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Exit Requirements

Students in the literature specialization can choose to complete a thesis or an exit project. Both options require the student to submit a prospectus that is approved by a committee of at least three faculty members (one of whom is the project director) who will consult with the student throughout the course of the project. Both options also require the student to complete an oral defense of the project before their committee.


Students who choose to write a thesis, may enroll in English 599 for a maximum of six credit hours. We strongly suggest that students who take all six credit hours split the thesis work into two semesters rather than taking all six hours at once. An acceptable thesis for the literature specialization should be a cohesive, comprehensive research study of at least 60 pages in length. For more about the process of writing and submitting your thesis, visit both the Department's thesis page and the University's thesis page.

Exit Project

Students who do not wish to write a thesis may choose to develop an exit project that allows them more freedom in scope and content. Students who choose the exit project will enroll in English 598 for three to six credit hours depending on the dedicated time necessary for project completion. Before beginning the exit project, students must justify why they are choosing the three- or six-credit option in a prospectus that is approved by the exit project committee. The examples below should not be understood as exhaustive, but rather illustrative of the level of work required for the three- and six-credit options.

We assume that students will spend twelve hours per week in the completion of their exit projects. Therefore, the three-credit option should necessitate approximately 180-200 hours, whereas the six-credit option should necessitate approximately 380-400 hours, of dedicated time. All projects should be academically rigorous, and the student should conduct thorough research appropriate to the particular focus and format of the study.

Example three-credit exit projects:

  • A selection of materials from previous course work (usually three seminar-length papers) revised and expanded over the course of the semester and accompanied by a short reflection discussing the work that they’ve accomplished.
  • A blog kept over the course of the Master’s program from which the student has chosen specific examples to demonstrate growth over time. In an accompanying paper, the student discusses the blog’s breadth and development, the audience it reached, and discourses that have occurred as a result of its publication.
  • The planning and facilitation of a public exhibition (either physical or digital) in which the student curates the items on display using scholarly research. The student will accompany the exhibit with a paper explaining the exhibit’s rationale, the work it entailed, and the outcomes of the display.
  • An action research project that inquires into a pedagogical concern in a secondary teaching environment. In this case, a teacher investigates a relevant problem in his/her school’s English curriculum, researches the topic, develops meaningful actions, and creates plans and materials in preparation for enacting practical solutions.

Example six-credit exit projects:

  • A digital edition of a textual corpus using current best practices for text encoding. The project should be accompanied by an editorial rationale, an introduction, and annotation.
  • A digital archive of an extensive collection of digital items that is thoroughly curated and formally annotated (such as a substantial collection of books, news coverage of a literary event, etc.).
  • The planning and execution of a community program about literature or literary history. Students should submit plans of all program curricula and an assessment of activities.

The Prospectus

Whether choosing the thesis or the exit project, students are required to submit a prospectus of 3-5 pages accompanied by a bibliography of sources.

Students choosing the thesis should explain their planned argument and provide a synopsis of each chapter.

Students choosing the exit project must give a synopsis of their intended project, outline their work plan, and provide a rationale for the amount of dedicated time required.

The project committee must approve the prospectus by signing the prospectus form. Although the department strongly encourages students to complete their prospectus prior to beginning exit course work, the approved prospectus must be submitted to the graduate director no later than the second week of exit coursework.

Note: All research involving human subjects must comply with regulations and guidelines found at the Graduate School's Office of Research and Projects. Proposals must be cleared by the appropriate board and approved by the Graduate Dean before data collection begins. Federal regulations require mandatory training for all researchers, including students writing a thesis, dissertation or research project.

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