The Master's Project


Writing and Formatting         

Review and Evaluation         

Last Steps         



The capstone of the Master of Arts in Creative Writing and Publishing degree is the master's project course. Students complete a chapbook-length portfolio of 40-50 pages such as a collection of poetry, literary fiction, young adult fiction or creative nonfiction. The purpose is to give students a final opportunity to develop an area of expertise while they refine their writing, revising, and editing skills. The essay, presented to a review committee of a faculty advisor and two additional faculty readers, should demonstrate a high level of cogency and stylistic grace. The Master’s Project (GENG 699) is its own course with its own unique registration and counts for 3 credits toward the Master of Arts in Creative Writing and Publishing degree.

Choosing a Topic

The Master’s Project is designed to refine your skill in substantially re-thinking and re-envisioning a previously considered idea.  Ideally, the topic should evolve from a project already written for a graduate writing workshop, although it need not be the final or major paper for the course.  Revision is an important part of the writing process; the best portfolios inevitably result from getting started early, allowing time for this important revision step.

Choosing an Advisor

Once you have determined your portfolio genre, you should approach a faculty member whom you would like to have as your advisor for the project.  Students should seek an advisor one full semester before they plan to write.  The advisor must have expertise in the subject and should ideally be someone who has taught you in a graduate workshop. When a faculty member agrees to supervise your project, you will establish together how often to meet and when drafts of your work will be completed for review. The project advisor will read your drafts and portfolio and offer feedback and guidance during the writing and revision process.

Choosing Readers

In consultation with your advisor, choose a secondary reader--a person generally familiar with the subject area of the project. A third reader may be another UST faculty member--familiar or not with the subject matter--or a creative writer from outside the UST community. These readers, together with your advisor, form the Review Committee that will read the portfolio and participate in your review conversation upon completion of the project.


Once an advisor and readers are confirmed, a Masters Essay Proposal should be completed with a 500-word description of the proposed essay, discussing the nature and goals of the project. The proposal should be signed by the advisor and submitted to the Graduate English Coordinator according to the timeline.

Timeline & Registration

The Master's project has its own timeline for registration and completion. Refer to the appropriate timeline for details: Fall 2020. A required information session is the first item on the timeline and is scheduled well in advance of the start of the writing semester to allow time to complete the proposal.

The next step is to advise the Graduate Program Coordinator of your intent to write your portfolio for the designated semester.  This should be done one semester prior to the writing semester.  Students will be provisionally enrolled by the Coordinator, and then confirmed once the proposal has been approved by both the advisor and the Graduate Program Director.  

Writing and Formatting

Writing the Portfolio

Working closely with your advisor, rethink and reshape your original paper, adding to or extending your ideas into new areas, deleting or altering material as necessary.  In short, while your Master’s Project evolves from the “germ” of your original class paper, it should ultimately be a substantial revision and addition of that paper, creating a new entity.  Revisions are a natural part of the writing process--you should expect to take your paper through several drafts before completing the final version.  The finished project should be chapbook lenght, approximately 40-50, double-spaced.

The Abstract

In addition to your portfolio, a descriptive abstract should be written for use as part of the library's indexing and archiving of your Master's Project. It is one paragraph of about 100-150 words that introduces your readers to your work. Colorado State University offers helpful information about abstracts on its writing website.

Formatting the Master's Project

The following guidelines are designed to give students an easy reference for preparing the Master’s Project and to ensure that each manuscript meets library standards for description and archival standards for permanence. You must submit your final copy to the English Department electronically by emailing the Program Coordinator at

Page Order

The pages of the manuscript should be assembled in the following order:

Title Page (no page number appears on this page)     
Acknowledgement page (optional)     
Abstract (100-150 words or three paragraph summary of manuscript)     
Body of the work     

Title Page

The title page elements should be centered on the page left to right and top to bottom  Title can be either in lowercase or in all capitals as the writer prefers.  If there is a subtitle, there should be a colon (:) after the primary title. Avoid the use of symbols, formulas, superscripts, and subscripts as they hinder computerized searching. The title page should be formatted as noted below.


Project Title


Author's Full name

A master’s project portfolio submitted to the faculty of the
Graduate Program in Creative Writing and Publishing
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree

Master of Arts in Creative Writing and Publishing

University of St. Thomas
Saint Paul, Minnesota

Month and Year (of graduation)


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Review and Evaluation

The Review Committee

Your advisor and readers together form the Review Committee.  When the portfolio is ready for review, the student is responsible to schedule the members for the review meeting.  Approximately ninety minutes in length, the project review is an extensive discussion between you and your committee members about the portfolio, the revision process, and the project's relation to your curriculum and future interests or plans.  Once a date and time have been agreed upon, students can contact the Graduate Program Coordinator to arrange for a room.


As the culminating project for an advanced degree in English, the Master’s Projected is evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • (content currently under review)

In addition, a brief evaluation is made of the student's oral presentation of the work according to the following criteria:

  • History of the project and self reflection in introducing the topic
  • Personal reflection of the writing process
  • Exploring nuances of questions and providing detailed answers

A Review Results form is completed by the advisor following the approval of a final draft.  The signed form along with the final submitted copy of the Master's Project must be submitted to the Graduate Program Coordinator before the degree is officially conferred.

Master’s Project Presentations

At the end of each semester, students writing their Master’s Projects speak about their experiences during the writing process and detail their writing at a special event that is open to interested students and faculty, family, and friends.  These reading-like presentations both celebrate the writers of each Master's Project and give current students the opportunity to pick up helpful insights as they look ahead to writing their own portfolio.

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Last Steps

Submit to the Department

Your final project is due to the department by the final day of the academic term. That day can be found on the proper calendar on the University's Academic Calendar. The final day of the term is listed as the Undergraduate "Final Exams End" date.

Your final project should be submitted in PDF format to the Graduate Program Coordinator, Soren Hoeger-Lerdal, at

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Talk to other students.  At the beginning of the process, get in touch with other students who are working on their projects.  The writing process can be slow, frustrating, and solitary!  Since writing the project does not include the consistent interaction and discussion with others that a workshop or classroom setting provides, you may find it helpful to set up informal meetings with other writers.  Get together once a week, or every other week, and share your topics, development, troubles and roadblocks, breakthroughs, and discoveries.  Although your projects may differ widely in content, you may find new avenues in your writing by sharing your ideas out loud. It also helps to know that other writers have bad days, good days, setbacks, and leaps of progress – just like you!

Begin early. Try to have your ideas formulated by the 3rd week in the semester, but if you do find yourself behind schedule, DON’T PANIC!  Allow yourself a day, or even a week, away from the library or the computer. Talk over your mind-blocks with your advisor and discuss your ideas to help pinpoint what you really want to write about. Don’t be afraid to ask your advisor, another faculty member, or a friend to hear you out!  Editorial comments on your drafts are helpful, but discussing your ideas in the abstract can also help to narrow and refine your pursuits. “Talking out” your ideas before you begin to write and at points along the way can help push your creative thinking into new areas.  A wild thought that you initially think is just free-association, if backed up confidently and effectively in your writing, can mean the difference between a good project and an original project.

Re-read and review.  In preparation for the Project Review, re-read your own portfolio. Recall why you chose the genre you did. Be ready to talk about the process you went through in researching and writing your project.  How does your portfolio relate to the courses you have taken, your graduate English experience as a whole, and the work you plan to pursue in the future?

Think discussion, not defense.  Think of the committee review as a discussion of your project, rather than as a defense. You may find yourself defending certain points, but you will undoubtedly be prepared to do so if you are well-versed in not only what you wrote, but what you decided not to write.  Go over your early notes, and be ready to discuss avenues you did not pursue. Note places in your project where you made a strong assertion and be prepared to rephrase the points. Be aware of contradictions or statements that go “against tradition," and be prepared to explain them.