Welcome to the graduate program in English at the University of West Georgia. Perhaps at no other time will you be so thoroughly engaged in literary study. It is a time of discovering new directions, strengthening your knowledge of literature, and working with professors and your colleagues in the Department of English. Because of its dual emphasis on solitude for scholarly development and dialogue for intellectual and social growth, graduate study uniquely fosters the abilities to read, to think critically, and to write.
At the University of West Georgia, graduate work in English is devoted primarily, though not exclusively, to preparing students to become teachers and scholars at the secondary and college level. Students seeking the M.A. are expected to be prepared for their programs and serious about their commitment to the advanced study of literature. The M.A. program requires formal course work in various approaches to literature. It also requires independent reading and research fostering the discovery and development of each student's individual talents.
Students who attain the M.A. should be well on their way to becoming mature teachers, scholars, or professionals in their chosen field of study. At the heart of any graduate program in English lies the ongoing commitment to read and reflect critically upon the depth and range of literary texts written in English. At the same time, becoming more knowledgeable about literary periods and genres, knowing where to locate scholarly references and resources, and conscientiously surveying the criticism on specific subjects are also skills that must be mastered. Finally, developing teachers and scholars should familiarize themselves with diverse approaches to literature; most importantly, they need to cultivate sound judgment and critical insight. The English faculty at the University of West Georgia seek both to employ established methods and to explore new pedagogical approaches and fields of inquiry. Consequently, M.A. candidates should be well prepared for careers in a rapidly changing professional field, a field that nonetheless has much tradition behind it.
Along with professional development, graduate students also have opportunities to contribute to the Department and to the University at large. When graduate students become involved in colloquia, lectures, readings, and informal social gatherings, the community as a whole benefits. Going a step further, serving on the Graduate Program Committee can enrich one's graduate education and professional preparation.
The Graduate School
While this Graduate Student Handbook contains important information about the English program, it is one's individual responsibility to become familiar with all of the academic policies and procedures set forth by The Graduate School. The Graduate Catalog contains more detailed information about important dates, deadlines, and academic policies. It also contains information about various resources that are available on campus. Entering students should thoroughly acquaint themselves with the policies and procedures of The Graduate School (https://www.westga.edu/academics/gradstudies/index.php).
The Graduate Faculty in English is currently composed of 16 full-time faculty members whose scholarly and teaching interests include all periods of British and American Literature, literary genres, theory and criticism, and creative writing. See the faculty directory on the departmental webpage for details.
Dr. Patrick Erben, Director of Graduate Studies
Dr. Meg Pearson, Department Chair
Kimily Willingham, Budget & Personnel Coordinator
Susan Holland, Academic Coordinator
Jonette Larrew, Senior Secretary
Graduate Program Committee
The Graduate Program Committee (GPC) is composed of three graduate faculty members and one graduate student selected by the Department of English and the graduate student body. Each faculty member serves a two-year term and is responsible for working with the Director of Graduate Studies in reviewing admission applications into the program, developing and reviewing policies, and considering graduate student questions and concerns as represented by the student member of the committee. Graduate student members serve for one year but may be re-elected for a second year. The Director of Graduate Studies serves as an ex-officio member of this committee.
In addition to the orientation offered by the graduate school, the English department offers an orientation each fall for all new and returning graduate students in our program. The orientation includes an introduction to the graduate program in English, a description of degree requirements for both tracks, an overview of the reading list and examinations, an introduction to GRA policies, and a discussion of the advisement process. Students also get a chance to ask questions and meet other students in the program.
Since the Department does not currently require graduate students to take any specific courses or seminars, it will be up to you, the DGS, and during the later stages of your candidacy, your major professor and exam committee to decide what you should take. Your advisor can help you decide what courses and seminars will best meet your professional goals and will give you some idea of the coverage and requirements of different courses. You need to meet with your advisor regularly during the year to discuss your academic progress. If you do not meet with your advisor regularly, you may miss important deadlines or requirements that will keep you from graduating on time. Students should also consult the Scoop and the online “Program Fact Sheet” for important semester dates (deadlines for filing graduation forms, language exam dates).
The Director of Graduate Studies will advise you prior to your first semester of course work. After that time you may choose another designated faculty member as your advisor or have one assigned to you. You must choose a Major Professor for your advisor by the time you have completed 18 hours of graduate course work.
NOTE: Students must get the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies for their course selections prior to registration.
Students accepted into the program may choose from among the following three degree options:
Plan I (Thesis Option) consists of 30 credit hours, of which 27 are course work and 3 are thesis (ENGL 6399). Within the 27 hours of course work (9 courses), a minimum of 7 courses (21 hours) or 80% of the coursework must be at the 6000-level. The 3 hours of thesis work cannot be used to satisfy this requirement for work at the 6000 level. A minimum of 24 hours of the coursework must be in English, and students wishing to use courses from other disciplines for credit toward the degree must get approval from the Director of Graduate Studies in English. Students may meet the thesis requirement by either writing a scholarly work (a minimum of 65 pages in length) or a creative writing work (a collection of poems, creative nonfiction, or prose that includes a critical and/or theoretical introduction). The thesis must be approved by the student's thesis committee, comprised of the student's major professor and two other graduate faculty readers.
Plan II (Non-Thesis Option) consists of 36 credit hours (12 courses), of which a minimum of 30 hours must be in English. Students in this plan must also get approval from the Director of Graduate Studies in English to take courses outside the department. Within the 36 hours of coursework, a minimum of 9 courses (27 hours) or 80% of the coursework must be at the 6000 level.
Plan III (Capstone Option) consists of 30 hours of coursework (10 courses). A minimum of 27 hours (9 courses) must be in English, and 21 credit hours (7 courses) or 80% of the coursework must be at the 6000 level. In addition, students will complete a Capstone project over the course of their final two semesters of study either a scholarly article or a creative writing project. The scholarly article should be approximately 20-35 pages (page length dependent upon the specifications of the scholarly journal to which the student chooses to submit). The project will engage in original scholarly research and demonstrate advanced mastery of pertinent critical assumptions, methodologies, and practices in the discipline. The Creative project must be approved by the student's capstone committee, comprised of the student's major professor and two other graduate faculty readers.
Upon completion of all course work, the candidate for the M.A. under all options listed above must pass a comprehensive oral exam based on the department's approved reading list. This oral examination may be retaken once. For students completing the thesis and capstone options, a separate oral defense of the thesis or capstone is also required. See the Director of Graduate Studies in English for details about the comprehensive oral examination required for all three options and for oral defense required for the thesis and capstone options.
Under all three plans, students must get the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies for their course selections. See the Director of Graduate Studies for required advisement before registering for classes each term.
Under all three plans, a reading knowledge of one foreign language (ordinarily Latin, French, German, or Spanish) is required. One may meet this requirement by one of the following: 1) completing a language course numbered 2002 with a grade of B or better during the course of study (no course or courses in a foreign language will count toward the required number of hours for the degree); 2) presenting an undergraduate transcript that indicates completion of a language course numbered 2002 (or its equivalent) with a grade of B or better within five years of the time the student enters the program; or 3) passing a standardized test administered by the testing office and the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures.
Students who have taken an ENGL 4XXX course as an undergraduate at West Georgia cannot receive credit toward the M.A. degree in English for the concurrent ENGL 5XXX course unless the student and/or instructor can provide evidence that the content of the course (readings, topics, etc.) is significantly different than when he/she took it as an ENGL 4XXX course.
Upon completion of all course work, the candidate for the M.A. must pass a comprehensive oral exam based on a reading list given out to students at the time of their acceptance into the program. This oral examination may be retaken once. For students completing a thesis, a separate oral defense of the thesis is also required. See the Director of Graduate Studies in English for details and for required advisement before registering for classes each term.
Students admitted into the program are expected to maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0 while enrolled. In addition, students are expected to make no grade lower than B in any course taken as part of the degree program. If a student's GPA falls below 3.0 or if the student makes a grade of C or lower, the student will be placed on academic probation and have one semester to raise the GPA. If a student makes a second grade of C or lower or fails to raise the GPA to at least a 3.0 and to maintain it at that level, the student will be dismissed from the program for one academic year (two semesters).
At the end of the dismissal period, the student may apply for reinstatement, but such reinstatement is not guaranteed. All decisions on reinstatement into the program will be made by the members of the Graduate Program Committee in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies. If the student is reinstated, specific expectations regarding the level of performance necessary to remaining in the program will be stipulated at the time of reinstatement by the Director of Graduate Studies. Should the student, at any point, fail to meet the stipulated expectations, he or she will be permanently dismissed from the program.
Students admitted provisionally must meet the specific academic standards set out for them at the time of admission to remain in the program and transfer to regular status. For additional academic standards, refer to the Graduate Catalog.
Seminar and Course Requirements
Your primary course work will be conducted in graduate seminars. Seminars are numbered 6000 and above and are open only to students admitted for graduate study. They are generally limited to 12 students. At least eighty percent of your classes in your program of study must be 6000-level courses. The Department provides course descriptions for each seminar before pre-registration begins. These are available online in Footnotes, the department’s newsletter.
Specific procedures in seminars vary greatly from teacher to teacher, subject to subject, group to group. Fundamental to all seminars, however, is the understanding that every member is equally responsible for its effectiveness and success. Because a seminar is a community of scholars, its members have an obligation to contribute to each other's education. Thus, as a seminar member you will be expected to prepare assigned papers and reports on time, faithfully attend seminar meetings, participate actively in discussions, and complete a scholarly research project.
Courses numbered 4000/5000 are open to both undergraduate and graduate students. These courses are designed to introduce students to writers, literary genres, or other subject matter at the advanced undergraduate level. You may only enroll in a limited number of 5000-level courses, and therefore, it is best to take these courses to study scholarly areas that you were not able to take as an undergraduate. For example, if you took a course in American Romanticism as an undergraduate, you may find that a 4000/5000 level course of the same name covers much of the same material. If you are not certain, check with the instructor or your advisor during pre-registration to see what the course will address.
While you will be working alongside undergraduates in most of your 4000/5000 level courses, you will be expected by your instructor to engage in more intensive reading, to prepare additional written assignments, and to conduct more extensive scholarly research. Your instructor will provide you with the specific requirements at the beginning of the course. Keep in mind that your knowledge and experience as a graduate student can be a valuable asset to the instructor and to undergraduates in the course.
NOTE: Students who have taken an ENGL 4XXX course as an undergraduate at West Georgia cannot receive credit toward the M.A. degree in English for the concurrent ENGL 5XXX course, unless the student and/or instructor can provide evidence that the content of the course (readings, topics, etc) are significantly different than when they took it as an ENGL 4XXX course.
Schedule of Graduate Courses
Each fall and spring the department offers approximately 10-15 classes at the 4000/5000 level and two-three at the 6000 level; all 6000-level seminars are currently offered in the evening to accommodate graduate students’ schedules. Graduate seminars are also offered during the summer. See Footnotes for a list of semester course offerings and course projections.
In courses numbered 4000/5000 graduate students should know that they will be held to a higher standard than the undergraduates. This higher standard should encompass both writing ability and research and argumentation skills.
The professor should publish a written policy of grading standards. In most courses graduate students will be expected to write both out-of-class and in-class essays, to conduct research on literary topics, and to present oral reports. These requirements are all relevant to the basic skills that graduate students should develop--namely, reading, analyzing, and communicating the results of that analysis.
For grading policies stipulated by The Graduate School, see "Requirements for the M.A. in English" above.
The minimum course load for a student to be considered a full-time graduate student is nine credit hours per semester. Overloads (more than 12 credit hours) must be approved by the Dean of The Graduate School, who has discretion in approving overloads of up to three additional hours. Overloads in excess of 15 hours will not be approved. Audited courses are considered part of the student's course load. If you are working more than 30 hours per week, you should not register for more than six credit hours per semester.
Graduate research assistants are usually expected to carry a reduced load (less than 12 credit hours per semester); however, they must take at least six (6) credit hours during each semester that they are receiving a teaching internship or research assistantship.
A grade of Incomplete will only be given in the case of genuine emergencies. In such instances, approval from the Dean of The Graduate School is required.
Graduate students are allowed to take up to 3 credit hours of Independent Study under the course designation ENGL 5381. Other directed study is to be done on a thesis under ENGL 6399. The Independent Study is a good way to establish a concentration and to conduct intensive research that may lead to a thesis topic.
Note: Faculty members are not always available to teach Independent Studies, so you want to be very careful if you are planning one of these as an integral part of your graduate curriculum.
Extensions and Leaves of Absence
Students are required to finish graduate degrees within six years of their first semester. A student may transfer up to six credit hours from other institutions according to the policies set forth in the Graduate Catalog.
In order to receive the Master of Arts degree in English, you must establish that you have a reading knowledge of an approved foreign language. All M.A. candidates must demonstrate a working knowledge of at least one foreign language relevant to the study of literature. You need to acquire sufficient familiarity with the language to be able to consult and translate materials in other languages for scholarly research. Acceptable languages include, but are not limited to, French, German, Spanish, or Latin. Because you cannot take the oral examination until all other departmental requirements have been completed, the faculty urges you to complete your foreign language requirement as soon as possible during your course of study. As an incoming student, consult the Director of Graduate Studies and your advisor about the probable language requirements for your areas of interest and prepare to complete your language requirement as soon as possible to avoid hindering your progress.
Students may meet the language requirement in one of the following ways:
1. completing a language course numbered 2002 with a grade of B or better during the course of study (courses taken to satisfy the foreign language requirement will not count toward the required number of hours for the degree);
2. presenting an undergraduate transcript that indicates completion, within five years of the time the student enters the program, of a language course numbered 2002 (or its equivalent) with a grade of B or better;
3. passing a standardized test administered by Learning Support/Testing and evaluated by faculty in the Foreign Languages department.
The University does not offer any special courses in reading comprehension of a foreign language for graduate students preparing to fulfill the language requirement; however, you can audit or take for credit lower-level foreign language courses to help you prepare for fulfilling the language requirement. You can take these courses as necessary while completing your regular course work, but no course taken to satisfy the foreign language requirement will count towards the credit hours required for completion of your degree. For more information, see the Graduate Catalog.
Following successful completion of 27 hours of course work, you should devote your remaining time in the program to writing your thesis under the supervision of your thesis committee. Those opting to write a thesis will select either the literary critical or creative critical option. The thesis committee is composed of your thesis advisor and two additional readers, selected from the graduate faculty. The literary critical Master's thesis is a research project based on an intensive study of selected writers, genres, texts, or theoretical perspectives; the creative critical option will require you to use a similarly researched context to frame your own creative work, and those intending to select this option should be able to demonstrate their preparation to complete a major creative project (for instance through appropriate coursework at the undergraduate level, relevant graduate coursework or equivalent evidence of proficiency). Your thesis committee will help you develop a topic and must approve the written prospectus (or proposal) of your thesis before you begin. When your committee has approved your prospectus, you should pick up a "Proposed Plan of Study and Thesis Prospectus" and "Application for Admission to Candidacy" forms from The Graduate School and get the appropriate signatures. These forms must be completed before the prospectus or the thesis can be submitted to The Graduate School. Again, request all these materials from The Graduate School early in the semester to avoid last-minute complications.
The thesis marks the beginning of your career as a professional writer and scholar. Because many good thesis topics grow out of work done for a seminar, it is prudent to begin thinking about possible topics while completing your course requirements. In defining a thesis topic, carefully consider the amount of time needed for thoughtful planning, writing, and revision. You should not undertake a project whose scope prevents completion in more than two semesters' time. Be sure to consult with your thesis committee frequently as you proceed with the thesis.
Plan to consult with the members of your committee during the semester prior to the one in which you plan to complete the draft of your thesis and earn the degree. To allow time for reading and recommended revisions, you must deliver your final draft to your committee no later than seven days before your scheduled thesis defense, which must take place at least ten days prior to the Graduate School’s published deadline for submitting all thesis materials.
You must be registered in ENGL 6399 for the semester in which you anticipate receiving the degree. Check with The Graduate School early in the semester for help with these requirements and for important deadlines and instructions for preparation of the thesis. You must formally apply for the degree.
The first step in the preparation of a thesis is to be sure that you really want to write one. Writing a thesis requires individual discipline and a genuine love of the subject matter to carry one through the necessary research and revisions, and there is no ‘penalty’ associated with pursing the non-thesis track if this better fits your interests.
If you choose to write a thesis, however, you should plan on at least one semester of research and one semester of writing. Some find that the thesis can be completed in one semester, but most students take two semesters to complete the project.
The first step toward forming a thesis committee is that of choosing the professor who will supervise the thesis. Normally you will have had this professor for a class or two and written a paper for that professor that seems to warrant further research. However, you may simply interview a professor and propose a subject that would be interesting to both parties.
The most important member of the committee is the major professor or supervising professor. The committee must also include two other graduate faculty, at least one of whom must be in the Department of English. The student should discuss his or her choices with the major professor first. The committee members must be interviewed by the student, face to face, in order to verify whether the professors will be on campus during the expected semester of completion and whether they are interested in working on the project.
Once the committee is formed and a general topic is agreed upon, the next step is to write a prospectus. The prospectus is a short abstract that establishes the major argument and subtopics of the thesis in a chapter-by-chapter fashion; it should also indicate where the study (literary or creative) fits into the scholarship on the topic, and it should delineate the methods and theories to be used.
The prospectus should be double-spaced, following MLA guidelines, and anywhere from four to six pages long. The presentation of the prospectus will normally take place during the last semester of course work. The prospectus must be approved by all three members of the committee before the student files for candidacy. Four copies of the prospectus should be submitted to The Graduate School as soon as it is approved by the Advisory Committee.
NOTE: In order to file for candidacy, the student must have completed 15 credit hours of work. Candidacy forms should be filed with The Graduate School at least one quarter prior to graduation.
The typical length of a literary critical thesis in English is 70 pages including the bibliography. The length may vary but in general should range between 50 and 100 pages. The actual length is dictated by the topic, the student, and the committee. Those opting for the creative critical option should complete a critical introduction of at least 25 pages that provides a well-researched, theoretically informed frame for the creative portion of the thesis. The length of the creative portion of the project will vary depending on the type of creative work undertaken and should be determined through consultation with the thesis committee.
Research for the thesis is expected to be reasonably exhaustive, especially with regard to our own library holdings, but a good thesis will go beyond such immediately available resources to include articles and books important to the topic that yet may not be in our library. For that reason interlibrary loans or visits to other libraries are sometimes necessary.
The student and the major professor should decide on deadlines for completing the thesis, chapter by chapter, paying close attention to deadlines stipulated by The Graduate School. Whether the second and third readers should get each installment of the working draft or simply the final draft is up to the committee. At any rate the major professor will expect revisions of each chapter as an ongoing process. Students are required to submit their final draft of their thesis to all members of the committee at least seven days prior to your scheduled thesis defense (which must be scheduled at least ten days prior to the Graduate School deadline for submitting all thesis materials).
The style sheet for the thesis is the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers with a few exceptions stipulated by The Graduate School:
1. All indented, offset, or "block" quotations must be single-spaced.
2. The left margin is 1 1/2 inches rather than 1 inch.
3. Several introductory pages are required (an example of each is appended), including an abstract, a table of contents, and signature pages. The signature pages should be brought to the oral examination by the student for the committee to sign.
4. Footnotes are optional. The Department prefers endnotes in keeping with current MLA style.
5. Three copies on 20-pound, 100% cotton bond are required for The Graduate School.
The student should get a copy of "Requirements for Thesis" from The Graduate School and pay close attention to specific instructions.
In order to complete the thesis in a timely manner, you should establish a time-line and stick to it. The guidelines listed below will help you organize your project:
1. Form your thesis committee
2. Write the prospectus and have it approved by the committee
3. File for Admission to Candidacy with the Graduate School
4. Begin research; write first drafts of your thesis
5. Have drafts approved by thesis advisor
6. Have drafts approved by your readers
7. Schedule an oral defense date with your committee: thesis students must schedule the thesis defense at least ten days before the Graduate School deadline for submitting all thesis materials
8. You must submit your completed thesis to your committee at least seven days prior to your scheduled defense.
9. Once you have passed your defense, submit the final copy of your thesis to the Graduate School.
M.A. Exams The M.A. oral examination covers three areas: British Literature (Area I), American Literature (Area II), and a Specialization field of the student’s choosing (Area III). The purpose of Area I and II is to establish a professional working knowledge of the major threads of American and British literature across periods and genres. The Specialization exam focuses on a targeted area of expertise corresponding to the student’s interests, seminar experience, training, and professional goals; ideally, the Area III/Specialization list would serve as a springboard for a capstone project or thesis.
Creation and Submission of Examination Lists Reading lists for each area should be crafted by the candidate in consultation with his or her examiner for that area. Area I and II should consist of 20 primary works each (a selection of poems by an author, for example, counts as one text). Lists in Areas I and II should provide coverage across genres (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and drama) and periods; lists in Areas I and II should also include major figures along with a representative group of non-canonical authors. For Area III, at least five of the 20 texts must be critical/scholarly/theoretical in nature (a significant number of texts must be representative and formative works in the area of specialization). For example, the specialization exam (Area III) may focus on a subfield of British or American Literature, the development of a genre, a theoretical/critical school and its application to primary literature, or a professional field and its practical and theoretical discourse. There may be no overlap of texts from Area I or Area II on the specialist exam list; overlap of authors is permissible with advisor approval but should be minimal. In preparing for the exam, candidates should meet regularly with their area examiners to discuss works and themes on their respective lists; students are also encouraged to consult other faculty in the department to discuss works and periods in their respective areas of expertise.
Each exam candidate is responsible for
1. Soliciting an examiner for each area exam.
2. Crafting the lists per the guidelines above, using the approved form.
3. Getting the approval and signatures for each list.
4. Making copies of his/her signed lists and depositing them with the Director of Graduate Studies by the deadlines:
* September 15th for Fall exams.
* January 15th for Spring exams.
* May 1st for Summer exams.
5. Consulting regularly with each area advisors concerning his/her progress toward the exam.
Scheduling the Examination After the examination lists are approved, each student must set an examination date that works for his/her full examination committee and make arrangements with Jonette Larrew for appropriate space. Should it become necessary to defer the examination, the examinee must do so in writing to the full examination committee, copying the Director of Graduate Studies, at least a week prior to the set exam date.
The Examination The oral exam lasts 75 minutes, with approximately 25 minutes devoted to each area exam. Students may choose to cover one area at a time or do a more open (“round robin”) format, with examiners taking turns asking questions and making connections between the different areas. At the end of the exam, the candidate will briefly leave the room for the examiners to consult and fill out the oral exam assessment form. After this brief consultation period, the committee will immediately apprise the candidate of his/her performance. Students who do not pass any or all areas of the exam may retake it once. Second attempts are comprised of all three areas.
Each academic year the Department of English receives funding from the Graduate School for the financial support of outstanding graduate students. These funds are awarded in semester stipends, generally in the form of a Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA), which also carries a waiver of tuition. Assistantships -- which include teaching internships, research assistance, and work in the Writing Center -- are available each semester except during the summer. The deadline for submitting applications for year-long assistantships (Fall/Spring) will be published each spring of the year preceding that for which financial aid is sought (Spring 2006 for Fall 06/Spring 07); some single-semester assistantships may be available, depending on funding.
NOTE: You must be enrolled in six (6) credit hours during any semester when you are receiving an assistantship.
Teaching internships enable M.A. students who plan to pursue the Ph.D. or to teach in a two-year college to gain supervised experience in the lower-division classroom, usually ENGL 1101 or 1102 but also sophomore literature surveys. Teaching assistants observe classes, assist with essay grading, and, depending on the type of course, teach individual sections or provide occasional lectures during the semester. To be considered for a teaching assistantship, you should submit a GRA application form to the Director of Graduate Studies indicating your interests and relevant background. Teaching internships will be awarded according to the criteria of academic achievement, professional maturity, career aspirations and departmental needs.
Research assistantships permit students to advance their skills in such endeavors as the editing of scholarly journals housed in the department, assisting with faculty research projects, and managing professional organizations and conferences. To be considered for a research assistantship, you should submit a GRA application form to the Director of Graduate Studies indicating your interests and relevant background. Research assistantships will be awarded according to the same criteria as are outlined above.
Required textbooks for courses can be purchased at the Campus Bookstore. For some courses and seminars your professor may also place additional readings on reserve at Ingram Library. These can be checked out by going to the main circulation desk on the second floor of the library. You will need a valid student identification card to check out reserved readings. Faculty may also place readings and assignments online using WebCT.
Graduate students have access to the computer labs located in Humanities Building and the Technology Enhanced Learning Center. These labs are open on a regular basis each weekday and on some evenings during the academic year.
It is not too soon for entering students to begin thinking about attending conferences and then presenting papers. They are a good way to meet graduate students and professors from other institutions who share your scholarly interests. Many conferences offer reduced registration fees for graduate students. Conferences are usually publicized nine to twelve months in advance. You should check the "Upcoming Meetings and Conferences" section at the end of each issue of PMLA and the bulletin boards in the department for calls for papers.
Conferences that students can attend are often held in Atlanta or the surrounding Southeast, so the cost of travel is not prohibitive. The University of West Georgia and AISA (Association for the Interdisciplinary Study of the Arts) host an interdisciplinary conference in the humanities each fall in Atlanta, and several graduate students from the Department of English have presented at the conference in years past. In addition, SAMLA (South Atlantic Modern Language Association) holds its meeting in Atlanta every other year and offers sessions specifically designed for graduate students. The National Association of Graduate Students also sponsors several regional conferences every year. Your advisor can help you identify conferences that might be of interest.
Most often, though not always, conference papers originate as work done in seminars, usually research papers. Frequently professors might suggest that students shorten a seminar paper to conference length (usually eight to ten pages). Several students, as well as all the faculty, in the Department of English have presented papers, so interested students should solicit their advice and experience in pursuing their own interests.
All graduate students are encouraged to enter their best poems, prose, and art work for publication in Eclectic, the University's literary and art magazine which is produced primarily by students from the Department of English. Graduate students also regularly serve on the editorial staff for Eclectic. If you are interested in submitting work to Eclectic or working on the editorial staff, see Dr. Katie Chaple.
Sigma Tau Delta is a national English honor society which has a local chapter here at the University of West Georgia. Membership is open to undergraduates and graduate students with exemplary academic records. In addition to a variety of academic activities, Sigma Tau Delta hosts a number of social activities throughout the year that are open to graduate students, including theater trips, open mic readings and a faculty/student cookout in the spring. If you are interested in joining Sigma Tau Delta or becoming involved in the planning of activities, see Dr. Margaret Mitchell or Dr. Josh Masters.
The Graduate Steering Committee serves as a focus point for student involvement in the program outside the classroom. Student members help to plan activities and workshops for graduate students and meet periodically with the Director of Graduate Studies to discuss potential events as well as student questions and concerns.
Graduate students have the opportunity to be involved in a number of activities designed to foster research and professional development outside the classroom. English Department graduate students have participated successfully in the university-wide “Celebration of Graduate Student Research.” Students present both creative and critical work at the department’s own annual “Fool’s Night.” Colloquia, scheduled throughout the academic year, provide a forum for faculty, graduate students, and other invited guests to discuss topics of professional interest, present work-in-progress, or read papers about to be published or presented at conferences. In the past graduate students have presented portions of seminar papers and M.A. theses at these gatherings. Graduate students also serve as the primary organizers of the department’s undergraduate conference, from generating the call for papers, selecting and mentoring presenters and moderating panel discussions.
Students with ideas for workshops, colloquia or other activities should contact the Director of Graduate Studies, the Graduate Program Committee or members of the Steering Committee.
You should also become familiar with the major literary societies that provide a variety of forums for graduate students to present scholarly papers, participate on panel discussions, vote on issues and resolutions of professional policy, and prepare to secure employment. Some of the most important societies are MLA (Modern Language Association), SAMLA, and AISA. You can also become actively involved with the National Association of Graduate Students, which serves post-baccalaureate students in all academic fields and disciplines.
Most people who have been to graduate school will tell you that they learned as much by talking and socializing with their peers and mentors outside of the classroom as they did in the classroom. Furthermore, you can receive a tremendous amount of professional experience and personal enrichment through involvement in the larger communities of the University of West Georgia and Carrollton. Take full advantage of your membership in these communities by participating in campus events and exploring places of interest in and around Carrollton.
Do not hesitate to allow faculty members and staff to assist you whenever you need them to do so. The Department of English is small enough to allow for personal interaction. Your teachers and advisors expect to confer with you, and it is part of their job to make themselves available for conferences with you on a regular basis. The key to healthy interaction is taking initiative. Drop in during their office hours; after all, that is why they keep them. Take time to talk with faculty and other graduate students at colloquia and social gatherings. Remember that every member of the faculty has been where you are now, and that they may understand your questions and struggles better than you think.
The fact that you have been admitted to this program means that you have the intellectual capacity to finish it. But other pressures can affect your performance as well: academic, financial, familial, emotional, and ideological. If you have any kind of problem, you are certain to find someone with whom to share it. After all, you are part of a group devoted to a common pursuit: the love of literature and language, the study of literary texts and what has been said about them, and the sharing of that love and that study with others. Common pursuits yield common concerns and experiences--one reason why many lasting friendships are formed in graduate school.
Most important to remember is that these years in graduate school are not merely preparation for a professional career but an intensive commitment of your energies. They are inherently demanding and enjoyable years, with the levels of both determined by how they are lived. Make the most of these years and your program of study at the University of West Georgia.
The Capstone Project
The capstone project presents an opportunity for students to complete their Master of Arts in English degree by engaging deeply in a scholarly, creative, or professional work that contributes in innovative ways to an established field in English, Film, Creative Writing, Pedagogy, or Professional Writing/Editing and, as such, is worthy of publication in a national venue. Students are encouraged to submit their capstone project as a manuscript for publication, but submission and publication are not required for completion of the degree program.
- For the scholarly article capstone, students will engage in original research, ideally connected to one of their graduate seminars and their exam specialty area, demonstrating mastery of pertinent critical assumptions, methodologies, and practices in the discipline. The final article should be approximately 20-35 pages in length, depending upon the submission guidelines of a suitable scholarly journal. The scholarly capstone/article should conform to all MLA style conventions, unless the capstone director identifies a different style manual required by a potential journal.
- The creative or professional writing/editing capstone involves students crafting a project in a particular genre or field. These projects may also include a brief critical/theoretical introduction. Given different genre requirements, the project’s length, formatting, and potential publication venue are determined by the capstone director.
The capstone project is drafted and carefully revised usually during the final two semesters of study, culminating in a rigorous defense. The final product must be approved by the student’s capstone committee, comprised of the student’s capstone director and two other graduate faculty readers, and submitted to the graduate director by the established deadline.
Given the robust nature of this project, a successful capstone process requires careful planning and management. As such, each student is responsible for
- soliciting a capstone director and two other graduate faculty readers.
- submitting the signed capstone declaration form to the graduate director by the appropriate
* September 1st for a Fall defense.
* January 5th for a Spring defense.
* May 1st for a Summer defense.
- consulting regularly with the capstone director who will set firm revision deadlines in consultation with the student.
- turning in all required revisions.
- scheduling the capstone defense meeting.
- submitting a finalized draft and signed approval form to the graduate director.
The Drafting Process
Students should meet with the capstone director in the first week of the semester (or earlier) that he/she plans to complete the work. During that meeting, the student should develop a timeline for completing the project, including building in a comfortable window for necessary revisions. Multiple revisions of the work may be necessary and are at the discretion of the project’s director. During this phase of the process, each student is working solely with the capstone’s director. It is the director’s responsibility to determine when the piece is ready to be shared with the full committee; it is usually the polished, defense-ready draft. The second and third readers will bring their feedback and any editorial corrections they have to the defense. Any substantive revisions, however, should be communicated to and made by the student in advance of the defense.
Scheduling the Defense
Each student must set a capstone defense date that works for her/his full capstone committee and make arrangements with Jonette Larrew for appropriate space. Please keep the following calendar points in mind:
- The defense must occur a minimum of two weeks before that term’s graduation date. If the student is defending in the summer term, keep in mind that faculty may be traveling for research and plan accordingly.
- The final, revised capstone paper must be approved by the capstone director and distributed to the second and third faculty readers at least two weeks prior to the scheduled defense date to allow for full faculty review.
- The student must bring two copies of the capstone signature sheet to the defense. The capstone signature sheet template may be found here: [insert link to form].
- Immediately upon the successful completion of the defense, the capstone director must submit one signed copy of the signature sheet to the director of graduate studies. NB: this step is of crucial importance, as the director of graduate studies must enter the completion of the capstone in the Wolfwatch degree audit system on time for graduation. The student should attach the other signed copy to the revised version she/he submits to the graduate director (see below).
FYI—Should it become necessary to defer the defense, the student must do so in writing to the full capstone committee, copying the director of Graduate Studies, at least a week prior to the originally scheduled defense date.
Submitting the Finished Project
Once the project has been successfully defended and the final editorial corrections have been incorporated, the student should submit the following to the director of graduate studies electronically by the last day of final exams for the term:
- An electronic copy of the finalized project. The electronic document should be one PDF document that contains the signed signature page, a 150-200 word abstract, and the actual project.
(Contributors: M. Crafton, D. Newton, L. Crafton, M. Doyle [Updated 1/06])