Skip to main content
Skip to main content

English (M.A.)

The English M.A. program at UMD provides broad training in literature, language and theory for students and professionals in the greater Washington D.C./Baltimore metropolitan area.

The English M.A. and PhD program at the University of Maryland is characterized by scholarly engagement across various fields. The program has a wide reach within the English Department not only through our graduate courses, but also lectures, colloquia, and academic events that speak to the interdisciplinary focus of its students and professors. The program affords graduate students the opportunity of receiving credit for interdisciplinary work in a variety of fields. Certificates are  available in Critical Theory, Digital  Studies in the Arts and Humanities, Jewish Studies,  and Women’s Studies.

Students in the M.A. program can additionally pursue concentrations in literature as well as in rhetoric and writing.

A full-time student will finish the M.A. in four to five semesters. English M.A. students who are employed as professionals outside the university are permitted to pursue the program on a part-time basis. 

Concentration in Literature

The M.A. in literature focuses on literary history and methods and theories of literary study. This degree does not require an area of specialization, but many students find that the generous opportunity to take electives (12 credits/4 courses) enables them to concentrate their studies in a particular area if they so choose. Students wishing to concentrate on composition may be interested in our concentration in writing studies and rhetoric.

Course Requirements

The M.A. in literature requires 30 hours of graduate work. All students must meet the following requirements:

ENGL 601, “Literary Research and Critical Contexts,” or ENGL 602, “Critical Theory and Literary Criticism” (3 credits)
1 course in Critical Theory, Genre, or Rhetoric (3 credits)
1 course in each of the following (12 credits):

  • Medieval and/or Early Modern
  • The Long Eighteenth Century
  • The Long Nineteenth Century
  • Modern and Contemporary

The distribution of the remaining 12 hours depends upon the student's selection of the M.A. thesis or M.A. writing project option. All students, however, must take at least 9 of their 30 credits in 700-level seminars or their equivalent. Students may take up 6 credits of independent-study courses to fulfill 600-level electives requirements. Students may also, in place of three credits of an independent-study class, take one 400 level course to fulfill the elective requirement. Students interested in taking an independent-study course for 600-level course credit should collaborate with their professor in writing up an intended course of study and file it with the Graduate Office for approval by the director of Graduate Studies (DGS) before the first day of classes each semester (please see Independent Study Form here). 

Students may also make special arrangements to do additional work in their 600-level courses to have those courses count as a seminar/700 level course. Students wishing to take a 600-level class as a seminar must provide the Graduate Studies Office with a proposal and syllabus detailing the additional work that will be undertaken in order for the course to be counted as a 700-level seminar. The proposal and syllabus must be signed by both student and instructor and submitted to the Graduate Studies Office for approval by the DGS at the beginning of the semester. Please see form for taking a course for seminar credit here. Students may not take an independent study for seminar/700 level credit except in extreme circumstances and only after receiving permission from the DGS.

Please note that students can't retake courses for credit; only one course number can count towards their degree requirements. Courses that end in a letter can count towards their degree requirements, given that the ending letter is different for both courses.

The student who chooses to complete the M.A. writing project will complete 30 credits of coursework. The student who chooses the thesis option will take a total of eight courses (24 credits) and will register for six credits of thesis research (ENGL 799).

Concentration in Writing Studies and Rhetoric

The M.A. with a concentration in writing studies and rhetoric is a 30-credit degree program, allowing course work in any one of three areas: the rhetorical study of texts, the teaching of writing or professional/non-academic writing. The student takes courses selected from a list of courses involving various aspects of the theory of writing/composition, rhetoric and language studies, and successfully completes an M.A. capstone project or master’s thesis (for a total of 30 credits). Students wishing to concentrate on literary studies may be interested in our concentration in literature.

For more details about the strengths of the language, writing and rhetoric program, upcoming courses and graduate student profiles, please see their area group page.

1. Two required courses (6 credits):

  • ENGL607, “Readings in the History of Rhetoric to 1900”
  • ENGL775, “Seminar in Composition Theory” or ENGL776, “Seminar in Modern Rhetorical Theory”

2. Four courses chosen from the following (12 credits):

  • ENGL 605, “Readings in Linguistics”
  • ENGL 609, “Technologies of Writing”
  • ENGL 611, “Approaches to College Composition”
  • ENGL 612, “Approaches to Professional and Technical Writing”
  • ENGL 618, “Writing for Professionals”
  • ENGL 649, “Readings in Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy”
  • ENGL 668, “Readings in Digital Studies”
  • ENGL 708, “Topics in Rhetoric”
  • ENGL 776, “Seminar in Modern Rhetorical Theory”
  • ENGL 779, “Topics in Language Study”

3. Four electives (12 credits, unless a thesis is chosen, then two electives (6 credits) plus 6 credits of thesis hours.)

Students may also elect to take a course in another discipline (communication, iSchool, education, classics, etc.). The course must be approved by the director of Graduate Studies or the rhetoric and composition adviser (currently Dr. Sara Wilder) prior to the start of the semester.

Students may take up 6 credits of independent-study courses to fulfill 600-level electives requirements. Students may also, in place of 3 credits of an independent-study class, take 1 400 level course to fulfill the elective requirement. Students interested in taking an independent-study course for 600-level course credit should collaborate with their professor in writing up an intended course of study and file it with the Graduate Office for approval by the DGS before the first day of classes each semester (please see Independent Study Form here). Students may also make special arrangements to do additional work in their 600-level courses to have those courses count as a seminar/700 level course. Students wishing to take a 600-level class as a seminar must provide the Graduate Studies Office with a proposal and syllabus detailing the additional work that will be undertaken in order for the course to be counted as a 700-level seminar. The proposal and syllabus must be signed by both student and instructor and submitted to the Graduate Studies Office for approval by the DGS at the beginning of the semester. Please see form for taking a course for seminar credit here. Students may not take an independent study for seminar/700 level credit except in extreme circumstances and only after receiving permission from the DGS.

At least three seminar-level courses are required, which may be counted toward any of the above requirements.

Please note that students can't retake courses for credit; only 1 course number can count towards their degree requirements. Courses that end in a letter can count towards their degree requirements, given that the ending letter is different for both courses.

4) M.A. Capstone Project or Master’s Thesis

Option One: M.A. capstone project. The capstone, directed by a faculty advisor, may be based on a traditional seminar paper, revised and resubmitted; it may be a pedagogy portfolio; or it may be a digital project.

Option Two: Master’s thesis, ENGL799 (6 credits). If this option is chosen, the student may take 2 electives instead of 4.

Capstone Project

The M.A. capstone project is a graduate-level piece of critical inquiry that contributes to an established area in English language and/or literary studies. The M.A. capstone can take various forms or platforms to be determined in collaboration by the student, their director and reader and the DGS. These forms and platforms may include an article-length (approximately 5,000-7,500 words) critical essay based on a traditional seminar paper, revised in collaboration with the student’s director and reader; a pedagogy portfolio with a critical component; a digital project with a critical component; a personal essay or literary ethnography with a critical component; or a translation or edition with a critical component.

Completion of the M.A. capstone project does not involve any additional registration beyond the 30 credits of coursework. An independent study to revise an existing paper cannot be used as one of the 10 required classes for the M.A.

Committee: The committee consists of a director, a reader and a representative of the Graduate Office (the director of Graduate Studies or a member of the Graduate Committee).  In many cases involving a paper revision, the director will be the professor for whom the paper was written and the reader will be a professor in the same field of study. In all cases, the director and reader oversee the capstone project; the representative of the Graduate Office reads only the final version of the project.

Timing: Full-time M.A. students should begin the process of choosing a project and finding a director and reader, preferably in their third and no later than the beginning of their fourth semester of study. Part-time students should consult the DGS about the timing of the capstone project. The student must inform the CGS they will be completing their capstone project no later than the second week of the semester in which the student plans to graduate.

Students should defend the capstone project sometime in the first 12 weeks of their final semester in the M.A. program. Students work with their directors to schedule the defense and must submit the project to their committee members at least two weeks before the defense. Students should contact the Graduate Office to reserve a room for the defense at least six weeks prior to the proposed date. At that time, the student should inform the Graduate Office of the date, time and committee members of the capstone project.

Defense: The one-hour defense of the capstone project begins with the student giving a brief presentation of the project, focusing on the work completed for the capstone. In the case of revised papers, this includes a focus on the revision process. The presentation is followed by an open discussion of the paper by the committee members and the student.

At the conclusion of the discussion, the committee assigns to the writing project one of three grades: "High Pass," a recognition of truly exemplary work requiring agreement of all committee members; "Pass," a judgment by at least two committee members that the paper fulfills the main goals of the writing project; and "Fail," a judgment by at least two committee members that the paper does not fulfill those goals. Students who receive a "High Pass" or "Pass" will make final revisions at the discretion of the director; the final revision must be submitted to the director no later than the end of the semester. Students who receive the grade of "Fail" may resubmit a revised paper in a subsequent semester. A second "Fail" will disqualify the student from receiving the M.A.

Thesis

The M.A. thesis is a critical and scholarly work (approximately 75 pages in length, including abstract and works cited) produced under the close supervision of a director chosen by the student in consultation with the director of Graduate Studies.

Committee: The student must identify and secure the agreement of a faculty member who will direct the M.A. thesis. Two additional members of the faculty, chosen by the student in consultation with the director, comprise the thesis committee. The committee reads the completed thesis; unlike the M.A. writing project, the M.A. thesis must be deemed ready for defense before the defense is scheduled.

Timing: The student who chooses the thesis option must submit to the Graduate School the Nomination of Thesis Committee form by the posted deadline. Students should work with their directors to schedule the defense well in advance of its anticipated occurrence.

Defense: The defense runs approximately one hour. Typically, the defense begins with a statement by the student on the project, which is then followed with either consecutive questioning by the examiners or a more open discussion. At the conclusion of the discussion, the committee assigns to the M.A. thesis one of three grades: "High Pass," a recognition of truly exemplary work requiring agreement of all committee members; "Pass," a judgment by at least two committee members that the paper fulfills the main goals of the writing project; and "Fail," a judgment by at least two committee members that the paper does not fulfill those goals. Students who receive a "High Pass" or "Pass" will make final revisions at the discretion of the director; the final revision must be submitted to the director no later than the end of the semester. Students who receive the grade of "Fail" may have a second defense in a subsequent semester. A second "Fail" will disqualify the student from receiving the M.A.

Submission of thesis: The approved thesis must be submitted electronically to the Graduate School by the deadlines posted for graduation in a given semester. Information about all aspects of electronic submission of the thesis is available on the Graduate School website.

Deadlines and Paperwork

The M.A. program takes two academic years to complete if pursued full-time.

Completing the M.A. involves careful attention to deadlines imposed and paperwork required by the Graduate School. 

Specific deadlines for students intending to graduate will be announced on the English graduate-student reflector and on the Graduate School's Deadlines for Graduate Students.

The forms required to apply for graduation and complete the M.A. are available at the Graduate School’s General Forms for Graduate Students.

M.A. Application Instructions

Submit the complete application and all supporting materials by December 9, 2020. Please note that the system will close promptly at midnight, so you will be unable to edit your application past 11:59pm on December 9. The system is set to Maryland time (EST). If you are uncertain about what time that the system will close in your timezone, please look it up. We are unable to make exceptions for late applications based on timezone.

University of Maryland's Graduate Application Process

The University of Maryland’s Graduate School accepts applications through its application system. Before completing the application, applicants are asked to check the Admissions Requirements site for specific instructions.

As required by the Graduate School, all application materials are to be submitted electronically:

  • Graduate Application
  • Non-refundable application fee ($75) for each program
  • GRE Scores. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the effect it's had on standardized testing, mobility within nations and states, and applicants' personal priorities and concerns, we will review applications without GRE scores. If you have any more questions or concerns about the rest of your application materials, please contact the Graduate Coordinator, Heather Dias, at hdias@umd.edu.
  • Statement of Goals, Research Interests, and Experiences. The statement, which should be around 1000 words, should address relevant aspects of your educational experience, the focus of your academic interests, and reasons for applying to our program. If you are applying to the PhD program but would like to be considered for the MA if you are not selected for the PhD, please indicate that here.
  • Unofficial transcripts of your entire college/university record (undergraduate and graduate), including records of any advanced work done at another institution. Electronic copies of these unofficial transcripts must be uploaded along with your on-line application. Official transcripts will be required after an applicant is admitted to the program.
  • Three letters of recommendation. In your on-line application, please complete fully the information requested for your recommenders and ask them to submit their letters electronically. We do not accept letters through Interfolio.
  •  A single sample of critical writing of approximately 12-20 pages double-spaced (not including works cited/bibliography). While we encourage you to submit your best writing sample, we prefer a writing sample in your declared field of interest. If you are submitting an excerpted selection, please include a brief description or introduction to the selection. The MLA citation format is preferred.
  • Academic CV/Resume

The electronic submission of application materials helps expedite the review of an application. Completed applications are reviewed by an admissions committee in each graduate degree program. The recommendations of the committees are submitted to the Dean of the Graduate School, who will make the final admission decision. Students seeking to complete graduate work at the University of Maryland for degree purposes must be formally admitted to the Graduate School by the Dean.  To ensure the integrity of the application process, the University of Maryland authenticates submitted materials through TurnItIn for Admissions.

Information for International Graduate Students

The University of Maryland is dedicated to maintaining a vibrant international graduate student community. The office of International Students and Scholars Services (ISSS) is a valuable resource of information and assistance for prospective and current international students.  International applicants are encouraged to explore the services they offer, and contact them with related questions.

The University of Maryland Graduate School offers admission to international students based on academic information; it is not a guarantee of attendance.  Admitted international students will then receive instructions about obtaining the appropriate visa to study at the University of Maryland which will require submission of additional documents.  Please see the Graduate Admissions Process for International applicants for more information.

Contact

Questions related to the admissions process, prospective students may contact the Graduate School.

Prospective Student FAQ

Because many of our applicants share general questions about the application process, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions to make applying a bit easier.

Prospective Student FAQ