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Master of Arts In English

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The Master of Arts degree in English introduces students to advanced teaching and scholarly research in literature and language. The MA is designed to broaden students’ intellectual interests and, thus, encourages them to explore a wide variety of literary periods and rhetorical issues. It prepares students for continued graduate study at the doctoral level, but also for work in a variety of other roles: public history and professional writing, arts and educational administration, grant writing and fundraising, publishing (digital and traditional), and other forms of public humanities work.

The Program offers three concentrations for the MA: Literature, Rhetoric and Composition, and English Studies.


The Master of Arts in Literature introduces students to professional scholarship in literature, literary theory, and literary history. The degree asks students explore a wide variety of literary periods while simultaneously developing an area of research focus. Students in the MA in Literature take a qualifying examination and have the option of also writing a thesis.

Rhetoric and Composition

The Rhetoric and Composition concentration prep emphasizes technical writing, and the mechanics of writing. It’s applicable to careers such as grant writing, publishing and editing, law, library science, corporate communication, even technical and scientific manual writing.

This concentration is designed to be a 2-year program which requires 30 credit hours as well as reading knowledge of one foreign language. You will complete a thesis or portfolio as your capstone project.

English Studies

The Master of Arts in English Studies is designed for working professionals, especially high-school teachers, interested in a substantial MA program to enhance their credentials and broaden their knowledge in the areas in which they teach and work. Like the Master of Arts degrees in literature and rhetoric and composition, the MA in English Studies asks students to explore a wide variety of literary periods and rhetorical issues. A flexible examination serves as the terminal event in the degree program.

Compass IconView the requirements for each of these concentrations or view all English courses.


Almost all MA, MFA, and PhD students hold graduate assistantships, which provide stipends for the academic year and full remission of tuition. The annual stipend, which comes with tuition remission, ranges from $13,000 to $14,500, depending on the degree. Assistantships are renewable to students in good standing: up to twenty-four months for MA students, up to thirty-two months for MFA, and forty-eight for PhD. Graduate students in good standing who have taught freshman English (ENGL 101 and 102) are also eligible to teach a variety of courses to broaden their teaching expertise, including literature courses, and to serve as tutors in the program’s Writing Center.

Most graduate assistants are assigned to the University’s first year writing program, in which they have full responsibility for two sections of composition each semester. An extensive series of pre-semester workshops, a semester-long seminar in the teaching of college composition, and a mentoring system complement graduate work and assist in professional development. Summer teaching is also available to a limited number of graduate students.

The application deadline is January 1 for students concentrating in literary studies or rhetoric and composition. There is no deadline for applications for the English Studies concentration. However, to ensure full consideration for spring or fall admission, applicants should complete the Graduate School’s application by April 20. To ensure full consideration for spring admission, applicants should complete the application by November 15.

The application will ask you to submit a CV, statement of purpose, writing sample, and three letters of recommendation, in addition to transcripts and other basic academic information. Please consult the following documents for advice on application materials, statements of purpose, and writing samples.

While GRE scores (general or subject tests) are not required for admission to the MA, MFA, or PhD programs, students are still encouraged to submit these scores. The minimum GPA for admission to SIU Carbondale’s Graduate School is 2.7 (of 4.0).

Writing Sample Guidelines

Please submit at least one sample of academic writing that forecasts your capacity to complete the written work typically assigned in graduate seminars. The ideal writing sample will be at least eight pages of your writing that demonstrates your ability with as many of the following as possible:

  • clearly articulated and appropriately focused thesis
  • coherently developed argument
  • sufficiently researched analysis (and/or theoretically informed argument)
  • logically derived conclusion(s)
  • correctly documented source material

Please submit a clean copy of the paper, one without teacher comments or grade.

Statement of Purpose Guidelines

All applicantsmust submit a detailed Statement of Purpose for admission to our programs. The statement consists of two or more double-spaced, typed pages (500-750 words) that address the questions below. These questions do not have to be answered in order or in equal detail. The Graduate Studies Committee views the statement of purpose as a chance for applicants to detail their future projects and intellectual interests as well as how department faculty can assist in developing these projects and interests. Although the committee is interested in applicants’ broader career goals, it is most interested in their specific literary, rhetorical, and creative interests.

  • In what aspect of literary or rhetorical studies are you interested? Do you have an interest in any specific literary period, critical or theoretical approach, or research topic? Do you have a research or creative project in mind? (MFA applicants: Also see the next section and direct your responses to reflect your creativewriting interests and goals) Will you be able to satisfy these interests with the
    current English curricula at SIU? What background (i.e., course training, professional or academic experience) prepares you to study English at the graduate level?
  • Additional questions for MFA applicants only: Why are you seeking a degree in creative writing? What do you hope to gain from such a degree program? Which poets or writers, beyond the writers you have studied with as an undergraduate student, do you cite as influences upon your own writing?
  • Why have you selected the English program at SIU? Do you, for instance, want to work with specific faculty? Are you attracted to specific programs or course offerings?
  • Please discuss any connections between your scholarly interests and teaching and/or any special interest in teaching that you might have. Do you have any experience or training in teaching? Do you envision a career in teaching, if so, at what level? How do you see your scholarly interests translating into a pedagogical setting?

Contact Information

Betsy Dougherty
Interim Graduate Studies Coordinator
Faner 2262
1000 Faner Dr
Carbondale, IL 62901

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