Master of Arts in English

The UW Oshkosh Master of Arts in English program is designed to foster creative and scholarly explorations of English language and literature. 

The MA in English is a 36-credit degree. Required courses include:

  • 581: Foundations of Literary Criticism (3 credits)
  • 704: Research Methods (3 credits)
  • 705: English Thesis (3 credits)

Students must take a minimum of 18 credits at the 700 level.  Elective 700-level courses include: 

  • 701: Seminar in Literature (3 credits)
  • 702: Seminar in Linguistics (3 credits)
  • 703: Seminar in Theory and Criticism (3 credits)
  • 708: Special Topics in English Studies (3 credits)
  • 709: Seminar in Creative Writing (3 credits)
  • 714: Seminar in Rhetoric and Writing (3 credits)
  • 796 Independent Study (3 credits)

Students may take a course more than once with different optional content.

All MA students are required to take at least two cultural studies or literature courses (6 credits), at least one rhetoric/composition or linguistics course (3 credits), and at least one creative writing course (3 credits). 

Up to six credits of 500-, 600-, or 700-level coursework can be non-English courses, but they do not have to be. Only three credits of non-English 700-level coursework may count toward the 18-credit minimum of 700-level coursework. The remaining three credits of allowed non-English credits, whether taken at the 500, 600, or 700 level, will be counted as 500/600-level credits.

The Thesis Project

Each degree candidate will write a thesis of approximately sixty to eighty pages; it will be a substantial work of original research or empirical study in areas such as literature, linguistics, rhetoric, or creative writing. 

Requirements for the two thesis options are available below:

Creative Writing Requirements

Format and Content Requirements

Approval by thesis director

The prospective Creative Writing Thesis Director will assess Master of Arts in English students’ readiness to undertake a Creative Writing Thesis (i.e., competency and/or credit hours).

Students wishing to submit a Creative Writing Thesis must, like other master’s degree candidates, obtain approval from a thesis adviser and submit a prospectus. Students are encouraged to submit projects that have undergone a rigorous process of discussion with the Creative Writing Thesis advisor. 

Note: If a student assembles an interdisciplinary committee, the thesis itself must still adhere to M.A. in English Creative Writing Thesis Guidelines.


Thesis Format

The Creative Writing Thesis must include an introductory chapter, of a minimum 12 pages but no more than 25 pages, giving the reader a scholarly overview of the literary traditions in which the student’s creative work participates; thus, it must do the following:

  • Analyze relevant genres, using critical sources 
  • Situate the writer in relation to predominant craft-related challenges 
  • Explain recurrent themes, the revision process, and/or influential authors/texts
  • Include a thorough bibliography for readers eager to conduct additional studies on the creative work and its tradition(s).



Acceptable genres of the Creative Writing Thesis include poetry, fiction, drama, and the literary non-fiction essay. Other genres and formats may be considered.


Thesis Length 

The Creative Writing Thesis itself, not including the introduction, generally should range from 60 to 80 pages, plus bibliography. Appropriate manuscript length will be determined in consultation with specialists in each genre.


Thesis Format

The final result is an original manuscript. The format of the introductory chapter and bibliography must follow formal guidelines established by the UW Oshkosh Master of Arts in English program and The Graduate School and Research. These guidelines are published in the following manuals:

  • MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, 2nd ed. (New York: Modern Language Association, 2008)
  • Format Policy and Style Manual (The Graduate School and Research, UW Oshkosh).
Critical Thesis

Format and Content Requirements

Students wishing to submit a Critical Thesis must, like other Master’s degree candidates, obtain approval from his/her thesis advisor and submit a prospectus. Students are encouraged to submit projects that have undergone a rigorous process of discussion with his/her thesis advisor.

Note: If a student assembles an interdisciplinary committee, the thesis itself must still adhere to M.A. in English thesis guidelines, and the thesis advisor (the chair of the student’s thesis committee) must be a member (in good standing) of the English graduate faculty.

UW Oshkosh Master of Arts in English students are expected to show mastery of academic English language and literature. The critical thesis should allow student to demonstrate their abilities in the following areas:

Clear argument

Students should focus on a specific question or problem, avoiding miscellaneous observations on a topic and “octopus-like” discussions.


Original thinking

Students should treat their coursework as a starting point for their thesis, using their assigned reading and class discussions as a springboard for independent research and original argument.


Superior grasp of subject matter with sound critical evaluations

Students should research widely before writing, enabling them to make solid assessments and assertions. Thesis Directors should discourage students from committing prematurely to an argument and encourage them to read widely, to test their ideas, and to ask themselves what might be said against it. Requiring an annotated bibliography or bibliographic essay may be a good preliminary step in this process.


Evidence of extensive knowledge base/Capacity to analyze and synthesize

Students should review relevant scholarship and situate their own arguments within relevant criticism on the subject.


Use of quality (graduate-level) secondary sources

Students should use discretion and show initiative when choosing their secondary sources, using not only on-line texts but also quality sources available on microform and through universal borrowing/interlibrary loan.


Argument that is not only valid but significant

Students should write a thesis that can stand up to criticism and challenge, moving beyond work that is merely valid and solid to work that offers a unique and interesting contribution to a given field of study. Students should be encouraged to identify how their theses contribute to debate over their subject and/or why their argument is significant.


Familiarity with literary theory/critical approaches

While theory may not play a significant role in all theses, students are encouraged to demonstrate a familiarity with any appropriate theoretical/critical approach to their thesis area (literature, rhetoric, cultural studies, or film).


Precise mechanical and grammatical skills

Graduate-level work should demonstrate excellent grammar and writing skills.


The final result of the 3-credit critical thesis is to take the primary form of a written manuscript between 60-100 pages. The format of the thesis and bibliography must follow formal guidelines established by the UW Oshkosh Master of Arts in English program and The Graduate School and Research. These guidelines are outlined in the following manuals:

  • MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing,
  • Format Policy and Style Manual (The Graduate School and Research, UW Oshkosh).