MA thesis guidelines

Overview of process

When What Resource person

10 to 8 months before the anticipated completion of all MA degree requirements

Students consult informally with a variety of professors in the Department about ideas for a thesis/research paper topic. 

All faculty members
at least 7 months before the anticipated completion of MA degree requirements

Students submit a research proposal to the Graduate Officer containing a working title and a 50-100-word abstract. A potential supervisor must agree and sign this proposal prior to submission. The Graduate Officer will determine supervisory arrangements on the basis of this proposal.

Potential supervisors

Graduate Officer

at least 5 months before the anticipated completion of MA degree requirements

Students prepare a prospectus in consultation with the supervisor and submit it to the Graduate Officer, who will give it to a faculty member to read and assess, and occasionally to a second if a further opinion is required. The Graduate Officer will then inform the student of the results of the assessment, and will allow the student to begin work on the thesis or will suggest an alternate path. The Graduate Officer will also assign two readers for a thesis and one reader for a research paper. The student in consultation with the supervisor and the reader(s) will determine possible submission and/or defence dates. 


Graduate Officer

normally at least 4 months before the anticipated completion of MA degree requirements Prospectus approval required in order to be allowed to continue towards completion of MA.


Graduate Officer

at least 3 weeks before the anticipated completion of MA degree requirements

Submit three unbound hard copies of the thesis or two hard unbound copies of the research paper to the Graduate Officer after the supervisor has agreed to this submission. For thesis students the Graduate Officer will set a date for the oral defence.


Graduate Officer

MA prospectus guidelines

  • Title: A title reflecting the topic and the perspective taken by the student. 
  • Research question: A description of the research question(s) to be addressed. This need not necessarily be formulated as a question, but it should capture the main issues being taken up in the study. 
  • Objectives: A description of the objectives of the thesis with regard to the research question(s) and its contribution to knowledge (including a succinct and well-defined thesis statement or argument). 
  • Context: A summary of the context surrounding the primary work(s) and/or research question (consisting mainly of a critical review of research and an explanation of how the student’s research fits into previous scholarship). 
  • Methodology: The method(s) to be employed in analyzing the research question according to the direction given by the thesis statement/argument. 
  • Outline: An outline of chapter divisions, with chapter titles and a brief indication of the content of each.
  • Timeline: A timeline for the completion of the thesis. 
  • Works cited: A list of works cited in MLA or APA style. 

MA thesis defence guidelines

Setting the defence date

  • Once the supervisor judges that the thesis is defensible, she/he contacts the Graduate Officer.
  • The Graduate Officer is responsible for the following:
    • ​setting a date for the defence; this should be done in consultation with the supervisor who acts also on behalf of the student; 
    • appointing two suitable examiners for the thesis; this should be done in consultation with the supervisor. 
    • Please note: While the supervisor may discuss potential readers with the candidate and may approach potential readers, it is the Graduate Officer’s responsibility to find, approach and select the actual readers for the defence. This principle ensures the equitable distribution of work involved with the examination process. 
  • ​Normally, the examiners should be given a minimum of 1 full week to read the thesis. 
  • Upon completing their examination of the thesis, each reader has the option to contact the Graduate Officer and require major re-working of the thesis or parts of it, if they deem the thesis inadequate. The Graduate Officer then contacts the supervisor with the recommendations who passes them on to the candidate and supervises the inclusion of these points.
  • If the readers do not contact the Graduate Officer, the defence proceeds as scheduled.
  • Please note: The readers should not discuss their assessment of the thesis with the other examiners prior to the defence. 

The thesis defence

  • The defence is open to all interested members of the university. It is presided over by the student's supervisor.
  • The candidate begins with a 20 min. summary presentation of his/her thesis.
  • The first examiner is invited by the supervisor to question the student for ca. 20-30 minutes. (This is usually the external or senior examiner.) 
  • The second examiner is invited by the supervisor to question the student for ca. 20-30 minutes.
  • The supervisor then gives the floor to the second examiner who examines for ca. 20-30 minutes. 
  • The supervisor then may ask questions of the candidate him/herself. 
  • The supervisor then asks for additional comments/questions from the examiners in a second round. 
  • The supervisor then asks for questions from the floor. 
  • The candidate and the audience are asked to leave the examination room while the committee consults on the result of the examination. There are four categories: Pass; Pass with minor changes; Pass with major changes; Fail. 
  • The readers may request that the candidate change certain parts of the thesis.  They may either charge the supervisor with ensuring that the requests are carried out, or they may request to see the thesis again. The decisions of the examiners are final.
  • If a candidate fails the defence, the supervisor, the committee and the Graduate Officer consult and decide on an appropriate course of action. 
  • The candidate is then readmitted to the examination room and informed of the result of the deliberations of the committee.