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Burgtorf, Michael R
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Research Opportunities

Mentored Essay & Master's Thesis

Students who select the pre-doctoral concentration within the MA Program in Literature are encouraged to pursue one of two scholarly projects: the mentored scholarly essay or the Master’s thesis. These options offer students the opportunity to pursue original research or to develop a scholarly analysis that may serve as the foundation for doctoral study. The two options are also open to students who select another specialty concentration within the program.

Mentored Scholarly Essay

  • Students develop a mentored scholarly essay from a paper originally submitted for a literature course and recommended by the course professor. Each student who is recommended for this option works closely with his or her faculty mentor to develop a scholarly article of approximately twenty to thirty-five pages with the potential for publication in a scholarly journal. The goal of this project is to enhance students’ skills in conducting research and in situating an idea within current scholarly dialogue on the subject and in the field. 
  • Students register for one semester of independent study (LIT 793 Directed Research in Literature) during the fall or spring semester of their second year in the program. The resulting article-length project should be completed by the end of that semester. At the recommendation of the faculty mentor, the student may submit the essay to an appropriate scholarly journal.

Master's Thesis

  • Students who choose the Master’s thesis option work closely with a faculty mentor to pursue extended research and to develop scholarly analysis culminating in a thesis of approximately forty to eighty pages. This research option enables students to acquire depth and scope in their chosen area of study and to develop skills in sustained analysis and argument. View past thesis titles.
  • During the fall semester of their second year in the program, students pursue research for their chosen project (LIT 797 Master’s Thesis Seminar) and may complete an annotated bibliography. Depending on their progress, they may begin to write the thesis during the first semester of research. During the second semester (LIT 797 Master’s Thesis), students write, revise, and edit the thesis for submission to the thesis committee—the faculty mentor and one other faculty member—by the middle of the spring semester.

Support for Scholarly Research & Travel

Students may apply for up to $1,000 of research support from the Mellon Committee for the College of Arts and Sciences. This award must be for research purposes, and could cover the costs of travel to a library or archive, photography, and/or xeroxing. Students may also apply tor up to $200 for travel to conferences to present research or performances. In addition, funds are available from the Robyn Rafferty Mathias Gift to support international travel for thesis research. Interested students should see the chair of the Department of Literature, as the Chair must review, recommend, and rank applications.

American University is a member of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area. As a result, graduate students at American are eligible to apply for research funds of $1,500-$3,000 through the Cosmos Foundation. See the Director of the MA Program for further details.

Every year, the College of Arts and Sciences sponsors the Ann Robyn Mathias Student Research Conference. Graduate students are encouraged to apply to give papers. For more information, please see the Director of the MA Program.

Finally, students who excel in the program should consider applying to be a member of a Folger Seminar at the Folger Institute. Seminars run thoughout the year and are on various topics. The application process is quite rigorous, but this is a tremendous opportunity to take a class with a renowned scholar and to use the resources of the Folger. Again, interested students should consult with the Director of the MA Progam.

Kessler-Roberts Prize

Students may submit their best scholarly essays for consideration for the Kessler-Roberts Prize, a $200 prize and citation awarded each spring to honor the best scholarly essay written by a graduate student in the MA Program in Literature.