Master of Fine Arts Program Guide

Tree with autumn leaves in front of Denny Hall
Thesis Committee
Preliminary Bibliography
Critical Essay
Creative Manuscript
Oral Presentation
Applying for the Degree

Timeline and Satisfactory Progress

  • The degree should be completed within six full-time quarters (or their part-time equivalent).  Completing the MFA degree within that time period constitutes satisfactory progress. 
  • In each of the first three quarters in residence, students must complete a creative writing workshop and receive a grade of 3.0 or higher. 
  • The Preliminary Critical Essay must be submitted by February 1st of the second year in residence and receive a "Pass" or "Satisfactory Progress" from the entire Thesis Committee before the Preliminary Creative Manuscript can be submitted.


The requirements for the Master of Fine Arts degree include workshops and seminars, preparation of a Preliminary Bibliography, a Creative Manuscript, a Critical Essay, and an Oral Presentation.


Fifty-five credits of English graduate courses are required for the MFA, apportioned as follows: 20 credits in creative writing workshops (one may be outside the student's genre);  15 credits in advanced literature seminars (5 credits of which must be a seminar numbered 506-510, 550, 551, or 581); 5 elective credits (5 graded credits of Internship [601] can count for degree credit); and 15 thesis credits.  

Thesis Committee  

The Thesis Committee guides the student's work on both the Critical Essay and the Creative Manuscript.  The Thesis Committee typically consists of two Creative Writing Graduate faculty members – one Supervisor and one Reader. The Supervisor works closely with the student on their thesis throughout their second year, while the Reader serves as a second set of eyes on the student’s work.   

The Director of the Creative Writing program will meet with first year students early in Spring Quarter to go over the process of selecting a Thesis Committee and answer any questions. By May 7th of the first year in residence, the student will supply the program coordinator with a ranked list of three Creative Writing Graduate faculty members they would like to serve on their thesis committee.   These should be faculty members from the student's genre.  The requests will be compiled and submitted to the appropriate faculty group, and the results will be emailed to the students by the end of May.

Students will receive an ENGL 700 (thesis credits) form from prior to registration opening each quarter.  Students who wish to enroll in thesis credits during a given quarter should complete the form by providing a brief explanation (2-5 sentences) outlining the work that they plan to conduct on their thesis during that quarter.  Students should then send the completed form to both and their thesis committee chair.  Committee chairs then provide approval of the credits with an email confirmation or a signature directly on the form.    A maximum of 10 thesis credits can be taken in a single quarter.  

Preliminary Bibliography for the Critical Essay

A preliminary bibliography and a brief, one paragraph statement on what the critical essay will be about must be submitted to the Thesis Committee and no later than October 31st of the second year in residence. This list should include 20 to 30 books, falling into three categories: specialization or core (substantial representation of an author, approach, or form of particular interest to the student); a survey of the genre or contexts; and works of criticism.  This reading list and the statement amount to a plan of study, and should guide the student's research toward the MFA essay.  The Committee returns the Preliminary Bibliography with comments and recommendations within two weeks.

Critical Essay

This 20-30 page essay should address the student's relationship to their reading based on the student's own writerly concerns and studies. It cannot be construed only as an act of literary criticism or scholarship, though some students choose to include conventional literary studies. The essay must ultimately, however, address the issue of the writer's relationship to (and peculiar slant on) the larger context in which they produce art—the map of a particular literary landscape and their position on that map. This map, of course, can also include specific cultural forces and traditions shaping that landscape.

These essays should function to benefit the thesis student--as an investigation into the particular writerly concerns of its author--and because of this they will develop somewhat holistically from your conversations with your thesis advisors. A good question to ask your reader or supervisor: what are your particular requirements for the critical  essay? Each professor has different expectations for your required reading and ultimate critical thesis draft and it’s important for you to understand these early on in the process.

A draft of the Critical Essay must be submitted to the Thesis Committee Supervisor no later than January 8th of the second year in residence.  The Supervisor will provide feedback within two weeks.  The official Preliminary Critical Essay must be submitted to the entire Thesis Committee and no later than February 1st of the second year in residence.  The Committee returns the Preliminary Critical Essay with comments, recommendations, and a grade of Pass, Satisfactory Progress or Non-Satisfactory Progress within two weeks.

The Final Critical Essay must be submitted to the Thesis Committee and no later than April 15th of the second year in residence.  The Committee reads the Final Critical Essay and returns it with comments and a grade of High Pass, Pass or Fail within two weeks.

Creative Manuscript

A minimum of 30 poems, or 5 short stories and/or personal essays (at least 100 pages), or 150 pages of a novel or book-length essay

The Preliminary Creative Manuscript may only be submitted after the Preliminary Critical Essay has received a grade of "Pass" or "Satisfactory Progress" from the entire Thesis committee.  It must be submitted to the Thesis Committee and no later than March 15th of the second year in residence.  The Committee returns the Preliminary Creative Manuscript with comments, recommendations, and a grade of Pass, Satisfactory Progress or Non-Satisfactory Progress within two weeks.

The Final Creative Manuscript must be submitted to the to the Thesis Committee and no later than May 15th of the second year in residence.  The Committee returns the Final Creative Manuscript with comments and a grade of Pass or Fail within two weeks.  Once the entire Thesis Committee has approved the Final Creative Manuscript, the student is ready to give the Oral Presentation. 

Oral Presentation

The Oral Presentation should be scheduled with the Creative Writing office when the Final Creative Manuscript is submitted.  The Oral presentation lasts 60 minutes and should be understood as the culminating performance of the last quarter in residence.  It will consist of a discussion of the Creative Manuscript and the Critical Essay with the Thesis Committee and may include a reading from the Creative Manuscript.  The Thesis supervisor obtains the Master's warrant from the English Graduate Office before the presentation begins.  At the end of the Oral presentation, both the Master's Committee Signature Form and the Master's Supervisory Committee Approval Form are signed.  The Committee Signature Form should be returned to the Creative Writing mailbox (PDL A-104), and the Committee Approval should be retained by the student and uploaded to the UW ETD Administrator Site.   

Students should communicate with their committee members to arrange a date, time, and modality for the presentation, (in-person, hybrid, or 100% remote), and email no later than May 29th to finalize the presentation schedule. 

Presentations can be scheduled as soon as the Final Critical Essay and Final Creative Manuscript have been approved by the Thesis Committee.  The final date that the Oral Presentations can be completed is the last day of the quarter.  

Modality for English Master's Oral Presentations

Beginning in Spring Quarter 2022, all English department oral thesis presentations may be held in person, hybrid, or virtually.  It is essential that everyone communicate clearly and well in advance about all forms of in-person meetings.   A thesis presentation is an important, celebratory, once-in-a-lifetime occasion. Students and their mentors should be able to engage fully and deeply in conversation about the work without any participant being distracted by circumstances that might make them uncomfortable.

The department will not require the student and/or committee members to wear masks during a thesis presentation. However, the student and/or committee members may ask each other to wear masks, and are strongly encouraged to communicate preferences in advance. Additionally, the student and/or committee members may choose to participate virtually for any reason, including others’ decisions regarding mask wearing. 

Please note:  A student’s choice to participate in person or remotely will not impact the result of their presentation.

In-person oral thesis presentations

If a student wishes to have their presentation in person, the department will typically reserve the A-13 conference room. This room has windows that may be opened for ventilation. Any participant in the presentation (including the student) may choose to open the windows at any time.  If a student would like to have their in-person presentation in another location, they will need to discuss this with their committee and make the room reservation themselves.

If a student would like to reserve Padelford A-13 as the location for their presentation, please email with details.  Students are free to conduct in-person presentations in other locations, but they will need to reserve those spaces themselves. 

Virtual presentations

If the student prefers to have their presentation fully virtual, the English department is happy to facilitate virtual presentations via Zoom.

If a student plans to do a hybrid or 100% remote presentation, please email with the link that will be used. 

Thesis Committee Approval Forms

Students should download and print the Thesis Committee Approval Form before their oral presentation.  If the presentation will be in-person, students will need to bring a paper copy to the presentation and obtain the physical signatures of their committee members.  If they are unable to obtain physical signatures due to a hybrid or 100% remote presentation, please use Page 2 of the form.

Applying for the Degree

Master’s Requests & Warrants

The deadline for submitting a Master’s request in MyGrad is no later than 11:59pm on the last day of Spring Quarter However, students will need to submit this request prior to the date of their oral presentation in order for the English Graduate Advising Office to generate and send their warrant, on which they will need to collect signatures from their committee members.  Students can submit their Master’s request at the beginning of Spring Quarter, and they should try to have their Master’s request submitted as soon as possible so that the warrant can be processed and returned to them. 

Students might also want to review the Graduation Checklist for Thesis Master’s Students section on the UW Grad School site.

Thesis Committee Approval Forms

Students should download and print the Thesis Committee Approval Form before their oral presentation. 

Once students have completed the form and received their committee members’ signatures, they will need to submit it to the UW ETD Administrator/ProQuest site no later than 11:59pm on the last day of Spring Quarter.

Thesis Submission

Students will need to submit either their critical or creative thesis to the Graduate School through ProQuest by 11:59pm on the last day of Spring Quarter.  It is strongly encouraged that students not wait until the last minute to submit their thesis in case any technical issues arise.   Students who do not submit their thesis by the deadline may pay a $250 fee to be granted a 2-week grace period within which to submit their thesis. More information about thesis submissions can be found at the Grad School Thesis/Dissertation page.   If a student will be unable to submit their thesis by the grace period deadline, they will need to register for courses in the quarter in which they plan to submit it. 

Please also visit the ETD Formatting Guidelines page to review the thesis formatting requirements. 

The Graduate School must approve the online thesis application.  They email students indicating if everything has passed. 

Students should not assume that filing their thesis and approval form means they are finished. The Graduate School may request formatting or other changes before they will approve graduation. 

** Application for the MFA degree must be filed online with the Graduate School no later than the first four weeks of the quarter of graduation