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Department of Literature and Language

College of Arts & Sciences


The Department of Literature and Language at ETSU has 23 members on the English Graduate Faculty, and at any one time our Master of Arts in English program generally has 15-25 full- and part-time students. This teacher-to-student ratio means that we are able to keep class sizes small and give our students personalized attention. Together, we form a constructive academic community, helping students to develop their critical skills, research methodologies, and writing. The MA in English is an excellent degree to benefit those pursuing any career that values critical thinking and clear communication. Degree studies enhance the skills of those already in or planning to enter the teaching profession, and it is an essential stepping stone to earning a PhD and becoming a professor at a college or university.

Program Requirements

The MA program requires 33 credit hours for students pursuing a non-thesis option or thirty credit hours for students who choose to write a thesis. All students must successfully take a Comprehensive Exam. This exam asks non-thesis students to demonstrate mastery of material from four of eight possible subject areas. Students who elect the thesis option test in two of the eight subject areas. All degree-seeking students are required to take ENGL 5950: Methods of Research. Students holding Graduate Assistantships are also required to take ENGL 5057: Writing: Theory and Teaching. For the remainder of their program, students select from a variety of graduate courses in literature and linguistics, the only restriction being that they may count no more than three split-level (5XX7) courses toward their degree. Course descriptions for any given semester are available via The Clarion.


Applications completed by August 10 will be considered for Fall semester admission or by December 5 for Spring semester.

Note: Students interested in being considered for a Graduate Assistantship should plan to complete their applications by March 15 for Fall entry or by October 15 for Spring entry. Be aware that, typically, more Graduate Assistantships are available for Fall entry than Spring.

Admission Requirements:

A student applying to the graduate program in English must have:

  1. An undergraduate degree in English or a related field from an accredited college or university.
  2. A cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher for all completed undergraduate coursework.
  3. A writing sample of at least ten (10) pages.
  4. Three (3) letters of recommendation.

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) aptitude test is not required for the Master of Arts degree in English.

Applicants wishing to be considered for graduate assistantships must include an explanation of teaching interests in the personal statement required for application to the School of Graduate Studies. 

A student who does not meet certain admission requirements may still be admitted to the program unconditionally provisions upon the recommendation of the Assistant Chair for Graduate Studies in English with the understanding that stated provisions - for example, completion of specified undergraduate courses - must be met for the student to remain in good standing. The student's background and experience will be considered.

Graduate Assistantships and Tuition Scholarships:

We have a number of Graduate Assistantships (GA) available. For the two academic years of the MA program, GA positions provide students with per-semester tuition remission, not including summers. (Students remain responsible for per-semester fees.) GA positions also provide academic-year stipend. In return, students work twenty hours per week for the department. First-year Graduate Assistants divide their time between tutoring in the Center for Academic Achievement and serving as Research Assistants for faculty members. Second-year Graduate Assistants generally teach two sections of freshman composition per semester. Graduate assistantships are competitive. Decisions on GA awards for Fall are made by mid-April, decisions on Spring awards by mid-November.

We also have a limited number of Tuition Scholarships (TS) available. These awards provide recipients with per-semester tuition remission. (Students remain responsible for per-semester fees.) In return, students work eight hours per week for the department.

Students awarded GA or TS positions must maintain full-time status (a minimum of nine credit hours per semester) throughout their two-year program.


All Research Assistants must register for ENGL 5029 ("Supervised Research"). All Teaching Assistants must register for ENGL 5019 (" Supervised Teaching"). These courses DO NOT count toward a student’s Program of Study or the MA degree.

Comprehensive Exam:

All degree-seeking students must take Comprehensive Exams to demonstrate their knowledge in specific subject areas as defined by the MA Comprehensive Exam Reading List. Non-thesis students choose four subject areas in which to be examined; upon approval, non-thesis students may choose to be examined in one special topic area not covered by the reading list—e.g., Appalachian Literature—as a substitute for one subject area exam. Thesis students choose two subject areas in which to be examined. Thesis students are not allowed to create a special topic area, nor may they be examined in a subject area that includes the subject of their thesis. Comprehensive Exams typically are taken during the students’ final semester in the MA program. Students who plan to take the Comprehensive Exams should notify the Department of Literature and Language’s Assistant Chair for Graduate Studies at the beginning of the semester in which they wish to be examined; subject areas should also be selected at this time. Exams take place in the department’s Computer Lab, over the course of a five-hour block on a Saturday afternoon. Students are not allowed to use notes or other materials. Students who fail one subject area of the exam may retest in that area by means of an oral reexamination, which must take place within ten days after receiving results of the written examination. Students who fail two or more sections of the written exam—or fail both the written and oral examinations in one area—must retake the failed portion of the exam—or a newly selected portion—the following semester. Students may attempt the Comprehensive Exams only twice. Failure to pass both attempts will result in dismissal from the program.


Several forms must be completed at designated times during your program. All of them can be accessed on the Graduate Studies page, “Forms.”

These forms include:

Program of Study: This form needs to be completed upon the student's completion of the first eighteen hours of coursework.

Application for Candidacy for the Master’s Degree: This form must accompany the Program of Study upon the students’ completion of the first eighteen hours of coursework.

Appointment of Advisory Committee Form: This form must be completed by students electing to write a thesis. The chair of the thesis committee must be a tenured or tenure-track professor and a member of the ETSU Graduate Faculty. Students, in consultation with their thesis chair, select two additional faculty members to complete their committee.

Intent to Graduate Form: This form must be completed and filed with the School of Graduate Studies near the beginning of the students’ final semester. Students intending to graduate in Spring must file by the end of January; students intending to graduate in Fall must file early in SeptemberSee the Graduate Calendar for each semester’s specific date for filing.

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