Educational Goals for the English MA

I. Literature, Composition, and Linguistics Courses:

Graduate students will demonstrate in their writing the ability to:

1. Develop a clear and sustained argument about a text.

2. Analyze texts with depth and complexity.

3. Write with clarity and precision.

4. Use disciplinary knowledge and terms correctly.

5. Position the central argument in relationship to a well-defined body of recent scholarship that addresses an issue important to the field.

6. Make connections between texts and their historical, cultural, or literary context.

7. Engage with theory.

8. Work independently in the area of concentration and make original/creative contributions to it.

9. Conduct professional and relevant research.

10. Document sources according to MLA style.


G1: This goal includes the ability to establish a clear thesis and to maintain argumentative coherence throughout the body of the paper.

G2: This goal includes the ability to support an argument through close readings of specific passages, with an eye to their connotative as well as denotative meaning.

G3: This goal includes sentence-level grammar and precise word choice, as well as the ability to introduce and integrate quotations effectively.

G4: This goal pertains to the use of concepts from literary and cultural theory, such as “discourse” or “ideology,” that are central to current methods of textual analysis. To satisfy this goal, the paper need not engage with a specific theoretical text.

G5: The paper should synthesize recent criticism about an issue of current importance to the field. “Importance” here may be taken to mean that the issue and the scholarship addressing it have clear stakes. To “position” the argument in relationship to scholarship, the paper must explain how the criticism is related to its own thesis.

G6: The paper should connect its argument to one or more contexts.  The information that the paper contains about history, culture or genre need not come from research.

G7: Unlike goal 4, the paper must engage with a specific theoretical text(s). Papers that satisfy this goal will explain theoretical concepts, engage with quotations from the theoretical text, and make connections between the theory and the text to which they are applying it.

G8: While Goal 5 requires the paper to situate its argument within an existing scholarly conversation, this goal focuses on the paper’s contribution to that conversation. Within the context of the scholarship that the paper presents, is its contribution an original one? To satisfy this goal, the paper must demonstrate an explicit awareness of its contribution.

G9: This means that the research comes from trustworthy sources, is relevant to the paper topic, and is sufficient to illustrate the claims it is used to support.  Secondary sources should be recent and come from peer-reviewed journals or academic presses.

G10: If the paper uses a different documentation style, such as Chicago, it should not be evaluated for this goal.

II. Creative Writing Courses

Writing by graduate students in Creative Writing courses will demonstrate:

1. Facility with language

2. Style and voice

3. Clear engagement with genre and form

4. Creativity and originality

5. Thematic insight

6. The ability to establish and develop a substantive lyric meditation or narrative

7. The ability to reflect on craft decisions or one’s relation to a genre or tradition


G1-7: The first six creative writing goals pertain to creative work specifically, while 7 pertains to the reflective component of a creative writing assignment, if present.

G4: Creativity and originality: This pertains to decisions of craft and form, as well as to ideas.

G5: Thematic insight: This pertains to the profundity and complexity of themes, independent of creativity and originality.

G6: The ability to establish and develop a substantive lyric meditation or narrative: Our creative writing courses train students to write stories and poems that explore an idea through narrative structures and lyric meditations. This category measures the extent to which students apply and develop linear and nonlinear narrative structures, and/or students’ ability to integrate ideas, images, language, and relevant poetic forms. This category not only reflects the ability of the student to apply structures, but also the depth and coherence of his/her exploration.