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MA Program

M.A. students specializing in EL have focused on various areas of interest, including the following:

register analysis
language and thought
language and gender
natural language processing

General Requirements

To qualify for a master's degree, the candidate must meet university and departmental requirements as to hours of credit, residence, required courses, foreign language proficiency, and grades (a cumulative GPA no less than 3.0). The candidate must also pass the M.A. examination or write a satisfactory thesis.

Transfer Credits

With the approval of the student's advisory committee, up to six credits toward the M.A. degree may be transferred from another accredited institution. The credits must be for appropriate graduate courses, carry a grade of "B" or better, be earned within the last five years, and not have been used to satisfy the requirements of a degree held by the student.

Advisory Committee

Before October 15th of the second year of residency, the due date for filing the Plan of Study, the student will have chosen a major professor to serve as an advisor. In consultation with the major professor and two other faculty members, whom the student chooses as members of his or her advisory committee, the student completes a Plan of Study. After the filing of that Plan, students meet with their major professor every semester to seek counsel about the choice of courses and to obtain signed approval on the registration form. The advisory committee is the liaison between the student and the Department Head in matters of retention or termination in academic programs, employment within the Department, and financial aid.

Course Requirements

Core Requirements
All students must complete two core courses: English 501 (Introduction to English Studies) and English 506 (Introduction to Linguistics). All M.A. students must take at least one 600-level seminar. A student who has completed, within the past seven years, a graduate course equivalent to English 501 or 506 at another institution may request that either or both core requirements be waived. Requests for such waivers should be made to the Director of Graduate Studies during the first semester of graduate study at Purdue. These requests should be accompanied by the syllabus for, or a detailed outline of, the course the student proposes as a substitute. No audited courses, courses taken Pass/No Pass, or courses in which a student earns less than a "B" can count toward the required number of hours; these also do not appear on the plan of study.

Course Distribution
Thirty credits plus a thesis or comprehensive examination are required. Students are required to take English 501 and 506 plus three electives, one of which must be a non-ELL course. Students must also take: (1) two linguistics courses, (2) two ESL courses, and (3) one seminar. No 600-level course can be taken to satisfy both requirements (2) and (3). 627 and 629 can be repeated to satisfy the requirements if offered in different subject areas.

Required Courses
English 501: Introduction to English Studies
English 506: Introduction to English and General Linguistics

Linguistics Courses (take 2)
English 510 or 563: Historical
English 511: Semantics
English 512: Syntax
English 513: Phonology

ESL Courses (take 2)
English 516: Teaching ESL: Theoretical Foundations
English 518: Teaching ESL: Principles and Practices
English 565: Sociolinguistics
English 618: Research Design in Language and Linguistics

Seminar (take 1)
English 627: Seminar in Linguistics
English 628: Computational Linguistics
English 629: Seminar ESL
English 630: Second Language Writing
English 631: World Englishes

Electives (take 3; 1 must be outside of the ELL program)

Foreign Language Requirement

All M.A. students must demonstrate a reading knowledge of a foreign language. M.A. students may satisfy the requirement in one of the following ways: (1) by passing the appropriate FLL 605 language course with a grade of B or better; (2) by passing ASL 500 with a grade of B or better; (3) by passing a proficiency examination given by the appropriate department or program at Purdue; (4) by showing evidence of an undergraduate minor in a foreign language; and (5) by being a native speaker of a foreign language deemed acceptable for the student's study by the major professor.

Plan of Study

The Department of English requires students to choose a major professor and two other faculty members to serve as an advisory committee by October 15th of the second year of residency and, in close consultation with the major professor, to file a Plan of Study at that time. (The Graduate School of the University requires that the Plan of Study be filed before the beginning of the session at the end of which a degree is expected.) Audited courses and courses taken Pass/Fail may not be used on a Plan of Study.

MA Thesis

The M.A. thesis, developed and written under the supervision of the student's entire advisory committee, should be similar in kind and quality to a doctoral dissertation, but should be restricted in range and scope. The Graduate School requires a student to be registered for at least 3 hours of research in the session of graduation. Students should consult with their advisory committee regarding format requirements, both within and outside the department. No final examinations may be conducted during the last week of classes (dead week). The thesis defense must be scheduled with the Graduate School at least two weeks prior to the actual defense. If all course work (including meeting the foreign language requirement) has been completed prior to the semester during which the thesis is completed, the student may, one time, register for "examination only." Such a candidate must deposit the thesis in the thesis office during the first eight weeks of the fall and spring semesters or during the first four weeks of the summer semester. Students are required to register for at least three hours during the preceding semester in order to be eligible to register for "exam only" or "degree only." This policy does not apply to non-thesis M.A. students.

MA Examination

The MA examination is given twice each year. Candidates wishing to take the exam must sign up with the Graduate English Office before the deadline announced each semester. Those requiring special arrangements for space, typewriting, or word-processing should indicate these at the time they sign up. A student who has completed all course requirements may, one time only, register for "examination only," provided that he or she has enrolled for at least three hours the preceding semester.

Examination Committee
The MA Examination Committee is composed of three members of the literature faculty and appointed by the Department Head. This Committee constructs and grades the literature examination and chooses the poems for the extemporaneous explication. It will revise the list of texts on which the examination is based every other year. Whenever possible, the committee will be constituted so that one member is replaced each year and two members are held over from the previous year. The questions in the discipline for those who elect to take part of their examination in English Language and Linguistics are written and graded by the PhD prelimnary examination committees in these disicplines.

Book List
The list contains twenty four works. For the Spring of 2002, and every other year thereafter, 6 of 24 texts will be changed by the MA Examination Committee.

Only generally recognized major texts will be chosen, four in each of five areas: Medieval, Renaissance (16th and 17th), 18th, 19th, 20th. Four more texts will be aded by the Committee; one each from any of the five areas.

The MA Examination Committee will designate eight works on the list as a short list on which students in English Language and Linguistics will be examined. One third of their specialization will be based on that list, and two thirds on their area of specialization.

The MA Examination

This examination, based as it is on a variety of British and American texts covering the spectrum of these literatures, represents the capstone of this stage of graduate study.

MA students are advised to take the exam either during the summer following their first year of course work or during the spring semester of their second year of residency. In general, students are advised against waiting to take the exam until the summer after their second year, because doing so makes it more difficult to retake the exam, in case of an initial failure, and because a late completion of the MA degree complicates the question of Fall admission to PhD programs. An MA degree is a prerequisite for admission to the PhD programs in English at Purdue.

The exam is designed to allow students to demonstrate an ability to synthesize materials, to draw parallels between or among texts, and to read closely for particular details. Examination questions or topics for exploration draw on a variety of ways to read texts (plot, genre, gender, character, relation to critical issues, for example).

The first part of the examination will last 4 hours, with one-half hour for studying the questions and organizing answers, three hours for writing, and one-half hour for proofreading and editing the answers.

Students in ELL write for one hour on a question or questions dealing with any book on the short list, or any combination of those books, and for two hours on questions drawn from their area of specialization.

The second part of the examination, taken by all MA candidates, consists of the explication of a passage of poetry, with 15 minutes for study and organization, one hour for writing, and 15 minutes for proofreading. Students write on one of three short poems, printed in full. Titles will not be announced in advance. The instructions will read: "Write a careful literary analysis of one of the following poems. Your essay should interpret the poem and support that interpretation with evidence drawn from the text."

No notes, texts, or reference works other than a standard college dictionary may be used.

Preparing for the Exam

Those studying to take the exam should take courses in as many periods as they can, but should supplement course work with extra preparation of their own. This preparation ought to consist primarily of several thoughtful readings of the assigned texts. In addition, the careful reading of two or three critical works on each texts is strongly recommended. Students are encouraged to seek help from their Advisors and other members of the faculty in this preparation. Copies of earlier exams and samples of close readings, kept on file in the Graduate Office, are available upon request.


Students should study the questions carefully and be certain that their answers are thoughtful, well organized, and detailed responses to those questions. They should avoid cliches, dead metaphors, vague generalities, plot summaries, and oversimplifications. Examiners look for evidence that students have thought about texts, thought about the topics on which they choose to write, and thought through all responses.


Results of the MA Examination will be reported to examinees and the Chairs of their advisory committees by the Director of Graduate Studies within ten working days of the examination date.

Faculty members of the examination committee meet to discuss the individual parts of the exam and to determine an overall grade (High Pass, Pass, Fail).

A student wishing to review her or his performance on the examination may ask to meet with the MA Examination Committee. This request should be made within two weeks of the report of examination results. The Department considers the MA Examination Committee's determination of the grade to be final.


A candidate who fails the MA examination may take it a second time, preferably during the next examination period, and certainly within the calendar year.