About the MA thesis

Writing the MA Thesis

Planning the M.A.

For the M.A. degree, our department requires an original essay on a subject of genuine scholarly interest.  Students are encouraged to develop their M.A. essay from a course paper written during their first year.   The Director of Graduate Studies will help students fix on their topic and settle with an adviser. Students then work on their M.A. essay under the guidance of an adviser in a Directed Research course in the spring of the first year. They decide, in consultation with their adviser, on the nature of the project and the length, which should be between 30 and 60 pages.

The Director of Graduate Studies and the M.A. essay adviser, in consultation with the student, will choose a second reader for the essay, who will either be involved in the early stages or read once a complete draft has been written. Students should feel free to consult other professors during office hours when questions arise in a given professor's field.

Students should meet with their advisers every two weeks, usually submitting early portions of the essay for comments that may facilitate the writing of the whole. Students must abide by the deadlines set by their advisers and the department.

Registration, Fees, and Deadlines
In the semester the essay is submitted, the student must be registered for extended residence or a residence unit.

Students should complete their essays in the third semester (usually, the fall semester of the second year of study). A complete draft should be submitted to the adviser no later than September 1 of the second year of study; the revised text should be submitted to the adviser and second reader no later than November 1; the final version must be submitted for the adviser's approval by December 1. The bound final deposit copy should be submitted to the Department no later than December 10.

The essay should be printed in one copy on 20 lb. white paper with a 1 1/2-inch left margin and 1-inch margins on the other three sides.

The title page should include, centered on the page, the title of the essay, the name of the author, and the following words: "Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts, Faculty of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Columbia University."

Students writing an article-length essay should submit a hard copy to the department. Those writing a longer essay of more than 40 pages should deposit a copy that is bound in a black hard buckram cover, with the title, year, and author's name in gold letters on the spine. The department recommends Brewer-Cantelmo Co./Inc., 55 West 39th St. Suite 205, New York, NY (212) 244-4600.

Style, Footnotes, and Bibliography
The body of the essay should be double-spaced. All quotations of verse and all quotations of prose five lines or more in length should be indented. Quotation marks should not be used to enclose indented quotations.

All quotations should correspond exactly with the original in wording, spelling, and punctuation. Words or phrases in quotations must not be underlined or italicized unless they are so in the original or unless it is indicated that the italics have been added.

The entire text of the essay, including quotations, must be in English. The originals of translated passages must be included for the adviser to check, and may be kept in the final copy where appropriate.

Pages numbers should appear at the top right corner of each page. Each chapter should begin on a new page, and the chapter title should appear at the top of this page in boldface, centered, and clearly set off (by spacing) from the body of the text. Table of contents should be included after the title page. It is advisable, when planning the structure of the essay, to give some thought to the thematic division of the topic into chapters, and to their eventual number and order.

For style, footnotes, and bibliography, follow the MLA or Chicago Manual of Style. Be sure to use two initials or a first name in footnotes, bibliography, and the first mention of a name in your text (except for Tolstoy, Shakespeare, etc.). Remember that periods and commas are placed within quotation marks; colons and semicolons are placed outside the quotation marks. Question marks and exclamation points fall within quotation marks if they are part of the quotation, outside if they indicate a question or exclamation beyond the quoted passage.

The Library of Congress system of transliteration, with the commonly accepted exceptions, should be used.