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Program Information and Degree Requirements

Picture postcard of Rainbow Harbor in Long BeachRequired Coursework
Foreign Language Study
Advancement to Candidacy
Final Degree Requirement
Faculty Advisors
Research Skills
Additional Degree Requirements

Required Coursework

Upper-Division and Graduate Courses
Students must have a minimum of 30 units of approved upper-division and graduate courses with at least 24 units in English to obtain the MA degree.  No courses previously used to satisfy BA requirements may be retaken for graduate credit. Double-numbered courses (400/500) must be taken at the 500 level for MA credit.  If students have taken the 400-level component of a double-numbered course as an undergraduate at CSULB, they may not take the 500-level course for credit.  Only specified 400-level courses may be counted toward the MA; these courses are listed on p.9 of this Handbook.

ENGL 696 Requirement
Students must take ENGL 696: Seminar in Theory, Criticism, and Research prior to, or concurrent with, other 600-level courses. Students must be admitted to the MA program in order to enroll in ENGL 696. Therefore, students should plan on taking this course as early in their programs as possible.

600-Level Courses
Of the required 30 units, at least 20 must be at the 600 level (this includes ENGL 696 but not ENGL 697 or 698).

Seminar in British Literature
Students must take at least one seminar at the 600 level in British literature before 1800.  ENGL 697 (Directed Research) and ENGL 698 (Thesis) may NOT be used to fulfill this course requirement. The following seminars are eligible:

  • ENGL 652    English Renaissance
  • ENGL 653    The Age of Milton
  • ENGL 655    Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Literature
  • ENGL 681    Selected Topics—Seminar in Major Authors (for British authors active before 1800)
  • ENGL 683    Selected Topics—Seminar in English Studies (if topic concerns British literature before 1800)

Additional Units

Students must take additional acceptable units to make up a minimum of 30 units. Up to 6 units approved for graduate standing may come from other departments, other campuses, or extension programs, if approved as relevant to a degree objective (i.e., Area of Concentration). Outside courses, however, may not fulfill the 24-unit requirement of 600- and 500-level courses in English. All upper-division and graduate courses taken as a post-baccalaureate student affect the overall GPA.

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General Overview
Foreign language proficiency is required as an adjunct to graduate study in English for several reasons. Knowledge of a second language offers a second window of perception on the world. It puts into perspective the logic and illogic of one’s first language. It offers acquaintanceship with another literature not distorted by translation. It also makes possible research into scholarly and critical writing about the English language and its literatures not available in translation.
Foreign Language Requirements
Candidates must complete the foreign language requirement or be enrolled in the final units of the requirement before taking final comprehensive examinations. The foreign language proficiency requirement may be fulfilled in ONE of the following three ways:

  1. Complete college course work in or receive credit for a foreign language equivalent to sophomore proficiency (normally 201B at this University) with a grade of “C” or better.
  2. Complete college course work in or receive credit for a foreign language equivalent to freshman proficiency (101B) with a grade of “C” or better AND complete either ENGL 550: Old English or ENGL 551: Middle English with a grade of “B” or better. Either or both of the English courses may be counted toward the minimum 30 units for the degree. (Students should note that ENGL 550 and 551 require consent of instructor for enrollment.)
  3. Provide evidence of proficiency equivalent to a 201B foreign language course or demonstrate native proficiency in a foreign language accepted by the Graduate Studies Committee.

Unlike almost all upper-division and graduate courses, lower-division foreign language courses may be taken CR/NC. Lower-division foreign language courses do not count towards either GPA.


What is it?
The procedure known as “Advancement to Candidacy” certifies that the English Department recommends a student to the College of Liberal Arts as a candidate for the MA degree. With the aid of an advisor, the student sets up a formal program of study signed by the student, the advisor, the Graduate Advisor, the English Department Chair, and the Associate Dean for Instructional Policy of the College of Liberal Arts. This step determines the University Catalog under which a student will complete the MA program. After advancement, candidates cannot be held to any new requirements for the degree. If students want to change their programs after advancing, however, they may do so by filling out a change of program form, available from the Graduate Secretary.
Note: Students planning to write theses must have their thesis proposals approved before advancing to candidacy.

When should students apply?
Advancement is possible after completion of six units toward the MA degree. Students must be advanced to candidacy at least one semester before they intend to graduate, before the deadline to file for graduation that semester. If students are writing a thesis, they must be advanced before any thesis units are taken.

What if a student plans to complete the MA program in one year?
Students who elect to complete the MA program in one year may request to be advanced to candidacy the same semester that they graduate; they should file a Graduation Application Card when they begin the program. Students who have such plans should consult with the Graduate Advisor upon entering the program.

What are the Advancement to Candidacy requirements?
The requirements for Advancement to Candidacy are as follows:

  1. A current transcript showing a grade point average of 3.0 (B) or better, both in the MA program and overall in upper-division and graduate courses taken as a post-baccalaureate student.
  2. Completion of at least six units of course work acceptable for the MA in English at CSULB with a GPA of 3.0 or above.
  3. Enrollment in regular course work at the time of Advancement to Candidacy.
  4. For students who wish to write a thesis, the thesis proposal must be approved (for approval process, see p.14 under “Option Two: The Thesis”).

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General Requirement Information
The final requirement for the degree of Master of Arts in English is either:

1. a final comprehensive examination or
2. a thesis.

Students who wish to change to the comprehensive exam option after taking 698 units must confer with the Graduate Advisor, who will seek approval from the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts. In these cases, the preliminary grade(s) the student received for any 698 units will remain on the transcript without being changed to a letter grade. Students may not change options after failing either the thesis or the comprehensive examination.
Option One: The Final Comprehensive Examination

The final comprehensive examination is a three-hour essay that serves as a capstone of the 30-unit program of study. Students must have completed all program requirements or be enrolled in their final courses the semester they take the examination. Because students must be enrolled at the University in the semester the examination is taken, those who have finished their course work should enroll in GS 700 (see p. 12). Early that semester, the candidate should apply to the English Department Office to take the examination and specify the area to be covered. Two months prior to the examination date, candidates will be supplied with four questions from their area of study and will be told who their three readers will be. Each candidate may reject two of the four questions. At the examination, the student will be told which one of the remaining two questions to address in an essay, demonstrating familiarity with both primary and secondary sources. Students are encouraged, but not required, to write the examination on a computer.

Examination Objectives
The examination gives candidates the opportunity to synthesize their learning and to demonstrate their analytical and interpretive skills. More specifically, it requires students to:

  1. show their ability to write a complete essay that demonstrates a comprehensive and deep understanding of a particular field in British or American literature or rhetoric and composition, thus demonstrating knowledge, analytical ability, and writing capabilities;
  2. show comprehension of, and familiarity with, a breadth of both primary and secondary materials within the area of study, thus providing evidence of the student’s ability to use library resources; and
  3. show connections and distinctions within the area of study, thus encouraging the student to draw from the coursework that has formed the student’s program of study.

Examination Areas of Concentration
The examination tests a candidate’s mastery of one of the nine following areas, which the candidate selects on the basis of intensive study, including course work at the graduate level. Students should be aware, however, that 600-level seminars are not survey courses, but typically involve in-depth studies in a portion of the subject named in the course title. For that reason, study beyond the primary and secondary material covered in 600-level seminars is necessary for the examination. The areas are:

  • Area I      Old and Middle English Language and Literature
  • Area II     English Literature of the Renaissance
  • Area III    English Literature of the Restoration and 18th Century
  • Area IV   English Literature of the 19th Century
  • Area V    English Literature since 1900
  • Area VI   American Literature before 1900
  • Area VII  American Literature since 1900
  • Area VIII  Literary Genre (poetry, fiction, or drama) or Critical Theory*
  • Area IX    Rhetoric, Writing, and Composition

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Examination Objectives

The examination gives candidates the opportunity to synthesize their learning and to demonstrate their analytical and interpretive skills. More specifically, it requires students to:

  1. show their ability to write a complete essay that demonstrates a comprehensive and deep understanding of a particular field in British or American literature or rhetoric and composition, thus demonstrating knowledge, analytical ability, and writing capabilities;
  2. show comprehension of, and familiarity with, a breadth of both primary and secondary materials within the area of study, thus providing evidence of the student’s ability to use library resources; and
  3. show connections and distinctions within the area of study, thus encouraging the student to draw from the coursework that has formed the student’s program of study.

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Option Two: The Thesis

Students interested in pursuing the thesis option should be aware that writing a thesis is an intensive experience requiring a significant commitment of time and usually requires at least three semesters to complete. They should plan ahead accordingly and begin by consulting with a potential thesis committee chair.

Before students can advance to candidacy with a thesis option or begin taking 698 units, they must prepare a formal prospectus with a substantial bibliography for the proposed thesis committee. The prospectus should explain the student’s topic, works to be treated, preliminary thesis or central line of argument, and suggested breakdown of chapters. It should also convey a sense of previous scholarship in this field and indicate the methodology and the major theorists or critical traditions that will be employed.

For more expansive and specific guidelines on the prospectus, students should consult the hand-out available through the MA program’s website: (at and in the graduate secretary’s office and speak directly with their prospective committee.

After reviewing the prospectus, the three potential committee members will meet with the student to discuss the project. Together, student and committee will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the thesis as set forth in the prospectus and bibliography. Other topics addressed will include a time frame for completing the thesis and the committee’s division of labor.

The exact division of labor among committee members will depend on the individual committee; however, in all cases the chair of the committee will bear primary responsibility for establishing guidelines and expectations for the student. In particular, the University catalogue dictates that

  • Thesis committee chairs will be the major contact point with the student and will oversee the other committee members’ work with the student.
  • Thesis committee chairs will assure that the editorial and format standards appropriate to the mechanical preparation of a thesis are followed.
  • Thesis committee chairs will establish guidelines for the student and timetables to be followed to ensure completion of the thesis in a reasonable time.

The second and third readers serve to provide additional feedback, expertise, and guidance, to offer alternative perspectives, and to ensure that thesis standards are met. In overseeing other committee members, the chair will work with the student to mediate any contradictory advice or feedback from different committee members, consulting directly with other committee members if necessary. In cases where the chair is unable to bring committee members to a point of agreement, he or she will consult with the Graduate Advisor and the Department Chair. A student may request a change in the composition of the committee by providing justification to the Graduate Advisor and the Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts.

In establishing timelines for the thesis, the committee chair should allow sufficient time for the student and the committee to produce work that meets the standards for a thesis outlined in the University catalogue. Students should consider that faculty need ample time to provide useful feedback.

The committee will then confer and decide whether or not to approve the thesis project as proposed. The committee may decide that more work needs to be done before the prospectus can be approved. If the committee members do approve the project, they will sign the 698 form at that time.

Other thesis regulations are detailed in the section on Graduate Study in the University Catalog. Essentials include the following:

  1. A student must be Advanced to Candidacy before enrolling in ENGL 698 (Thesis).
  2. The six units of ENGL 698 (Thesis) may not be used to satisfy MA requirements
    for 600-level seminars.
  3. A student who takes ENGL 698 (Thesis) may also use ENGL 697 (Directed Research) as part of the minimum 30 units of the MA program. However, because University policy states that a maximum of six units shall be allowed for a thesis, ENGL 698 and ENGL 697 cannot be taken for the same project.
  4. A minimum grade of B is required for ENGL 698 (Thesis).

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All students accepted into the MA program are required to meet with an advisor during their first semester to discuss strengths and weaknesses and to plan a preliminary course of study. Letters of acceptance will include the name of your initial advisor. Please make an appointment through the graduate secretary (562-985-4225) or email the advisors directly.

After the first semester, you are free to choose an advisor other than the one initially assigned to you; you must choose your particular advisor before advancement to candidacy. The English Department keeps an updated list of faculty available to graduate students as advisors and mentors.

Throughout their programs, students are encouraged to seek guidance from advisors on choosing courses and meeting degree requirements. By meeting at least once a year, preferably once a semester, with your advisor, you will be informed about any changes in regulations applying to the MA degree, whether these originate inside or outside the English Department. You are also welcome to consult with faculty on the intellectual, social, and personal aspects of working for the degree.

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All MA students are expected to know basic methods of library research, which include using print and on-line bibliographies to locate books and journal articles. Students should also be familiar with the MLA style of documentation. If you do not already own a copy, you are encouraged to purchase and use The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, ed. Joseph Gibaldi. Joseph Aubele in the library can help with questions about research resources and methods; he can be reached at (562) 985-5321 or Faculty may also be consulted if you have questions about research methods or documentation rules.



GPA Information

The University calculates two different GPAs for post-baccalaureate students. The first GPA comprises all upper-division and graduate courses taken after earning your bachelor’s degree (your overall post-baccalaureate GPA). The second comprises just the courses that make up your MA program (your program GPA).

GPA Maintenance

Students are required to maintain a GPA of 3.0 or better both in the MA program and in all upper-division and graduate courses taken at CSULB as a post-baccalaureate student. Graduate students are subject to dismissal from the University if they fail to raise their overall GPA to 3.0 after two semesters on probation. A student who has been disqualified must reapply to the University. As the Catalog states, “subsequent removal of GPA deficiencies . . . does not guarantee readmission to CSULB.” The Graduate Advisor, in consultation with the Graduate Studies Committee, will decide whether or not to readmit students who have been on probation or academically disqualified from the MA program in English.

Upper-Division and Graduate Course Grading

Credit/No Credit grading is not available in upper-division or graduate courses, with few specified exceptions such as teacher training. It is acceptable for lower-division courses, such as 100-200-level foreign language classes, which do not affect a graduate student’s overall GPA.

Incomplete Course Grades

Graduate students should avoid “I” (Incomplete) grades in any courses in the graduate program. Any Incomplete grades must be finished within one year from the semester when they were awarded. Students who need to extend the time required to complete a course beyond one year may apply for an extension of the Incomplete grade. The application for extension requires approval by the instructor of the course, the Department Chair, and the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts. If an Incomplete is not finished within the allotted period, it will lapse to an “F” or the grade designated by the instructor. Grades lower than “C” cannot be counted on the MA program and subject a student’s Advancement to Candidacy to cancellation.

Continuous CSULB Enrollment

Students are required to be continuously enrolled at CSULB to acquire the MA degree. Students who are absent for twelve consecutive months break the continuous enrollment and must apply for readmission. Students previously Advanced to Candidacy must satisfy any new requirements in effect at the time of readmission and may have to petition through the Graduate Advisor for reinstatement in the program by the Associate Vice President. To avoid such problems, students who know they will have to break enrollment temporarily should submit an Educational Leave Form to the Office of Enrollment Services in advance. Further information is available in the University Catalog in the policies governing “Educational Leave.”

Graduate Studies 700

A candidate who has completed course work, but not the comprehensive examination or the thesis, may satisfy the continuous enrollment requirement with a non-credit Extension course, Graduate Studies 700. Students must be registered either in a course or in GS 700 for every semester in which they plan to use University facilities or consult members of the faculty. Registration is also required in Winter or Summer Session if that is when the student plans to graduate. Application forms are available in the English Department office. Students should register for GS 700 in the first two weeks of the semester. After two semesters of enrollment in GS 700, students will need the Graduate Advisor’s approval for subsequent enrollment in GS 700.

The Request to Graduate Form

All students must file a Request to Graduate form. (Before filing, students must already have an approved Advancement to Candidacy on file in Enrollment Services.) The Request to Graduate form is due to the Office of Enrollment Services the semester prior to intended graduation—by March 1 for fall or winter graduation, by October 15 for spring or summer graduation. This form is available only by downloading it from the website of the Office of Enrollment Services:

The completed form must be returned to the General Information windows after paying appropriate fees to the Cashier’s Office. No degree can be granted unless this form is filed. Students planning to graduate in one year should file the card at the time of admission.

Seven Year Requirement for Completion of Degree

All students must complete all degree requirements within seven years from the first units earned towards the MA. Courses more than seven years old must be replaced or “revalidated” to count in an MA program. The English Department will revalidate no more than three courses on a student’s program of study and will not revalidate any course for which a student earned a grade lower than a “B.” If more than three courses require revalidation, or if the grade for a course is lower than a “B,” the student will have to retake those courses, if they are requirements for the MA program, or replace them with current courses that complete the student’s program of study. To revalidate a course, students must provide a written demonstration of current competence in the subject matter of the course; the specific work to be performed will be assigned by the faculty member who taught the courses, if he or she is available, or by another faculty member in the same or related area of study. Revalidation requires authorization by the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Dean of Graduate Studies


Some courses carrying credit in the English MA program may also count toward a teaching credential or a certificate program (e.g., Technical and Professional Communication). A student interested in combining such programs should consult both the Graduate Advisor and the advisor of the other program involved to determine which courses may overlap. In such situations, students may wish to take the final comprehensive examination in an Area of Concentration that takes advantage of the overlap, e.g., IX—Rhetoric, Writing, and Composition (see “The Final Comprehensive Examination” section for more information).

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