College of Arts and Sciences


Developing Your Plan of Study

The Master of Arts degree in English requires individual focus. Students will write a “Plan of Study” when accepted to the program, and will work with their mentors and the DGSE to keep their plans up-to-date. The departmental Plan of Study will supplement other forms required by the School of Graduate Studies. A sample Plan of Study can be found in the appendix.

The Catalog and the School of Graduate Studies Website

Complete information about course requirements, exit options, and more is available in the Graduate Catalog. You can consult printed copies distributed by the School of Graduate Studies, or you can read it online at the School of Graduate Studies website along with forms and other vital resources:

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Program Requirements

I. Core Course: 3 s.h.

ENG 500 Theory and the Practice of English Studies (3)

II. Electives: 21 s.h.

Approved coursework in English to complement undergraduate courses taken, to cultivate the focus outlined in the Plan of Study, and to total at least 30 s.h.

It is recommended that no more than six hours of coursework be taken at the 400G level.

Up to six hours may be taken from ENG 620, 622, and graduate courses in other departments.

III. Exit option: 6 s.h.

A. Option I: ENG 670 Applied Project (6)

B. Option II: ENG 680 Directed Readings (6)

C. Option III: ENG 690 Thesis (6)


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English 500 Theory and Practice of English Studies

ENG 500 is the only required course in our program. It seeks to provide context and preparation to excel in every other course you will take by grounding you in the norms of the discipline, particularly for writing and research. You should take this course as soon as you enter the program or within your first 9 s.h.

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Choosing Your Electives

Your coursework will include courses in literature, writing, and cultural studies. However, most students do choose to emphasize one of these areas, and you will probably take a few more courses focused in a specific field as you come to define the focus of your studies. However, you should expect to take a range of courses in all these areas before your begin your exit-option. 

As a rule of thumb, the graduate faculty believe the you will have the most rigorous and transformative intellectual experiences in English courses at the 500 level. However, in some circumstances, you may find opportunities in other kinds of courses, including graduate courses in other departments, “G” courses, independent studies, and internships. Up to six hours may be taken from ENG 620, 622, and graduate courses in other departments. However, these choices must be approved by the DGSE and the Graduate Committee as part of your Plan of Study and your Degree Plan. 

400G Courses

Often simply called “G” courses, these are 400-level undergraduate courses that you can take for graduate credit by doing work that rises to the level of graduate coursework— they require far more extensive readings and more ambitious writing than what is required of the undergraduates.

Though in particular circumstances you may need to take a 400G course, the graduate faculty usually will not sign off on a degree plan that includes more than 6 s.h. of 400G.

ENG 620 Independent Study

In general, the graduate faculty feel that you will have a stronger experience in 500-level coursework with your peers. However, if your intellectual goals cannot be met through a regularly offered course, an independent study may be an option. The DGSE can help you determine the best option for your needs.

Once you’ve received approval from the DGSE, you will need to find a faculty member willing to work with you on your project. Together you and the faculty member will write the formal proposal for the independent study and submit the form to the DGSE (who will register you).

ENG 622 Internship

Developing your professional goals can be an incredibly important part of your degree, and the graduate faculty encourages students to find or create internships that develop your skills. For instance, internships that focus on professional writing, library sciences, or other subjects can be crucial to future success. Internships are especially recommended for those students interested in non-academic careers. Each semester hour of internship requires at least 40 hours of work (e.g., 3-credit internship requires 120 hours of work). To register, you must first complete an Internship Proposal and it must be approved by the DGSE (who will register you).

Courses in Other Departments

Given the particular focus of your project, in some circumstances a graduate course in another department can make a vital contribution to your studies. However, these choices must be approved by the DGSE and the Graduate Committee as part of your Plan of Study and your Degree Plan before you register for a course outside the ENG designation. 

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Choosing Your Exit Option

The exit options represent the final and arguably most important part of your degree. They comprise the final 6 s.h. you will take as a student in the program, and they demand all the skills you have learned in your coursework. They represent a tremendous opportunity and challenge to focus, specialize, and develop substantial scholarly expertise in a particular topic. The exit option can take three forms: thesis; directed readings and exam: or an applied project. 

These three options are outlined below, but be sure to also see what former students have done. You can find list of recent exit-option projects here: Theses, Directed Readings, Applied Projects.

The Thesis

The thesis is a sustained work of scholarly research and argument on a specific topic. This is the most sustained and demanding intellectual work you can undertake as a graduate student, and writing a successful thesis confirms your expertise in your chosen research subject.

Typically, thesis projects are between 40-60 pages, often divided into two or three chapters. Writing for the thesis differs from other writing you will do in its scholarly rigor and professionalism. Generally, it takes two semesters to complete a thesis. If you choose to conduct human subjects research, you will most certainly need two semesters, and might consider using the summer as well.

The advantage of writing a thesis is its form as a publishable and portable document. Especially for those considering further graduate work, the thesis grounds your scholarly identity in a document that can serve as a writing sample, especially for academic jobs.

Directed Readings and Exam

The Directed Readings and Exam option is organized for broad reading rather than in-depth scholarly writing, and instead of producing and defending a large written argument, this option culminates in an oral and written examination by your committee that establishes your expertise in your area.

Because of the extraordinary focus and writing commitment demanded by the thesis, in some cases the directed readings might well be a better option. For instance, while a thesis project might investigate a particular novel, or even several works by different authors, the depth of research and the time needed to write would not allow for the kind of broad reading that is the heart of the directed readings. If your goal is to become an authority on the nineteenth-century American novel, for instance, the directed readings project would allow you to read 30 or 40 major novels and supporting criticism. For working teachers in particular, this can be a powerful option that immediately impacts classroom practice.

The content of the directed readings and the parameters of the exam are developed in consultation with your committee. While reading is at the heart of this, writing assignments are always a part of the process, and may include bibliographies, annotated bibliographies, short essays, notes, or other forms.

The Applied Project

For some students, the most effective way to bring together their intellectual interests and their professional goals is through an applied project. Projects are often tied to a professional situation, and often begin in an internship. Past students have produced varied and ambitious projects including: creating a comprehensive writing style manual for a business; reviewing, redesigning and implementing new assessment practices in a high school; creating a website devoted to the history of animation; working with digital media or film to produce a research-content project. The applied project includes a research-based content part with a paper of 25-30 pages, with a reading list of at least 20 secondary sources and it may also include an annotated bibliography.

Forming and Managing Your Exit-Option Committee

It is the student’s responsibility to form a committee, and there are many issues to negotiate that can impact the success of your exit option. For any of the options, you will need a faculty director and two faculty readers. This committee will guide your work along the way, suggest resources, and ask for revisions; at the end of your project you will defend your work before this committee. Signatures from all committee members are required on an approval page to indicate you have passed your defense and completed your exit option.

The faculty director is the most important member of the committee, and the first person you need to identify. Your director should have expertise in the field you will research and should also be a faculty member with whom you work well. To find the right director, you should get to know the entire faculty well, talk with them about their research, and tell them about your own interests and goals.

Once you have identified the faculty member you feel would be the best director, you need to ask them to direct your work. This usually involves scheduling a meeting and having a lengthy conversation (though for students at a distance, email exchanges and phone calls can work as well). Your potential director needs to assess their own expertise in relation to your project, their other teaching, research, and advising commitments, and how they feel about working with you. If a faculty member cannot work with you for any number of potential reasons, they will often suggest another likely director.

Once you have a director, discuss with them the constitution of the rest of the committee. Their input is vital to creating a cohesive and effective committee that can best help you succeed. At that point, you can approach other faculty members about serving as readers.

As you work on your exit option, be sure that you have clear expectations about assignments, drafts, and other matters with your committee. Be sure to meet with your director regularly, and provide your readers regular updates about your progress.

The Exit-Option Proposal

In consultation with your director, you will need to write and file a proposal before you can register for hours in the exit-option you have chosen. This document will define your topic, timeline, expectations, and more. Samples can be found in the appendix and attachments online at Resources/Forms.

The Thesis and Defense

The thesis defense comprises a brief presentation of your project followed by questions about your thesis work. The committee may ask you about any aspect of your work, and will particularly hope to see that you speak about your project with depth, confidence, and authority.

For guidelines on preparing your thesis, visit the School of Graduate Studies website and download their “Guidelines for Preparation and Submission of Electronic/Non-electronic Theses and Electronic Dissertations” at

The Directed Readings Exam

While different committees and the specifics of your project may affect the form of the exam, generally this is a written followed by an oral exam. Typically, you will work with your committee on a reading list and on developing exam questions.

The Applied Project

For the applied project, depending on the specifics of the project, there is an oral exam following the written section.

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Other Requirements
Filing the Degree Plan

The official degree plan is not the same thing as the Plan of Study you will work out with the DGSE. The degree plan is one of the official exit documents required by the School of Graduate Studies for your graduation. You can see the blank form in the appendix or download it here:

The School of Graduate Studies likes to see a degree plan filed when you have taken between 9 and 15 hours of credit, but we suggest that you wait until the semester you plan to graduate. This is because you must file a petition for every change you want to make on your degree plan, and the Master's degree in English at WIU is so flexible that it is extremely difficult to map out your degree so early in your program.

When it's time to submit your degree plan, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • You must list all courses you've taken, with the instructor and the grade. Don't worry about grades for courses you are currently taking; the School of Graduate Studies will fill them in at the end of the semester.
  • Check the requirements for your degree in the catalog that was current when you began taking graduate classes to be sure you have met all requirements.
  • Requirements change from time to time, and when they do, you have the option to fulfill the requirements of either the catalog you began with or the catalog you're finishing under. Be sure to consult your advisor if you have any questions about this.
  • Fill in all the information requested at the top of the form.
  • Fill in the Total Semester Hours box.
  • The form does not require your thesis director's signature, merely his or her name.
  • The form does require your signature.
  • When you've completed the form, make a photocopy for your files. Then give it to the DGSE, who will pass it along to the Graduate Committee for their signatures. The DGSE will then forward it to the School of Graduate Studies.

If at any time during this process you have questions, please consult the DGSE.

Applying for Graduation

During your final semester, you will need to file an Application for Graduation with the School of Graduate Studies. This form can be found on their website: A copy is also in the appendix. You must submit your application to the School of Graduate Studies by March 10 for spring graduation; June 10 for summer; and October 10 for fall. Also remember to fill out the Alumni Register Form (located in dropdown box on STARS).

If you are a thesis student, please upload your thesis to ProQuest no later than Friday before finals.  For electronic submission instructions, please visit:

If have indicated that you will be participating in the Spring Macomb commencement ceremony, find information about the ceremony here:


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