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M.A. Handbook

The Master of Arts Program in English Department of English Belmont University

Welcome to the Department of English at Belmont University and to the Master of Arts Program in English. This Handbook, along with the Graduate Catalog, provides information you will need as a student in the program. The Catalog states university policies governing academic programs and campus life; this handbook duplicates some of that information, but is focused on the M.A. in particular, serving as a guide to the procedures and resources of our curriculum. If you have questions about any of the information in this Handbook or the Catalog, please contact Dr. Jayme Yeo,Director of Graduate Studies in English, by email or (615) 460-6233.

I. Description of Program

The Master of Arts in English at Belmont University is a 30-hour, community-based program which seeks to expand students' knowledge and understanding of literature and writing by enhancing their abilities in critical reading, in practical literary analysis, and in effective written and oral communication. The 24 hours of course offerings encourage the study of a diversity of literatures and topics; this breadth in coursework is balanced by 6 hours of thesis research and writing, which allow for the deep examination of a specific topic or the development of a focused creative project under the guidance of a faculty mentor. Students will emerge from the program with a breadth of knowledge about literature and writing, with diverse ways to approach it, and with experience in scholarly research on a specific topic.

In addition to the M.A. in English degree, the program offers the M.A. in English degree with two emphases: Creative Writing and Post-Secondary Pedagogy. Students pursuing the Creative Writing emphasis will dedicate at least 6 hours of their 24 hours of course work to Creative Writing classes, while those pursuing the Post-Secondary Pedagogy will dedicate at least 6 hours of their 24 hours of course work to classes that address theories and applications of teaching practice from a distinctly English perspective.

This degree is designed to serve as a means to improve your opportunities in fields that require skills of textual analysis (such as law or publishing), effective written and oral communication, understanding of literature (especially for teaching), and advanced study in English (in preparation for further graduate study). Graduates of the program apply the skills they have mastered in multiple and diverse professional contexts.


II. Curriculum, Course Load, and Timetable for Degree

The Master of Arts program is designed for working students; since two seminars per semester is the optimum load for the working student, 6 hours constitute a full-time load. Most students will take at least five semesters to complete the program.

Our graduate courses, with descriptions, are listed in the graduate Catalog. Fuller descriptions of the courses offered each semester are available through the program director. Students may petition the Director of Graduate Studies and a relevant faculty member to take an Independent Study, but only if the topic or content is not available through a regular course offering. Approval may or may not be granted depending on both the availability of a faculty member to work with the student and course enrollments in the regular course offerings.  

Common Core    
ENG 5000, Practical Literary Criticism 3
Two or three “Readings” courses: 6-9
ENG 5800, Readings in World Literature I
ENG 5810, Readings in British Literature I
ENG 5820, Readings in British Literature II
ENG 5830, Readings in American Literature I
ENG 5840, Readings in World Literature II
ENG 5850, Readings in British Literature III
ENG 5860, Readings in American Literature II
Electives 3-6
ENG 6700, Thesis Preparation 3
ENG 6800, Thesis Writing 3
No Special Emphasis
ENG 6000, Single/Double Author 3
ENG 6100, Genre 3
Additional Electives 3
Total 30
Creative Writing Emphasis
ENG 6000, Single/Double Author 3
ENG 6200, Creative Writing Seminar 6
Postsecondary Pedagogy Emphasis
ENG 6000, Double/Single Author OR ENG 6100, Genre     3
ENG 5720, Practicum in Pedagogy OR ENG 5730, Pedagogical Studies      3
ENG 5040, History of the English Language OR ENG 6420, Composition Theories        3


  • A student will take two or three (6 or 9 credit hours) Readings courses, based on the Graduate English director’s evaluation of the student’s course background. If the student takes only 6 credit hours of Readings courses (that is, two courses), he or she will complete one more elective course (3 credit hours).
  • Any course may be taken as an elective, but no course may be repeated during the program except for ENG 6000, ENG 6100, ENG 6200, ENG 6300, and ENG 6400.
  • The standard and preferred way to complete the program is through the completion of a thesis, written and researched during enrollment in ENG 6700 and ENG 6800. Students may petition the Director of Graduate English (who will confer with the Graduate Advisory Council) to take ENG 6600, Portfolio and Comprehensive Examination, which is a one-credit course, making the program a 31-hour program instead of a 30-hour program. If permission is granted for completion of the program through this alternative course and set of experiences, these students will take two more graduate academic courses (6 credit hours), one of which will be an additional “Readings” course, as well as taking one addition credit hour for ENG 6600.


III. Admissions Requirements and Application Procedure

Applications for admission to the M.A. program are available on-line. In addition to the completed application form, the prospective student must submit the following application portfolio:

  • Official transcripts from all previous college(s) you have attended
  • A writing sample from a recent academic or professional setting
  • An application essay of not more than 500 words
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • A $50 non-refundable application fee

The online admissions page provides complete instructions for submitting each of he above items. Each application portfolio will be reviewed to assess the candidate’s overall abilities and potential for success in this program. At the recommendation of the Graduate Admissions Committee, the Graduate English Director will interview (or interview by phone) the applicant. Applicants are accepted on a rolling admissions basis; thus, each applicant will be notified of the Graduate Admissions Committee's decision shortly after the admissions portfolio has been completed.

IV. Financial Aid

A limited number of academic scholarships are available to full-time graduate students (those taking 6 credit hours per term) through the graduate program in English; criteria for them include the students’ progress in the program and GPA.  Application forms for scholarships for the next semester will be sent to all graduate students via email near the end of each term. Scholarships will be awarded each semester; they are not automatically renewed. Students who do not receive scholarship funds initially are encouraged to reapply, especially if their work strengthens during the program.  The Student Financial Services Office will assist you in applying for loans, grants, and scholarships from sources outside the department.  For more information, please contact that office at 460-6403.

V. Candidacy

All students must achieve a 3.0 GPA to establish and maintain candidacy in the program. Students who do not have a 3.0 GPA are on academic probation, according to the Progress toward Graduation policies that apply to all Belmont graduate programs. Please see the pages on this policy in the Graduate Catalog under "Academic Policies." M.A. students who are on probation may be admitted to candidacy the first semester their GPA reaches 3.0 or above.  

VI. Second Language Requirement

All M.A. students must have proficiency in a second language at the intermediate undergraduate level. You may demonstrate this proficiency in any of the following ways:

  • Course credit for second semester, 2000-level language. This must be on the undergraduate transcript.
  • Successful completion of second-semester 2000-level language course while enrolled in M.A. program.
  • Completion of a certificate of intermediate proficiency from a reputable language institute (e.g., Goethe Institute).
  • When available, successful completion of a graduate Reading Proficiency course, including a final reading comprehension/translation exam.
  • Completion of a reading exam in a language administered by the English Department at Belmont. We administer exams in Latin, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Chinese, and Russian.

Computer languages and American Sign Language are not acceptable as second languages, because, as yet, no significant body of literature has been created in them.  (Non-native speakers of English satisfy this requirement by scoring well enough on the TOEFL exam to gain entrance to the graduate program.) 

VII. Transfer Credit

The M.A. in English follows the campus policy for acceptance of transfer credit in graduate programs. You may transfer up to six hours of graduate credit with a grade of B from an accredited institution. You must submit the university transcript and the appropriate substitution forms to the Graduate Admissions Committee for approval.

VIII. Grades, Academic Standing, and Limit on Completion of Degree

The M.A. in English follows the campus policies regarding grades, withdrawal from courses, and academic progress in graduate programs.  These policies are found in the Graduate Catalog under "academic policies." The department allows a 6-year time period from the date of matriculation to the completion of the degree.  In extreme circumstances, you may be granted an extension. The petition for extension is made to the Graduate Admissions Committee.  A student in good standing who has completed at least one full term of enrollment and who has a need to be absent from the University for a period of time, but fully expects to return to complete requirements for the degree, may request permission for a leave of absence.  The leave of absence request form is to be completed by the student and a letter of request attached.  This should be submitted to the Registrar through Belmont Central.  A leave of absence is for one term.  Requests for an additional term must be requested in writing to Registrar prior to the end of the first leave and will be granted only upon presentation of exceptional circumstances. Students planning to study elsewhere while on leave must have prior approval if credits are to be transferable. While the student is on leave, registration, housing, financial and other administrative information will be e-mailed to the student's Belmont e-mail address and mailed to addresses currently listed in the Belmont administrative system; therefore it is mandatory that the student maintain current information.

If you are not enrolled in courses for any Fall or Spring semester, you must file an application to be re-admitted to the program. This entails filling out the standard application form, but does not require resubmitting any of the supplemental application materials.  The grade of Incomplete may be granted when circumstances beyond your control, such as serious illness or family emergency, prevent you from completing coursework. The instructor of each course determines whether the circumstances warrant the "I," and whether the "I" to one student is fair to others in the class.  If you do not complete requirements for graduation during the semester you register for ENG 6700 or 6800 (Thesis Research and Writing), a grade of "IP" (in progress) will be given.

Graduate students have the right to appeal grades. The first level is with the Chair of the English Department. Before becoming involved in the issue, the Chair will always consult both the student and professor to determine whether any agreement can be reached between the two of them before hearing further details of the concern. If no agreement can be reached, the Chair will collect information and make a decision, reporting that decision to the relevant parties. If either party—graduate student or faculty member—wishes to pursue the appeal further, he or she may consult the Associate Dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, who will review the case.

IX. The Faculty Mentor

You will work with a faculty Mentor on your thesis.  A Mentor should have expertise in the area in which you plan to write. A student who identifies a thesis area (and a Mentor) in the middle of the program may make better progress than one who faces ‘thesis shock' after completing 24 hours of coursework. The Mentor relationship often (but not always) commences in a seminar.  All graduate faculty are urged to help students recognize good ideas for thesis projects and to direct students towards faculty who can help develop these ideas.  Notify the Director of Graduate Studies when you have determined your Mentor, and please consult the Director if you are beginning to define a thesis and have not yet identified a Mentor. Once you and your Mentor have agreed to work together, the Mentor helps you develop a prospectus and preliminary bibliography for the thesis during ENG 6700 and helps select the other readers of the thesis.  These readers may be English graduate faculty members or, alternatively, a member of another department whose perspective would be valuable for your project. The Mentor then directs the writing if your thesis (ENG 6800), and assumes responsibility for guiding you through graduation requirements.

X. The Thesis

The thesis is the capstone experience in the M.A. in English program.  Topics of and types of thesis projects will vary widely, but the work should demonstrate your ability to be original in either discerning a problem or issue in literature, creative writing, or pedagogy; analytical in presenting the topic and your argument;

  • thorough in your research;
  • clear and concise in your writing, adopting an appropriate writing style for the project;
  • conversant with the best form in which to present the thesis, bit it a sustained piece of literary criticism, a work of researched creative writing, an ethnography, a report, or some collage of all these modes;
  • and most importantly, imaginative in your engagement with one or more of the larger conversations within English studies.

This is the work you will use as primary evidence of your abilities and your achievement in the program.  It is also a work that should be intrinsically rewarding.  A thesis takes time, attention to detail, mastery of the current discussion and disciplinary conventions of your topic, and lots of patience to get MLA and thesis formats right. You will live and breathe your thesis for a period of months. And when you finish, you should be pleased with your achievement.

Most theses fall between 60-90 pages, although the topic and scope of the research will determine the appropriate length for each individual thesis.  We encourage students to excerpt material suitable for publication from the thesis.   

English 6700: Thesis Research: The best way to begin a thesis to develop a specific idea in writing. Thus, you will be asked to submit a prospectus on the thesis NO LATER THAN Nov. 15 in the fall semester, April 15 in the spring, and July 15 in the summer session. (These due dates may be adjusted slightly by the Graduate Director each semester, depending on variables in the semester schedule.)   The prospectus must be completed during ENG 6700. This prospectus should be from 10-15 pages, should present your project, problem, or issue and/or your argument, should give some overview of the content of the thesis, and should have a virtually complete bibliography.  The prospectus will be submitted to your Mentor first; when the Mentor approves, he/she will convene your thesis committee, who will discuss your prospectus. This review should be one of the highlights of your graduate work, as you discuss with others your idea for your thesis, and think with them how to make the thesis as effective as possible. The Director of Graduate Studies will, when possible, attend this meeting. Note that ENG 6700 is a Pass/Fail course.  

When the draft of the thesis is completed and submitted to the thesis readers, the thesis Mentor will arrange for the graduate student to meet with the whole committee to have a conversation about the feedback the readers have for the student and his or her Mentor regarding the thesis’ merits, its significance, and any suggestions for revision that the committee is requesting. Readers may ask to see the thesis again after the revisions are complete, before signing the thesis, or they may defer to the Mentor to oversee these changes. Both are standard operating procedures; it is simply up to the committee members’ and Mentor’s style and discretion, based in part of the significance of the requested revisions. 

When the thesis is finished, and just before the Hooding Ceremony (during which the student is “hooded”), which occurs shortly before the Commencement Ceremony (during which the student receives his or her diploma/degree), the graduate student will be invited to make a public presentation of his or her thesis at the M.A. in English Thesis Celebration, traditionally attended by the graduate’s family and friends, as well as by the graduate faculty and other graduate students. This is a much-anticipated occasion to celebrate the graduates’ completion of the program as well as to laud their outstanding accomplishments through their thesis projects.

XI. Thesis Completion 

IMPORTANT: A student who enrolls in ENG 6800, Thesis Writing, must meet all deadlines and have the thesis passed by her or his readers in order to receive a "P" or "Pass" in the course and graduate that semester. Deadlines for the thesis to be submitted to the committee will be issued by the Graduate English program director annually for the next three semester/terms; these dates will vary depending on the academic calendar. As a rule of thumb, the thesis must be submitted to the committee approximately five weeks before the semester is completed so the committee has time to read the thesis, provide feedback and ask for revisions, if needed, and review the thesis again once changes have been made. In the event that a student is unable to meet the deadlines and finish the thesis during the semester, that student will, at the thesis mentor's discretion, receive a grade of "IP" or "In Progress" for ENG 6800. The "IP" remains in effect until the middle of the semester following the term in which it was granted, at which point it turns into an "I" or "Incomplete." At the end of that semester, the grade turns into an "F" unless the instructor submits a grade of "P." To prevent the "IP" from turning into an "I," the student must enroll in the sequence of Thesis Continuation courses, ENG 6801-6804, at the beginning of the semester following the one in which the "IP" was issued. ENG 6801-6804 (Thesis Continuation) is a sequence of one-hour courses that allow a student to maintain the "IP" granted a thesis course for period that terminates after two years. Students may sign up for Thesis Continuation courses for a maximum of four semesters not including summer terms. After these four terms, the "IP" in 6800 will become an "I" and be subject to becoming an "F" in the middle of the following semester unless the thesis is complete by that time. To receive a "P" in a thesis continuation course, the student must show consistent progress toward completing his or her thesis. If the thesis mentor should decide that progress is inadequate, he or she may give the student an "F" in the Thesis Continuation Course. The "F" is not calculated into the GPA; however, the "IP" in ENG 6800 will turn into an "I," and the thesis must be finished by the end of the following semester to prevent the grade from turning into an "F." At the end of the thesis continuation cycle or after having received an "F" in Thesis Continuation, a student may, at the mentor's discretion, withdraw from ENG 6800 and enroll in the non-thesis track. However, to be eligible to withdraw and switch to the non-thesis option, the student must have been enrolled continuously in the Thesis Continuation sequence starting the semester after receiving the "IP." (Please see the Graduate Director should you have questions about these rules.)

XII. The Thesis Format

Click here for Thesis formatting information and an example.

XIII. Graduation Procedures and Timetable

A series of important procedures must be followed during the semester you graduate. Specific dates will be published in the current semester's graduate newsletter and in the academic calendar available through the My Belmont portal.

  • You must apply for graduation (at Belmont Central) by the posted deadline in the semester before you intend to graduate. Please consult the current Graduate Catalog for the specific date and cost. You will be billed a graduation fee which covers the cap, gown, hood, and 3 bound copies of the thesis.
  • You and your mentor must submit your thesis to your thesis committee at least 5 weeks before graduation.
  • You must submit your thesis to the thesis editor at least 5 weeks before graduation.
  • Three signed and approved copies of your thesis need to be in the hands of the Acquisitions Section in the Technical Services Department of the Bunch Library no later than one week before graduation. Two copies are catalogued and placed in Belmont’s Bunch Library, and one is sent to the English Department.

You may have additional copies bound for the current price offered by Technical Services. Present your request, payment, and unbound copies of the thesis to the Technical Services Department of the Bunch Library.  Contact Library Acquisitions at (615) 460-5529 for current shipping and handling fees.

XIV. Non-Thesis Option

Graduate students in the Master of Arts in English program typically complete the program through the writing of a thesis. However, if there are particular circumstances that warrant such a request, graduate English students may petition the Director of Graduate Studies (who will confer with the Graduate Advisory Council) to take ENG 6600, Portfolio and Comprehensive Examination, which is a one-credit course, making the program a 31-hour program instead of a 30-hour program. If permission is granted for completion of the program through this alternative course and set of experiences, these students will take two more graduate academic courses (6 credit hours), one of which will be an additional “Readings” course, as well as taking one additional credit hour for ENG 6600.

By the student’s final advising session, if not sooner, he or she needs to have arranged for a faculty member to be his or her official Mentor for this process, along with the Director of Graduate English. The student will work with his or her Mentor and the Director in assembling the portfolio and writing the reflective synthesis essay, and the Mentor and/or Director may also be consulted in preparing for the comprehensive examination. The Mentor should be someone who knows the student and his or her work well, and with whom the student has a productive relationship.

The student needs to register for ENG 6600 (Portfolio and Comprehensive Examination) as he or she enters the final semester of his or her M.A. in English program. This one credit-hour Pass/Fail course represents the final requirement in the non-thesis option.


The Portfolio

Your portfolio should be a reflection of what you accomplished in writing, both inside and outside of your graduate courses. At a minimum, it should contain your final paper project from ENG 5000.

  • one exam response from a Readings course
  • at least 2 longer pieces of formal academic writing
  • at least 2 other pieces of writing you did for graduate courses (papers, journals, writing logs, web pages, reports, creative pieces, etc.)
  • any other writing you did during your graduate program you feel is important enough to be included-creative or professional writing, work you did for an internship, etc.
  • a reflective piece of no less than 2,000 words, in which you synthesize the work you have done in your M.A. program; you will work with your Mentor on the specific shape of this piece of writing
  • syllabi from all of the classes in the M.A. program (for your exam)

The portfolio must be submitted to the Director no less than 6 weeks before graduation (see current Graduate Calendar for specific deadlines). After being scanned, the originals will be returned to you.

The Comprehensive Exam

The Comprehensive exam will be taken 4 weeks before graduation (see current Graduate Calendar for specific deadlines). The exam questions will be created by the Graduate Exam Committee. While the questions will be customized to your individual course of study as reflected in your portfolio, successful examinees should be able 

  • to answer a series of questions about a poem or passage of prose from a writer prominent in your course work, including questions about authorial, historical, and cultural contexts and which critical approaches might best be used to read the text
  • using 3-5 texts designated by the committee, to construct an cohesive essay

discussing of one of the following:

  • themes
  • genres/style
  • definitions of literature or literacy
  • critical/pedagogical approaches

Sample exam questions will be available from the Director, and you will be encouraged to prepare for all of the above-mentioned possibilities, though only one of the four types of essay questions will be asked. The exam will be 3 hours in duration, and must be taken on the date scheduled. The Graduate Exam Committee will grade the exam and report the results to the Director, who will communicate them to you within 7 days. The exam may receive a grade of Honors Pass, Pass, or Fail.

In the unlikely event of failure, the Director will explain the decision of the committee, which may be appealed in writing to the Department Chair. Barring a successful appeal, you must sign up for ENG 6600 in the following semester to retake the exam.

XV. Campus Resources

Belmont offers a number of resources to help you develop and complete your program of study, including the library and the writing center. Belmont's Lila D. Bunch Library offers a good basic collection of literary and critical items, in addition to almost a thousand periodical subscriptions. Online databases include the MLA Bibliography, Project Muse, JSTOR, and the Oxford Reference Suite. The Library also offers Interlibrary Loan services to supplement whatever is not available in the library or online.

The Writing Center, a free tutorial service open to all students on campus, is part of the Learning Centers, found on the first floor of the Ayers Academic Center.  

Graduate students are also invited to make use of the Career and Professional Development office on campus to work on their resumes, to explore career questions and possibilities, to search for employment opportunities, and to attend workshops about professional issues or fields.

In order to foster and maintain a healthy lifestyle, graduate students are able to make use of all exercise facilities, equipment, and non-credit classes available in the Beaman Student Life Center.

XVI. Graduate Writing Award

The Graduate Faculty annually presents an award for the best piece of writing produced in a graduate class for the previous calendar year. Nominations are solicited by the graduate director from the graduate faculty in January, and the director receives the nominated papers and selects a panel of graduate faculty which will determine the winner. The award, which is accompanied by a small cash prize, is presented at the Spring Thesis Celebration.

XVII. Assessment

To improve and develop our programs, Belmont faculty are committed to constant reflection and continuous improvement through program assessment. Graduate students will be involved in the assessment procedures for the M.A. in English program throughout their time of study in the following ways:

  • Through admission portfolios: As a part of the application for admission, each student will submit a portfolio of materials selected to provide an overview of the student's potential to complete graduate study in English. The items most relevant to the assessment task in this portfolio include undergraduate transcripts; GRE scores (general exam); writing sample from undergraduate English major course (in cases of students not able to provide this sample, a professional piece of writing will be accepted); and a writing sample composed specifically for admission to the M.A. in English program. These allow us to create measures of student records.
  • Through theses: The theses will be examined in terms of academic and creative achievement in order to create one measure of student achievement.
  • Through individual program portfolios: See section XV above.
  • Through interviews: At the beginning, middle, and end of a student’s time at Belmont, he or she will speak to the Director of Graduate Studies about his or her expectations for and experiences in the program. This helps us create measures of student perception about the program.
  • Through papers and exams from key courses: Students will be asked to email copies of their final papers or final exams from the courses that are being assessed in a given academic year.

With all of these assessment processes and measures, the graduate faculty will be looking at the assessment artifacts as a whole and as a holistic reflection of how well the program and faculty are working to help students achieve the program’s learning goals; these assessments will never be used as a means of evaluating individual students, nor will they have any bearing whatsoever on their grades or status in the program. In fact, the work and input about the program submitted by the graduate students will be presented to the faculty assessors anonymously.