Traits of an Excellent Master’s of English Program
- There must be sufficient requirements in the applicant’s undergraduate work.
- The program must be comprehensive in its approach.
- The standards must be rigorous.
- The students must be given an appropriate amount of time to complete the program.
- The students should be required to showcase their writing acumen and understanding of the coursework.
In today’s world of autocorrect, spellcheck, and 140-character missives, the necessary qualities of a Master’s of English program must remain stringent and selective. Otherwise, they will degrade to the level of the latest text messaging craze.
1. There must be sufficient requirements in the applicant’s undergraduate work.
Even the most articulate individual must have a proper grounding in both grammar and the understanding of literature. A usual requirement would be seven to 10 three-credit English literature courses during the course of earning a bachelor’s degree with at least a 3.30 grade-point average. The applicant would also need a slate of composition and creative writing courses with a similar grade-point average. Some institutions require at least one published work, but that is usually more for the doctoral program than the master’s program.
2. The program must be comprehensive in its approach.
A Master’s of English program should not only build understanding but also engender curiosity and a desire to learn more. The program should include instruction in at least the following:
â¢A thorough study of literature in all periods, beginning with the Middle Ages
â¢An equally thorough study of the nonliterary influences of such literature
â¢A comprehensive development of the student’s writing skills regarding style, grammar, and other “nuts-and-bolts” of the language
â¢A focus on etymology and how it affects the differing meaning of words over time
Of course, the unique skills of an institutions professors might also allow for the teaching of “off-the-beaten-path” coursework.
3. The standards must be rigorous.
It does no good to accept students whose work is substandard. Likewise, it does an equal amount of no good not to ask both 100-percent effort and excellent achievement from every student. Students should have to earn both admission and their degrees. To do otherwise would lower an institution to the level of a diploma mill.
4. The students must be given an appropriate amount of time to complete the program.
Great learning cannot be rushed. To expect students to complete the demanding course load of a Master’s of English program, not to mention a proper thesis, in anything less than a year is folly. Even without the inclusion of a thesis or other major research project, the time involved should be no fewer than eight months.
5. The students should be required to showcase their writing acumen and understanding of the coursework.
All students must submit a thesis on a topic of their own choosing after working with an adviser. The thesis must be held to the most rigid of academic standards and conform to the institution’s preferred manual of style, e.g. Chicago, APA, or Associated Press. Furthermore, each student should have to perform an oral defense before a varied panel of qualified professors. The oral defense should pertain not only to the topic of the student’s thesis but also the content of the complete coursework.
Of course, individual students should select a program that fits their needs. The University of Washington, for example, recommends that students decide what kind of scholarly community they want, how much financial aid they need, and where they would like to live before they decide where they wish to attend graduate school.
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