All M.A. students must successfully complete a capstone experience, either in the form of an Exam, a Thesis, or a Project. Please contact the Director of Graduate Studies in English, Dr. Lara Vetter [LVetter@uncc.edu], if you have any questions about the capstone experience.
For students in the creative writing concentration, there is more information here, including descriptions of the project and thesis options, as well as samples of prospectuses, help with critical introductions to creative work, and other helpful materials.
The M.A. thesis is an option for students in all concentrations. Though writing a scholarly or creative thesis is not required for the M.A. in English, many students find that it is a rewarding experience. For students electing the thesis option, students write their theses at the end of their program and not before completing 24 hours of coursework. Six hours of the 36 hours required in the program will be thesis credits, taken in the final semester. Students not completing their theses by the end of that semester may continue thesis work in a subsequent semester by registering for one hour of credit in ENGL 6890 with their thesis adviser.
It is strongly recommended that students taking the thesis option enroll in a directed reading with their thesis adviser in the semester prior to the semester thesis hours are taken in order to complete some of the thesis work before the final semester. For this reason, students should make a decision about whether or not to take the thesis option by the time they reach the half-way point in their coursework.
Unlike the Project or Exam, the Thesis process is administrated by the Graduate School. For the requisite deadlines and forms, please consult their website https://graduateschool.uncc.edu/current-students/graduation-clearance/masters-thesis-checklist, and let the Director of Graduate Studies know if you have any questions. It is the responsibility of the student to meet these deadlines and submit forms on time.
It is strongly recommended that students electing to write a creative thesis (defined as a collection of poems, a collection of short stories, or a novella) take coursework in creative writing.
The creative thesis may include material produced in earlier classes, but that material must be substantially revised and the thesis must also include a substantial amount of new work. Students in the creative writing concentration must complete a creative thesis or creative project; students in the children’s literature concentration who wish to write a thesis may opt for a creative or scholarly thesis.
Students intending to write a scholarly, research-based thesis should explore possible topics with the faculty members most knowledgeable in those topics and should do preliminary reading to gain some sense of the literature relating to the topics. Students needing help with the process of identifying possible thesis directors should consult with the Director of Graduate Studies.
Choosing a Thesis Committee
When students feel ready to discuss a tentative topic for a scholarly thesis, they should discuss that topic more specifically with a graduate faculty member who has expertise in the area. If both parties wish to move forward in this thesis process, the student and this faculty member (the chair of the thesis committee), in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies in English, should identify two other members of the graduate faculty who may have some expertise in the area and who are willing to serve on the thesis committee. Thesis committees for students in the creative writing concentration must be chaired by a member of the creative writing faculty and at least two members of the committee must be members of the creative writing faculty. One person from outside the English Department may serve as a member of either a scholarly or creative thesis committee; however, the Director of Graduate Studies in English will grant a request for an outside committee member to serve only in the rare case in which that person’s expertise is more suited to some aspect of the thesis topic than the expertise of any English faculty member. In most cases, students will work with thesis committees comprising faculty members with whom they have already taken courses.
The purpose of the thesis committee is to guide the student; to serve as resource persons; to supervise the student’s progress, and to evaluate the final product and assign a grade for the six-hour thesis course. It is the responsibility of the chair of the thesis committee to record the grade for the thesis.
Thesis Proposal and Registration
After establishing the thesis committee, the student should submit to the committee a written proposal containing the proposed topic, a summary of the research the student has already conducted on this topic, an outline of the parts of the thesis as envisioned at this stage of the process, a tentative schedule for completion of the project, and a preliminary bibliography. While there is no official length for the proposal, most proposals fall into the range of about 8 to 10 pages typed; check with your thesis adviser about their expectations for your proposal. Keep in mind that a draft of this document must be submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies in English before the beginning of the semester when the student enrolls in ENGL 6996, using this form.
Thesis Proposal Defense
The thesis proposal, when defended and formalized, must be approved by the Thesis Committee, and the requisite form submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies in English by the deadline posted on the university calendar and the Graduate School website.
By the date posted on the university calendar and the Graduate School website, the student must ensure, with the staff person at the Graduate School, that the thesis is correctly formatted. The student is responsible for seeing that the guidelines in the Manual of General Formatting Requirements, available at the Graduate School are followed. The Graduate School checks to see if the thesis conforms to the guidelines and will not accept the thesis if these guidelines have not been followed.
In addition to adhering to these guidelines, the student should follow the current edition of the MLA Handbook unless the thesis deals with linguistics, in which case students may follow the "LSA Style Sheet" or the APA guidelines.
Students should plan to send their final thesis to the members of the Thesis Committee 3-4 weeks in advance of the defense. The thesis defense will be scheduled for a regular class period (one hour and fifteen minutes). In the defense, the student will give a brief overview of the findings in the thesis, and then answer questions posed by the members of the committee. Once all questions have been answered, the committee will deliberate (in closed session) its recommendations and decide whether the thesis:
- Passes with recommendations for slight revisions (which can be overseen by the chair of the Thesis Committee)
- Requires further revisions that have to be approved by all members of the Committee at a later date.
Students and thesis directors should check the academic calendar for the semester in which the student intends to graduate to determine when a thesis defense must be held in order to meet the Graduate School deadlines for that term. Since the paperwork and cover page of the thesis must be signed and submitted within 24 hours of the defense, the student should also inform the Director of Graduate Studies when a defense date is selected.
The M.A. project is an alternative to the thesis in applied linguistics, composition/rhetoric, creative writing, English Education, ESP, and technical/professional writing concentrations. (Students in the certificate program in technical/professional writing may also complete an M.A. project in lieu of an internship.) An M.A. Project typically consists of 30-40 pages and is often the result of a significant revision of work already completed in an M.A. course.
Registration for Project Hours
Projects and portfolios are completed at the end of the M.A. program—in the last semester, and not before 21 hours of coursework have been completed. As students near the time they intend to complete a project/portfolio, they should consult with the Director of Graduate Studies in English about selecting a member of the graduate faculty to direct the project/portfolio. The student will then work with the project/portfolio director to develop a prospectus (usually 1-3 pages) that must be approved by the project/portfolio director and submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies in English (before the beginning of the semester when the student takes project hours), using this form; check with your thesis adviser about their expectations for your proposal. The student then enrolls in 3 credit hours of the M.A. Project course with their director.
Writing the Project/Portfolio Paper
Students will work with the project/portfolio director to produce a paper that the director deems ready for presentation to a project/portfolio committee. That committee will be comprised of the director and two additional readers of the project/portfolio, who will be appointed by the Director of Graduate Studies in consultation with the project/portfolio director. Copies of the project/portfolio paper must be submitted to readers at least two weeks prior to the formal project/portfolio presentation. The presentation will be scheduled no later than the last week of classes for the semester.
Presenting the Project/Portfolio Paper
The presentation will be scheduled for a regular class period (one hour and fifteen minutes). The student will give a discussion of the research undertaken during the writing of the project/portfolio, highlighting the key insights derived from the study (not more than 15 minutes). Members of the committee will then ask questions about and offer comments on the project/portfolio.
Should the director feel that a project/portfolio is not ready to be presented during the project/portfolio semester, an “I” (incomplete) may be assigned, and the presentation moved to a subsequent semester. Students not completing their projects by the end of that semester must register for one hour of credit in ENGL 6890 with their director in order to continue their work.
All students in the children’s literature concentration must pass the children’s literature exam or successfully complete a thesis. All students in the literature concentration must pass the literature exam; students in the literature concentration may opt to do a thesis in addition to the exam.
In general, the M.A. exam will give students a chance to demonstrate two educational achievements: an adequate knowledge of relevant texts and an ability to construct well-organized, well-written adequately sophisticated arguments involving those texts. The exam will be given once each spring and fall term. M.A. exam committees of English graduate faculty representing the Literature and Children’s Literature faculty will be appointed each spring and fall by the Director of Graduate Studies.
Because students must be enrolled in the semester in which they graduate, those who plan to take the exam during a semester in which they are not registered for any courses must enroll in ENGL 6890 (Directed Reading) for one hour of credit with the Director of Graduate Studies.
Grading and Assessment
The M.A. Exam is graded holistically; each student will receive a grade of “High Pass,” “Pass,” or “Fail.” A student who fails the exam will have to wait until the next regularly scheduled exam date to retake it. Exceptions to this rule will be considered only in truly extraordinary circumstances. Students whose native language is not English will be given an additional half-hour to complete the exam.
The exam should demonstrate:
- An ability to construct a conventional argument, including an introductory section that states the main claim and the explanation of that claim through the well-organized use of specific examples or instances.
- Adequate familiarity with the relevant texts and literary theory.
- An adequate understanding of the keyword/idea in the question.
- Adequate command of basic rules of grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
The following principles are used to assess the exam:
- Historical Analyses: If the question is historical, involving an issue of change over time, then the claim should make some statement about the meaning of the specific change over time. In addition, the claim should directly involve keyword/idea(s) from the actual question and adequately explain the test taker’s specific understanding or implementation of the keyword/idea. The explanation of examples should adequately expand the claim so as to reveal the relevant significance of change over time.
- Comparative: If the question is comparative, then the claim should make a statement about the meaning of the specific element(s) that are the basis for the comparison in the text(s) involved. In addition, the claim should directly involve keyword(s)/idea(s) from the actual question and adequately explain the test taker’s specific understanding or implementation of the keyword/idea. The explanation of examples should adequately expand the claim so as to reveal the significance of the differences between the texts.
- Summary vs. Analysis: While brief summaries of texts or data can be useful, they should be minimal. Analysis, not plot summary, is needed for a passing score. The response should contain specific examples (not necessarily quotes of course) from the text(s) and/or concepts from the approach(es) should appear in the response, and those examples, instances, or concepts should be explained in relation to the main claim.
- Breadth and Depth: Responses should demonstrate both skills at constructing arguments and knowledge of the content of the books on one’s reading list because essays will be evaluated for both depth and breadth. Depth refers to the quality of argumentative claims. Breadth refers to the number of different texts successfully considered, given the nature of the prompts chosen. Therefore, students should use different texts as examples in the two questions they choose to answer.
M. A. Exam Application Deadlines
Students planning to take the M.A. exam should submit their proposed reading lists to the Director of Graduate Studies (who will forward lists to the Graduate Committee for approval) no later than October 15, for those taking the exam the following spring semester; and March 15, for those taking the exam the following fall semester. Students who decide not to take the exam in the semester after submitting the list should inform the Director of Graduate Studies as soon as possible.
Download this handout for specific information about the M.A. Children’s Literature Exam.
Download this handout for specific information about the M.A. Literature Exam.