Methodology

The scoring system that is used on this site tries to avoid three issues:

  • Prolific authors should not have undue weight.
  • Recent graduates/current students should have more impact than less recent graduates.
  • Large programs should not be able to overwhelm small program simply by their size.

To address the first issue, for each school, a list of authors appearing in the last four issues of the prize anthologies (Best American Short Stories, Best American Essays,Best American Poetry, O. Henry Prize Stories, Pushcart Prize) along with those listed in the notables section is generated with duplicates removed. An author who has a single notable mention has equal weight to one who is repeatedly named in the anthologies.

Each author is then awarded points according to the following rubric:

  • currently enrolled–2 years out: 6000
  • 3–5 years out: 5000
  • 6–10 years out: 4000
  • 11–20 years out: 3000
  • 21–40 years out: 2000
  • 41+ years out: 1000
If a graduation year is unavailable I use the median graduation year for qualifying graduates of the school, or if that’s unavailable, I will use the overall median graduation year of all qualifying graduates (currently 1991).

The total points for all the authors is then divided by the size of the program (currently, I’m using data from the Poets & Writers database where available, otherwise the median of all available program sizes (currently 29) and the total is the score for the program. Classification by genre is done by the genre of the degree (where available) or the genre of the publication if the degree genre is unknown.

Limitations

This ranking privileges short-form work over long-form work. While the amalgamation of the prize anthologies is a reasonable proxy for quality of essays, stories and poems, there is no reasonably sized (not too big, not too small) option for book-length work. Other genres often included in creative writing programs (drama, screenwriting, children's/young adult, multimedia, translation, etc.) are not incorporated in this system.

Publication is assumed to be the primary good to arise from completing a graduate creative writing degree. No attempt is made to measure other outcomes, such as appointment to tenure-track positions in post-secondary education.

The Poets & Writers program size information may not be consistently measured from one program to another. I will be collecting program size data directly from the programs to allow more accurate measurements given the importance of program size in calculating ranking scores.

Send questions, comments and corrections to info@creativewritingmfa.info.