MA General Information and Requirements


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General Information and Requirements

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The Department of English offers three areas of emphasis within its MA program:

These emphases serve a variety of students with a wide range of purposes.

Applicants to the MA program must have an undergraduate major or minor in English or its equivalent from an accredited college or university, and a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0. Potential applicants who do not meet these minimum requirements should talk with the Director of Graduate Studies to determine which undergraduate English courses to take should they wish to prepare for graduate studies in English.

Detailed information on applying to the MA program is found here: How to Apply for Admission.

The following general requirements apply in all emphases within the MA program, except where clearly stated in the specific descriptions for each emphasis.

1. Time Limit

All requirements must be satisfied during the six calendar years immediately preceding the granting of the degree.

2. Graduate Committee

As soon as practical and in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies, a student should choose an advisory committee and complete a Program of Study. The graduate program in English emphasizes a close working relationship between the student and his or her advisory committee. Advisory committees for master's students consist of a chair and a second member from the graduate faculty in the Department of English and one member of the graduate faculty from another university department.

3. Choice of Thesis or Non-Thesis Plan

Our MA program allows students the option of writing a thesis or of substituting course work for the thesis. We encourage students to follow the non-thesis plan unless there is a compelling reason to select the thesis plan (as in the MA Writing emphasis).

4. Total Credits

The non-thesis plan requires 33 credits of graduate work; the thesis plan requires 31 total credits, 6 of which will be thesis credits. No more than 4 credits of Internship and 3 credits of English 790 Special Topics (Independent Study) may be counted toward the degree. Except in the case of required internships, independent study and internships credits may not be used to fulfill course requirements but may be counted for total number of credits for degrees.

5. Transfer Credits

No more than nine total credits applicable to the approved program of study may be accepted from graduate courses taken at another institution and/or taken at the University of Nevada, Reno on graduate special status. These courses must have been completed within the six-year time limit for the MA degree and must be approved to count toward the degree by the student's committee chair, the Director of Graduate Studies, and the Graduate School.

6. Residence

In the non-thesis plan, a minimum of 23 credits must be earned in residence; in the thesis plan, the minimum is 21 credits.

7. Continuous Registration

Graduate School regulations require graduate students to maintain continuous registration of at least three credit hours per semester to remain active in the pursuit of a degree. This means that students studying for comprehensive exams or writing theses must (even if they are not in residence) register for at least three credit hours each semester (summers excluded) until they graduate.

8. Seminar Requirement

All MA students are required to take a substantial portion of their course work at the 700 level or above. In the Literature emphasis (thesis and non-thesis plans), at least 23 credits must be completed in courses numbered 700 or above. In the Writing emphasis and in the Language emphasis, 19 credits must be numbered 700 or above in the thesis plan, or 16 credits in the non-thesis plan.

9. Foreign Language Requirement

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Competence in one language is required. French, German, Spanish, Italian, Latin, or Greek are recommended, but other languages may be approved by the student's advisory committee. The student is strongly advised to complete the work necessary to meet this requirement before becoming a graduate student, or as soon as possible after beginning graduate study. The requirement may be met either by course work or by examination. Course work: competence is demonstrated by the student completing fourth-semester college-level course work in the language with a grade of B or better in the final term of the course or by the student completing the second semester of a sophomore reading course with a grade of B or better. Examination: the student must pass a proficiency exam given by the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at the University of Nevada, Reno.

10. Comprehensive Examination

In order to register for 795 (comprehensive exam), a student must have met these requirements:

a) filed a completed Program of Study with the Graduate School;

b) completed all but the last semester of course work toward the degree for the MA;

c) met the foreign language requirement for the student's degree and area of emphasis;

d) met with the student's committee chair to work out plans for completing the written and oral portions of the exams;

e) returned the "Approval to Register for Comprehensive Exams" form, completed, to the English department office prior to the end of registration.

The MA program requires a comprehensive exam as a part of the degree requirements. In general, the exam includes three parts: a) a professional paper or a writing portfolio; b) a written examination over a set reading list or over course work; c) an oral exam of about an hour and a half, covering the professional paper or portfolio and the written exam. Examinations for each program emphasis are detailed below. A student must have completed the professional paper or portfolio and have passed the written exam prior to taking the oral exam. Failed written or oral exams can be retaken only once. Students must register for English 795, Comprehensive Exam, 1 credit, the semester they will be completing their exams.

11. Thesis (thesis plan only)

Students choosing a thesis plan will first prepare a thesis prospectus, in consultation with the chair of the advisory committee, for the committee's approval. The finished thesis, after meeting the approval of the advisory committee, is defended in the final oral examination, which also covers the written exam. In the Writing program, the final oral defense is separate from the discussion of the portfolio and written exam. While the thesis is in progress, the candidate should register for the six required hours of thesis credit (English 797), including one hour to be taken during the writing of the prospectus. Documentation and bibliography should follow the current MLA Style Manual. Precise guidelines for thesis format and submission are available at the Graduate School. Students doing research involving human subjects must check with the Office of Human Subjects Research in Ross Hall regarding necessary protocols and review procedures.

12. Graduation

To graduate in any given semester, the student must file an Application for Graduation by the dates specified for that semester in the university catalog and meet that semester's deadlines for submission of the Notice of Completion and (if on the thesis plan) the final copy of the thesis to the Graduate School. Students should be aware that graduation application dates at the University of Nevada, Reno are unusually early: the deadline is generally eight weeks prior to graduation.

13. Paperwork

The student is responsible for knowing the degree requirements and for submitting all Graduate School forms on time. Early in their graduate careers, students should become familiar with the most important of these forms: the Program of Study, the Notice of Completion, and the Application for Graduation. Most Graduate School forms are available on the web at The Application for Graduation is available on the Graduate School's website: