportable, reasonable argument.


  • Many projects will be able to address the scope of a particular problem or issue in a particular field, and this should be encouraged when possible.
  • In some cases, however, comprehensive coverage of an issue would be beyond the scope of a master's candidate and the length limitations of the writing project and should not be encouraged. In those cases, a substantial debate should be presented and then entered.


  • The project should be article length, 20-25 pages.

For a creative project to pass, it will need to meet the following standards regarding:


  • The creative writing project should address its own exigence and aims. However, while a critical essay must make explicit the issues, dilemmas, or questions it addresses, stories, poems, plays, essays, or other creative works may keep these same issues implicit in the writing itself. The oral examination may be the arena in which the student addresses explicitly these questions about purpose.
  • The creative writing project should engage and contribute to an existing tradition of creative writing.


  • The creative writing project should show care, attention to style and form, and a linguistic refinement consistent with the creative work's aesthetic and its aims.


  • The creative writing project should include approximately 15 pages of poetry (single spaced) or 20-25 pages of prose (double-spaced). With the approval of the student's committee, the project may include work in more than one genre.
  • The project should be accompanied by a critical/creative essay of approximately 8-10 pages.
  • A reading list accompanying the project usually includes at least 20 critical and creative texts.

17. Thesis Option

In rare cases, a student may propose to the DGS to write a thesis in lieu of the writing project. Such students will register for 6 credit hours of ENGL 899 Research in English, which will then appear on the Program of Study. The student must also obtain the approval of the major professor and the supervisory committee in order to pursue the thesis option.

According to Graduate School guidelines, a master's thesis presents the results of an original investigation of a problem or topic approved by the candidate's supervisory committee. Its purpose is to demonstrate the candidate's ability to conduct original research of a type appropriate to the academic discipline, to analyze the information obtained from the research, and to present the results in a form acceptable to the supervisory committee.

A master's thesis in English is typically an extended (50-60 pages, double-spaced) and original piece of scholarly research. The creative writing thesis typically comprises at least 30 pages of poetry (single-spaced) or at least 60 pages of prose (double-spaced). Guidelines governing the nature and format of the thesis can be found at the Graduate School website (

The features of the thesis that distinguish it from the final writing project are:

a. Length. The thesis is much longer.

b. Originality. The expectation of originality is much higher.

c. Public-ness. The thesis becomes a public document that is openly available through the K-State Research Exchange (K-REx) and is indexed by Google, Google Scholar, and other search engines. The final project stays in the English Department's Graduate Program office. Almost anyone may have access to a thesis, but access to the final writing projects is restricted.

If you have already submitted your thesis to K-REx, and you decide to publish an article using content or sections from your thesis, you will need to notify the publisher or journal that the content of the article is already hosted online on K-REx. The majority of publishers will not have a problem with this, but you do need to notify them, especially if they ask you to sign over copyright, because the publisher now has the exclusive right to reproduce and distribute the article and its content.

d. Format. The thesis must follow the formatting guidelines laid down by the Graduate School (see Failure to do so means failure to graduate. The project needs to follow MLA style as approved by the MP.

e. Coursework. The thesis requires six hours of ENGL 899 and replaces two of the ten courses students would take. The writing project asks students to take ten courses with no extra hours for "research" (unless they take three hours of ENGL 799 for the final writing project).

f. Collaboration. The thesis requires a much more sustained and intense collaboration with the MP -- six credit hours (in University terms) in lieu of coursework. The final writing project typically emerges from a course, and the MP guides the student through a revision/polishing process, as opposed to the full research/writing process of a thesis.

In other words, the thesis must be more ambitious than a final writing project (a and b). Students and MPs should be prepared to stand behind the thesis as public document, while recognizing that its availability on K-Rex could affect future publishing opportunities (c and d). Students writing the thesis will lose some breadth in their coursework (e). And, finally, students and MPs should expect more one-on-one mentoring and collaboration while working on a thesis (f).

18. The Final Oral Examination

The final oral examination is a 50-60 minute defense and discussion of the writing project (or thesis) and the relationship of the project to the student's intellectual interests. The purpose of the exam is to give the student an opportunity to articulate the project's ideas and aims. In general, the oral examination is an extension of the process of inquiry which the project initiated, a discussion of promising ideas and perhaps a conversation about the student's future work.

In the case of a creative writing project, the oral examination is a discussion of the student's creative work and an exploration of the work's aesthetic and aims. The student may discuss authors, artists, books, and other sources that have influenced the project in some way.

Prior to the examination, committee members and the student may discuss the examination and possible questions to establish initial grounds for conversation. Students may begin the examination with a prepared statement that summarizes the project's significance and work.

Students who have written a passing project and who can intelligently discuss their project, explain the process that produced it, and respond to questions directly related to the project will pass the oral examination. A pass in the final oral examination will signify the Supervisory Committee's and Department's acceptance of the final writing project. Two of the three committee members must vote to pass for the student to pass the examination.

Students will fail the oral examination, if the project itself does not meet departmental standards, according to two of the three committee members. Students may also fail because they are generally unable to discuss the major ideas in the project or unable to respond to questions directly related to it. Students will not be penalized for the inability to answer questions not related or obliquely related to the project. Students will not be penalized for having opinions or interpretations that differ from one or more committee members. According to Section J3 ("Failure and Repetition") of the University's Graduate Handbook, "Negative votes by two or more members of a three- or four-member committee constitute failure. A candidate who fails a master's examination may take a second examination no sooner than two months nor later than 15 months after the failure, unless an extension is granted by the Dean of the Graduate School. No third trial is allowed."

In general, much of the testing and evaluation of the student's performance is handled with individualized responses, oral and written, to the student prior to the oral examination. If committee members feel that the project is deficient, inadequate, or misguided in some way, they should inform the student, preferably in writing, prior to the examination. The oral exam itself is an opportunity for the student to synthesize and articulate for a small, informed audience the nature of the work in the master's project.

After the oral examination has been taken, the Supervisory Committee submits a ballot to the Graduate School and a report on the final oral examination to the DGS. If the student has passed, then the student must submit a copy of the final version of the master’s project to the DGS. This final copy filed with the DGS requires a cover sheet (see Appendix D) and the signature of the Major Professor. In the case of a passing creative writing project, the student may also participate in a year-end public reading of creative work, along with other graduating students in the creative writing track.

19. Courses for Graduate Credit

Courses numbered 600 and above in the Graduate Catalog may be taken for graduate credit (graduate credit is allowable for courses numbered as low as 500 in a supporting field). Courses in the 600-799 range in English are taken by both graduate and undergraduate students; the 800 range is exclusively for graduate students. During registration, students should check their enrollment forms to make sure they indicate that all courses are taken for graduate credit.

20. ENGL 797 Professional Writing Internship

ENGL 797, Professional Writing Internship, offers an opportunity for graduate students to earn academic credit for professional writing experience gained outside the realm of ordinary coursework. Students may pursue internal internships working with faculty within the department, or external internships with outside organizations, on- and off-campus.

A student with a proposal for such an internship should seek out a suitable department faculty member to supervise his or her work—realizing, however, that such additional responsibility is a teaching overload for the faculty member, and that the internship should be one that contributes to the Program of Study better than any regular course offered. Faculty members are under no obligation to agree to supervise. Students pursuing external internships must also secure a workplace supervisor. For internship credit to count toward the M.A. degree in English, a well-conceived and detailed proposal and reading list, signed by student and faculty member, and, if appropriate, workplace supervisor, must be submitted to the DGS for approval by the GAC by the eighth week of the semester prior to the student's enrollment in ENGL 797.

21. ENGL 799 Problems in English (Independent Study)

ENGL 799, Problems in English (independent study), offers an opportunity for graduate students to pursue projects outside the realm of ordinary coursework. Most students will either develop a final writing project from work written for a course or elect to write a thesis; but in select instances and with the support of the Major Professor, a student may use an independent study to research and write the final writing project.

A student with a proposal for such an independent study should seek out a suitable faculty member to direct his or her work—realizing, however, that such additional responsibility is a teaching overload for the faculty member, and that the project should be one that contributes to the Program of Study better than any regular course offered. Faculty members are under no obligation to agree to direct independent studies. For independent study credit to count toward the M.A. degree in English, a well-conceived and detailed course proposal and reading list, accompanied by a brief rationale, signed by both student and faculty member, must be submitted to the DGS for approval by the GAC during the semester prior to the student's enrollment in ENGL 799.

Graduate School requirements state that no more than three credit hours of 799 can be included on a Program of Study (see Section 24).

22. ENGL 801 Introduction to Graduate Studies

ENGL 801 Introduction to Graduate Studies is required. Those who think that they have taken equivalent graduate level coursework may submit a request for exemption to the DGS.

ENGL 801 Introduction to Graduate Studies is a survey of the methods and aims of advanced level research and scholarship in language and literature. It is also an orientation to the profession. The course covers the use of traditional and contemporary research methods and tools in the field of English. Students will be given an introduction to criticism and theory; the emphasis here will be on how to read carefully, understand, and analyze a piece of critical or theoretical writing in the field.

Students will learn how to research and write a scholarly, critical article suitable to the field of English. Students will also be given the opportunity to work on other (usually shorter) kinds of professional writing, which might include a conference proposal, an annotated bibliography, an article abstract, a book review, etc. Where practically possible, the course will provide assignments that permit individualized research projects.

The Program would encourage students to take ENGL 801 if any of the following apply:

  • they have never written a scholarly, critical article in the field of English
  • they have never written a paper longer than 15 pages
  • they have had little experience reading criticism or theory
  • they are not familiar with the most widely used research methods and tools in English
  • they would like to have an orientation to the profession of English
  • they want to strengthen their critical reading skills
  • they want to strengthen their research skills
  • they want to strengthen their critical writing skills
  • they would like to learn how to compose various kinds of writings that commonly circulate in the profession (such as the conference proposal, the annotated bibliography, the article abstract, the book review, etc.)
  • they plan to pursue a Ph.D. (in which case, they might be required to take a course like ENGL 801 anyway—perhaps it would serve them better at the beginning of their graduate school careers)

Students might skip ENGL 801 if the following apply:

  • they have experience writing scholarly, critical articles of 15 pages or more
  • they are generally familiar with the most widely used research methods and tools
  • they have previous coursework in theory and criticism
  • they are reasonably confident of their critical reading, research, and writing skills
  • they are generally familiar with the kinds of writings that commonly circulate in the profession

23. Major Professor and Supervisory Committee

The student's Supervisory Committee will consist of a Major Professor (MP), selected by the student in consultation with the DGS, and two additional readers, appointed by the DGS. MPs and Supervisory Committee Members must be members of the Graduate Faculty and approved by the DGS. Although it is not unusual for a committee to include one or even two professors with whom the student is unacquainted, the DGS will listen to suggestions from the student and the MP about the appointment of the two readers. The Supervisory Committee should be established by the end of the student's second semester.

It will be the role of the MP to chair the Supervisory Committee, which represents the Department in matters of judgment affecting the student's Program of Study. The MP will also mentor and advise the student, encourage and assist the student in the writing and revision of the project, and help the student prepare for the oral examination. The role of the readers will be to read the project and offer a constructive response to it. Readers may also want to offer advice about the project as it is in process and to respond to early drafts. All three members of the committee will decide whether the project meets departmental expectations. Two of the three committee members must pass the project and oral examination for the student to receive the master's degree.

The DGS will work to ensure that Supervisory Committee duties are divided evenly among the graduate faculty.

To change a committee member or MP a graduate student must first meet with the DGS to discuss the proposed change. If the graduate student obtains DGS approval, s/he must fill out a "Program/Committee Change Form," available online at the Graduate School website. The form requires a justification for the change and the signatures of all committee members, the DGS, and the Dean of the Graduate School.

24. Program of Study

Before the end of their second semester in the program, students must file with the Graduate School a "Program of Study" listing the courses, completed and yet to be completed, that will count toward the degree. If a student's Program of Study is not filed on time, the Graduate School may place that student on probation. Forms for this purpose are available from the Graduate School office (103 Fairchild), the World Wide Web (, or the DGS. A sample of this form appears in Appendix B.

Although it has no program-wide distribution requirements, the Graduate Program encourages students to pursue a program of study that will permit breadth in reading and breadth in the study of historical subjects and scholarly disciplines within the field of English. Students should aim to develop a Program of Study that complements and extends their undergraduate work in English. They should also seek the advice of their MP and the DGS to design a such program.

Depending on their post-M.A. goals and aspirations and their previous educational background, students are generally encouraged to take:

a. at least one course focused on a period before 1800

b. at least one course focused on a period after 1800

c. at least one course focused on a non-dominant tradition, broadly defined

d. a course in language and linguistics

e. a course in criticism or theory

f. a course in rhetoric, composition, or writing

The Graduate School specifies that at least 60 percent (18 credit hours) of a student's Program of Study must be comprised of courses at the 700 level or higher. No more than 3 hours of 799 may appear. Students considering applying to Ph.D. programs may want to construct a Program of Study with a higher concentration of course work at the 700 and 800 level. The Program of Study is signed by the Major Professor, all members of the Supervisory Committee, and the DGS. Once on file the program can be amended only by submitting an official "Program/Committee Change Form" bearing all these signatures.

25. Language Proficiency

Graduate students in English must demonstrate proficiency in a research language. Because "research language" is interpreted broadly to mean any of a number of tools meant to assist students in conducting research, this requirement may be satisfied in any of the following ways:

a. Pass the ACTFL Reading Proficiency Test offered by Language Testing International at least at the “Intermediate Mid/High” level.

b. Pass with a final grade of at least B- the fourth semester of an approved college-level sequence of courses in any foreign language (the sequence must be approved by KSU's Department of Modern Languages).

c. Pass with a final grade of at least B- an upper-division literature course in a foreign language.

d. Pass with a score of at least 550 one of the standardized foreign language exams created by Educational Testing Service.

e. Pass with a final grade of at least B- ENGL 700 Old English.

f. Pass with a final grade of at least B- GRMN 525 German for Reading Knowledge.

g. Pass with a final grade of at least B- a GAC-pre-approved course in computer programming (this course would require the student to acquire proficiency in a computer language).

h. Pass with a final grade of at least B- a GAC-pre-approved course in research design and quantitative data analysis. Such a course may require prerequisites.

i. Submit a valid TOEFL, IELTS, TSE, or SPEAK score. In general, native speakers of languages other than English are considered to have met the language proficiency requirement for the degree. This option is available only to non-native speakers of English.

Students electing options e, g, or h should keep in mind that most Ph.D. programs do not allow these options to replace their own requirements for "reading knowledge of a foreign language." In other words, students who are considering Ph.D. work are advised to complete the language requirement with one of the a, b, c, d, or f options.

Because the language proficiency requirement is in addition to a student's 30 credit-hour requirement, students who take ENGL 700 to fulfill the language requirement may not also use ENGL 700 or GRMN 525 to fulfill other degree, track, or credit-hour requirements. Students who elect option a, b, c, d, f, g, h, or I may, however, take ENGL 700 or GRMN 525 to fulfill literature or elective requirements within their track, including the Literature track requirement of at least one course in literature before 1800.

Students must fulfill this language proficiency requirement before they take the final oral examination. The DGS will not sign Approval to Schedule Final Examination forms for students who have not fulfilled this requirement, although students enrolled in and taking a course that completes the fulfillment of this requirement will be permitted to schedule the final oral examination.

26. Language Requirements for Non-Native Speakers of English

Applying to the M.A. program. To be considered for admission, applicants who are submitting a TOEFL score must have a minimum of 92 on the iBT (internet-based TOEFL), 237 on the computer-based TOEFL, or 580 on the paper-based TOEFL.

Prospective students should know, however, that successful applicants typically score 109 or higher on the iBT, or 267 on the computer-based test, or 630 on the paper-based test.

Applicants with a score of 7.0 on the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam may also be considered for admission.

Applying for a GTA position. Applicants for a GTA position must demonstrate spoken English proficiency with one of three possible test scores:

  • a minimum score of 55 on the TSE (Test of Spoken English)
  • a minimum score of 55 on the SPEAK (Speaking English Proficiency English Assessment Kit)
  • a minimum score of 26 on the speaking section of the iBT (internet-based TOEFL)

27. Revalidation of Credits for the Master's Degree

All credits in a Program of Study for a graduate degree must be valid at the time the degree is awarded. If the Program of Study includes any course credits more than six years old at the time the student is about to complete all degree requirements, the final master's examination will normally include an examination over the invalid coursework listed on the Program of Study. The form and content of this competency examination will be determined by the particular circumstances of each candidate, and may require additional examination at the discretion of the DGS and the student's Supervisory Committee.

Appendix A: The Five M.A. Tracks and Requirements

Appendix B: Program of Study Form

Appendix C: Approval to Schedule Final Examination Form

Appendix D: Sample Cover Sheet for the Writing Project




[Title of Your Final Paper]


[Your Name]

[B.A. Institution Year]
[Degree in]


Master of Arts Writing Project
Filed in partial fulfillment of the
Requirements for the degree


Department of English
College of Arts and Sciences

Manhattan, Kansas


Approved by:______________________
Major Professor