- Residence Requirements
- Course Work
- General Description
- Qualifying Program - MA Program in English
- Thesis Program
- Non-Thesis Program
- Style and Format
- Creative Writing Thesis Option
- Independent Reading Courses
- Courses Offered in Other Departments or Area Universities
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 will be completed in this time. Students may register for additional terms to complete the Program (see McGill's Time Limitation Policy). 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, and the Graduate Coordinator sends out an announcement.) Before classes begin, each student meets with an advisor to review the selection of courses. Course selection, when considered alongside the student's previous record, should balance breadth of coverage and specialization. The 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
Auditing of courses is not 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 (MARP). Both programs are designed to be completed in four terms (of 12 credits each), though the thesis option can be completed in three terms (one year). There is no academic difference between the two programs; 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 out 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. Qualifying year students must take a minimum of 12 credits each term (fall and winter) and must complete this coursework within two terms (fall and winter). 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 BA in English or its equivalent (e.g., a history of excellence in a broad range of relevant coursework during the BA).
4.4 Thesis Program
- 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. It is graded on a pass/fail basis.
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 background reading and the preparation of a working bibliography for the thesis. After consultation with her/his advisor 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 and must not exceed 100 pages, including "works cited." The thesis is evaluated by an internal examiner and an external examiner. The latter may be from McGill or, less usually, from another university. The external examiner is selected by the supervisor, in consultation with the student, and must not present any conflicts of interest, as stipulated by the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Office.
In addition to the courses discussed above, all students take five seminars to be chosen from the list of the Department's 500-, 600/700-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.
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.)
Term Courses Credits 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. Due dates for submitting the proposal are 15 May (of MA1), 15 September (of MA2), or 15 December (also of MA2). This proposal, prepared in close consultation with the supervisor, details the research to be pursued, defines the particular argument to be advanced, and delineates the approach or methodology to be employed. The proposal should be logical and well organized. It must also include a list of relevant primary and secondary material to be consulted, presented in the appropriate format (MLA or Chicago Manual of Style). The proposal must contain a chapter breakdown.
An MA Thesis Proposal Form (which may be obtained under Useful Forms for Graduate Students) 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 Student Affairs Office, Arts 155.
Guidelines for the preparation and submission of the thesis can be obtained online.
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: approximately 80 pages (100 pages maximum), including notes and bibliography.
A thesis can only be submitted by 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 the fulfillment of residence requirements and the final submission of the thesis by August 15 (or one of the other submission deadlines), no additional fees will be charged for subsequent semesters; otherwise, either a registration fee or the appropriate tuition fee will be assessed through the term of final thesis submission (once students make the initial thesis submission, they remain in "Thesis Examination" status through the term when the final version is submitted to GPSO). Candidates should note also that after deposition of the final corrected copy of the thesis, a fee for graduation will be charged by the University. For current registration fees, consult the fee calculator. Students who intend to submit the final version of their thesis before one of the final submission deadlines (Aug. 15, Dec. 15, Apr. 15) must leave enough time for the thesis to be evaluated and for the appropriate forms to be submitted; students should not expect final submission to take place immediately after initial submission of the thesis. If the initial thesis submission takes place close to one of the deadlines, the student is unlikely to make the final thesis submission within the same term because insufficient time has been left for evaluation. In this case, the student will be required to register under "Thesis Evaluation" status for the subsequent term and to pay the requisite fees.
Please use the myThesis portal for the initial submission, examination, and final submission of your thesis. You may access myThesis through the GPS website: https://www.mcgill.ca/gps/thesis/thesis-guidelines/initial-submission. Detailed instructions, including tutorial videos, can be found here: https://www.mcgill.ca/gps/thesis/thesis-guidelines/initial-submission/next-steps-masters
4.5 Non-Thesis Program
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 the Graduate Administration Committee for approval. Due dates for submitting the proposal are 15 May (of MA1), 15 September (of MA2), or 15 December (also of MA2).
The 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 (MLA or Chicago Manual of Style). Unlike the MA thesis, a chapter breakdown is not required (as the Research Paper is not expected, given its 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 or returned for further revision. Further Guidelines for Graduate Proposals and examples of proposals are available for students to look at in the Graduate Student Affairs Office, Arts 155.
4.5.2 Research Paper
This paper is the result of an extended research project, pursued under the supervision of a member of the Department. It should be 40 to 50 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 Director of Graduate Studies. It is the supervisor's responsibility to arrange for a second reader, in consultation with the student. 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, 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).
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 coursework and have no classroom, lecture, or seminar components. The student selects a supervisor for the research paper in consultation with an advisor, conducts 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.
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- and 600/700-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 MARP.
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.
Some sample schedules for progress through the program:
Term Courses Credits 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
MA Research Prep II (ENGL 682) MA Research Prep III (ENGL 683)
18 credits 3rd term
Research Methods (ENGL693)
MA Research Paper (ENGL684)
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, or the documentation methods set out in the Chicago Manual of Style. Students should consult the current edition of either 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 signaled 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 (not creative) research; applicants are not admitted on the basis of creative proposals or abilities. Once registered, any Master's candidate who fulfills all departmental course requirements and obtains a minimum 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 the 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 (80 to 100 pages), 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 of Graduate Studies 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:
- 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.
- The proposed subject matter must lie within the generally accepted boundaries of English studies.
- In general, proposals for such courses may be accepted by the Director of Graduate Studies 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.
- 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. The student should note that professors are not compensated for this additional work.
- 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 Graduate Studies. A student will not be permitted to register for an individual reading course without written approval from the Director.
Samples of independent reading course proposals are available for students to look at in the Graduate Student Affairs Office, Arts 155.
4.9 Courses Offered in Other Departments or Area Universities
Courses offered by other departments may be taken by students in the Department of English for credit to their programs on an exceptional basis, subject to the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies. Under the Quebec Inter-University Transfer Agreement, students may also, on an exceptional basis, take courses at other Quebec Universities, with the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies. Normally, however, these options are not encouraged: students are expected to take full advantage of the broad range of courses and expertise offered by the Department of English at McGill, and not to specialize at the MA level. No more than one third of a student's total MA seminar coursework may be taken outside of the Department of English (one course for students pursuing the Thesis Option; two courses for students pursuing the MA Research Paper Option).