Master of Arts

The full-time MA program is designed to be completed in one year, while part-time students normally complete the degree over three years.

Degree Requirements

Graduate Courses

MA students complete six three-credit hour (ENGL5000 or higher) courses, most often taking three in the Fall Term and three in the Winter, and 

  • With the prior approval of the Graduate Committee, and if the student’s planned area of research makes such a choice appropriate, one three-credit hour course may be taken in another Department.

  • If there is no current offering in the student’s research area, and if a professor is willing and available to take on the extra teaching, one three-credit hour course may be taken as a Directed Reading. The student and professor must devise a syllabus that includes a schedule of the material to be covered and a detailed Method of Evaluation to be submitted for Graduate Committee approval (which may instead require the student to enroll in a related course already on offer)

  • Before Fall Term courses begin, the Graduate Coordinator meets with incoming students to approve course selection, and may require coverage of any problematic gaps.

View current graduate courses

Course Assessment

Possible grades in the Faculty of Graduate Studies are A+, A, A-, B+, B, B-, FM (marginal failure), F, INC (incomplete) and ILL, and a minimum of “B-” is required for credit in any graduate program. Dalhousie Faculty of Graduate Studies Scholarships are also contingent on good standing, which is normally interpreted as obtaining credit for all courses taken (i.e., “B-” or higher). At the beginning of each course, instructors are required to provide a clear Method of Evaluation.

Instructors may have policies regarding extensions and lateness. Issuing an INC grade is at the instructor’s discretion, though the Registrar automatically converts all to F at the end of the month subsequent to that in which the course ended. ILL grades are issued only if students provide adequate medical documentation. The IP (in progress) grade is assigned to the thesis until it is completed.

Graduate Essays

While overall grading strategies and models will vary from course to course, based on type and number of assignments, area, approach, methodology, and so on, the academic paper is a common assignment.  In general, graduate essays are expected to be well situated in terms of research on the topic(s) of the essay, are, of course, fully and properly documented according to an accepted bibliographic style (in most cases, MLA or Chicago citation styles are used), and will be free of typographic and writing errors.

Some general definitions of essay grades are offered below.  Of course, you should check with your specific instructors about their methods of grading and weighting in their courses.

A+            Papers that earn the highest grade are usually somewhat rare; they are original and innovative, and add to the scholarly discussion on the topic(s) at hand.  They also show considerable command of critical and other secondary material.  Depending on the type of assignment, these papers could, with no or minor revisions, be considered publishable in academic journals specific to the field.

A               These essays constitute excellent graduate work.  They are original and strongly written, and show considerable command of critical and other secondary material, but would need significant revision before being considered publishable.

A-             These essays are very good graduate level work, and are well written and researched, offering a good understanding of the primary material and the scholarly discussion thereof.

B+             Essays in the B+ range may be considered good graduate work, but show weaknesses in terms of research, argumentation or writing.

B               These essays are satisfactory graduate work, but with substantial flaws in one or more areas of research, argumentation or writing.  They may indicate difficulty in moving beyond undergraduate-level work.

B-              Essays in this range are minimally passable graduate work, showing considerable weaknesses or errors in research, argumentation, and writing.  These essays demonstrate difficulty in moving beyond undergraduate-level work.

 

Professional Development

MA students benefit from a number of mandatory and optional workshops offered over the course of the academic year. Beginning with principles and practices of effective teaching, professional development workshops also cover topics such as public speaking and paper presentation, career options and the job search, and writing grant proposals.

Developing skills in teaching, presenting, and professional collaboration, many MA students are also employed as Teaching Assistants, usually for first-year courses. Though TAs may take on a variety of tasks, most lead tutorials, grade and comment on student essays, hold individual meetings with students, and sometimes lecture or lead class discussion.

 

Thesis Prospectus

ENGL8000 Thesis Prospectus is mandatory for all MA students, and students must complete all of the following to pass this non-credit requirement: 

1) Attend the Thesis Prospectus Workshop offered in the Winter Term
2) Prepare and submit an approved Thesis Prospectus to the Graduate Committee by the March deadline
3) Present the prospectus at the MA Thesis Colloquium in May and
4) Submit the Thesis Progress Report by the June deadline.

MA students benefit from a number of mandatory and optional workshops offered over the course of the academic year. Beginning with principles and practices of effective teaching, professional development workshops also cover topics such as public speaking and paper presentation, career options and the job search, and writing grant proposals.

 

Thesis

The thesis is integral to Dalhousie’s English MA, and all MA students must complete one to graduate. Students should discuss thesis topics with potential supervisors by the beginning of January, and have an agreeable supervisor in place by the end of the month. Adjunct professors from other Departments and universities in the Halifax area may also be considered as co-supervisors. A 1000-word Thesis Prospectus outlining the project and including a brief review of current scholarship as well as a description of the approach must be approved by the supervisor and submitted for Graduate Committee approval by mid-February. All theses must demonstrate some mastery in academic writing and advanced research. Documentation must follow the latest edition of The MLA Handbook, and the thesis must conform to the most recent Faculty of Graduate Studies formatting requirements.

Research Thesis Option

This is the standard option for most students. The MA research thesis should be a focussed analysis of a particular topic chosen in consultation with a supervisor. It should be about 10,000 to 12,000 words in length. Examples of past theses are available in the Department, an recent theses are available through DalSpace

Scholarly Edition - Thesis Option

This option allows students to create a scholarly edition of a primary text. Such a thesis would include the primary text, a scholarly, researched introduction, explanatory or contextual notes, and other apparatus. The overall length of all apparatuses combined should approach approximately 8000-10000 words, though this guideline may be applied in ways that take into account the textual editing required, the length of the work being edited, any required digital encoding, and other necessary editorial work, provided the supervisor and graduate committee agree.

Thesis Evaluation

The MA Thesis is evaluated by an Examining Committee consisting of the Supervisor and Second Reader (both with some expertise in the area) and a non-specialist Examiner (or Third Reader). Before submission to the Examiner, thesis writers have the opportunity to address any concerns of the Supervisor and Second Reader. All members of an Examining Committee must approve for the Thesis to pass, and all are required to submit signed reports to the student’s departmental file. If the Examiner does not judge an MA Thesis passable, the Department Chair and the Graduate Coordinator review the Examining Committee’s written evaluations. The Chair may then appoint a new Examiner to evaluate the work in question: if both Examiners do not judge the Thesis passable, the student is disqualified from the program and the failure reported to the FGS Dean.

The Examining Committee evaluates the MA Thesis according to the following criteria:

Pass with Distinction: Theses that earn the highest grade are rare. They are original and innovative, and add to scholarly discussion of the topic. Such exceptional theses also show considerable command of critical and other secondary material. Students whose theses are awarded this highest of standings will have demonstrated, from prospectus to final draft, the ability to produce polished writing, coherent argumentation, and thorough research. Portions of the Thesis could, with minor revisions, be considered publishable in academic journals specific to the field. The Thesis submitted for formal evaluation should require no more than a few minor revisions, and must be recommended for Pass with Distinction by all members of the Examining Committee.

Pass: To earn a “Pass,” the thesis must be original and strongly written and demonstrate thorough command of critical and other secondary material, though it might need significant revision for publication.  The final version of the “Pass” Thesis may require some revision and minor corrections,  but must be recommended at that standing (or higher) by at least two members of the Examining Committee and receive no recommendation to fail.

Marginal Pass:  Theses that earn a Marginal Pass may demonstrate some graduate-level writing, research, and argumentation, but only minimally so or with substantially weak sections. This grade may also indicate that a student has regularly required significant guidance on writing, research, and/or argumentation from the prospectus and through the draft process. A Thesis awarded this standing must be recommended for Marginal Pass by at least two members of the Examining Committee and receive no recommendation to fail.

Fail:  To fail, much of the Thesis falls short of meeting the standard for graduate-level research, argumentation, and writing, or it does not meet basic requirements (length, documentation, etc.). Theses not judged passable by the Supervisor and Second Reader do not go forward to the Examiner. If an Examiner does not judge a Thesis passable, the Department Chair and the Graduate Coordinator review the Examining Committee’s written evaluations, and the Chair may accept the Examiner’s assessment or appoint an additional Examiner. If two Examiners do not judge the Thesis passable, the student is disqualified from the program and the final failure reported to the FGS Dean.

Suggested Schedule

The schedule below takes the student through the program in one year. If MA students do not finish within a year, they will then pay continuing fees and are required to submit annual Progress Reports. Full-time students have four years, and part-time students five, to complete the MA; beyond that, extensions to a maximum of three more years may be granted by the Faculty of Graduate Studies. Students should also consult the academic dates in the Graduate Calendar for the appropriate dates for submitting work to the Department and the FGS in time for Convocation.

Early September

New students meet with the Graduate Coordinator to select courses, and new Teaching Assistants attend teaching-related workshops.

October

MA students going directly on to the PhD prepare SSHRC applications in advance of the November deadline. The Graduate Committee organizes a workshop on applying to SSHRC.

Mid-November to late January

Students should be meeting with potential Supervisors and researching the Thesis Prospectus. The Graduate Committee schedules a workshop on the Thesis Prospectus for early to mid-January.

Early March

The Supervisor-approved Thesis Prospectus is submitted for Graduate Committee approval.

April

In consultation with the Supervisor and the student, the Graduate Committee approves the Second Reader.

Mid-May

MA students present their research in panel discussions at the MA Thesis Colloquium. Following the Colloquium, full-time work on the thesis begins.

June-July

The Graduate Committee finalizes the Examining Committee with the appointment of the Examiner (or Third Reader).

Mid to Late July

A complete thesis draft should be submitted to the Second Reader and revisions made accordingly. July is also the month to work on introductions, conclusions, apparatus, and revisions. Students must also ensure that formatting meets FGS requirements.

Mid to Late August

Those hoping to graduate in October must submit a copy of the thesis to the Examiner no later than two weeks before the late-August FGS submission deadline. Final approved theses are submitted electronically following FGS procedures, and must meet the FGS deadline or graduation in October.

Second Language Requirement

MA graduates must have demonstrated proficiency in one language other than English. Students can fulfill the second language requirement in several ways. The most common is attaining a grade of C or better in a university-level course or courses approved by the Graduate Coordinator. Another is passing an approved language examination (such as the placement exam offered by Dalhousie’s French Department). Students who command strong proficiency in a second language may also appeal to the Graduate Committee for exemption from formal testing or course work.