The M.A. Thesis program requires students to take four courses as well as ENG 801.3: An Introduction to Textual Scholarship. Students are also required to complete an 80-100 page thesis, which represents an extended research project that contributes to a scholarly conversation in an original way. The thesis can clarify areas for further research at the doctoral level or it can represent the culmination of a student’s interest in literary studies. It may pave the way for related work in the public or non-profit sector, as well as for the application of research and communication skills in a variety of career fields.

Our M.A. degree programs do not include a requirement to demonstrate proficiency in a language other than English. Study of an additional language is, however, highly recommended, particularly for those who plan to pursue a doctoral degree.

Program Requirements




Other requirements

M.A. With Thesis

15 credit units (five 3cu courses)

including ENG 801.3: An Introduction to Textual Scholarship

Thesis (80-100 pages)

Registration in ENG 994.0 each term

Registration in ENG 990.0

Completion of GPS 960.0: Ethics

Typical Schedule Towards Completion of the M.A. Project Degree

Year One

  • Complete a total of 15 cu course work (12cu of electives at the 800-level and ENG 801.3).
  • Satisfy requirements of ENG 990.0: Professional Development Seminar.
  • Complete the online GPS 960.0 Ethics and Integrity course.
  • Identify a thesis supervisor and notify the Chair of the Graduate Committee by 15 January.
  • Submit completed Student-Supervisor Agreement to the Chair of the Graduate Committee by 1 May.
  • Submit thesis proposal and Thesis Proposal Form to Chair of the Graduate Committee by 1 May.
  • Begin thesis research and writing over Spring/Summer term. 

Year Two

Time in Program

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

All graduate students are expected to keep abreast of CGPS deadlines pertaining to time in program.

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 Studies and Research 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.


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

Students in the M.A. Thesis program must take the equivalent of five courses, each worth three credit units, for a total of 15 credit units (15cu). At least 12cu must be taken at this university. Four of these 3cu courses will be taken in the September-April period of their first year; the fifth course is ENG 801.3: An Introduction to Textual Scholarship, which is typically offered in the Spring term.

Each 3cu course is offered over one 13-week term. During the regular session (Fall and Winter terms), these graduate seminars are held once a week for approximately three hours. During the intersession (Spring term), seminars meet several times each week.

As well as formal coursework, students will also enrol in ENG 990.0, a series of Professional Skills sessions.

Note: M.A. Project students must register each term for ENG 994.0 to indicate their enrolment in the Master’s Thesis program.

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, which are shell courses adapted by instructors in any given year to reflect specific research and teaching interests:

  • ENG 801.3 - An Introduction to Textual Scholarship
    • (Note: this course represents 3cu of the 15cu required for the M.A. Thesis degree course work)
  • ENG 803.3 - Topics in Literary and Cultural History
  • ENG 805.3 - Topics in Individual Authors
  • ENG 811.3 - Topics in National and Regional Literatures
  • ENG 817.3 - Topics in Literary and Cultural Theory
  • ENG 819.3 - Topics in Methods and Texts
  • ENG 843.3 - Topics in Genres and Contexts
  • ENG 898.3 - Special Topics
  • ENG 899.6 - Special Topics

Each year, faculty propose particular versions of these courses. Thus, ENG 805.3: 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 a maximum of six credit units (6cu) 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.

The experience of intellectual exchange provided by seminars is vital to graduate study. In graduate degrees in English, coursework is intended to give students an opportunity to study 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, in consultation with the Chair of the Graduate Committee. The Graduate Committee will evaluate the need for the proposed course and will decide whether to recommend its approval to the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. Reading courses are approved only under these exceptional circumstances. Students may take a maximum of 6cu of reading courses.

English 990: Professional Development Seminar

All graduate students are required to attend a series of workshops regarding graduate studies and professionalization in their first year of graduate work. Several workshops will be offered each term on topics such as: preparing SSHRC applications; writing the thesis/dissertation proposal; choosing a focus for the project-based M.A.; preparing for the Field exams; writing and defending the thesis/dissertation; presenting conference papers and submitting scholarly articles; reflecting on the professional skills developed through graduate degrees; exploring career options; engaging in the academic job search.

All graduate students are also required to attend the Ph.D. “Works in Progress” presentations as well as talks and events identified by the Graduate Chair.

The M.A. Thesis

The Master’s thesis should be a focused, engaging, and organized research project that is capable of being completed within the two years of the M.A. Thesis degree. Students are expected to agree upon a Supervisor in the first term of their first year (or 1 May, for those who begin their studies in January). After the approval of their formal thesis proposal, 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).

  1. Scope and Specifications

The Master’s thesis is an original study of textual material supported by a clear methodological and critical framework. It is an opportunity to explore a topic of particular interest and to make a contribution to a scholarly field.

According to the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Policies and Procedures Manual, section 4.5, the M.A. thesis must:

  1. Deal in an academically satisfactory way with a definite topic related to the major research field;
  2. Demonstrate ability on the part of the candidate to do independent study and investigation;
  3. Be written in good scholarly style and conform to the requirements of a style manual approved by the academic unit; and
  4. Comply in presentation features with specifications of the CGPS.

In the Department of English, the finished thesis must conform to the requirements of the current editions of either the MLA Handbook or the Chicago Manual of Style. Please consult the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies formatting guidelines for preparation of the thesis.

To view completed theses submitted by M.A. students of English at the University of Saskatchewan, students are encouraged to search HARVEST, the university’s Repository for Research, Scholarship, and Artistic Work.

  1. The Thesis Supervisor

On acceptance into the Master’s Thesis program, students are encouraged to approach a potential Supervisor as soon as possible. The Supervisor should be a scholar in the field directly related to the thesis topic and materials, and thus able to support the student’s original contribution to scholarship. If a student ends the first term of the first year of the program without a Supervisor, they should consult the Chair of the Graduate Committee for advice.

A completed Student-Supervisor Agreement should be submitted to the Chair of the Graduate Committee by 1 May of the M.A. Thesis student’s first year.

  1. The Thesis Proposal

Students must apply to the Graduate Committee with a formal thesis proposal by 1 May of their first year (or 1 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, they would revert to the project-based degree. 

The  M.A. Thesis Proposal Form must be filled out in consultation with the Supervisor and submitted with the thesis proposal. 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 a Master’s Thesis Proposal, 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.

The thesis proposal is sent to the Chair of the Graduate Committee, who forwards it to the Graduate Committee. That committee has the task of either approving it (and the project it entails), or returning it to the student with advice for revision. Securing 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. This aspect of the proposal should include a clear, brief description of the topic area, the materials to be studied, the methods or critical framework in play, and the particular research questions that will be investigated. It should also identify the stakes or significance of the thesis, or the nature of its anticipated contribution to the field in question.
  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.
  1. 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 or 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 maintain 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 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 Reader; 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 adhere to that plan;
  • to meet with the Supervisor and Specialist Reader 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.

Thesis Advisory Committee

Each graduate student has an Advisory Committee. Committee membership is established in consultation with the Supervisor and the Chair of the Graduate Committee. The student consults with and reports to this committee about progress towards completion of the requirements of the degree. The Advisory Committee offers expertise to the student relating to the material under study, the scholarly context for the dissertation, the methodologies and critical framework being used, and/or the process of researching, drafting, and revising the dissertation.

Advisory Committee

  • Supervisor or Co-Supervisors
  • Specialist Member (within department)

Yearly Advisory Committee Meetings

The student meets annually with this committee, usually in the Spring, to report on progress towards completion of the requirements of the program. The discussion is represented in the annual GPS 210: Graduate Student Progress Report form, which is completed by the Chair of the Graduate Committee or their designate and submitted to the ASG, Graduate Programs.

Either the student or the advisory committee can ask for additional meetings.

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 participate in the annual Advisory Committee meeting towards supporting the student’s progress towards degree completion.

Thesis Examination

When the Advisory Committee has agreed that the thesis is ready for oral examination, an Examiner is identified. The three faculty members thus constitute the Examining Committee for the thesis.

Examining Committee

  • Supervisor or Co-Supervisors 
  • Specialist Member (within department)
  • Examiner (within or outside department)
  • Non-Voting Chair (the Chair of the Graduate Committee or their designate)

In the oral examination, the thesis is thus assessed by two examiners: a member of the Department of English who is a specialist in the subject of the thesis and a member of either the Department of English or another department who has an interest in the subject of the thesis but who has not been involved in its development at any stage.

When the Supervisor has agreed that the thesis is ready to go forward, the student will supply a clean copy of the thesis to the Chair of the Graduate Committee, who will forward it to the Specialist Member. After any revisions have been completed, and the Advisory Committee indicates that the thesis is ready for examination, the final draft of the thesis will be forwarded to the Examiner and the oral defence will be scheduled.

The duties of each examiner are outlined here.

  • Specialist Member: to read the thesis in its proposed final form, paying attention to its quality of argument and claims, its engagement with the material and the field in question, and its structure, format, and readability. This process normally takes three to four weeks. In a report written to the Chair of the Graduate Committee, who will pass it along to the Supervisor, the committee member would state whether or not the thesis is ready for examination and is entitled to request revisions and to review revisions if they deem it necessary. If there are serious concerns about the acceptability of aspects of the thesis, the written report will indicate them. In reporting that a thesis is ready for examination, the committee member does not commit the Department to accept it at the examination. At the oral examination, the Specialist will ask questions to draw out the candidate’s understanding of their research and its implications. 
  • Examiner: to read the thesis with attention to the overall quality of the argument of the thesis, its analyses and engagement with the topic, its structure and style, and its accessibility to readers who are not overly familiar with the specialized topic or material under consideration. This arms-length examiner may be a faculty member of the Department of English or may be from another department within the university, and has not been directly involved in the student’s thesis research. Normally, the Examiner will have three or four weeks with the thesis before the oral defence. If they feel that the thesis is not yet ready for the oral examination, the Examiner must contact the Graduate Chair immediately. Otherwise, at the oral examination, the Examiner would ask questions to assess the student’s understanding of the substance, scope, and significance of their research project.

The Oral Examination or Defence
Given the difficulty of scheduling oral 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 M.A. student speaks for approximately ten or 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, all but the Chair and the examiners will withdraw while the examiners deliberate their decision. That decision will be one of the following five recommendations:
    • Recommendation 1: thesis acceptable, with or without minor revisions (i.e. revisions that could be completed within two weeks); oral defence acceptable.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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 Graduate Committee are responsible for seeing that the M.A. student 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 Graduate Committee appoints one of the examiners to do so in the Supervisor's place. All these things are to be agreed upon before the examination meeting ends.

Any required recommended revisions are to be completed and confirmed by the Supervisor or designate before the thesis is considered complete. The finished document must conform to the requirements of the current editions of either the MLA Handbook or the Chicago Manual of Style and the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies formatting guidelines for theses and dissertations.

Students will submit a copy of the finalized thesis to the Chair of the Graduate Committee as well as to the submission site for Electronic Theses and Dissertations, along with a completed GPS 404: Final Thesis Confirmation Form. Please consult the CGPS site on thesis and dissertation submission for more information.