MA Thesis

The culminating thesis essay should represent a student’s strongest scholarly work in the English MA program. It should be about 6,000–8,000 words (about 25–30 pages) in length, including an up-to-date and extensive Works Cited list of secondary sources. In most cases, the thesis essay should be a revision and expansion of a paper (or papers) written during MA coursework.

These titles represent a sampling of recent thesis essays submitted for the MA degree:

  • Affective Laboring in The Awakening and The House of Mirth
  • A Black Narrative Voice: Genre, Authorship, and Authenticity in The History of Mary Prince
  • Blood Suckers, Demon Lovers, and the Transcendentally Queer Child: The Evolution of Vampiric Gender and Sexuality from Dracula to Let The Right One In
  • Bringing Monsters to Light: Shigeru Mizuki’s Hitler‘s Defamiliarizing of Western History through Manga
  • Curious Creatures: The Animal Other in the Menagerie of Elizabeth Bishop
  • Forged Letters in Shakespeare’s Tragedies
  • Ghosts of the Medieval: Race in Contemporary Fantasy Novels
  • “A man of two minds”: Deconstructing Dualities in Nguyen’s The Sympathizer
  • A Path Denied: Spenser’s Treatment of Lesbianism in The Faerie Queene
  • Playing with Your Food: Constructing and Performing Identities in Food Memoirs
  • Posthuman Possibilities in Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis Trilogy
  • Propaganda, Poverty, and Patriotism: Wonder Woman’s Immigration Stories
  • (Un)Happy Mediums: Spiegelman’s Maus I & II and the Holocaust Photograph
  • The Victorian Poetess Unveiled in Rossetti’s Goblin Market
  • “When You Finally See Them”: The Narrative Deployment of Disabilities in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird

Completing the MA Thesis

Registering for English 791
The thesis essay is written and revised under the supervision of a full-time faculty advisor, within the context of a required 3-credit course, English 791. Most students register for ENGL 791 during their final semester. (In some cases, it is possible to register for ENGL 791 earlier, as long as you have completed ENGL 701 and ENGL 636, the two required courses that are also prerequisites for ENGL 791.)

Please note that ENGL 791 is only offered during the fall and spring semesters, not in the summer.

In order to be registered for ENGL 791, you must first do the following:

1. Find a full-time faculty member who agrees to serve as your thesis advisor

Your advisor should be a full-time member of the English faculty and a scholar in the field(s) 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. Find a faculty member who agrees 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 Director of Graduate Studies about asking a faculty member from a department other than English to serve as a reader for your thesis essay.

3. Submit a thesis sign-up form with proposal to the Director of Graduate Studies

The sign-up form asks for your contact info, the names of your advisor and second reader, a working title, and a brief proposal for the thesis essay (about 250 words). All info should be typed and proofread carefully. It’s important to send a draft of your proposal to your advisor for feedback before submitting the final version for 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.

Thesis Timeline
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.

791 Workshops
The Directors of Graduate Studies will schedule optional monthly meetings to discuss the process of working on the thesis essay and to work on and/or workshop your writing-in-progress. These 791 workshops over the course of the semester are designed to help you feel part of a community of writers, offer you peer feedback and support, and enable you to share your work with readers outside of the relationship you’ve established with your advisor. These workshops supplement and extend, but do not replace, the advising and support offered by your faculty advisor and reader. The schedule varies each semester, according to the needs and schedules of thesis essay writers, and the first workshop will be announced at the beginning of the semester.
Preparing the Final Version
It’s important that the final version of your thesis essay be as polished as possible—that is, free of typos and mechanical errors, and formatted according to up-to-date MLA style guidelines. Essays that don’t meet these standards may require further revision before receiving approval.

Your final thesis essay should also have a cover sheet with the following information clearly displayed:

Title of Paper

Student’s Name
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,

Thesis Conference
The thesis essay conference, sometimes referred to as the oral exam, typically lasts between 30–45 minutes. It takes the form of a conversation among your advisor, your reader, and yourself.

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 may also ask you more particular questions about the key terms, theoretical framework, critical methodology, and/or argumentative moves of your essay.

Your conference should be scheduled on or before the final day of classes for that particular semester. Contact your advisor and your 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.

In rare cases, your advisor and your reader may wish to discuss revisions that you need to make in order for your essay to be of at least B quality and acceptable for the MA degree. Make sure you understand the nature and extent of any revisions you are being asked to make and establish a specific time frame for completing them with your advisor. Your essay will not be approved and your Thesis Approval Form will not be submitted to the Dean and Registrar until any stipulated revisions have been made.
Taking an Incomplete
Students who do not complete their thesis essay in the semester that they are registered for ENGL 791 will receive an incomplete (INC), which will be replaced by a letter grade as soon as they have submitted their final essay and passed the conference/oral exam. Students have two semesters to finish and resolve the INC. If you intend to take an INC, please inform both your advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies of your plans. Please also be aware that, in certain situations, it may not be possible for your advisor to continue working with you for an additional semester.

Please note that QC is now enforcing the policy for graduate students that any INCs not resolved within 1 year will be converted to failing grades (FIN). If you intend to take an INC, please inform both your advisor and the DGS of your plans. Please also be aware that, in certain situations, it may not be possible for your advisor to continue working with you for an additional semester.