The Free-Standing M.A. Program

Students in the free-standing M.A. program have a choice of tracks both in terms of their timeline and in their course requirements. When it is offered, it is recommended that they take MDES G4004 in their first semester, an introductory level theory course specifically targeted at MA students. The next step is to take either MDES G4000 or MDES G4001 (second semester or third, depending), and MDES G6008 (during the 3rd semester). They also enroll in a mixture of additional seminars and language courses (where needed), in consultation with the DGS. The final stage is to defend a master's thesis, generally in the 3rd or 4th semester. Formal requirements for the degree can be found here.

A standard program of study looks like this:

First year: When the course is offered, all incoming students take MDES G4004 (Approaches to Middle East, South Asian and African Studies) during the fall semester, and after consulting with the DGS they enroll in additional seminars and language courses. Students who are primarily interested in literature and intellectual history should take MDES G4001 (Theory and Methods 2: Literature and Textuality), offered only in spring semester. By the end of the first year MA students are expected to have selected an advisor for their thesis. If they hope to finish the MA in 3 semesters they should make significant progress on the MA thesis during the summer after their first year.

Second year:Students who have not taken MDES G4001 (often those with interests directed toward the social sciences) should enroll in MDES G4000 (Theory and Methods 1: Politics, Economy, and Society), offered only in fall semester. All second-year students enroll in MDES G6008 during the fall semester, the MESAAS research colloquium for second and third-year graduate students. The colloquium provides a forum for peer discussion of the M.A. thesis, although the principal academic guidance comes from the thesis advisor. Some students take a supervised readings course to allow more intensive work on the thesis.

The M.A. thesis is submitted in the 3rd or 4th semester, depending on the timeline that the student and DGS have agreed upon. The thesis is defended before two faculty readers (the advisor and one additional). The first reader must be a member of the department. The thesis is usually about 30 to 40 pages in length (the size of a typical journal article), and often builds on a seminar paper written during the first year.

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 an oral defense. For students in the Ph.D. program, a pass may be awarded either with or without permission to continue to the M.Phil. A truly exceptional MA thesis, one considered to be of publishable quality, may be recommended for “distinction”. A digital copy of the thesis is to be deposited in the department.

The M.A. degree requires thirty (30) points of courses taken for a letter grade (obtaining a grade of B or better), in addition to taking MDES G4000 or MDES G4001 and MDES G6008. Students must also satisfy the M.A. language requirement, by passing an examination in a MESAAS language at the intermediate level or higher or by successfully completing a two-term MESAAS language course at the intermediate level or higher with a grade of at least B. Note that elementary-level and intermediate-level language classes, even when taken as part of the preparation for satisfying the language requirement, are not graduate-level (4000 or above) classes and therefore cannot be used to meet the requirement to take thirty (30) points of graduate courses.

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.

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 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 G4000 and MDES G6008 in the first semester. A minimum of two residence units (semesters of full-time study) are required for the degree. Part-time students can meet this requirement by accumulating half and quarter residence units. (For more information on residence units, see here).

Advising: The Director of Graduate Studies is the advisor for all graduate students upon entering the program. Most students in the free-standing M.A. program go on to choose another faculty member as their advisor, in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies, often in the course of their first semester and by no later than the end of their second. The advisor supervises the writing of the M.A. thesis, which should be underway during the summer after the first year.