Students who entered the MA program prior to Spring 2013 are required to take four Gallatin courses: one of the Proseminars; Review of the Literature; Master's Thesis Seminar; and Master's Thesis and Defense. Please note that Review of the Literature and Master's Thesis Seminar have been phased out and are no longer offered. Master's Thesis and Defense will be offered for the last time in Fall 2014. For more information about how students who started the program in Spring 2013 or earlier will be affected by the implementation of the revised degree requirements, please see the information for continuing students.
Students are required to take a proseminar during the first or, at the latest, the second semester of the program. Each semester Gallatin offers a few sections of the proseminar with themes that generally fall into one of three broad categories of academic inquiry—the humanities, the social sciences, or the arts—but they may also cross those boundaries.
This course performs a number of functions: (1) It introduces students to the nature of individualized and interdisciplinary studies by engaging them in work on a broad theme or problem. Students learn how different kinds of scholars approach a common problem: how they ask questions, gather relevant information, conduct analysis and reach conclusions. (2) The proseminar helps students think through their own programs of study by broadening their conception of the knowledge and skills they will need to pursue their plans and by encouraging them to clarify their own educational goals. (3) Finally, the proseminar engages students in some of the academic processes—research, analytic thinking, scholarly communication—that they will need throughout their graduate studies. The specific themes of the proseminars will not usually be directly pertinent to each student’s plans, but each class will raise issues of approach and method that every student needs to consider. The aim of the proseminar, then, is to enlarge the student’s scholarship and interdisciplinary inquiry and to suggest ways that the University’s resources can be used to attain the student’s goals.
Before starting the thesis and under the tutelage of his or her adviser, each student is required to conduct an independent study in which the student finds, reads and critiques a substantial body of scholarship related to the thesis. The purpose of this independent study is to ensure that the student is familiar with previous scholarly work that can form a context for the thesis. The required work for Review of the Literature is a critical essay and a bibliography. The aim of the essay is to (1) identify the categories of pertinent studies; (2) report on major concepts, theories, debates, trends and gaps in the field; and (3) place the thesis topic in relation to earlier studies. The adviser sets the length of the paper, but it is typically between 20 and 25 pages.
Students may take Review of the Literature before the Master’s Thesis Seminar to explore the broad literatures in their field or topic and to use this study to generate a researchable question for the thesis. It is also possible to take Review of the Literature concurrently with the Master’s Thesis Seminar when the student is fairly clear about the research question but may need some background development—in this case, the student can use Review of the Literature to deepen knowledge in the specific domain of the thesis. Finally, a student may also take Review of the Literature after the Master’s Thesis Seminar if he or she already has a well-developed research question and wants to dig deeply into the specific literatures related to that question.
After having completed 25-30 units in the graduate program, students take the Master’s Thesis Seminar, covering the research methods and writing skills needed for producing a final thesis. This course takes students through the stages of writing the thesis proposal: defining the field of research, formulating the problem, developing a bibliography, choosing an appropriate research methodology, gathering information, organizing the material, revising and preparing a scholarly manuscript. Through discussions of both published research articles and student work, the seminar examines the conventions of scholarly discourse, strategies of analysis and argumentation, and the ways in which writing can serve as a means to discover ideas. The seminar helps students to complete the background thinking and research from which the thesis will emerge and to produce at least a first draft of the thesis proposal. This course can only be taken on a pass/fail basis.
The master’s thesis is the culmination of the M.A. program and is an opportunity to display the ideas, practices and/or artistic expertise learned at Gallatin. The topic of the thesis will evolve as students take courses and refine areas of concentration. Graduate students typically begin planning thesis topics midway through the program. The thesis may take one of three forms: a research thesis, an artistic thesis or a project thesis. The thesis is required for completion of the master’s degree program, and it can only be taken on a pass/fail basis.