Guidelines for the M.A.


General Aims

The goal of graduate study is to train students to make original contributions to scholarship in a given field and to present them in a coherent form with the appropriate scholarly apparatus. For this purpose, the graduate student needs to build a solid awareness of the publications in the field of specialization, the major questions that are being (and could be) researched, as well as the methodology for answering such questions. In addition, the student should have a solid grasp of the broader academic context in which the field of specialization is situated (i.e., "the big picture").

How to Proceed

The following explains the rationale behind the each of the general requirements for M.A. students in the department and outlines the procedure students should follow to satisfy them.

1. Meeting with the Adviser

Each new student is assigned an interim adviser, that is, a graduate faculty member with whom the student can discuss their course of study in the initial stages. Upon arrival, the student should meet as soon as possible with the assigned interim adviser to chart a plan of course work and the student should meet quarterly with the adviser. It is the student's task to take the initiative for these meetings and the adviser's to file a formal progress report once a year. Once the student has determined the area of specialization and the faculty member they would like to work with, they should discuss this with the interim adviser and appoint a permanent adviser.

2. Filing a Program of Study

Practically, the graduate student should start by carefully planning a program of study that will contribute to achieving the skills mentioned above. Each of the department's programs has its own required graduate courses. The student should carefully plan when to take which courses, keeping in mind that many courses are not offered every year, and that some courses will not be offered when faculty are on leave. Ideally, students should take at least one course with every faculty member in their program, so as to familiarize themselves with the full range of scholarship and expertise available to them.

The student should submit a feasible program of study form to the adviser, which, after approval, will be filed by the Academic Counselor no later than the third quarter of graduate study. The program of study should be viewed as a guideline rather than a straightjacket; specifics of the plan are likely to change as the student proceeds, but the general course of study should be clear.

There is a minimum course requirement of 45 credits, and the student must take classes and examinations relating to both the linguistic and literature aspects of the language of specialization. Classes in other disciplines might also be advisable (e.g., religion or anthropology), depending on the student's chosen field of specialization. Please note that a graduate student is required to maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA.

3. Taking the M.A. General Examination

When the required course work is completed, the student should prepare for the General Examination, which is a written test, consisting of two two-hour exams. The purpose of this test is to demonstrate the student's general competence, that is, the aforementioned "broad picture" view. At the latest during the quarter prior to each exam date, the student should meet with their faculty adviser to discuss exam preparation. In preparation for this meeting, the student should compile a list of classes taken and readings completed, so as to give the adviser a good idea of what the student already knows and what needs more work. On the basis of this information, an effective strategy for exam preparation can be devised.

4. Writing a Thesis or Two Research Papers

Officially, it is only after passing the General Examination that the student will proceed to work on a thesis, but it is advisable for the student to start thinking about a topic of specialization and start working on it as soon as is practical. Alternatively, if the adviser approves, students can submit two in-depth research papers in lieu of one thesis.

The M.A. thesis should make an original contribution to existing research in a given field and present it in a coherent form with the conventional scholarly apparatus. In this department, demonstrating the ability to work with primary sources in the language of specialization is a requirement of the thesis.

In practical terms, this means that the graduate student will go through a study process to become familiar with the publications in the field of specialization, the major questions that are being (and could be) researched, and the methodological approaches to answering such questions. The end product of this process, the thesis itself, demonstrates the mastery of these materials and approaches. The M.A. thesis differs from the Ph.D. thesis in that it is narrower in scope, and it typically is comparable to a lengthy article rather than a book.

As soon as the General Examination is passed, the student should make a time schedule to organize the writing of the thesis. The student should meet regularly with the adviser to discuss progress and submit chapters of the thesis for comment. A final draft should be submitted to the other member of the student's supervisory committee as soon as possible, no later than three weeks before the last day of the quarter in which the student seeks to graduate.

5. Graduating

At the beginning of the student's final quarter, the student should apply for the Master's degree using the online Master's degree request on the MyGrad system. The final revised version of the thesis has to be submitted to the Graduate School by the last day of that quarter.

6. Proceeding to the PhD

MA students who wish to proceed to the PhD program must file a Petition to Proceed no later than their final quarter as an MA student, and the petition must be approved prior to the degree being awarded. See
department policy 2.5 and consult the Academic Counselor for more information. Otherwise, a new Graduate School application to the department must be submitted.