Students in the free-standing M.A. program take a mixture of seminars and language courses (where needed), usually over two or three semesters, and complete a master's thesis. Formal requirements for the degree can be found here.
A standard program of study looks like this:
First year: All students take MDES G4000 (Theory and Methods) and additional seminars and language courses. 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 MDES G4000 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.
Some students, especially those who enter the program with advanced language skills, are able to complete the course work for the M.A. degree within two semesters, and complete the Master's thesis over the following summer. In this case they will need to enroll in MDES G6008 in the fall of their first semester, so they should signal their intention to the DGS from the outset. 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).
Second year: All second-year students enroll in MDES G6008, the MESAAS research colloquium for second and third-year 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 as early as possible in the second year, and no later than the twelfth week of the fall semester. It is defended before two faculty readers (the advisor and one additional) before the end of that semester. 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.
Grades for the M.A. thesis are pass or fail (for students in the M.A./Ph.D. program, a pass may be awarded either with or without permission to continue to the M.Phil.). A digital copy of the thesis is to be deposited in the department.
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.
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.