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English Graduate Handbook


Requirement: Two Plan B projects must be completed for the M.A. in English. At least one of the projects must be a "traditional" paper, as described below. Each paper should be 6500-9500 words (20-30 pages) long, not including notes and references. Completed Plan B papers must be approved in writing by the supervising faculty member and filed in the student's folder in the English office. All Plan B papers are distributed to the student's examining committee and kept in the permanent graduate files to be available as needed for faculty and/or graduate student review in the English department office.

Deadlines: Students are encouraged to finish their first Plan B project by the end of their first year in the program, and the second by the beginning of their final semester. Actual deadlines for the Plan B Requirement are as follows. One Plan B project must be completed and approved no later than the fifth week of the semester prior to the final semester of the student's program. The second paper must be completed and approved no later than the fifth week of the semester in which the student intends to take the comprehensive exam. For example, a full-time student entering Fall 2003 must have the first paper approved by the fifth week of Fall 2004; the second paper must be on file no later than the fifth week of Spring 2005. The comprehensive exam cannot be scheduled until the Plan B requirement is fulfilled. Upon approval of the second Plan B project, the chair of the student's examining committee will circulate copies of both Plan B projects to all examining committee members for informational purposes.

The Process: Plan B papers frequently evolve from work done in a course. The student finds, in a course, an interesting problem to investigate, secures the assistance of a member of the graduate faculty, and then writes the paper in consultation with that faculty member. However, a student may work similarly with a member of the graduate faculty in writing a paper that is not related to any course. The supervising faculty member will read the completed paper, offer comments, and, if necessary require revision. The last step in the process is for the faculty member to approve the paper in writing and to put it on file in the English Department.

Description: Students should work closely with the supervising faculty member to plan the nature and scope of their research as well as the shape of its presentation. Most papers will include a review of the literature, a statement of the investigative problem, together with necessary context, a statement of findings supported with evidence and interpretation of evidence, and a conclusion which summarizes the findings and reiterates their importance.

The paper must demonstrate familiarity with research and scholarship in the area upon which the paper focuses. The student is expected to know and use basic tools of research and to show a familiarity with the seminal research in the area being investigated, citing appropriately sources from articles and books to advance the paper's argument.

The paper must present effectively the results of research. The student must use a recognized style manual, preferably The MLA Style Manual or the "Stylesheet" of the Linguistic Society of America. The student's editing skills (grammar, punctuation, spelling) should be without fault, and the student's compositional skills (organization, issue development, careful marshaling and presentation of evidence) competent to convince the reader that an intelligent, educated person speaks. The conclusions should never outrun the evidence. A paper must be free from unsupported allegations and/or unsupported expressions of personal opinion. 

Plan B Project Alternatives

If a student wishes to undertake a Plan B project in creative writing or one that involves non-traditional format and/or new media, he or she must submit a project description, with a supporting statement from the faculty supervisor, for the Graduate Committee's review prior to beginning work on the project. Like all other Plan B projects, a non-traditional Plan B must be approved in writing by the faculty supervisor when the project is completed, and a hard copy or other hard record of the project must be filed in the English Department office. 

Creative Writing Options

Creative Plan B projects must include an introduction, as directed by the faculty member supervising the project. The function of these introductions is to insure that the student is able to critically contextualize his or her creative/non-traditional project and offer illuminating self-reflexive commentary on his or her work. Professors Basham and Maiolo have provided the following guidelines for students who plan to work on creative Plan B projects with them. If you intend to submit a creative project, please review these guidelines with the supervising faculty member. 

Fiction Writing-Professor Maiolo: The Creative Plan B Paper should be a novella, a long story, or two or three short stories-for an average total of fifty pages. The manuscript must include an introduction stating the central issue involved in the major character's conflict (in each story, if more than one), as well as a succinct identification of the point of view, or angle of narration, and why and how it has been employed to dramatize and develop the central conflict.

Poetry Writing-Professor Basham: Depending on the background of the student, projects will either aim at publication or be in published form. Self publication of chapbooks is acceptable. After completion of the creative work, the author shall write an introductory essay which typically shall discuss aspects of style and poetics issues resolved in the works, as well as philosophical and thematic concerns of the poems submitted as the Plan B project.

New Media and Faculty Approved Alternatives

The Graduate Committee, in consultation with the supervising faculty member, will review proposals for these projects on a case-by-case basis and indicate what kind of introduction, or equivalent apparatus, is appropriate.

One example of an alternative Plan B project that may be proposed is described below.

The Professional Portfolio

Description: The student prepares a portfolio that contains the following projects (6800-9300 words):

  1. a book review (1500 words)
  2. a note or response article (3000-4500 words)
  3. a proposal for a conference paper (300 words)
  4. notes or manuscript to accompany the conference paper (2000-3000 words)
  5. visual aids to accompany the conference paper (e.g. handouts, slides, overheads, etc.)

The student is required to submit items 1 and 2 to a professional journal and item 3 to a professional conference.

program requirements | related field requirement | language requirement | plan B requirement
how to file a program | satisfactory progress | comprehensive exam | oral component

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