MA Milestones

English Graduate Program Progress Norms and Expectations Milestones Chart: MA with Thesis program

This timeline lays out the recommended milestones for each semester of the MA in English. Students and supervisors are asked to consult this timeline as they complete the annual progress report in April and agree on goals for the coming year. If the student’s progress differs substantially from the recommended timeline, the progress report should explain why and should include an action plan for ensuring timely completion of the degree. In some cases, it may be decided that completing more frequent progress reports will help the student make steady progress. Students and supervisors are welcome to consult with the Graduate Director and/or the Graduate Academic Assistant for help and advice with any challenges that may arise.

It is understood that students’ circumstances and working methods differ and it is impossible to dictate a single timeline that will work for everyone. The suggested milestones for completing chapter drafts are intended as a rough guide to help students complete the MA program within the recommended two years.

Year / Term Expectations / Milestones Details / Notes
Year 1, term 1 (Fall)
  • Two graduate seminars (for collaborative MA programs, these will include one ENG seminar and one core course in FEM or MDV)
  • ENG6302: Research Methods & Professionalization
  • Register thesis topic and supervisor(s) by December 1, or January 15th at the very latest. (Form available on FGPS website.)
  • For students in the collaborative MA programs with specialization in Women’s Studies or Medieval and Renaissance Studies, coursework must include the two mandatory FEM or MDV core courses plus three ENG seminars.
  • Students should meet with the Graduate Director early in the fall to discuss potential supervisors.
Year 1, term 2 (Winter)
  • One or two graduate seminars. Collaborative program students must take one ENG seminar plus one core course in FEM or MDV; English program students normally will take one ENG seminar plus 3 credits of ENG7997 (Thesis proposal research)
  • Thesis proposal research. Students who take only one seminar in the winter should aim to complete and submit the thesis proposal by May 1.
  • ENG6303: Research Methods & Professionalization
  • Meet with supervisor in April to complete annual progress report (due April 30th) and discuss goals for the following year.
  • Normally, students in the regular MA program take one seminar plus 3 credits of ENG7997 (in the winter so that they can begin work on the thesis proposal as early as possible. However, some may opt to take two seminars in the winter and 6 credits of thesis proposal research in the spring/summer.
  • All collaborative MA program students take two seminars in winter and one in spring/summer.
  • For information on preparing the thesis proposal, see departmental Thesis Proposal Guidelines (available from the Graduate Academic Assistant).
  • Students and supervisors should also consult the helpful downloadable Thesis Guide in the “Thesis and Research Papers” section of the FGPS website.
Year 1 term 3 (Spring / Summer)
  • Collaborative program students (and all students who took only one seminar in the winter): one graduate seminar plus 3 credits of ENG7997.
  • English MA students who took two seminars in winter: 6 credits of ENG7997.
  • All students: Complete and submit thesis proposal. The proposal must be submitted by August 1 to ensure approval by the end of term. If it is submitted after that date, the student may have to register again for ENG7997 for the fall and may have trouble completing the thesis within two years. To ensure timely completion, candidates should aim to complete and submit the proposal no later than July 1 and spend the rest of the summer on thesis research, with the goal of completing a chapter draft by early fall.
  • Meet with supervisor(s) regularly (by email, phone, or Skype if in-person meetings are not possible). We recommend meeting every 2-4 weeks, whether or not there is a completed draft to discuss, to help the student stay focused, solve problems, set short-term goals, get feedback, and ensure steady progress.
  • When the thesis proposal is ready, the supervisor fills out the supervisor’s approval form (available from the Graduate Academic Assistant) and submits it to the Graduate Director. The proposal itself is submitted by email to the Graduate Director for circulation to the graduate committee.
Year 2, term 1 (Fall)
  • Thesis research. To ensure completion by the end of year 2, candidates should aim to complete drafts of one or two chapters by end of fall term.
  • Meet with supervisor(s) regularly (every 2-4 weeks), in person or by email, phone, or Skype.
Year 2, term 2 (Winter)
  • Thesis research. To ensure completion by the end of year 2, candidates should aim to complete drafts of three chapters by end of winter term.
  • Meet with supervisor(s) regularly (every 2-4 weeks), in person or by email, phone, or Skype.
  • Meet with supervisor in April to complete annual progress report (due April 30th) and set up an action plan for completing the thesis.
Year 2, term 3 (Spring / Summer)
  • Complete and submit the thesis for the defence. Candidates should aim to complete a draft of the entire thesis no later than June 1 to allow time for feedback and final revisions, and for careful editing and proofreading, before the thesis is submitted.
  • The thesis must be submitted no later than July 1 to ensure that the defence can be held in August. If it is submitted after that date, the defence may have to be held in the fall, so candidates planning to enter PhD programs in September should definitely aim for the July 1 deadline.
  • The thesis must be submitted by August 28; if it is submitted after that date, the candidate will have to register and pay tuition for the fall semester.
  • Meet with supervisor more frequently in the final months (biweekly or weekly) if necessary to ensure timely completion.
  • The MA must be completed within 4 years.

For important information about the timeline and procedures for submission of the thesis, see Section 15 of the Thesis Guide on the FGPS website.

Supervisors should contact potential examiners at the start of the summer to confirm their availability and make note of any travel plans that will affect the scheduling of the evaluation and defence.

The supervisor should submit the names of the examiners to the Graduate Academic Assistant about six weeks before the expected submission date. When the student submits the thesis to the Graduate Academic Assistant, they must specify potential dates for the defence which will be circulated to the examiners along with the thesis and evaluation forms. In most cases, defences are held 5-8 weeks after the thesis is submitted.


Faculty of Arts Memo re new policy on Graduate Student Annual Progress Reports, March 2015

The Faculty of Arts is announcing a new procedure for the completion and evaluation of the graduate student annual progress report. For the first time this year, graduate progress reports in the Faculty will have a standardized and fixed deadline at the end of April—the conclusion of the winter term. This new deadline will apply to all thesis students, even those who have submitted a progress report within the last twelve months. Previously graduate progress reports were due on the anniversary date of a student’s initial enrolment in the program, and there was often confusion and last-minute scrambling to submit the report. The new standard deadline will resolve that longstanding problem. (For students in our three fine arts departments—Music, Theatre, and Visual Arts—there will be a separate deadline early in the fall term.)
At the same time, with a fixed date for submission, the Faculty is also initiating a new procedure for completing the progress report designed to encourage a dialogue between students and graduate supervisors about the goals and expectations on both sides, and about the outcome of the previous year’s work.
Please note that the requirement to submit a progress report applies to students enrolled in research programs that include a thesis. Students enrolled in a Master with a major research paper (mémoire) or in a purely course-based Master’s program are not required to submit such a report.

The new procedure involves several key steps:

  1. In the month of March or early April, all graduate thesis students and their supervisors must book a time to discuss what they have accomplished in the academic year just past and what they are planning to accomplish in the year ahead (a plan of study for the year ahead). We wish to encourage a discussion about progress in which supervisors can be forthright about their appraisals of students’ progress and in which students can spell out their expectations.
  2. As part of this discussion students and supervisors are asked to gauge the progress over the previous year by comparing it to the normal rate of progress expected in the program. To facilitate this analysis, all graduate programs in the Faculty are preparing charts that indicate the expected milestones in the program; these progress indicators will be distributed to all students and supervisors in the program.
  3. Students and supervisors are encouraged to complete the progress report together. This year we will use the existing progress report, but a new progress report form is being developed by the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies which will build in the new procedure we are introducing this year.
  4. The reports will all be submitted by the end of April to the graduate program director, who will review the reports and, with the help of the graduate committee where required, follow up with assistance to students and supervisors in cases where there may be cause for concern.
  5. Students who have recently started the MA (with thesis) or PhD programs are also asked to submit a progress report. This practice allows students to familiarize themselves with the review process and promotes interaction with their supervisor.

The aim of this new procedure is to encourage communication between students and their supervisors, and in case where progress is slow or where difficulties are arising, to enable all sides—students, supervisors, and graduate program directors—to identify potential concerns early and address them, before they become serious problems. Our purpose is to change the current system of reporting from a reactive one to a proactive one that reinforces the student/supervisor relationship and models recommended practices.

Note: In certain cases, students may be asked for an extra progress report (for example, if they are granted an extensions beyond the normal time limit for the degree, or if it is decided that more frequent progress reports are needed to help the student make steady progress.) The new annual deadline of 30 April does not replace any special deadlines that are being required in individual cases. So, for example, if a student is asked for an extra report at the end of the summer or fall terms, the April annual report will still be required.

Graduate Studies Annual Progress Report Procedure Faculty of Arts


The annual progress report should facilitate an annual review process centring on discussions between students and their supervisors about what was accomplished in the year just past and what goals are to be achieved in the coming year. At the moment, however, the progress report process does not meet these goals. There is no single annual deadline for submitting reports, which means that they are handled inconsistently across the Faculty, not always taken as seriously as they should be, and often submitted at the last minute without time being taken for a proper review by graduate directors, committees, and the vice-dean`s office. They also generate unnecessary levels of frustration amongst students, faculty members, graduate directors, and academic assistants. Yet, these reports have potentially serious consequences for a student`s registration.

We plan, therefore, to reform the progress report system in the Faculty of Arts. We have the support of FGPS to undertake such an initiative. Moreover, the FGPS is working on revising significantly the progress report form, which is badly in need of revision.

What follows is an outline of principles that will inform the annual review process in the Faculty of Arts:

  • Create a system that can serve students and supervisors effectively, especially at the doctoral level, and that allows departments and the Faculty to identify students who are running into difficulty in order to render them assistance.
  • Evaluate the progress report of all graduate students registered in the Faculty of Arts once a year only. The end of the academic year (April) seems a logical deadline for the process. The exception to this would be Master’s students in Music, Theatre, and Visual Arts, who will be evaluated at the beginning of their second year (early fall).
  • Progress will be evaluated during the winter semester: meetings and discussion between supervisors and students during the winter term, with the report submitted sometime in April.
  • Progress will be reviewed against the expectations of what is considered good normal progress in the program. These expectations or milestones will drawn up in written form by each program (they already exist in various forms for some programs) and must be addressed specifically by both students and supervisors in the review. For example, a student could be expected to explain why she or he has reached the end of, say, year two without having completed comprehensive exams, or year three without having had a thesis proposal approved. We should in fact have doctoral programs in which it is possible for students to complete all program requirements except the thesis and thesis research by the end of year two.
  • Progress deemed problematic can be flagged and may need to be reviewed one or two terms later. In some cases a detailed plan of study would be required.
  • Reports are to be reviewed by graduate directors and/or graduate committees before the end of April, with identification and follow-up of problematic cases.
  • Each department/program will develop its own internal processes to implement these principles.
  • The FGPS is open to special arrangements in terms of deadlines for the fine arts departments, who have argued that early fall of the second year is a more logical time for them to do their reviews.


  1. The review process begins on 1 March and ends 30 April (or 1 September to 31 October for the MFA programs in Theatre, Music, and Visual Arts). [NOTE: Students who are on extensions or who for some other reason have a severe condition preventing them from registering for the spring/summer must submit their progress reports by April 20th to ensure that the report can be processed and the condition lifted before the registration deadline. If the progress report is submitted after that date, they may have to register late and pay the resulting late fees.]
  2. The first step is for student and supervisor to meet and to review the progress that has been made in the past year. This is to be evaluated in light of the departmental guidelines for normal progress through the program (milestones) and in light of the goals for the current year set in the progress report for the previous year. Each department will furnish its professors with a copy of the expected annual outcomes/milestones for students in the program (i.e., what are students expected to have accomplished on 30 April of their first year, on 30 April of their second year, etc.). If students have not met the expected milestones, an account would be needed of the reasons for the failure to meet expectations.
  3. At the same time, student and supervisor should discuss goals for the upcoming year, again in light of the program expectations. In the case of a first progress report, this part of the discussion would probably be the most important: charting the future course of the student.
  4. Supervisors and graduate directors need to be frank in their assessments of students’ progress and be prepared to flag problematic cases and unsatisfactory progress. These cases will need follow-up on the part of supervisors and program directors, such as a further report one or two terms later or a request for a detailed plan of study.
  5. Program directors will review all the progress reports in their departments before submitting them to the Faculty Graduate Office.
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