The thesis essay represents a student’s strongest scholarly work in the English MA Program. It is to consist of an essay totaling about 7,000–8,000 words (between 20 and 25 pages) with an up-to-date and extensive bibliography of secondary resources. In all but the most exceptional of cases, the thesis essay will be a revision of a paper, or combination of papers, that students have written during their elective coursework.
These titles represent a sampling of recent thesis essays submitted for the MA degree.
- Curious Creatures: The Animal Other in the Menagerie of Elizabeth Bishop
- A Path Denied: Spenser’s Treatment of Lesbianism in The Faerie Queene
- The Victorian Poetess Unveiled in Rossetti’s Goblin Market
- Blood Suckers, Demon Lovers, and the Transcendentally Queer Child: The Evolution of Vampiric Gender and Sexuality from Dracula to Let The Right One In
- Sex, Bravado, and Biblical Criticism: Moloch’s Role in Paradise Lost
- Conflict Rape: An Ecofeminist Evaluation of the American Portrayal of Rape in African Conflict Regions
- Affective Laboring in The Awakening and The House of Mirth
- (Un)Happy Mediums: Spiegelman’s Maus I & II and the Holocaust Photograph
- Playing with your Food: Constructing and Performing Identities in Food Memoirs
Registering for English 791
The thesis essay is written under the supervision of a faculty advisor within the context of a required 3-credit course, English 791. Most students register for 791 during their final semester. It is possible to register for English 791 during a different semester provided you have completed English 636 and English 701, the two required courses that are also prerequisites for English 791.
Please note that English 791 is only offered during the fall and spring semesters.
The MA Director will register you for English 791 once you have:
1. Found a faculty member who has agreed to serve as your thesis advisor
Your advisor should be a full-time member of the English faculty and a scholar in the primary field or area in which your thesis essay falls. It’s often a good idea to ask a former course instructor to work with you on your essay.
Profiles of English faculty and their fields of interest
If you’re having difficulty selecting an advisor, contact the MA Director.
2. Found a faculty member who has agreed to serve as your thesis reader
Your thesis reader (sometimes referred to as the “second reader” since your advisor is technically your “first reader”) receives the final version of your thesis essay and confirms its satisfactory completion. Your reader also participates in the thesis conference and agrees with your advisor upon a final grade for your thesis essay.
In most cases, your reader will be a full-time member of the English faculty whose research interests coincide with your own. If the scope of your project requires it, you should consult the MA Director about asking a faculty member from a department other than English to serve as a reader for your thesis essay.
3. Submitted a thesis sign-up form [docx] for program approval to the MA Director
The sign-up form asks you to give a short description (around 300 words in length) of the topic upon which you plan to write your essay. It’s important to send a draft of this description to your advisor for feedback before submitting the final version for program approval. Keep in mind that you will be asked to revise and resubmit your description if your project appears too vague or broad to be workable as an article-length essay.
The program gives you the freedom to coordinate advising arrangements however you wish. So it’s well worth taking the time to plan out a clear timeline that accommodates your advisor’s schedule as well as your own. Your timeline should include:
1. Regular meetings with your advisor. Most students meet their advisor once every 2-3 weeks, with at least 4 scheduled meetings over the course of the semester.
2. A series of manageable deadlines. Writing a thesis essay involves many stages (that sometimes overlap): research, outlining, drafting, revising, revising again, and editing. Agreeing in advance on the tasks to be completed before each meeting will enable you to finish your essay in stages, avoid procrastination, and gain a sense of accomplishment as you work.
Good writing is rarely the result of an isolated process; rather, it emerges from a writer thinking about his or her work in relation to its potential readers. Even the most experienced writers try to find readers willing to read drafts and give feedback on work-in-progress. The 791 workshop series brings together students currently working on their thesis essay, offering an opportunity to workshop drafts and discuss aspects of the writing process in a supportive and collaborative environment. The series supplements and extends, but does not replace, the advising offered by individual faculty.
The workshop schedule varies each semester, according to the needs of its members. For further information, contact the faculty coordinator, typically the MA Director.
Preparing the Final Version
The final version of your thesis essay must be professionally presented: free from typographical and mechanical errors, and formatted according to MLA or Chicago guidelines. Essays that don’t meet these standards may require further revision before receiving program approval.
Your essay should also have a cover sheet with the following information clearly displayed:
Title of Paper
Student’s ID Number
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in
English in the Graduate Division of Queens College of the City University of New York,
The thesis conference, sometimes referred to as the oral exam, typically lasts between 30 and 45 minutes. It takes the form of a fairly relaxed, but lively and engaging conversation with your thesis advisor and reader.
During the conference, you advisor and reader will ask you some of these general questions: why did you choose this topic and texts; can you summarize your overall argument and its trajectory; can you talk about the kinds of research you did: how would you situate your essay within a broader scholarly conversation (about your texts and/or within a field); what have you learned from your thesis project that you want to take with you or pursue beyond the MA degree. They will also ask you many more particular questions about the key terms, theoretical framework, critical methodology, and/or argumentative moves of your essay.
All you need to bring to the conference is a copy of your thesis. But, you are also welcome to bring a bottle of water, cup of coffee, pen and paper, and anything else you think you might need.
Your conference should be scheduled on or before the final day of classes for that particular semester. Contact your advisor and reader at least one month in advance to coordinate arrangements for the conference and agree on a date to submit the final version of your essay.
Your advisor and reader may require you to make corrections, minor revisions, or other changes before accepting your thesis essay for the MA degree. These corrections will be presented to you in writing at the end of the conference and a deadline agreed for their satisfactory completion. Be sure that you understand the nature and extent of any corrections that you’re being asked to make. If in doubt, consult with your advisor and/or the MA Director.
Binding your Thesis
After the oral exam, and after you have made all the corrections and changes required or suggested by your advisor and your reader, you may submit your thesis to be bound.
You’ll need to make three clean copies of the thesis, each with your advisor’s signature on each cover page. You’ll also need to pay a $35.00 binding fee at Bursar Services in the One Stop Service Center . Bring your copies and Bursar’s receipt to Rosenthal Library, Room 201. One copy of your bound thesis will be cataloged in the library’s permanent collection, one will be housed with the English Department, and the third is yours to keep.
For more information, please reference the Rosenthal Library website:
Taking an Incomplete
If you’re unable to finish your thesis essay within one semester, you will be assigned a temporary grade of incomplete for English 791. It’s important to communicate with your advisor and reader about your future plans to complete the essay, and, especially, to confirm that they are in a position to continue working with you beyond the end of the semester. Once you’ve made these arrangements, you should also notify the Director of Graduate Studies.