Oregon State University

MFA Handbook

The MFA Program in Creative Writing is a two-year Studio/Research program combining writing with studies in craft and literature. Seeking a balance between literary artistic practice and literary scholarship, the course of study emphasizes the importance of reading to one's development as a writer. In addition to writing workshops, the faculty offers courses in form, craft, theory, and thesis direction.

Learning Outcomes

In the MFA program, we recognize that the pursuit of excellence in the arts must be understood in diverse, patient, and supple ways. Some of our graduates (like many writers) will not pursue further advanced degrees or traditional academic careers, or even careers obviously linked to the creative arts. And the realities of the literary publishing world entail long apprenticeships before the first book might be expected. Therefore when the MFA discusses outcomes for our students, we keep in mind that each of our students will choose different career and artistic paths. The development and the application of outcome measures must be thoughtful and individualized for each graduate. In general, students who graduate with the MFA degree will:

  1. Demonstrate a rich and articulate understanding of the elements of the genre(s) in which they write.
  2. Develop and employ techniques of intensive revision.
  3. Make polished creative work of publishable quality.


Oregon State MFA program

Degree Requirements

To complete the course of study for the MFA degree in Creative Writing, a minimum of 48 quarter/term hours are required in the following categories:

24 hours/credits in Creative Writing Workshops
24 hours/credits in Literature and/or Composition
12 hours/credits in Thesis and/or Writing and Conference

Students are required to take one course emphasizing literary roots (ENG pre-1800). TAs and students planning to apply for a TA are required to take one course focusing on theory of composition (WR 511, WR 512, WR 593, or WR 595).

No additional hours in disciplines other than Creative Writing, Rhetoric and Composition, or Literature will normally apply toward the degree.

Creative Writing Workshops(a total of 24 credit hours is required)

WR 524 Advanced Fiction Writing (4 credits)
WR 540 Advanced Nonfiction Writing (4 credits)
WR 541 Advanced Poetry Writing (4 credits)
WR 548 Magazine Article Writing (4 credits)
WR 516 Advanced Composition (4 credits)

Literature and/or Rhetoric and Composition(a total of 24 credit hours is required)

12 credits by selecting four of the following courses:

ENG 511 ENG 512 ENG 513 ENG 515 ENG 516 ENG 517 ENG 518 ENG 519 ENG 520 ENG 524 ENG 525 ENG 526 ENG 528 ENG 529 ENG 530 ENG 531 ENG 532 ENG 533 ENG 534 ENG 535 ENG 536 ENG 537 ENG 538 ENG 539 ENG 540 ENG 542 ENG 545 ENG 550 ENG 552 ENG 554 ENG 557 ENG 558 ENG 560 ENG 565 ENG 570 ENG 575 ENG 580 ENG 582 ENG 585 ENG 586 ENG 588 ENG 590 ENG 595 ENG 597 ENG 598 WR 511 WR 512 WR 516 WR 540 WR 541 WR 548 WR 593 WR 595

4 credits by selecting one of the following courses (required for TAs):

WR 511 WR 512 WR 593 WR 595

4 credits by selecting one of the following courses (must have pre-1800 literature focus):

ENG 511 ENG 512 ENG 517 ENG 525 ENG 526 ENG 528 ENG 529 ENG 530 ENG 531 ENG 532 ENG 533 ENG 535 ENG 580 ENG 590


Thesis/Writing and Conference(a total of 12 credit hours is required)

12 credits by selecting from the following courses:

WR 503 (thesis)
WR 504 (writing and conference)

All MFA candidates will be required to complete a thesis, which is to be a sustained piece of creative writing of literary merit (for prose, roughly 70 pages, and for poetry, 35-48 pages).

A formal examination will be also required of MFA students. The exam will usually be given in the student’s final term of study, and consists of questions assessing the student’s grasp of the history of the genre, the contemporary creative writing situation, influences and models, and matters of craft, all within the context of the student’s own writing.


The workshop is an opportunity to receive responses to one's own work and to respond to others-a sustained practicum in criticism, designed to challenge and stretch aesthetic assumptions. Participants describe, explore, and evaluate the premises of works in progress, with an eye toward editorial improvement. Generally, faculty members serve not only as active participants, but also as discussion moderators, focusing or redirecting the conversation as needed. They also work to maintain a balance among an agenda that includes: what is most helpful to the piece under discussion, what is most suggestive for future work by the author, and what is most instructive to the group as a whole? At Oregon State, we strive for workshops that are supportive but rigorous, analytical but not judgmental, noncompetitive, vigilant always against workshop jargon or preferred aesthetics. As in all other areas of the MFA Program in literature classes, in working with a thesis advisor the importance of the workshop is the chance to enlarge one's capacity for strong work.


Students produce a thesis at the end of their second year of study. The thesis is a sustained piece of imaginative writing of literary merit. Generally, length, form, and content are to be mutually agreed upon by the student and the thesis advisor, depending on the students' needs and goals, with final approval resting with the advisor. Typically, however, a  thesis is between 75 and 120 pages in length for fiction and nonfiction, and may be a short-story or essay collection, a novel, or a sustained nonfiction work. Poetry theses are between 35 and 48 pages in length.

Oral Examination

An oral examination will be given in the student's final term of study. It will measure a writer's growth and test ingenuity and academic knowledge. The exam will likely involve questions on theory and technique, on the history of the genre, on the student's own creative work, and on the student's grasp of the contemporary situation in the field of Creative Writing. The examination committee will consist of the student's thesis advisor, a second representative from Creative Writing, a representative from Literature or Rhetoric and Writing (or, in some cases, from another field of study in which a student has a particular interest), and a Graduate School representative.


Graduate Teaching Assitantship

Each year the School of Writing, Literature, and Film offers a TA (teaching assistantship) to selected incoming graduate students, in both the Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Fine Arts (MFA) programs. If you are interested in applying for an assistantship, just check the box on your graduate application and discuss your teaching aims in your letter or statement of objectives. Also, ask those who are writing recommendations for you to speak particularly about your aptitude and/or experience with teaching. For specific information how to apply to our programs, please check our admissions page.

In addition to TA positions in the English department, other opportunities for support and for relevant disciplinary experience are available.

Other Opportunities

OSU’s Writing-Intensive-Curriculum (WIC) Program offers a TA position. The TA for the WIC program assists the director in the presentation of workshops and seminars for faculty on the teaching of writing, acts as assistant editor of the WIC newsletter, reviews course proposals and syllabi, and generally assists with administration of the program. The WIC TA has opportunities to learn about issues related to the teaching of writing in the disciplines and to help faculty in the disciplines find the best ways to teach writing to their particular students. For information email Vicki Tolar Burton.

OSU’s Writing Center offers a TA position. The Writing Center GTA supports staff in the training and supervision of the writing assistants who work at the Writing Center. Central responsibilities include training and scheduling writing assistants; conducting weekly staff meetings; developing and revising online and print resources for the Writing Center; maintaining records, and compiling ad hoc, quarterly, and annual statistics and reports. The Writing Center GTA also assists in the day-to-day operations of Writing Desk at the Valley Library and with the Writing Center's online writing lab. For additional information email Writing Center Coordinator, Dennis Bennett (Dennis.Bennett@oregonstate.edu).

Contact Info

Writing, Literature, & Film 238 Moreland Hall 541.737.3244
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