Skip to main content
Menu
Close Search

Graduate Program

Books

The Master of Arts in English at South Dakota State University


About the English M.A. Program

Overview

The English department at South Dakota State University has offered the M.A. degree since 1994. Our program is small enough for students to receive individual support from faculty within a close-knit graduate student community, but flexible enough to accommodate students’ individual educational goals. We offer several options for the completion of the degree. Students may choose either the Literature track or the Writing and Rhetoric track, and within each of these tracks they may complete their degree by submitting a critical or creative thesis, a critical and/or creative portfolio, or a written exam. Students in our program work closely with faculty who have expertise in a wide range of specialty areas, including British and American literature, women’s writing, Native American literature, critical theory, rhetoric, composition, creative writing, professional and technical writing, peace and conflict studies, and film studies. Students interested in applying to our program should contact both the Graduate School and the English department Graduate Coordinator for information regarding the application process.

Our Mission

The English department’s M.A. program prepares students for professional careers or further graduate study by developing their capacity to analyze texts, conduct research, apply theory, and write creatively and critically.

Student Learning Outcomes

Upon the completion of the English M.A. program, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an advanced ability to analyze and interpret literary and cultural texts.
  • Examine significant texts, authors, periods, movements, genres, theories, and modes from literary history, interpreting the relationship between texts and their historical, aesthetic, cultural, and ideological contexts.
  • Compose sophisticated argumentative, creative, and reflective texts that demonstrate focus, content, structure, evidence, style, and grammar appropriate to their rhetorical contexts.
  • Demonstrate an advanced ability to apply theoretical concepts to the writing and analysis of texts. 
  • Produce original research that advances knowledge within the discipline; generates questions for scholarly inquiry; identifies its methodological and theoretical foundations; employs library resources and discipline-specific databases; evaluates and integrates secondary criticism; and documents sources using MLA style.
  • Explain how literature both reflects and enriches the diversity of human experience through its exploration of the ways in which race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, ability, and class shape identity and influence perception.
  • Deliver instruction that demonstrates a growing mastery of course content (cultural analysis, rhetoric, grammar, and research) and increasing skill in helping students of varying abilities improve their cultural awareness, critical acumen, reading comprehension, and writing competence. (Graduate teaching assistants only.)

Back to top.


Application Process

How to Apply

Individuals who wish to be considered for acceptance into the M.A. program in English must complete the Graduate School’s online application. The English department reviews applications on a rolling basis.

Minimum Application Requirements

For admission into the M.A. Program in English, applicants must have a minimum of twenty-four semester hours of undergraduate credit in English or receive the consent of the Department Head. To be considered for unconditional acceptance and to be eligible for a graduate teaching assistantship, applicants must have at least a 3.0 undergraduate GPA and a 3.25 GPA in their undergraduate English courses.

Additional Requirements for International Applicants

In addition to the admission requirements noted above, international applicants must score at least a 7.0 on the IELTS to be considered for admission into the M.A. program in English.

Both the Office of International Affairs and the Graduate School have information on their web sites specifically for international students. This includes the cost of tuition and housing information.

Required Application Materials

In addition to the materials required by the Graduate School, the English department requires the following application materials:

  • A one-page statement of purpose explaining the applicant’s interest in and goals for graduate study. The statement of purpose should indicate whether or not the applicant would like to be considered for a graduate teaching assistantship. The applicant may upload this statement while completing the Graduate School’s online application.
  • An eight- to ten-page critical writing sample. This sample must engage in critical research and include a works cited page. The applicant may upload this writing sample while completing the Graduate School’s online application.
  • Two letters of recommendation from faculty at the applicant’s undergraduate institution. Letters should come from faculty who are directly familiar with the applicant’s academic work. They must address the applicant’s scholarly potential and may also speak to the applicant’s potential as a graduate teaching assistant. Letters should come directly from the recommenders, who may submit their letters electronically along with the personal recommendation form provided by the Graduate School. The Graduate School will email recommenders detailed instructions for submitting their recommendations using the contact information provided by the applicant.

The English department does not require GRE scores.

Back to top.


Graduate Teaching Assistantships

Graduate teaching assistantships allow for a full tuition waiver and a stipend of approximately $10,000 per academic year.

Teaching assistants take two graduate classes each semester and either teach two sections of Composition or teach one section of Composition while tutoring in the Writing Center. The assistantship is renewable, providing the student is making good academic progress and receives satisfactory teaching evaluations.

The department requires all new teaching assistants to attend a one-week teaching workshop just prior to the start of their first fall semester. This workshop is held in late August and is led by the English department’s Coordinator of Composition.

Applicants must indicate in the statement of purpose required by the department whether they wish to be considered for a graduate teaching assistantship. Students who apply for but do not receive a teaching assistantship may reapply for one the following academic year.

Back to top.


Tracks and Options for Completing the Degree

Tracks

M.A. students in English choose one of the following tracks:

  • Studies in Literature
  • Studies in Writing and Rhetoric

Options

Within each track, students may choose one of three options for the completion of the degree. These options include Graduate School Option A: Thesis (the English department’s “thesis option”), Graduate School Option B: Research/Design Project (the English department’s “portfolio option”) and Graduate School Option C: Coursework (the English department’s “written exam” option).

Thesis Option

The thesis option requires students to successfully complete:

  • Twenty-four credits of graduate coursework in English (eight courses)
  • Six hours of thesis credit
  • A thesis
  • An oral exam

Students who choose the thesis option may choose to complete a critical or a creative thesis.

Learn more about our thesis option guidelines.

Portfolio Option

The portfolio option requires students to successfully complete:

  • Thirty credits of graduate coursework in English (ten courses)
  • Two hours of research credit
  • A portfolio
  • An oral exam

Students who choose the portfolio option may complete a portfolio that contains critical work, creative work, or a combination of both.

Learn more about our portfolio option guidelines.

Written Exam Option

The written exam option requires students to successfully complete:

  • Thirty-six credits of graduate coursework in English (twelve courses)
  • A written exam
  • An oral exam

Learn more about our written exam option guidelines.

Back to top.


Course Requirements

Students who choose the thesis option must complete twenty-four credits of coursework (eight courses) and six credits of thesis for a total of thirty credits; students who choose the portfolio option must complete thirty credits of coursework (ten courses) and two credits of research for a total of thirty-two credits; students who choose the written exam option must complete thirty-six credits of coursework (twelve courses).

Core Requirements

6 credits

  • ENGL 704: Intro to Graduate Studies (3 credits)
  • ENGL 705: Seminar in Teaching Composition (3 credits; GTAs only; Non-GTAs must substitute a 700-level elective)

Additional Requirements for Studies in Literature Track

24 credits for thesis option; 26 credits for portfolio option; 30 credits for written exam option

  • 2 courses (6 credits) in American literature
  • 2 courses (6 credits) in British literature
  • 2 elective courses (6 credits; students who write a creative thesis must choose 2 creative writing courses)
  • Students pursuing the thesis option must take 6 credits of thesis; students pursuing the portfolio option must take 2 additional elective courses and 2 credits of research; students pursuing the written exam option must take 4 additional elective courses (12 credits)

Additional Requirements for Studies in Writing and Rhetoric Track

24 credits for thesis option; 26 credits for portfolio option; 30 credits for written exam option

  • ENGL 710: Seminar in Rhetoric (3 credits)      
  • 1 course (3 credits) in American literature
  • 1 course (3 credits) in British literature
  • 3 additional courses (9 credits) in linguistics, rhetoric, or writing (students who write a creative thesis must choose at least 2 creative writing courses)
  • Students pursuing the thesis option must take 6 credits of thesis; students pursuing the portfolio option must take 2 additional elective courses and 2 credits of research; students pursuing the written exam option must take 4 additional elective courses (12 credits)

Note: 50% of the student’s coursework must be at the 700 level.

Back to top.


Oral Exam

All graduate students must pass an oral exam during their final semester in order to receive the M.A. degree. Option A (thesis) students must sit for the oral exam by the graduate school’s oral exam deadline for Option A students. Option B (portfolio) and Option C (written exam) students must sit for the oral exam by the graduate school’s capstone deadline.

The oral exam lasts for two hours. During the first hour, students who have chosen the thesis or portfolio options defend their projects, while students who have chosen the written exam option defend their written exam. According to the Graduate School Regulations and Procedures, “[T]he committee and candidate should recognize that an advanced degree is more than evidence of satisfactory completion of courses and that integration of the content of the program is expected of successful candidates.” For this reason, questions asked during the second hour of the oral exam should focus on the student’s coursework and should require the student to demonstrate the ability to synthesize subject matter drawn from a variety of courses.

For Option A (thesis) students, the Graduate School will send the thesis advisor an evaluation form prior to the oral exam. This form must be signed by all committee members and submitted to the graduate school by the advisor immediately after the exam.

The thesis/portfolio/exam advisor must also bring a copy of the English department’s M.A. Oral Exam Assessment Form for each committee member to the exam. After each committee member has completed this form, the thesis/portfolio/exam advisor will submit all copies to the Graduate Coordinator for filing.

Back to top.


Reading List

All students must submit a reading list to their committee as they near the completion of their degree program. Students who choose the thesis or portfolio option must submit their reading list prior to the oral exam so that committee members may use the list to develop oral exam questions relating to coursework.Students who choose the written exam option must submit the reading list prior to the written exam so that committee members may use the list to prepare written exam questions. The reading list will list all the graduate courses the student has taken and should be arranged into appropriate subject categories (for example, “American Literature,” “British Literature,” “Writing, Rhetoric, and Theory”). For each course taken, the student should provide the following information:

  • The course prefix and number.
  • The title of the course.
  • The semester the course was taken.
  • The instructor of the course.
  • A brief but sufficiently detailed course description (may be quoted from the syllabus).
  • A list of all texts and films required for the class. All texts included on the class schedule must be listed individually; for example, if an anthology was used in the course, the student must list not just the title of the anthology, but also the titles of the individual readings from the anthology.

To assist with the completion of the reading list, students should save copies of syllabi from all of their courses.

Back to top.


Timeline for Completion of the Degree

The M.A. program in English is a two- to three-year program. During the second semester of their first year, students must inform the Graduate Coordinator whether they will be choosing the thesis, portfolio, or written exam option in order to complete their degree.

The timelines outlined below apply to students with graduate teaching assistantships. They are approximate and may vary by individual student. Teaching assistants may take slightly longer to complete the program, while students who are not teaching assistants may complete the degree in a shorter period of time. Not completing the program within three years is considered unsatisfactory progress.

Thesis Option

24 credits of coursework; 6 credits of thesis; 30 credits total.

1st Year (12 credits total)

  • 1st Semester (6 credits). Teach 2 courses, take 2 courses. Includes English 705: Seminar in Teaching.
  • 2nd Semester (6 credits). Teach 2 courses, take 2 courses. Includes English 704: Introduction to Graduate Studies. Determine thesis topic, choose thesis advisor, and form thesis committee. File Plan of Study Form and Advisory Committee Request Form.

2nd Year (18 credits total)

  • 1st Semester (9 credits). Teach 2 courses, take 2 courses, take 3 credits of thesis. Present thesis proposal early in semester.
  • 2nd Semester (9 credits). Teach 2 courses, take 2 course, take 3 credits of thesis. Apply for graduation, file Change of Plan of Study if required, schedule and take oral exam, and submit thesis by appropriate deadlines.

Portfolio Option

30 credits of coursework; 2 credits of research; 32 credits total.

1st Year (12 credits total)

  • 1st Semester (6 credits). Teach 2 courses, take 2 courses. Includes English 705: Seminar in Teaching.
  • 2nd Semester (6 credits). Teach 2 courses, take 2 courses. Includes English 704: Introduction to Graduate Studies.

2nd Year (12 credits total)

  • 1st Semester (6 credits). Teach 2 courses, take 2 courses. Choose portfolio advisor and form portfolio committee. File Plan of Study.
  • 2nd Semester (7 credits). Teach 2 courses, take 2 courses, take 1 credit of research.

3rd Year (6 credits total)

  • 1st Semester (7 credits). Teach 2 courses, take 2 courses, take 1 credit of research. Early in semester, assemble reading list and distribute to committee (provide syllabi to individual committee members upon request). Apply for graduation, file Change of Plan of Study if required, schedule and take oral exam, and submit portfolio by appropriate deadlines.

Written Exam Option

36 credits of coursework.

1st Year (12 credits total)

  • 1st Semester (6 credits). Teach 2 courses, take 2 courses. Includes English 705: Seminar in Teaching.
  • 2nd Semester (6 credits). Teach 2 courses, take 2 courses. Includes English 704: Introduction to Graduate Studies.

2nd Year (12 credits total)

  • 1st Semester (6 credits). Teach 2 courses, take 2 courses. Choose exam advisor and form exam committee. File Advisory Committee Request Form.
  • 2nd Semester (6 credits). Teach 2 courses, take 2 courses. File Plan of Study.

3rd Year (12 credits total)

  • 1st Semester (6 credits). Teach 2 courses, take 2 courses.
  • 2nd Semester (6 credits). Teach 2 courses, take 2 courses. Early in semester, assemble reading list and distribute to committee (provide syllabi to individual committee members upon request). Apply for graduation, file Change of Plan of Study if required, schedule and take written and oral exams by appropriate deadlines.

Back to top.


Awards

The Maud Adams Award for Outstanding Graduate Student in English

The Maud Adams Award Fund was established by her sister, Mary Adams. It is awarded annually to one outstanding advanced graduate student in English. Maud Adams was born in 1915 and grew up near Jefferson, South Dakota. She earned a B.A. degree in Latin and Greek from University of South Dakota. She received a degree in Nursing from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and a Master’s degree in Public Health Nursing from Columbia University in New York. Maud worked for the Visiting Nurse Service of New York and was assigned to neighborhoods characterized by extreme poverty. Later, she was a World Health Organization Fellow. She then taught at Morningside College and for several years was director of the college’s nursing program. The Maud Adams Award commemorates Maud Adams as a sister, scholar, and humanitarian. It is hoped that through the years the recipients of these awards will exemplify the values and ideals of Maud Adams, especially the enthusiasm for reading, the admiration of quality writing, and the belief in sharing one’s talents.

Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award

Each year, the English department presents this award to one graduate teaching assistant who has demonstrated excellence in teaching.

Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Scholarship

Each year, the English department presents this award to a student who has written an outstanding paper for a graduate-level seminar.

Back to top.


Additional Policies and Procedures for English M.A. Students

Annual Review

In compliance with Graduate School policy, all graduate students must complete an annual review. Students who have not completed or scheduled their oral exam during a given academic year should plan to hold an annual review during the spring semester.

During the annual review, students will meet with the Department Head, Graduate Coordinator, and thesis/portfolio/exam advisor (if applicable). During the review, the faculty members present will review and evaluate the student’s progress toward the completion of the degree and recommend goals for the upcoming year. Faculty members will complete an annual review form, providing one copy to the student and placing one copy in the student’s file.

Advising

In the English department, each graduate student works closely with two departmental advisors: the Graduate Coordinator and the thesis/portfolio/exam advisor.

The Graduate Coordinator serves as the students “major advisor,” or academic advisor. The Graduate Coordinator begins working with students during the application process and will continue to do so until they have completed the degree. The Graduate Coordinator provides advice and guidance relating to all elements of the program. This includes developing a Plan of Study, choosing and registering for coursework, fulfilling degree requirements, filing paperwork, and following guidelines for the completion of the degree. Students are required to meet with the Graduate Coordinator for advising each semester and should consult regularly with the Graduate Coordinator regarding their progress in the program.

The thesis/portfolio/exam advisor guides the student through the process of writing the thesis, developing the portfolio, and taking the written exam. The thesis/portfolio/exam advisor advises the student in all aspects of this process, including developing a timetable for completion of the final project, coordinating meetings, scheduling written and/or oral exams, and submitting any paperwork associated with the completion of the final project and oral exam.

Registration

Each graduate student must meet with the Graduate Coordinator for advising during the registration period for each semester, at which time the Graduate Coordinator will register the student for classes.

Credit Hour Requirements for Graduate Students

Graduate teaching assistants should register for no more than six credit hours of coursework per semester. They may register for thesis or research credits on top of their six hours of coursework as needed. Students who are not graduate teaching assistants may register for as many credits as they wish, but must register for nine credit hours in order to be considered full time.

Registering for Thesis and Research Credits

Students must have a thesis or portfolio advisor in order to register for thesis or research credits. Students wishing to register for thesis or research credits must email a request to the Graduate Coordinator that includes their student ID number, the name of their thesis or portfolio advisor, and the number of credits for which they’d like to register.

Continuing Enrollment

Students who have completed all required credit hours for the degree but who have not yet completed the oral exam must remain active by requesting registration for one thesis, research, or exam credit per semester (excluding summer) until the completion of the program. A student who is not registered for the duration of an entire semester will become inactive and will have to reapply to both the Graduate School and the English department in order to gain readmittance. Readmittance is not guaranteed.

Obsolete Coursework

A student’s coursework will become obsolete after six years and will no longer be counted toward the degree.

Summer Enrollment

A student will need to enroll for credit during the summer semester only if he or she intends to graduate during the summer. Because graduate teaching assistants in the English department do not teach in the summer, the tuition waiver does not apply to credits taken during the summer semester.

Back to top.