English Master's Program

Master of Arts Emphases

The English faculty at Pittsburg State strongly believe that the study of literature, language, and writing can be, at the same time, both intellectually fulfilling and highly practical.

Our master's degree program is designed to be completed in two years. For regulations pertaining to all candidates for master degrees at Pittsburg State, see Graduate School section in the PSU University Catalog. For class requirements for specific emphases, go to the University Catalog website

For other information about our graduate degree programs, including the required preliminary and comprehensive examinations, you may e-mail the Director of English Graduate Studies, Dr. Paul McCallum.

  • Creative Writing Emphasis 
    A two-year program that focuses on honing your craft in either poetry or fiction. Students in this emphasis are artists committed to the craft of writing. They may also be preparing for further graduate study or working toward careers in teaching at the college or community college level or any other numerous career opportunities for those skilled in writing. All creative writing master’s candidates must take Multi-Genre and Craft of Fiction/Poetry, successfully complete two sets of comprehensive examinations, and defend a collection of original creative work to be published as a thesis. When applying, please e-mail a writing sample of either 8-10 poems or 2 complete short stories, totaling 15-20 pages, to the Director of English Graduate Studies, Dr. Paul McCallum

  • Literature Emphasis
    A two-year, traditional focus on literature designed to prepare you for doctoral studies in English or professional degree programs in business or law. Courses range from classics to post-postmodern works, from British and American authors. All literature master’s candidates must take Literary Theory, Research Methods, and two writing courses, and successfully complete two sets of comprehensive examinations.

For a complete list of all required courses, visit the English Graduate program in the PSU Catalog. 

Earlier University Catalogs may be found on the University Catalog website. After locating and clicking on the catalog link, scroll down to the College of Arts and Sciences section. From there, select the Department of English and Modern Languages.

Graduate Teaching Assistantships

Graduate teaching assistantships are available to qualified students on a competitive basis. Graduate assistants teach two classes of composition per semester. The stipend is $8,000 per academic year, plus full remission of tuition, which makes an assistantship worth approximately $15,000 for non-residents and $11,000 for residents. Assistantships are renewable for a second year. Health insurance is available to graduate assistants for a moderate monthly fee. Graduate assistants are also provided with comfortable office space and computer access, which includes free e-mail and Internet connections. Several departmental workshops each year provide information and training in such areas as teaching composition, computer-mediated instruction, graduate school and career opportunities, test-taking strategies, web page building, and other topics. The application deadline for assistantships is March 31 annually.

Please download the application form, fill it out, and send it to the address at the bottom of the form. Applications must be complete by that time for first consideration. International applicants and all students whose native language is not English and who wish to apply for a graduate teaching assistantship MUST submit, at the time of application, a TOEFL score of 600+ (paper test) or 250+ (computer test) AND a TSE (or SPEAK) score of 270+ (old system) or 55+ (new system) in order to be considered for an assistantship award. Prospective students may also wish to contact Student Financial Assistance for information about loans and other financial aid.

Application Information

The applicant for admission to study for the Master of Arts Degree in English shall present evidence of successful completion of at least 24 semester hours of undergraduate English above the freshman level, preferably including survey courses in both English and American literature; one course in either linguistics, modern grammar, or the history of the English language; and one upper division writing course. To be considered for an assistantship, please read the instructions under Application for Graduate Teaching Assistantships.

Reading Lists, Master's Examination Policies, and Thesis Information

Reading Lists for the Comprehensive Examination

New Reading Lists (beginning spring 2014)

Earlier Reading Lists

  • American Literature (Pdf) Patch list (Pdf)
  • British Literature Before 1789 (Pdf) Patch list (Pdf)
  • British Literature After 1789 (Pdf) Patch list (Pdf)
  • Creative Writing (Pdf) Patch list poetry (Pdf) Patch list fiction (Pdf)
  • Technical / Professional Writing (Pdf) Patch list (Pdf)
  • Composition and Rhetoric (Pdf)

Master's Examination Policies

From English Program Policies Manual: Student Policies: Graduate Program

All masters students in English must pass two examinations: a preliminary exam on literary analysis and a comprehensive exam on literature and the student's area of specialty. All exams will be given once each term: fall, spring, and summer.

The Placement Test. The Placement Test replaces the old Preliminary Examination. The Placement Test is given every August the week before the start of fall classes. Students new to the master's program and those who have yet to take or pass the old Preliminary Examination must take this new examination. Students are excused from the Placement Exam under two circumstances only:

  1. They have earned a grade of "B" or better in English 304 (Introduction to Writing About Literature) at Pittsburg State University.
  2. They have "preempted" the Exam by enrolling in English 304.

Students will be given about 90 minutes to perform a detailed explication of a short formal poem. Students performing satisfactorily on the Placement Test will have shown they have at least the basic tools for conducting textual analysis at an advanced level; students who do not perform satisfactorily will be asked to enroll in English 304 (Introduction to Writing About Literature) in order to acquire the analytical skills necessary for success in graduate level literature courses. (If enrollment in 304 creates a schedule conflict, the student should talk to the instructor for the course.)

Students who are unable to take the Placement Test at the scheduled time are responsible for contacting the Graduate Director and making other arrangements.

Comprehensive Exam. The comprehensive exam is based on the master's reading list, which is distributed to students when they enter the English graduate program. The reading list is divided into five parts (see the paragraph below for a description). In the term prior to the semester in which they intend to sit for the exam, students select three parts of the reading list, at least two literature sections and one additional section of their choice, upon which to be examined. Selections are made with the guidance and approval of the Director of English Graduate Studies and a faculty mentor. Students are allowed approximately one hour to complete each section of the exam on each testing date.

Students must pass all three parts in order to receive the Master of Arts Degree in English. A student who passes two parts but fails one part may retake the part not passed in the same term or in any subsequent term. A student who fails two or more parts must retake the entire exam in a subsequent term. Any retake in the same term or in a subsequent term shall count as an attempt. Unless a student has passed two sections of the exam and is attempting a retake of the third section, any student sitting for the comprehensive on a given test date shall be considered to have attempted all three parts.

A student who receives a copy of any portion of the comprehensive exam from the exam proctor shall be considered to have attempted all three parts of the exam, even if that student does not write and turn in an answer to one or more parts of the exam. A student is limited to three attempts to pass the exam. Anyone who does not pass all three parts of the exam in three attempts shall be dropped from the program.

Thesis Information

Current Thesis Information can be found at the Pitt State Graduate School website.