THE M.A. PROGRAM
Students in the free-standing M.A. program choose an area of focus for their
seminars and language courses in consultation with the Director of Graduate
Studies. Full time study cannot extend beyond 4 semesters.
Courses: Thirty (30) points of courses at or above the 4000 level, taken for a letter
grade (of B or higher), including either MDES GR5000 (Theory and Methods 1:
Politics, Economy and Society) or MDES GR5001 (Theory and Methods 2: Literature
and Textuality), and MDES GR6008 (Research Colloquium). At least two thirds of the
total courses must be in MESAAS. Exceptions to this rule must be approved by both
the advisor and DGS. Students who chose not to take Theory and Methods in their
first year should enroll in MDES GR5000 (Theory and Methods 1: Politics, Economy,
and Society) in fall of their second year.
All second-year students also enroll in MDES GR6008 (the MESAAS Research
Colloquium) in their third or fourth semester. The colloquium provides a forum for
peer discussion of the M.A. papers or thesis, although the principal academic
guidance comes from the thesis advisor.
Language: Proficiency in one MESAAS language, demonstrated by successfully
completing a two-semester course at the intermediate (second-year) level or higher
with a grade of at least a B, or by passing an equivalency exam.
Note: Elementary and intermediate-level language classes, even when taken as part
of satisfying the language requirement, are not graduate-level (4000 or above)
classes and therefore do not meet the requirement to take thirty (30) points of
Residence Units: Completion of two full residence units is required for granting the
The M.A. Papers or MA Thesis: By the end of the first year MA students are
expected to have selected an MA advisor, who guides them in revising two papers
or a thesis for an MA exam. If they hope to finish the MA in three semesters they
should make significant progress on these revisions during the summer after their
Students have two options for completing the M.A. degree requirements. They may
submit two revised seminar papers for review and discussion before a committee
at the end of the third or fourth semester (determined in consultation with the
DGS). These are papers typically written in seminars in their first year (at least one
must be MESAAS), revised, typically during the following summer, in the light of
written comments from the instructor. Each paper should be about 8,000 words in
length and at least one paper should demonstrate a capacity for original research.
The M.A. papers review committee consists of professors in whose courses the
papers were written (if one was written for a course outside the department, the
other committee member is the advisor). Students must submit an application to
the department for the oral review of their Master’s papers no later than three
weeks before the review.
The other option is to write an M.A. thesis, which is submitted in the 3rd or 4th
semester (determined in consultation with the DGS). The thesis is defended before
two faculty readers (the MESAAS thesis advisor and a second reader). The thesis is
about 30-40 pages and usually builds on a seminar paper written during the first
There are no grades for the M.A. thesis. Students are awarded either a “pass” or a
“fail” on the strength of the written work and oral defense. A digital copy of the
thesis or papers is to be deposited in the department.
Students must fill out an application for the MA degree with the Registrar at the
beginning of the term in which the MA will be completed. Please click through to
SSOL to apply for the degree.
The Part-Time Free-Standing M.A.: Students registering part-time may take up to
four academic years (eight semesters) to complete the degree requirements for the
free-standing M.A. degree. Part-time students can meet the two residence unit
requirement by accumulating half and quarter residence units. For more
information, see here.
One-Year M.A.: On rare occasions, as when students enter the program with
advanced language or research skills, it may be possible to complete the course
work for the M.A. degree within just two semesters, and complete the Master’s
thesis/papers over the following summer. In such a case the student should signal
their intention to the DGS from the outset, to make sure that all requirements can
be met on schedule. For instance, it may be necessary to take both MDES GR5000
and MDES GR6008 in the first semester. A minimum of two residence units
(semesters of full-time study) are required for the degree.
Advising: The Director of Graduate Studies is the advisor for all graduate students
upon entering the program. Students in the free-standing M.A. program go on to
choose another faculty member as their advisor(s), in consultation with the DGS by
the end of their second semester. The advisor(s) supervises the writing of the M.A.
thesis or revision of the papers (one of which will have been written in the advisor’s
course), which should be underway during the summer after the first year.