The Plan B Requirement

The Plan B Process

Students in all of the English MA Program's Emphases are required to produce two Plan B Projects before their comprehensive exams can be scheduled.

Plan B projects frequently evolve from work done in courses. The student finds, in a class, an interesting problem to investigate, secures the assistance of an appropriate member of the graduate faculty, and then writes the paper in consultation with that faculty member. Sometimes, a student may work similarly with a member of the graduate faculty in writing a Plan B Project that is not related to any course.

Regardless of when students actually work on Plan B Projects, they need to enroll in one hour of ENGL or WRIT 8094 for each of the two required Plan B Projects. That is, sometime during their MA-student careers, students should register for one hour of either ENGL or WRIT 8094 (depending on the department affiliation of the faculty member with whom they're working) for each of their two Plan B Projects.

The supervising faculty member will evaluate the completed project, offer comments, and, if necessary, require revision. The last step in the process is for the faculty member to approve the project by signing the title page.

The Traditional Plan B

The "Traditional Plan B" is a critical, academic essay.

Both of a student's Plan B Projects may assume this format, although one Plan B may take the form of an Alternative Plan B Project as described below.

Students should work closely with the supervising faculty member to plan the nature and scope of their research as well as the shape of its presentation.

The project must demonstrate familiarity with research and scholarship in the area upon which the paper focuses. The student is expected to know and use basic tools of research and to show a familiarity with the seminal research in the area being investigated, citing appropriate sources from articles and books to advance the paper's argument.

The project must present effectively the results of research. The student must use a recognized style manual, preferably The MLA Style Manual or the "Stylesheet" of the Linguistic Society of America. The student's editing skills (grammar, punctuation, spelling) should be without fault, and the student's compositional skills (organization, issue development, careful marshaling and presentation of evidence) competent to convince the reader. The conclusions should never outrun the evidence. A paper must be free from unsupported allegations  

Alternative Plan B Project

One of the two required Plan B Projects may be realized in a form alternative to traditional academic, critical writing.

These forms may include a sustained work of fiction, a collection of poetry, a substantial piece of literary non-fiction, a production in New Media such as a large web site or database, a Digital Humanities project, or other appropriate format that the supervising faculty and the student agree to, and that is approved by the Graduate Committee.

Prior to Beginning an Alternative Plan B

Students wishing to undertake an Alternative Plan B project will submit for approval to the Graduate Committee

  • a 2-3 page project prospectus, explaining topic, concept, and context of the Plan B
  • a brief supporting statement from the faculty supervisor (an email from the faculty member is sufficient)
  • a copy of the signed Contract Form for ENGL/WRIT 8094 (Plan B)

These materials should be submitted to the English MA Graduate Committee prior to beginning work on the project.

The Graduate Committee, in consultation with the supervising faculty member, will review proposals for these projects on a case-by-case basis and indicate what kind of introduction, or equivalent apparatus, is appropriate.

Completing the Alternative Plan B: Guidelines, Approvals, Archives

Like all other Plan B projects, the finished Alternative Plan B must be approved in writing by the faculty supervisor, and a hard copy of the project—or other archived record, appropriate to its medium and genre—filed in the English, Linguistics, and Writing Studies Department office. 

Alternative Plan B Projects must include a written introduction or other critical, contextualizing apparatus, as approved by the faculty member supervising the project in consultation with the English MA Graduate Committee.

The function of this introduction is to ensure that the students are able to critically contextualize his or her creative/non-traditional project and to offer illuminating self-reflexive commentary on their work.

Each supervising faculty member will provide specific guidelines for this introductory apparatus and other supplementary work.