Comprehensive Examinations and Thesis for the M.A. Degree

Students may elect to write a thesis or take a comprehensive examination in one of the seven M.A. areas of study.

Comprehensive Examinations

M.A. Exam Schedule Fall 2022-Fall 2025
Description Fall 2022 Spring 2023 Fall 2023 Spring 2024 Fall 2024 Spring 2025 Fall 2025
Reading lists available July 29 January 3 July 21 January 5 July 26 January 3 July 25
Applications for all exams due August 31 January 20 September 1 January 19 August 30 January 17 September 5
Exam Committee administers exam September 30 March 3 October 6 March 1 October 4 February 28 October 3
Director announces results to students October 31 March 27 October 27 March 29 October 25 March 28 October 24

Students write essay responses to questions in a take home format. These exam periods would be, usually, the first weekend in October and a weekend in late February/early March. Reading lists are emailed to the graduate student list-serve with the application two months before the exam. The list of texts changes with each offering of the exam. Below, students will also find statement of expectations for each exam area. See the Graduate Student Handbook, section 3.5, for more information on the M.A. exam process.

Statements of Expectations

M.A. Thesis

The M.A. thesis fulfills the comprehensive examination requirement for the degree.

The thesis project is an original work of scholarship that makes a contribution of knowledge to the field. It is written with the guidance of a committee of three members of the graduate faculty, one of whom will serve as the director of the thesis.

The thesis requires the following steps:

  • Formation of a committee;
  • Writing of a thesis proposal, which must be approved by the committee (and sometimes defended before the committee);
  • Submission of paperwork to the Institutional Review Board (IRB);
  • Research and writing of the thesis. under direction of the committee;
  • Deposit of thesis at the Graduate School, meeting university deadlines for graduation.

Work on the thesis should begin no later than one calendar year before the anticipated graduation date. You can find forms and deadlines at the Graduate School's Student Resources.