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Thesis-Based MA

Our thesis-based MA program is perfect for any student inspired to undertake substantial independent research over a longer timeline (normally up to 24 months). Along with a slightly lower course load, in this degree program students will research, write and defend a thesis in a formal oral examination; the MA thesis in English will be approximately 100 pages in length, and will represent original research or new creative work of publishable quality. This degree program prepares students for continuing work in English at the PhD level as well as for any position where critical thinking, written and oral communication, organization and research skills are assets.

Program and Course Requirements

The thesis-based MA program in English combines graduate course work with the sustained and focused experience of writing a formal thesis. The department normally offers graduate courses in each of the Fall, Winter and Spring (May-June) terms so that students can space their course work out accordingly. Students are expected to complete as many of their course requirements by the end of their first as is possible, but normally at least five of the six are completed in the first year.

  1. Six (6) graduate courses (of one semester length each)
  2. Historical Distribution Requirement: Of the courses taken above 1. at least one (1) half-course equivalent in literature from the twentieth century and after, AND 2. at least one (1) half-course equivalent in literature from one of the following four areas listed: i. Medieval literature ii. Early Modern literature iii. Restoration and eighteenth-century literature iv. Romantic literature and Victorian literature
  3. Graduate Pro-seminar (ENGL 691, offered in Fall term, pass/fail).
  4. Thesis with formal oral examination. 

Creative Writing Option

A student may be permitted to submit a substantial work of poetry or fiction as a creative project for the M.A. thesis in English, or for the course-based final research project. However, students should note that because of the high standards expected for such a project and the Department's limited resources in the area of creative writing, very few students are permitted to undertake this creative alternative. Students are expected, at the time of admission, to signal their desire to be considered for the Creative Writing option, and are required to submit a sample of their creative work. However, admission to the M.A. in English may not guarantee permission to pursue a Creative Writing project.

The finished MA creative writing thesis will have an introduction, normally of eight to ten pages, showing critical awareness of the approach taken. It is difficult to offer firm guidelines on the required length of creative projects, especially as one cannot simply equate quantity and quality: nevertheless, a general rule of thumb for a MA poetry thesis would normally be about fifty pages; for a fiction thesis, normally about two hundred pages.

Further information on the Creative Writing option is posted to:


Typically, the first 12 months of a 2 year thesis-based program will look like this:

At the start of the Fall Semester: During Block Week, new students are required to attend orientation workshops at the University of Calgary. These workshops include important information about departmental and university policies and services, and resources on campus, as well as teaching workshops for students who have been offered Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GATs).

Fall Semester (Sept-Dec): Students are required to take ENGL 691, the graduate seminar on research methodologies and professional skills. Typically, students will also register in a further two (2) to three (3) graduate courses.

Winter Semester (Jan-April): Students will typically register in two (2) to three (3) semester length graduate courses of their choice.

  • By March 1, students will approach a faculty member in the department, normally one with whom they have completed (or are completing) a graduate course, to request supervision for their thesis research.
  • By April 15, students will register an MA thesis topic and submit the MA thesis proposal

Spring Semester (May-June): Students may need to register in one (1) semester length graduate course.

In year 2, students will write and defend their MA thesis.