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The Thesis-based M.A.

Contents

Program Requirements

Degree structure

Coursework

Thesis

Other requirements

M.A. With Thesis

15 cu including English 801.3

Thesis (80-100 pages)

Registration in ENG 994 each term

Language requirement: intermediate level grade of 60% or higher in a language other than English; or pass a translation exam;

Registration in English 990 & GSR 960

Time in Program

All requirements for the thesis- or project-based M.A. must be completed within five years of the date of registration in the first course. However, we expect students to complete their M.A.-Thesis program in two years.

Residency Requirement

The University of Saskatchewan encourages students to spend time on campus interacting with faculty, researchers and other students and participating in the academic life of the university. The College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies has no minimum residency requirements. Individual graduate programs, however, are required to establish their own residency guidelines. The minimum residency for M.A. students in the Department of English is one year.

Thesis Program (24-month)

Students choosing the thesis route will be responsible for finding a willing supervisor by 15 January of their first year (or 1st May, for those who begin their studies in January). Students must apply to the graduate committee with a formal thesis proposal and M.A. Thesis Poposal Form by 1st May of their first year (1st September, for students who begin their studies in January). If a student is unable to obtain a supervisor and approval of the Graduate Committee for the proposed thesis, he or she would revert to the project-based degree. The Committee may ask a student to revise a thesis proposal; if the revised proposal is still judged to be unsatisfactory, the student will be required to switch to the project-based degree.

The Graduate Committee will act as advisory committee for students in the M.A.-with-thesis program until the thesis proposal has been approved, at which point an advisory committee consisting of the supervisor, another specialist in the area of the thesis, and a non-specialist will be appointed.

Students choosing the thesis route would normally be expected to complete their theses by March of their second year in the program (or by August for students who begin the program in January).

Courses

All incoming students must have their course selections approved by the Graduate Chair before registering online in the July-August period. 

During the regular session (fall and winter terms), graduate seminars meet once a week for two and a half hours. During the intersession (spring term), seminars meet several times each week.

Graduate students and instructors should have a standard expectation for assignments in courses. As well as giving reports, students write two term papers for each full year (six credit) seminar. For a three credit, single term course, students give reports and write one term paper. If course instructors do not wish to assign final examinations in graduate courses, they must apply to the College of Graduate Studies and Research for exemption.

All students must maintain an average above 70% in their coursework. A failing grade for an M.A. student is a mark below 60%. Students must take another course to replace a failed course, but the marks in the failed course still count toward the student's average. Students who fail two courses will be required to withdraw from the program.

The Department of English offers the following graduate classes:

ENG 801.3 - An Introduction to Textual Scholarship
ENG 802.6 - Studies in Literary and Cultural History
ENG 803.3 - Topics in Literary and Cultural History
ENG 804.6 - Studies in Individual Authors
ENG 805.3 - Topics in Individual Authors
ENG 810.6 - Studies in National and Regional Literatures
ENG 811.3 - Topics in National and Regional Literatures
ENG 816.6 - Studies in Literary and Cultural Theory
ENG 817.3 - Topics in Literary and Cultural Theory
ENG 818.6 - Studies in Methods and Texts
ENG 819.3 - Topics in Methods and Texts
ENG 842.6 - Studies in Genres and Contexts
ENG 843.3 - Topics in Genres and Contexts

Each year, faculty propose particular versions of these courses. Thus, Topics in Individual Authors might one year be a course on Shakespeare, and the next a course on Emily Dickinson. 

Graduate students in English may apply to the Graduate Committee to take one of their courses (a maximum of six credit units per degree program) outside the Department. Such an application must include a letter indicating the particular value and relevance of the course to the student's program, as well as a description (from the instructor of the course or the department in which it is taught) of readings and assignments to be undertaken to fulfil graduate-level requirements. Under the Western Dean's Agreement, a student in the English program at this University may also register in a graduate course (up to an equivalent of six credit units) at another Western Canadian university.

The experience of intellectual debate provided by seminars is vital to graduate study. In graduate degrees in English, course-work is intended to give students an opportunity to study at the graduate level a range of literature and a variety of approaches, and should not focus exclusively on one area of specialization. However, in exceptional cases, where a student's completion of the program would be jeopardized without studies in a particular area—studies that cannot be pursued through the courses offered in the English Department or elsewhere—a student may propose a reading course, arranged between the student and a faculty member. The Graduate Committee will evaluate the need for the proposed course and whether it is comparable to a regular full (6 c.u.) or half (3 c.u.) course, and will decide whether to recommend its approval to the College of Graduate Studies and Research. To protect the viability of our seminar offerings in any given year, reading courses will be recommended for approval only under these exceptional circumstances. Students may take a maximum of six credit units of reading courses. Students wishing to request a reading course should first consult the Chair of the Graduate Committee.

English 990: Professional Development Seminar

The professional development requirement has three aspects:

  1. All graduate students are required to attend the series of workshops entitled "Conversations on Graduate Studies in English" in their first year of graduate work. Several workshops will be offered each term on topics such as English Department and College of Graduate Studies and Research regulations and deadlines; preparing SSHRCC applications; writing the thesis/dissertation proposal; choosing a paper for the project-based M.A.; the graduate student-supervisor relationship; the thesis defence; electronic research in the humanities; looking for an academic job; preparing a c.v.; preparing the conference abstract, writing the paper, and presenting it.
  2. All Ph.D. students are required to give a 30-45 minute Works-in-Progress presentation in anticipation of their dissertation defence. The presentation might be either a detailed synopsis of the project or a conference-style paper. The scheduling of the seminar will be arranged by the Graduate Chair in consultation with the student and supervisor. In practice, this presentation would take place when the student's dissertation is well advanced.
  3. All graduate students are required to attend the Ph.D. Works-in-Progress seminars as well as the two colloquia hosted each year by the Department's Research Committee. NOTE:
    1. Eng. 990 will appear on graduate student transcripts;
    2. Conversations, the Ph.D. Works-in-Progress presentations, and the colloquia will normally be scheduled for Wednesday afternoons.

Language Requirement

Facility in a language related to one's area of specialization will enable advanced research and fuller participation in the scholarly life of a bilingual country and a multilingual academic community worldwide. The process of language learning cultivates a disciplined and systematic understanding of language as a complex human and social phenomenon, fosters an appreciation of diversity, and works against cultural insularity and complacency. 

We require students in the thesis-based M.A. program to demonstrate an intermediate knowledge of one language other than English.

In languages where the concept is applicable, a "reading knowledge" which would permit the student to translate, with the aid of a dictionary, a plain-style prose text of moderate length would meet this standard. This level of fluency would not be sufficient to enable scholarly work, but would constitute a first step toward scholarly facility.

Students whose first language is English, and who have learned another language through immersion or independent study, may satisfy the requirement by passing a translation exam, subject to the availability of a qualified examiner.

Native speakers of languages other than English are deemed to have met this requirement by learning English. 

Students who have earned at least 60% in a full-year (six credit unit) university-level language course in their undergraduate studies are deemed to have met this requirement. Students who enter the program without this preparation will be required to complete such a course as part of their program of studies, and to earn a minimum grade of 60%. Please note that courses offered at university, but designed to bring students up to high-school graduation level in a language (for example French 103.3 and 106.3), do not satisfy this requirement. Students with no language preparation should therefore plan to take the equivalent of two full-year undergraduate language courses in addition to their graduate course work. Early in the first year of the program, students who wish to demonstrate oral facility should consult the graduate chair about the possibility of extraordinary testing arrangements.

Intermediate knowledge
A grade of 60% or over in one of the following from the University of Saskatchewan (or equivalent course(s) from another university) is evidence of intermediate knowledge of a language:

    • French 125.3;
    • German 202.3 and 204.3;
    • 214.3 and 217.3;
    • Russian 214.3 and 217.3;
    • Spanish 202.3 and 204.3;
    • Ukrainian 214.3 and 217.3;
    • Cree 120.6 (note: Cree 101.6 is a prerequisite);
    • Latin 113.3 (note: Latin 112.3 is a prerequisite);
    • Greek 113.3 (note: Greek 112.3 is a prerequisite);
    • Hebrew 111.6;
    • Sanskrit 101.6.

Students are expected to check the prerequisites for these courses.

INCC 801.0 – Reading French also enables students to fulfill their language requirement.

The M.A. Thesis

1. Scope and Specifications

According to the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Calendar (2005-06), the M.A. thesis "will deal with a specific topic related to the major field" and "demonstrate [the] ability ... of the candidate to do independent study and investigation" (10). When finished, the M.A. thesis will be between eighty and one hundred pages. The finished document must conform to the requirements of the current editions of either the MLA Handbook or the Chicago Manual of Style. It will also meet the specifications of the College of Graduate Studies instructions for Electronic Theses and Dissertations.

Here are some ideas to keep in balance while planning and writing the thesis. Let the project be one you actually want to do, but also one you can complete on schedule. In other words, let it be a project absorbing, challenging, but also manageable enough for you to stick to what you proposed, and not be lured into other things. Writing a chapter of a thesis is not quite like writing a longish essay. Just as the thesis proposal does not predict the exact shape and destination of the final version, neither is the first draft of a chapter fixed in ideal relation to the whole. The thesis writer will likely have to see a chapter through a sequence of drafts, to respond to the supervisor's advice and comments, but also to fit the latest draft to the developing sense of the whole.

2. The Thesis Supervisor

On acceptance into the program, students are assigned a provisional thesis supervisor. Students are encouraged to approach a potential supervisor as soon as possible. If a student ends the first term of the first year of the program without a supervisor, he or she should see the Chair of the Graduate Committee for advice.

3. Writing the Proposal

The M.A. Thesis Poposal Form must be filled out in consultation with the supervisor. When completed, this form will show the working title for the thesis, a brief statement of the objectives of research, a statement of support from the supervisor, a detailed description of the project, and a working bibliography of primary and secondary sources important to the project. For the M.A., a two- to three-page proposal with a one or two-page bibliography is adequate. The completed proposal must conform to the requirements of the current Chicago Manual of Style or the MLA Handbook. You should submit the Thesis Proposal to the Chair of the Graduate Committee by 1st May of the first year of your program (1st September for those who began students in January). In addition to the hardcopy proposal, students are required to submit the proposal as an e-mail text to the Graduate Chair.

The thesis proposal is sent to the Graduate Committee, which has the task of either approving it (and the project it entails), or returning it to the student with advice for revision. Getting the approval of the Graduate Committee for the proposal is thus an important juncture in the whole project. A clear thesis proposal gives momentum to the research and writing that follow. It also gives a powerful focus to (and justification of) the thesis at the time of examination.

  1. The working title: This should be as specific as possible about the topic and its elements: text(s), author(s), time-period, genre, place, theory.
  2. Statement of objectives: No thesis writer knows in advance exactly what will be found out through the process of thinking about, researching towards, and writing the thesis. The statement of objectives on the thesis proposal should, however, indicate a hypothesis, and what the thesis writer wants to find out. This statement should include a clear, brief description of the topic area, with emphasis on the particular research questions to be investigated in this area.
  3. Description of the project: In this section of the proposal, the writer is expected to answer four questions: "Why are you choosing to study these texts?" "What features of these texts will you investigate?" "What approach are you taking in this investigation?" and "Why have you chosen this approach?" As well, this section of the proposal should include a plan for the structure of the thesis. A brief outline of chapters is helpful here, both for planning by the student, and assessment by the committee. This plan should answer questions about presentation and organization, such as "What will the introduction cover?" or "How will the chapters divide up the material?"
  4. Bibliography: The bibliography should draw attention to those sources that are deemed essential to the project. That is, it should be selective, and not exhaustive. While the writer should have read far enough into the key texts to be able to make an informed plan, the bibliography of a thesis proposal is not a checklist of everything read so far about the topic. The bibliography demonstrates the student's capacity to research the topic and familiarity with current publications on the research question.

4. Guidelines for Writer and Supervisor of the Thesis

The principal role of the supervisor is to help students achieve their scholarly potential. In doing so, the supervisor is a committed, accessible, stimulating, respectful guide but also a consistent and rigorous judge. After all, the student's work must meet the standards of the university and the discipline. It is unusual, though not impossible, for a student to change supervisors part way through a thesis project. Should a situation arise which may require a change in thesis supervision, either the student, the supervisor or both should consult the Chair of the Graduate Committee.

What can a student expect of a thesis supervisor?

  • to help select and plan a suitable and manageable research topic;
  • to help set and stick to a schedule of work;
  • to be either familiar with the specific area of research or willing to gain that familiarity;
  • to be available for consultation with the student about the project; depending on the project itself, and particularly on the student's stage of work on this project, such meetings may take place once a week, once a month, or once a term;
  • to consult with the Chair of the Graduate Committee on selection of specialist reader and external reader(s) for the thesis;
  • to respond expeditiously, thoroughly, and constructively to the student's drafts of the thesis;
  • to consult with the student and the Chair of the Graduate Committee about continuity of supervision before leaving for extended periods;
  • after approving the complete thesis, and having determined that its presentation of text is correct and consistent, to give a finished copy of it to the Graduate Chair, to be passed on to the specialist examiner; by saying the thesis is ready for examination, the supervisor does not commit the Department to accepting the thesis; and
  • to advise the student about any changes required in the thesis by its examiners.
What can a supervisor expect of a student?
  • to show commitment in learning what is needed to design and carry out the project;
  • to develop a plan for completion of all stages of the project, and to stick to that plan;
  • to meet with the supervisor and advisory committee when requested and to report fully and regularly on progress;
  • to maintain registration in the program and (for international students) to keep any necessary visas and immigration documents up to date;
  • to maintain an available current address;
  • to consider seriously and respond to advice and criticism;
  • to meet the requirements of the University, College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, and program, including those about deadlines and thesis style;
  • to recognize that the supervisor and advisory committee have other teaching, research, and administrative obligations which may take precedence over consultation on the thesis project; and
  • to be scrupulous in acknowledging sources of assistance or information.

5. The Advisory Committee

Each graduate student has an advisory committee. The student reports to this committee about progress towards completion of the requirements of the program, and the committee responds by either indicating approval of this progress or suggesting ways to improve it.

The Graduate Committee serves as advisory committee until the student's own committee is established by the Graduate Chair in consultation with the thesis supervisor. After consulting with the supervisor, the Graduate Chair will invite a specialist and a non-specialist departmental reader to join the thesis supervisor on the Advisory Committee. This committee is chaired by the Graduate Chair.

Yearly Advisory Committee Meetings

At least once a year, the advisory committee reviews the progress made by the student. Toward this review, each September M.A. students must submit an annual report on progress in the program, both hardcopy and as an e-mail text; the student's supervisor must receive and endorse this report, and then send it to the Graduate Chair.

The report should indicate: 

  • the student's progress toward completion of program requirements to date, including
    • courses 
    • online ethics course
    • language requirement
  • the student's progress toward submitting the thesis proposal,
  • the student's progress in researching and writing the thesis,
  • participation in research projects if applicable,
  • conference presentations or awards if applicable,
  • submissions or publications if applicable, and 
  • the student's plans for the upcoming year toward completing program requirements.

The advisory committee meets annually with students engaged in thesis research to discuss the year's work. The advisory committee may also recommend changes to the student's program, or to the direction of thesis research.

The Chair of the Graduate Committee reports annually to the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies about the progress of each student in the program. A report indicating unsatisfactory progress is referred for further action to the appropriate committee in this College.

When the thesis is ready for examination, the advisory committee is the basis for the examining committee.

What can a student expect of an advisory committee?

  • to provide constructive criticism of the student's ideas as the program develops;
  • to be reasonably accessible to the student for consultation; and
  • to comment on the student's annual progress report.

6. Thesis Examination

There are three examiners: a member of the Department who is a specialist in the subject of the thesis, another member of the Department who is not a specialist in the subject of the thesis, and a member of another department who has an interest in the subject of the thesis. The duties of each examiner are outlined here.

  1. Specialist examiner
    This examiner reads the thesis in its proposed final form, paying attention to its quality of argument, its professional maturity, and its structure, format, and readability. This process normally takes at least three weeks. In a report written to the Chair of the Graduate Committee and copied to the student and supervisor, this examiner will state whether or not the thesis is ready for examination. The student is free to proceed to the examination over the objections of the specialist examiner.

    In reporting that a thesis is ready for examination, the specialist examiner does not commit the Department to accept it at the examination. If there are serious concerns about the acceptability of aspects of the thesis, the written report will indicate them.
  2. Non-specialist examiner
    After the specialist examiner has reported and the student has made any necessary revisions, the departmental examiner reads the thesis. This examiner is concerned with the overall quality of the argument of the thesis, its structure and format, and its accessibility to readers knowledgeable in the discipline but not the specialization written about. The departmental examiner also checks that the thesis conforms to the stylistic and typographical specifications of the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. This second reading normally takes an additional three weeks.
  3. External examiner
    The external examiner represents the Dean of the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. After the specialist examiner has reported and the student has made any necessary revisions, the extra-departmental examiner reads the thesis, observes the examination as it proceeds, participates in evaluating the thesis and the student's responses during the examination, and afterwards submits a form reporting to the Dean on these matters. (The College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies sends a form for this purpose to the external examiner.) The extra-departmental examiner examines the thesis with attention to the way it refers to the area of his or her own expertise, and considers the general persuasiveness of the thesis for an audience not familiar with the discipline of English.
  4. The Examination
    Given the difficulty of scheduling thesis examinations between 1 June and 31 August, students must complete the thesis well before deadlines. The time from submission to examination of an M.A. thesis is normally 6-8 weeks; during the summer, arrangements for the defence can take considerably longer. A thesis examination is governed by the following regulations:
    • All faculty of the Department are invited to attend; the candidate may also request that the Department invite interested graduate students.
    • The Chair of the Graduate Committee or the Chair's designate will chair the examination.
    • The supervisor is neither an examiner nor the chair of the examination, but normally attends the examination and remains during the examining committee's deliberations.
    • At the outset of the examination, the candidate speaks for ten to fifteen minutes about the issues, approaches, conclusions, and significance of the thesis.
    • The examiners question the candidate for about twenty minutes each, and then have the opportunity for one or two further questions; subsequently, any other faculty present may ask one question each. Normally, the examination will not exceed two hours.
    • After the questioning, everyone but the Chair and the examiners withdraws while the examiners deliberate their decision. That decision will be one of these five:
      1. Recommendation 1: thesis acceptable, with or without minor revisions (to be completed within two weeks); oral defence acceptable.
      2. Recommendation 2: thesis requires re-submission (within six weeks); underlying research adjudged to be sound, but thesis in need of recasting with addition of illustrative material or limited additional data; oral defence acceptable.
      3. Recommendation 3: thesis acceptable; oral defence unacceptable; second attempt at oral defence should be completed within three months of the date of the initial examination. Only one re-take allowed.
      4. Recommendation 4: thesis unacceptable; oral examination re-take; thesis does not meet minimum standards, but committee believes that further research and/or revision may bring it to an acceptable standard or thesis defence is unacceptable but the committee agrees that the candidate has the potential, with additional preparation, to be able successfully to defend work; re-submission of thesis and second attempt of oral defence no sooner than six months and no later than twelve months after the original defence.
      5. Recommendation 5: clear fail; thesis does not meet minimum standards and committee considers that no reasonable amount of additional research or revision is likely to bring it to an acceptable standard or oral defence of thesis is completely unacceptable and committee agrees that the candidate does not have potential to be able to successfully defend the work; committee recommends candidate be required to discontinue from the College of Graduate Studies.

No later than a week after the examination, the examiners must give a written copy of any requirements they have for the thesis to the Chair of the Graduate Committee. The supervisor and the chair of the examination are responsible for seeing that the candidate carries out the changes, but the examiners have the right to approve them. If the supervisor declines to see the changes carried out, the chair of the examination appoints one of the Department examiners to do so in the supervisor's place. All these things are to be agreed upon before the examination meeting ends. Candidates must supply two additional bound copies to the Department, one for the supervisor, and the other for the Department library and an electronic copy to CGPS. Consult the CGPS instructions for Electronic Theses and Dissertations for details.

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