Please Enter a Search Term

M.A. Guidelines

Graduate Studies in English
Memorial University
The M.A.


Deadline for applications is January 15. All applications must include the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) application form, all university-level transcripts, two letters of reference, a sample of writing, and a statement of research interests.

Apply online

This guide is produced for the information of students, instructors, and supervisors who work in graduate studies in the Department of English Language and Literature at Memorial University. It does not take the place of the university calendar, but it amplifies the calendar regulations and sets them in the context of departmental practice. All graduate students and faculty should consult the university calendar for the General Regulations of the School of Graduate Studies and for the particular regulations of the Department of English.

The Department

Memorial’s Department of English Language and Literature has a long record of activity in undergraduate teaching, research, and graduate teaching. It awarded its first M.A. degree in 1958 and its first Ph.D. in 1970. In recent years, it has admitted approximately ten new M.A. students and two new Ph.D. students every year.

The department is committed to comprehensive coverage of British, North American, and world literatures. While the department offers graduate supervision in a variety of areas, most of our recent graduate students have been involved in twentieth-century and contemporary literature and in Canadian literature, including the literature of Newfoundland and Labrador. Irish studies has been targeted by the department as an area of continuing interest and future growth. The department welcomes research in northern and North Atlantic studies which links our interests in Canada, Ireland, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

All prospective applicants are invited to consult the department’s graduate coordinator to discuss what Memorial’s Department of English has to offer in their proposed areas of study.

Prerequisites for Admission

Admission to our M.A. program is limited and competitive.

We expect that all applicants who apply to our program will have completed an Honours B.A. in English (or the equivalent) by the proposed semester of initial registration in our M.A. program.

At Memorial and at many other Canadian universities, the Honours B.A. is a four-year undergraduate degree which includes a substantial number of courses in English, covering a number of specific topics and periods. Memorial’s Honours B.A. in English requires 20 semester-length courses in English and includes the following areas:

- Old English and / or Middle English
- Shakespeare
- modern English structures
- Canadian literature
- American literature
- pre-nineteenth century literature
- nineteenth-century literature
- twentieth-century and contemporary literature
- literary theory
- bibliography and research methods
- an honours essay.

Students who have attended a university which does not have an Honours program in English can qualify by completing an equivalent number and range of courses. Students who come very close to Honours equivalency may be admitted with the provision that they complete a small number of undergraduate courses concurrently with their graduate program.

Students who fall significantly short of Honours equivalency are encouraged not to apply until they have upgraded their qualifications. These students are invited to consult with the graduate coordinator of the department about ways in which this upgrading can be done.

To be accepted into the M.A. program a student should have a minimum B+ average in English courses, though admission is competitive and depends to a large extent on the pool of candidates.

All prospective applicants should consult with the graduate coordinator of the department before they apply, to ensure that they have the basic qualifications which will allow them to be considered in the annual competition for admission.

Application Procedures

To apply, students need to:

- complete the online application process
-arrange to have letters of reference from two referees sent directly to the School of Graduate Studies
-arrange to have official transcripts from their undergraduate and graduate programs sent directly to the School of Graduate Studies
-pay an application fee to the School of Graduate Studies.

Students should include a sample of their academic writing in their application package.

To be considered for funding, students should submit a completed application by February 1. Students who have applied by February 1 should hear from us by May 1. New students are normally admitted in September.

International Students

We welcome applications from international students. However, because intimate knowledge of the English language is so central to our discipline, we expect a much higher level of competence in English than is required in many other areas of graduate study.

In addition to understanding the academic requirements of our program, foreign students should also know that the process of obtaining a student visa from the Canadian government requires proof of an ability to pay for the academic program and for the stay in Canada.

Helpful information for international students is available on the School of Graduate Studies website.


We offer fellowships to the best M.A. students in our annual pool of applicants. For those M.A. students who are funded, the duration of support is normally one year, but for a student who undertakes the M.A. with thesis the period is two years. Students who switch from the one-year all-course program to the two-year thesis program should apply for extended funding as soon as possible.

If funding permits, the department offers smaller fellowships to students who have not received one of the regular fellowships.

In addition, the department offers a number of graduate assistantships (GA's) for which students can apply after they have arrived on campus. (The departmental office will inform all eligible students when GA's are available.)

Students enrolled in the thesis M.A. are strongly urged to apply for national (SSHRC) funding. These students should ask the graduate coordinator for details as soon as they arrive in September.


Once students register, their program registration is continued until they graduate or make a formal written request to the university to have their automatic registration discontinued. Students will be charged fees as long as their program registration continues.

In addition to the automatic registration in the program, the student must register (usually by the internet) for each course taken.

Students can ask the Cashier’s office each September to have their tuition fees deducted from their fellowships. For this purpose, students should use a “Graduate Student Deduction Authorization Form.”

Leaves of Absence and Program Extensions

University policies on leaves of absence and program extensions are outlined in the university calendar. Any students who are considering taking a leave of absence should consult the graduate coordinator or the head of department.


We normally offer a minimum of four courses in the fall (one of which is Trends in Contemporary Critical Theory), four in the winter, and two in the spring.

In some cases, by special arrangement, the department allows students to take an approved reading course, under the supervision of a designated faculty member.

In some cases, with the written approval of the head and the Graduate Studies Committee, a student is allowed to take a course in another department. (Admission to that course is also subject to the approval of the host department and the course instructor).

The department offers no graduate courses by distance education.

M.A. by Course Only

In the M.A. by course work, students complete eight graduate courses.

All students take English 7003 (Trends in Contemporary Literary Theory), offered in the fall semester each year. English 7003 counts as one of the eight courses required for the non-thesis M.A.

Students in this program are usually assigned the head as their nominal supervisor.

The courses-only M.A. is usually completed in a single year (three consecutive semesters).

The official time limit for the M.A. is seven years, but the degree should be completed in a much shorter time.

English 6999 (Master’s Essay for Non-Thesis Students)

Students in the courses-only M.A. may elect to take English 6999 (Master’s Essay for Non-Thesis Students) as one of the courses required for their program. This course requires the student to complete, under the supervision of a faculty member, an independent research essay in the field. The essay should be of professional quality and should be approximately 30-35 pages in length.

Students normally register for this course in the second or third semesters of their programs.

The work required for this course should be equivalent to, but not greater than, that required in other graduate courses.

The student is aided in the preparation of the Master’s essay by a supervisor, chosen by the student and approved by the Head.

The essay is graded by the supervisor and by a second reader chosen by the Head. The student’s final grade for the course is the average of the supervisor’s grade and the second reader’s grade.

The student is required early in the semester of registration to submit a brief 1-2 page summary of the topic and its usefulness for approval by the supervisor and by the departmental Graduate Studies Committee. This proposal is far briefer and less detailed than the M.A. thesis proposal. It is the responsibility of the essay supervisor and the Graduate Studies Committee to ensure that the Master’s essay does not unreasonably duplicate work done by the student in other courses.

The M.A. by Thesis

In the M.A. by thesis, students complete five graduate courses and a thesis.

All students take English 7003 (Trends in Contemporary Literary Theory), offered in the fall semester each year. English 7003 counts as one of the five courses required for the thesis M.A.

The thesis M.A. is usually completed in two years or less.

The official time limit for the M.A. is seven years, but the degree should be completed in a much shorter time.

The M.A. Thesis

The M.A. thesis is an original piece of research with a recommended length of 70 to 100 pages.

A student proposing to write a thesis should speak with the graduate co-ordinator as soon as possible, no later than the second semester of the program.

All students upon entering the M.A. are assigned the head as nominal supervisor. As soon as an area for the thesis has been identified, the nominal supervisor is replaced by the thesis supervisor. The appointment of the supervisor is made by the head in consultation with the student, the supervisor, and the graduate coordinator. In appointing a supervisor, the head is likely to consider the student’s preference, the appropriateness of the supervisor for the proposed area of research, and the equitable distribution of supervisory duties among faculty members.

With the mutual agreement of the student and the department, joint supervision of the thesis by two faculty members is acceptable.

After a supervisor has been appointed, the student prepares the proposal in consultation with the supervisor. The format of the proposal and the process of submission are outlined below.

Before the student begins the thesis, the student and the supervisor should review the School of Graduate Studies Guidelines for Theses and Reports. These Guidelines should be followed at every stage of the preparation of the thesis. The thesis bibliography will normally follow the Modern Language Association format.

The thesis should be well underway by the start of the fourth semester (usually the fall of the second year). The thesis should not normally take more than two semesters to write.

When the project nears completion, the supervisor forwards names of potential examiners and an abstract of the thesis to the graduate coordinator and the head, who approach potential examiners. The examiners are approved by the School of Graduate Studies.

When the thesis is completed it is submitted in three copies with all the appropriate forms to the department. See the School of Graduate Studies Guidelines for details. The material is then forwarded by the department to the examiners.

The thesis goes to an external examiner and an internal examiner, who make reports. Usually the thesis is returned for corrections. Students should be available to make these corrections and to resubmit the thesis promptly. If students are not on campus, they should leave an electronic copy of the thesis with the supervisor, in case there are unexpected small problems or the work needs to be reprinted. Students will be charged fees until the final submission of the corrected thesis to the School of Graduate Studies.

The M.A. Thesis Proposal

All MA students writing a thesis must submit a proposal, normally at the beginning of their third semester.

The proposal must be submitted to the Graduate Coordinator by the supervisor and must be accompanied by a statement from the supervisor that he/she is in full support of the project as described. The statement from the supervisor must include the following:

  1. The student's name.
  2. A working title.

The Graduate Coordinator ensures that the proposal conforms to these guidelines, and then forwards the proposal to the departmental Graduate Studies Committee for consideration.

The departmental Graduate Studies Committee is required to return the thesis proposal to the supervisor and the candidate no later than one month after receipt.

The departmental Graduate Studies Committee must respond to the proposal with either an approval or a request for revisions. Such a request must include specific reasons why the GSC is not willing to approve the proposal.

The thesis proposal should be minimum 3000 words in length, plus the bibliography (all double-spaced).

The bibliography must include all works mentioned in the proposal and other works that will be used in the thesis.

All citations and the bibliography must scrupulously conform to the most recent MLA guidelines.

The proposal must include these sections:

  1. Topic and Thesis – this section must provide an introduction to the topic, a justification of the choice of texts/authors, an explanation and contextualization of key terminology, and – most importantly – a clear thesis statement that outlines the argument.
  2. Theory/Methodology – this section indicates and justifies the theoretical and methodological frameworks that will be used in the dissertation.
  3. Scholarship review/Scholarly significance – this section must survey the existing scholarship on the dissertation topic and position the dissertation topic within that critical history. The section must also offer a clear indication of how the dissertation adds to that scholarship.
  4. Chapter outline – this section indicates a proposed breakdown of chapter content.
  5. Working bibliography – this section should be divided into primary and secondary texts and must meticulously conform to the most recent MLA guidelines.

Ethics Review

Any research which uses materials from living subjects (including interviews and questionnaires) must be given an ethics review. This review must be undertaken before the start of the research and before application for any relevant funding. Students should ask the departmental graduate coordinator for details.

Conflict Resolution

The Graduate Students’ Union offers helpful guidelines on sexual harassment, discrimination, student complaints, and academic appeals. Students who have concerns in any of these areas are encouraged to consult the GSU guidelines on conflict resolution.

The Department of English supports the GSU’s position that potential conflicts between students and their teachers or supervisors should be handled as early and as informally as possible.

Students who feel that they have been treated unfairly are encouraged to address their concerns in the first instance to the teacher or supervisor or committee involved. If, however, students feel that their concerns cannot be handled at this level, they should refer their concerns to the head of department. If the department cannot address the concerns to the students’ satisfaction, they may go outside of the department to the School of Graduate Studies.

Professional Preparation

The department encourages all graduate students to involve themselves in preparation for university teaching and other professional careers.

All students are encouraged to consider taking the Graduate Program in Teaching (offered through the School of Graduate Studies). Since space in that program is limited, interested students are urged to apply early.

Any student who plans to apply for teaching work in a university should prepare a teaching dossier. This record of teaching should include letters from faculty who have observed the classes, comments from teaching mentors, course outlines, samples of assignments, teaching evaluations, and a general statement on teaching. Further information is available from the graduate coordinator.

Students are also encouraged to present papers at conferences, either at Memorial or elsewhere. The School of Graduate Studies, the Graduate Students’ Union, the Faculty of Arts, and the Department of English offer limited support for conference travel. Many associations, including ACCUTE (the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English) and MLA (the Modern Language Association), offer financial assistance to student members.

The graduate coordinator, as well as the supervisor and other members of faculty, can help students nearing completion of the degree in preparing for the job search.

Conference Funding

Limited funding for conference travel is available to our graduate students. Students should use a “Graduate Student Request for Travel Assistance” form (which can be obtained at the English Department office) to request funding from the School of Graduate Studies, the Graduate Students’ Union, the Faculty of Arts, and the Department of English.

After their conference travel, students must submit their receipts for expenses incurred with a “Travel Claim A” form (which can be obtained at the English Department office).

Living and Working in St. John’s

Students and potential students who are interested in obtaining detailed practical information on life in St. John’s are encouraged to consult the School of Graduate Studies website.

Students are also invited to contact the graduate coordinator, who will attempt to put them in touch with graduate students who are able to give useful and current information.

The University Library

The Queen Elizabeth II Library is one of the best-stocked research libraries in eastern Canada. In addition to its extensive book and journal holdings, it offers a number of special collections and digital resources which may be of interest to graduate students in English:

-Centre for Newfoundland Studies Collection

“A special research collection of books, government documents, periodicals, newspapers, theses, microforms, archival material and historic maps reserved for the study of all aspects of Newfoundland and Labrador.”

-Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives

“An extensive collection of original manuscripts, personal papers, diaries, scrapbooks, photographs and other such materials which document Newfoundland society.”

-Irish Studies Collection

“The library’s collection reflects the richness of Newfoundland’s Irish Heritage. It includes over 15,000 books and more than 60 subscriptions to magazines and scholarly journals. The material covers a complete range of topics on Irish life, past and present. [...] For scholars, perhaps the greatest strength of the collection is in its holdings of over 200 Irish newspapers.

-Folklore Collection

“A collection of over 30,000 monographs, with over 100 journals directly focused on folklore/life and another 400-450 journals with relevant material.”

-Roger Peattie Collection

“Consisting of some 3,000 volumes, it is a comprehensive collection of printed sources covering the history of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement from its beginnings into the twentieth century. The core of the collection is the productions, both literary and artistic, of the Rossetti family. Although this is a valuable scholarly collection from a textual point of view, the many exquisite illustrations and superbly crafted decorated trade bindings it contains make it also a research resource for the fine art of the book in the Victorian era.”

-Isaac Newell Collection

“An important collection of 161 works by and about Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his circle. The fruit of Professor Newell’s abiding interest in Coleridge and the Romantics, it is especially rich in nineteenth-century editions of Coleridge’s poetry.”

-Early English Books Online (EEBO)

“Early English Books Online, 1475-1700 provides digital access to more than 100,000 literary and historical classics. From the first book published in English through the age of Spenser and Shakespeare, this collection now contains about 100,000 of over 125,000 titles listed in Pollard and Redgrave’s Short-Title Catalogue (1475-1640) and Wing’s Short-Title Catalogue (1641-1700).”

-Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO)

“The most ambitious single digitization project ever undertaken. It delivers every significant English-language and foreign-language title printed in Great Britain during the eighteenth century, along with thousands of important works from the Americas.”

Additional information on the library’s collections and resources can be obtained from the university website.