MA REPORT GUIDELINES
1. Why write an MA report?
Writing a Master's Report is a requirement for the M.A. degree. It also serves as an important opportunity for intellectual engagement and professional development. Through writing a Master's Report, graduate students learn key scholarly processes such as conceiving and designing a longer project, setting goals and deadlines, interacting with faculty, receiving and incorporating feedback, and cultivating independent work habits.
2. What constitutes a successful MA report?
A successful Master's Report is a polished 7,000-10,000 word (including notes and works cited) scholarly essay. It features coherent organization, professional documentation of secondary sources (either Chicago or MLA style), and clean writing. The Master's Report should be initiated during the third semester and completed by the end of the fourth semester of graduate study.
3. Choosing a topic
The Master's Report allows graduate students to reflect back on their coursework as they prepare for the more individually directed phases of their doctoral studies. Graduate students are encouraged to undertake a revision of an essay they developed for a course in our graduate program. By revisiting, reworking, and extending projects begun in graduate seminars, students can explore what they believe to be compelling or promising avenues for future scholarly engagement. Your thesis advisors can help you evaluate which prospective projects are most likely to be successful.
4. Choosing and working with a supervisor and second reader
Learning to develop productive working relationships with faculty and to receive and incorporate feedback are important dimensions of the Master's Report. By the end of their third semester in the program, graduate students should identify and initiate relationships with a faculty supervisor and a second reader who can support the project to its successful completion. Select a combination of faculty advisors who can provide both knowledge about the fields in which you are working and some understanding of your own intellectual trajectory. It is also good practice to share a sample of your written work--ideally, the seminar paper you plan to revise--with prospective advisors. Throughout the process, both graduate students and faculty should be mindful of their mutual responsibilities to communicate expectations, limitations, and recommendations and to set and adhere to deadlines.
5. Suggested timetable for completion
By the end of the third semester, identify potential project topics or seminar papers for revision. Identify a prospective thesis supervisor and second reader who can support your potential project. Schedule an appointment with your prospective thesis supervisor and second reader. Be ready to share with prospective faculty advisors relevant writing, such as seminar papers.
At the beginning of the fourth semester, in consultation with your advising faculty, develop an informal proposal specifying your thesis writing or revising goals. Also develop with faculty advisors a schedule for completion: conception, research, drafting, revision, and filing. Remember to factor in sufficient time for faculty to read and comment on your drafts. It's a good idea to schedule regular meetings (every two weeks) with your supervisor and to prepare written comments about the work and readings you have done and plan to do.
A good rule of thumb is to allow one month for reading, researching, and planning, one month for writing a rough draft, with a complete rough draft ready by the end of spring break; one month for revisions; a couple of weeks for final feedback from faculty advisors and final revisions.
6. Additional tips for writing the Master's Report
-Remember that a revision need not be extensive to be substantial. Rather than striving for additional length or coverage, you might define your goals in terms of clarifying your argument, improving its situation within secondary literature, and more thoroughly developing its implications.
-Share copies of your schedule for completion with your supervisor and second reader.
-Keep a log of your thesis efforts each week so that you can compare your actual progress to your scheduled goals.
-For each primary or secondary source you read, write notes both summarizing the sources and specifying its usefulness to your project. These can serve as a basis for discussion with your advisor. Remember as well to keep complete citation information on each source.
-Consider forming or joining a thesis writing group to share both your process and your drafts.
-Meet regularly with your advisors to share new materials and ideas and to address any problems or questions that come up as you research and write.