Old Dominion University
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College of Arts and Letters

Department of English

Master of Arts in English

Dr. Imtiaz Habib, Graduate Program Director

The Master of Arts program in English develops professional competency in literary analysis and in writing. The program offers courses of study in literature, professional writing, rhetoric and composition, and the teaching of English. The program prepares students for further graduate study in English; for professional writing and editing; for teaching in secondary schools and colleges; for further study in such fields as anthropology, law, psychology, and philosophy; for careers in government and industry; and for other professions requiring analytical, literary, linguistic, or writing skills.


The student must initially meet all general University admission requirements. For regular admission, students must generally have at least 24 undergraduate hours in English, or a closely related field, with a grade point average of 3.0 or better. However, students applying to the professional writing concentration (see professional writing option) may have little or no undergraduate course work relating to English, provided that they have an average of 3.0 or better in their undergraduate major. Students applying to the professional writing concentration must also, in addition to other admissions materials, provide a writing sample, preferably of previous professional work, that demonstrates their preparation for graduate-level writing.

International students must submit scores from the TOEFL examination, a sample of scholarly writing, and three recommendations, at least one of which evaluates ability in English. For regular admission, students must score 230 on the computer-based TOEFL (the equivalent of 570 in the older, paper-based score scale). Students may be admitted provisionally with a TOEFL score of 213 (550 in the paper-based scale), but must attain the scores required for regular admission after 12 hours of graduate work.

Writing Proficiency Policy

Students in the English graduate program must demonstrate a high level of skill in written expression.


The Master of Arts degree in English requires 30 credit hour and the passing of a comprehensive oral examination. No more than 12 credit hours on the 500 level may be counted toward a degree. An identifiable unifying principle is required for each student's program.

Thesis and Oral Examination for M.A. in English

Masters of Arts Thesis Option. The opportunity to undertake a long research or other appropriate project is available to students in the Master of Arts--English program. Writing a thesis may be of particular benefit to those who contemplate further graduate work or who have a strong desire to pursue a single topic in great depth. Under the guidance of an advisor (a member of the graduate faculty), the student may earn six hours of credit for a completed, approved thesis.

Master of Arts Oral Comprehensive Examination. During the first three weeks of the semester in which they intend to graduate, students must contact the graduate program director in English to schedule their comprehensive examination. The oral comprehensive examination covers each student's particular program of study. Based on the courses taken by the student, the examination tests the student's mastery of materials and concepts, interpretive skills, and ability to make critical distinctions and connections. The examination of a thesis student will also cover the thesis and its related areas.

Students who fail the oral comprehensive examination may take the test one more time in a different semester. Students who fail a second time will no longer be eligible to receive the Master of Arts in English from Old Dominion University.

Professional Writing Portfolio. Professional writing concentration students may use a portfolio to fulfill part of the M.A. examination requirement. Working with an advisor and two other faculty members, students select three projects from their graduate courses for revision and extension; they also write a reflective, critical essay relating the portfolio to their course work. Students who intend to use the portfolio option declare their intention no later than midterm of the semester prior to their graduation (i.e., March 15 for Summer, July 15 for Fall, and October 15 for Spring graduates).