Master’s in English Thesis Topics
- Write About a Well-Known Author’s Lesser-Known Works
- Apply Familiar Ideas to a Contemporary Context
- Study a New Literary Genre
- Write About the Movie
- Look to Other Disciplines
Of all the requirements of a Master’s program in English, the thesis is the most daunting. Georgetown University’s English department states, “theses [should] reflect original research, analysis, and writing of considerable depth and complexity appropriate to Master’s level work.” Your Master’s thesis in English is an argumentative literary analysis on a topic of your choice, and that argument must be thorough, insightful, and, most importantly, original.
Resource: Top 30 Most Affordable Online Master’s in English
The expectation of originality can seem particularly challenging. Is it possible to say something new about Dickens, whose work has inspired thousands of scholarly articles? If you’re having trouble choosing a thesis topic that feels original, consider these five approaches.
1. Write About a Well-Known Author’s Lesser-Known Works
Everybody loves Pride and Prejudice: it’s sold over 20 million copies. It’s also been fodder for plenty of academic writing. Scholars have inspected it through a feminist lens, a Marxist lens, and just about every other lens available to the literary critic. But Austen wrote other things as well. Her juvenilia, the short works she composed as a teenager, are less popular than her major novels, but they’re a fascinating insight into Austen’s early life. If your thesis topic focuses on a well-known author, consider honing in on that author’s early or less famous works.
2. Apply Familiar Ideas to a Contemporary Context
Edward Said developed the concept of Orientalism in 1978 as a way to describe attempts in nineteenth-century English literature to imagine the cultural milieus of European colonies in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Orientalism as a literary trope is often discussed in analyses of literature from the European colonial period. But its relevance extends into contemporary American culture, where, since 9/11, an imagined “Middle East” has been a major cultural preoccupation. Said may have been writing about Mansfield Park, but if you’re interested in a Master’s thesis topic that deals with Orientalism, you can apply his ideas to contemporary works with a post-9/11 focus like The Kite Runner.
3. Study a New Literary Genre
Poetry and drama have existed for thousands of years. The novel has been around since the seventeenth century. And scholars have been writing about poetry, drama, and the novel for almost as long as those genres have been around. Graphic novels, by comparison, have only existed for a few decades. You’ll have an easier time finding an original thesis topic if you’re working with a newer genre. And if your English department is resistant to the idea that a graphic novel counts as literature, respectfully disagree (nobody thought of the novel as real literature when it was brand-new either).
4. Write About the Movie
Many great literary works have been adapted to film. While some adaptations are straightforward, others are exercises in literary analysis in their own right, providing fascinating commentary about the texts on which they’re based. Think about the way that Coppola’s Apocalypse Now uses the Vietnam war to update the concepts of civilization and violence broached in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. A good literary adaptation, analyzed in tandem with its source material, could make for an interesting Master’s thesis topic.
5. Look to Other Disciplines
English departments are recognizing that the skills required by literary study are strengthened when combined with skills from other fields like history or even the sciences. A unique thesis topic might combine the study of English literature with ideas from other disciplines you enjoy working in–if your interests include both English and math, for example, you can attempt something like this project that conducts a statistical analysis of the language of Shakespeare.
Finding an original topic for your Master’s thesis in English doesn’t have to be a struggle. If you think outside the box, you’ll find an idea no one has come across before.
After completing the required courses and a total of 30 hours of course work, students must write a Master’s thesis, which is a work of original scholarship that makes a significant contribution to the understanding and appreciation of some aspect of the discipline. Usually 50 to 100 pages, the thesis should demonstrate the author’s familiarity with background and contextual information appropriate to the subject and with the body of scholarship that has already been published on the topic. It should further indicate how the thesis contributes to that scholarship and demonstrate the student’s ability to sustain and develop a scholarly argument. Students must enroll for a total of 6 hours of thesis credits (LIT 6970) while working on the Master’s thesis.
The finished thesis must conform to format, standards, and guidelines set forth in the Graduate School’s Regulations for Thesis/Dissertation Preparation Manual. Students should note that a form that must be submitted to the University Graduate School accompanies each step of the thesis-writing process. These forms must be completed by specific deadlines, so students should familiarize themselves with the M1-M5 forms and the deadlines that are published online at http:gradschool.fiu.edu/.
Step 1: (M -1 form) Appointment of the thesis committee
Students must obtain the consent of a member of the graduate faculty willing to direct the thesis. In addition, two other members of the graduate faculty must agree to serve as readers for the project. Each reader must have access to at least one draft of the thesis, submitted well before any official filing deadlines. Students should agree to establish with each reader an appropriate schedule for reading and responding to the drafts.
Step 2: (M -2 form) Master's Thesis Proposal
Before proceeding to write the thesis, students must secure approval of a thesis proposal. The proposal can range from about four to five (4-5) pages, and it should articulate the writer’s basic conclusions and present the general line of argument used to draw those conclusions. It should also include a statement of the methodology employed in the discussion and a description of what each chapter or section will discuss. The proposal should conclude with a selected bibliography of relevant or related works, including, where appropriate, primary literary texts, secondary criticism, interviews, archival documents, literary theory, and other relevant material.
Step 3: (M -3 form) Preliminary Approval of Thesis and Request for Oral Defense
Typically, students secure approval of their work first from their director and then from the other readers. Most directors prefer to read and critique each chapter as it is completed rather than receive the entire, completed thesis all at once; however, the review process is something that the student and readers need to establish among themselves. Once all three readers have given preliminary approval (sometimes pending recommended revisions), the student must request and schedule an oral defense.
Step 4: (M -4 form) Thesis Defense Report
The defense of the Master’s thesis is a meeting open to the public in which the student is required to answer questions from the thesis readers. At this defense, readers may ask for further elaboration on issues raised in the thesis work. Upon successfully defending the thesis the student must file the —4 form and apply for signatures on the —5 form.
Step 5: (M -5 form) Final Approval of Thesis
fter successfully defending the thesis, the student submits it to the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences for review, and then to the Dean of the Graduate School. Approval by the Dean of the Graduate School constitutes final approval of the thesis.