Skip to Content

Non Thesis Guidelines

Non-Thesis Track Guidelines for MA Literature Students

  • Students are advised to look through their non-thesis track guidelines to ensure that they know the credit requirements and take the courses necessary for their degree completion.


    Plan to take the General Exam. The exam is offered only three times a year, and students should take the exam during their penultimate semester. See the Comprehensive Exam Overview, Section I for more information.


    Finally, students are expected to create a reading list and take the Area Exam. The Area Exam should be taken in the final semester of your degree. During the semester preceding that final semester, you should find an Exam Director/Advisor and Committee members. It is possible to take the Exam earlier than the final semester if you feel more comfortable doing so. See the Comprehensive Exam Overview, Section III for more information.

  • The non-thesis track is designed for students who would like to have a broad range of courses. The non-thesis requirements elucidate that this track comprises the same 18 hours of required course work as the thesis-track but also includes 9 hours of English Electives (any graduate courses you like) and 9 hours of Cognate or Minor courses, which you should use to develop an Area of Emphasis. 

    This option is recommended for people who want a breadth of knowledge in literary studies and/or who do not have a burning passion to study one topic in great depth, a requirement for writing a thesis.

  • The non-thesis track degree culminates with an Area Examination, which is created for you based on your interests and a reading list you create in consultation with an advisor.

    Ideally, the Area Exam corresponds to the Area of Emphasis you create with your Cognate or Minor courses. If you have a Minor, or if your area of emphasis involves another discipline, you may, if you wish, include as many as 3 of the 9 credits which you took outside of the English Department. For example, if you are Minoring in history and you choose Irish literature as your area of emphasis, you could take a graduate-level Irish history course as part of the 9 credits.

    For the exam, your Area of Emphasis needs to be related either by period, subject, or genre. It should not be something extremely broad, such as American literature, or literature by women, or poetry. Work to narrow the focus, perhaps choosing a particular period of time, a limited geographical region, a specific genre or sub-genre, a literary movement, or a theme.

  • You should choose a topic that interests you and that corresponds with the teaching interests of graduate English faculty at Texas State.

    To approach potential directors, you should have some sense of the area in which you would like to be examined and a preliminary list of primary texts (the texts to be analyzed) and possibly some secondary, critical texts.

    You also need to put together an Area Examination committee. The committee members, two people in addition to your director, must have some expertise in the area you have chosen for your emphasis.

    You should note that only Graduate Faculty may serve. For a list of the Graduate Faculty, go to:

    If you are still unsure whether a professor is a member of the Graduate Faculty, check with the MA Literature Graduate Director at

  • You will meet with the chair of your committee and together you will draw up a list of texts related to your area of emphasis. This list may consist of mostly primary works (books, short stories, poems, essays, and/or film or other media) with some criticism or theory. There should be 15-20 sources of substance. 

    The chair will then go over that list with the other members of your committee for suggestions and approval. Once all three committee members have approved the list, the chair of your committee will give you a copy of the list.

    The committee members will also create the exam and grade it. If you have a Minor, or if your area of emphasis involves another discipline, you may choose one of the three committee members from the Graduate Faculty of another department at Texas State.

  • As instructed at the Exam, you will write one or two essays. If asked to write one essay, you will typically have two or three from which to choose.  If asked to write two essays, you will typically have three or four from which to choose. The amount of time depends on the number of questions; usually two hours for one question and three-four hours for two questions.

    If you have accommodations from the Office of Disability Services for taking exams, let your advisor and committee know so they can make adjustments accordingly.

  • To be safe it would be best to take the Exam at least four weeks before Commencement. If your Committee agrees beforehand, you might, if necessary, be able to get away with a little less than this.

    The Comprehensive Examination Report (linked here) from your committee must be received by the Graduate College no later than ten working days before the Commencement ceremony.

    After you take the Exam, your committee Chair will need time to distribute your exam to the other committee members, all three members will need time to read the Exam, the committee might need time to resolve any disagreements, and then your chair will need time to complete the paperwork and get it to the Graduate College.

  • All of the members of your committee will read your Exam and evaluate it as one of the following:

    1. Passing with Distinction
    2. Passing
    3. Not Passing

    “Passing with Distinction” is rare and must be a unanimous decision.

    You can retake the Exam once. If, on the second attempt, you score “Not Passing,” then you must address a written appeal to the Department Chair asking for a third and final attempt. The appeal letter will not succeed unless it convincingly explains, in detail, why the third attempt is likely to succeed.

  • You cannot graduate if you are not registered for a course. If you finish your course work and end up not being registered when you write your Area Exam, then you will need to request that the MA Literature Director arrange for you to register in GC 5100, a one-credit course designed for this situation. This will allow you access to library resources as well as enable you to graduate.