About the MA Research Thesis in Literature


The M.A. Thesis: What Is It?


The M.A. thesis is based on a research project in a particular area of interest within literary study. It is written under the guidance of an experienced member of the literature faculty.

The thesis should demonstrate both the student's knowledge of that particular area of interest within literary study, including a close acquaintance with the significant primary materials in the field, and a familiarity (both bibliographical and theoretical) with the scholarly discourse related to that field.

The student's ability to formulate a thesis and develop an argument relating to material within that area of interest may involve: [i] reading a familiar text or series of texts in an unfamiliar way (e.g., looking at the material through a different critical lens or placing it within a different historical, cultural, or literary context); or [ii] reading an unfamiliar (but significant) text or series of texts in a familiar way. The thesis may expand on one or more seminar papers, e.g., by considering additional texts and/or enriching the contexts.

The average thesis in literature in our department is about the length of three seminar papers (around 60-80 typed, double-spaced pages, including bibliography). Some projects end up being longer; under university regulations, an MA thesis should not exceed 150 pages double-spaced typed pages (including bibliography).

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When is the M.A. thesis proposal due?

The proposal is due in the student’s second year of studies, by the end of the first semester or during the break between semesters. Students are encouraged to meet with a faculty adviser as soon as they feel even a flicker of interest in a topic they have encountered in their studies. The earlier this is done, the better. At the latest, the student must be in discussion with a potential thesis advisor by the beginning of the second year of graduate study to discuss ideas and devise a research strategy. The graduate coordinators are available for consultation and advice regarding appropriate advisers.

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What does the proposal look like?

The proposal (10 pp. not including bibliography) outlines the student's research plan and demonstrates his or her familiarity with the relevant scholarly materials. Examples of proposals can be found in the library. For more informaiton, read our Guidelines for Writing M.A. Proposals (PDF).

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Proposal Submission

After the proposal has been approved by the student's advisor, two hard copies and an electronic copy are submitted to the department, and the student fills out the accompanying form. The proposal is sent to one additional reader (a faculty member) by the department. If corrections are required, the student revises the proposal accordingly. One copy of the completed proposal, the accompanying form and the evaluations of the advisor and the additional reader are sent to the MA committee for approval. The MA committee sends the student, advisor and the department a letter of approval specifying the date by which the thesis must be submitted and defended.

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Thesis Defense

After the thesis is completed to the satisfaction of the student and his or her advisor, an oral thesis defense is conducted. Two other faculty members in addition to the student and advisor are asked to read the thesis and invited to an informal discussion of it. After the Defense, final corrections are made and the thesis is given a grade.

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Thesis Submission

After the defense, the student must submit two copies (soft bound) of the thesis, as well as a CD containing the thesis in a PDF file, to the main library, entrance floor, together with a letter from the department that the thesis has been defended and is ready for submission. Please note that the university has very strict formatting requirements; instructions can be found here.

The degree is not granted automatically; the student has to request it through the Internet using his or her personal information (meida ishi) password. The form has complete instructions for the students to follow.

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