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4. MA Program in English

4.1 Residence Requirements

For students entering the Master's Program in English, three terms of full-time resident study at McGill University are required for the degree. "Residence" means that the student is enrolled on a full-time basis during this period (the term is not connected with housing or accommodations). This designated period of residence represents the minimum time requirements in order to obtain the degree. There is no guarantee that the work for the degree can be completed in this time. Students may register for additional terms to complete the Program (see Time Limitations). The Department may permit Master's students to register for a term in the summer to fulfill part of the residence requirements.

4.1.1 Course Work

Newly admitted students sign up for courses in July. (The exact date changes each year.) Before classes begin, each student meets with an advisor to review the selection of courses. Course selection, when considered alongside the previous record, should balance breadth of coverage and specialization. This advisor, a member of the Graduate Administration Committee, will give advice on the structure and aims of the program. This advisor is not to be confused with the thesis or research paper supervisor.

The candidate is required to pass, with a mark of 65% (B-) or better, all those courses which have been designated by the Department as forming a part of her/his program. These are the courses which have been entered on the registration form. A few extra courses may be taken, but it is then the responsibility of the student to see that these courses are clearly marked "not required" on the registration form.

4.1.2 Auditing Courses

No auditing of courses is permitted at McGill.

4.2 General Description

The Department offers two separate programs towards the MA degree: the thesis option, in which the student takes 5 courses and writes an MA thesis, and the non-thesis option, in which the student takes 7 courses and writes a research paper. Both programs are designed to be completed in four terms (of 12 credits each), though the non-thesis option has sometimes allowed students to finish in three terms. There is no academic difference between the two programs, and both are equally appropriate as preparation for doctoral work. For most students, the non-thesis option, which enables them to take more courses, provides the best training before specialization. Students who have a well-defined project may wish to undertake a thesis, either as preparation for further research, or as a means of rounding off their education. Students should consider these options, and be prepared to discuss them with their Graduate Advisor, at the beginning of their program.

4.3 Qualifying Program - MA Program in English

Candidates who have been admitted to a Qualifying Program are registered in Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies but take a number of advanced undergraduate courses chosen in consultation with and approved by an advisor in the Graduate Program. If they complete this work successfully (with a minimum B+ average) they are eligible to apply for the MA Program in the following year, but admission cannot be guaranteed.

Qualifying Program status is conferred only on those candidates who have an excellent record and recommendations but are lacking the necessary specialized background in English literature defined in terms of an Honours B.A. in English or its equivalent.

4.4 Thesis Program

I. All MA thesis students must register for:

ENGL 694Fall Bibliography and Research Methods
ENGL 695F/W MA Thesis Preparation I (Research preparation)
ENGL 699F&W MA Thesis

Offered in the fall term only, ENGL 694 provides an introduction to graduate-level methods of research and covers a broad range of other practical and theoretical issues related to graduate study and the profession of English literary studies. This course requires students to attend weekly seminar sessions and to complete a number of graded assignments.

ENGL 695F/W provides a structure for crediting the student's independent thesis preparation. Because it does not require specific course work, has no lecture or seminar components and no graded assignments, it is graded on a pass/fail basis.

MA Thesis Preparation (695F/W) involves first background reading and the preparation of a working bibliography for the thesis. After consultation with her/his adviser and professors interested in the thesis topic, the student selects a thesis supervisor. This should be done as early in the academic year as possible.

The student then prepares the formal thesis proposal, under the guidance of the thesis supervisor (see 4.4.1). The proposal and accompanying bibliography are then presented to the Graduate Administration Committee for final approval. As soon as the proposal is approved by GAC, a pass grade is assigned for 695F/W.

The student registers for ENGL 699F&W to complete the thesis (see 4.4.2). The thesis is expected to be approximately 80 pages in length. The thesis cannot exceed 100 pages, including "works cited." The thesis is evaluated by an internal examiner (normally the thesis supervisor) and an external examiner. The latter may be from McGill or, less usually, from another university. The external examiner is selected by the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Office from a list of names provided by the Department (in consultation with the student and supervisor).

II. In addition to the courses discussed above, all students take five seminars to be chosen from the list of the Department's 500-, 600-, and 700-level courses. These are chosen in consultation with the student's advisor. Normally they will not include more than two 500-level courses. The course work should represent a breadth of topic and a significant historical and theoretical range. Students are not expected to specialize in their course work; specialization occurs in preparing and writing the thesis.

Taken together with the student's undergraduate studies, the student's record at the end of his/her MA program should include a full range of courses appropriate to the field in question, broadly construed.

III. Some sample schedules for progress through the program appear below. (Please note that a full load per semester is 12 credits; note also that the three compulsory units are relatively light in work, compared to the regular seminars.)

1st term Bibliography Seminar (ENGL694)  
+ 2 seminars 12 credits
2nd term MA Thesis Preparation (ENGL695)  
+ 3 seminars 12 credits
3rd term Thesis (ENGL699D1) 12 credits
4th term Thesis (ENGL699D2) 12 credits
 Another format:
1st term Bibliography Seminar (ENGL694)  
MA Preparation (ENGL695)
+ 1 Seminar 12 credits
2nd term 4 seminars 12 credits
3rd term Thesis (ENGL699D1) 12 credits
4th term Thesis (ENGL699D2) 12 credits

4.4.1 Thesis Proposal

Before embarking on the thesis, a student must submit a thesis proposal to the Graduate Administration Committee (GAC) for approval by 1 May of MA1, or 1 September or 1 December of MA2. This proposal prepared in consultation with the supervisor details the research to be pursued, and defines the particular argument to be advanced in the thesis; it also calls for a consideration of the approach to be employed. Proposals should be logical and well organized, should include a list of relevant primary and secondary material to be consulted presented in the appropriate format. It must contain a chapter breakdown.

An MA Thesis Proposal Form (which may be obtained from the Graduate Coordinator in Arts 155B) must be signed by the student's supervisor and attached to the student's proposal at the time it is submitted for approval. The supervisor will be informed in writing as to whether the proposal has been approved or returned for revision. Further Guidelines for Graduate Proposals and examples are available for students to look at in the Graduate Office, Arts 155B.

4.4.2 Thesis

Guidelines for the preparation and submission of the thesis can be obtained from the Graduate Coordinator in Arts 155B or online: MA: Thesis Proposal

The thesis does not necessarily have to present an original contribution to scholarship, but should demonstrate familiarity with the field and an ability to work in it. Overall, the MA thesis should demonstrate the ability to conduct scholarly research. Length: 80-100 pages maximum.

A thesis can only be submitted by or on behalf of a "candidate," i.e., a student registered for the degree in question. In order to remain a candidate, a student must remain registered. If all requirements are met, including fulfillment of residence requirements and submission of the thesis by August 15, no additional fees will be charged; otherwise, either a registration or the appropriate tuition fee will be assessed. Candidates should note also that after deposition of the final corrected copies of the thesis, a fee for graduation will be charged by the University.

The standard form, with the title of the thesis and nominations for thesis examiners, must be signed by the Graduate Program Director or Chair of the Department of English before being submitted with the thesis to the thesis office in Arts 155B.

The internal and external examiners will each give one of the following grades to the thesis: excellent, very good, good, satisfactory, or unsatisfactory. Both grades will be submitted to the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Office. The GPSO will record the grade of P (Pass) for the thesis on the student's transcript upon graduation.

4.5 Non-Thesis Program

I. All students must take the following courses:

ENGL 694F Bibliography Seminar
ENGL 681F/W MA Research Paper Preparation I
ENGL 682F/W MA Research Paper Preparation II
ENGL 683F/W MA Research Paper Preparation III
ENGL 693 Research methods
ENGL 684F&W MA Research Paper

ENGL694 Bibliography seminar is taken together with students in the MA thesis program. It is offered only in the fall term.

Students enroll in MA Research Paper Preparation I (681F/W), II (682F/W) and III (683F/W) for administrative purposes. These courses provide a structure for crediting the student's research paper preparation. They thus require no specific course-work and have no classroom, lecture, or seminar components. The student selects a supervisor for the research paper in consultation with an advisor, makes the preliminary background research, and submits a formal proposal as well as a detailed bibliography for the paper. A pass grade is assigned when the proposal is approved by GAC. Having passed MA Research Paper Preparation I, II and III the student will then undertake ENGL693 Research Methods (3 credits) and the research paper, ENGL 684F&W (9 credits).

ENGL693 Research Methods is taken in conjunction with the research paper. This course is for administrative purposes. When the research paper is passed, a Pass grade is submitted for both ENGL684 and ENGL693.

II. All students in the program take seven seminar courses to be chosen in consultation with their advisor, from the list of the Department's 500-, 600-, and 700-level offerings. Normally students will not take more than two courses at the 500-level. The course work should represent a breadth of topic and a significant historical and theoretical range. Students are not expected to specialize in their course work; specialization occurs in preparing and writing the thesis.

Taken together with the student's undergraduate studies, a student's record at the end of his/her MA program should include a full range of courses appropriate to the field in question, broadly construed.

III. Some sample schedules for progress through the program:

1st term Bibliography Seminar (ENGL694)  
+ 2 seminars 12 credits
2nd term MA Research Paper Preparation I (ENGL681)  
+ 3 seminars 12 credits
3rd term MA Research Paper Preparation II (ENGL682)  
MA Research Paper Preparation III (ENGL683)  
+ 2 seminars 12 credits
4th term Research Methods (ENGL693)  
MA Research Paper (ENGL684) 12 credits
   
To complete the non-thesis program in one year, the student should follow this format:  
   
1st term Bibliography Seminar (ENGL694)  
+ 3 seminars
MA Research Prep I (ENGL 681)
18 credits
2nd term 4 seminars
MA Research Prep II (ENGL 682) MA Research Prep III (ENGL 683)
18 credits
3rd term Research Methods (ENGL693)
MA Research Paper (ENGL684)
12 credits 

Doing MA Research Paper Preparation I, II and III and the Research Paper in the summer term would make it possible to complete the program in one calendar year.

4.5.1 Research Paper Proposal

Before embarking on the research paper, a student must submit a research paper proposal to GAC for approval, by 1 May of MA1, or 1 September or 1 December of MA2.

This Research Paper Proposal details the research to be pursued, defines the particular argument to be advanced in the research paper, and indicates the methodology to be employed. Research Paper Proposals should be logical and well organized, and should include a bibliography of primary and secondary material, presented in the appropriate format. Unlike the MA thesis, a chapter breakdown is not required (as the Research Paper is not expected, given its lesser scope and length, to contain chapters.)

A MA: Research Paper Proposal Form (obtainable online via our Useful Forms page) must be signed by the supervisor and attached to the student's proposal at the time it is submitted for approval. The supervisor will be informed in writing when the proposal is approved. Further Guidelines for Graduate Proposals and examples of proposals are available for students to look at in the Graduate Office, Arts 155B.

Students in the non-thesis (research paper) option must apply to graduate on Minerva. Students in the thesis program, however, will be placed on the graduation list automatically by GPSO upon submission of the thesis at the thesis office.

4.5.2 Research Paper

This paper shall be the result of an extended research project, pursued under supervision of a member of the Department. It should be forty-fifty pages in length (including notes and bibliography). The research paper should focus on a textual or theoretical issue. It should contain a substantive discussion and display mastery of the particular area of research and relevant scholarship. While the theoretical scope may be large its application is more limited. The paper will be evaluated by two readers: the supervisor, and a second reader from within the Department, agreed upon by the supervisor, the student, and the Graduate Program Director. If either the supervisor or the second reader request revisions to the research paper, the student will complete these revisions prior to the assignment of the final grade. The paper will be evaluated by each reader using one of the following grades: excellent, very good, good, satisfactory, unsatisfactory. Assuming satisfactory completion of the work, the GPSO will record the grade of P (Pass) on the student's transcript upon graduation. At the same time, a P (Pass) will be assigned to Research Methods (ENGL 693).

4.6 Style and Format

The Graduate Program supports the documentation methods of the Modern Language Association of America, as set forth in MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. Students should consult the current edition of this guide before submitting course work, proposals, theses, or research papers.

4.7 Creative Writing Thesis Option

The Creative Writing Thesis Option is designed to provide Master's candidates with the opportunity to develop as literary artists in the context of graduate-level academic study. The Option is unique in its insistence that candidates demonstrate both academic and creative abilities and synthesize these developing skills in a thesis-length creative project and an accompanying scholarly essay concerned with the thesis's formal and stylistic innovations. The success of this approach is signalled by the number of creative writing theses from McGill that have seen eventual professional publication. Candidates should note however that graduation from the Creative Writing Option may reduce their chances of admission to doctoral programs at some universities.

Admission into the Option occurs after a student's acceptance into the Master of Arts program on the basis of academic performance at the undergraduate level. Applicants must therefore articulate, as requested in the application, a program of scholarly research; applicants are not admitted on the basis of creative proposals or abilities. Once registered, any Master's candidate who fulfils all departmental course requirements and obtains a minimum high B+ average may propose an MA thesis in creative writing. Supervisory resources within the department for the Creative Writing Option are minimal; faculty currently involved in the Option are professional academics with experience as creative writers. It is the candidate's responsibility to secure the supervision of one of these faculty members, usually by submitting samples of written work. A thesis proposal agreed upon by candidate and supervisor should then provide a synopsis of the creative project to be undertaken, indicate the formal and stylistic strategies chosen and the reasons for those choices, and include an outline of a critical introduction or afterward setting forth the candidate's knowledge of the genre chosen. The Graduate Administration Committee reviews all proposals for Master's theses and is therefore responsible for the acceptance or rejection of Creative Writing Thesis proposals. If the proposal is accepted, the candidate will prepare under the supervisor's ongoing direction an acceptable creative work, usually of the length of the standard scholarly Master's thesis, and a developed critical study of its chosen form and style. Once the supervisor has approved a final version of the thesis, it will be examined by the thesis supervisor, an internal examiner, and an external examiner. The candidate will graduate with a Master of Arts in English Literature if all three examiners pass the creative thesis with a mark of "Satisfactory" or better.

4.8 Independent Reading Courses

Independent reading courses (ENGL 687 or ENGL 786) are intended for advanced and/or specialized work. They are arranged with the individual instructor concerned. Permission must be obtained from the Director before registering. An independent reading course proposal must be submitted to the Director for approval during the official registration periods. Proposals submitted after the add/drop period cannot be considered.

Guidelines for the general conduct of individual reading courses and for the presentation of individual reading course proposals:

1. The independent course of study shall be equivalent in weight to a three-credit course and may be pursued by a student in good standing under the direction of any member of staff in the Department of English.

2. The proposed subject matter must lie within the generally accepted boundaries of English studies.

3. In general, proposals for such courses may be accepted by the Director of the Graduate Program provided that:

(a) the proposed study is extended or particularized from an area of study in which the student is already prepared;

(b) the proposed study does not duplicate a course normally to be found among departmental offerings;

(c) the student's previous course work is completed.

4. It shall be the responsibility of the student to find, contact, and seek the agreement of a member of staff working in an area appropriate to the proposed individual study.

5. In the case of each such proposed course of study, the student and staff member concerned shall provide, during the official course registration period, a proposal that includes:

(a) a course description, indicating the relation to previous work;

(b) a detailed schedule of study;

(c) a plan of evaluation;

(d) a bibliography of primary and secondary material to be covered in the course.

The proposal, written by the student and countersigned by a staff member as supervisor, must be approved by the Director of the Graduate Program. A student will not be permitted to register for an individual reading course without written approval.

Samples of independent reading course proposals are available for students to look at in the Graduate Office, Arts 155B.

4.9 Cross-Listed Courses

Courses offered by other departments may be taken by English Department students for credit to their programs subject to the approval of the Director of the Graduate Program.