Research Thesis - Guidelines

All our MA students, especially those planning to pursue PhDs, are strongly encouraged to choose our MA Option A, in which you complete your MA by writing a 7,500-10,000 word research thesis (formerly called a Major Research Paper [MRP]). Modelled on a journal article, a research thesis at a high level of scholarship supplies students with a strong writing sample for PhD program applications, or to submit for graduate or professional level conferences or journals. Writing a research thesis vs. a multi-chapter monograph thesis also shortens your time to completion.

The five steps to completing an MA through the research thesis option are:

  1. Choosing a supervisor. This should happen as early in the course of your MA studies as possible, optimally within the first 3 months. (Note that supervision is limited to full time faculty. Limited term and adjunct faculty can serve on MA defence committees or as advisers for MA research, but not as MA supervisors.)
  2. Writing and submitting a supervisor-approved research thesis proposal. Proposals are 3000 words, maximum. They are submitted to the Graduate Program Director for further review and endorsement by the Graduate Studies Committee. An initial draft of the proposal is to be submitted to your supervisor by the end of month 9 of your program (May 31 for students beginning in September), with the proposal submitted to the GSC by the end of month 12. (‘Fast track’ students arrange a shorter timeline with supervisors.) Expand section 2 below for further details about timelines, important details about the purpose and objectives of the proposal, guidelines for writing proposals, and formatting.
  3. Writing the research thesis. This is a time of intenstive research and writing, often in the spring and summer of the second year. It typically involves several to many iterations of sending a draft to the supervisor for feedback, revising the draft, and sending it back for further feedback, to arrive at a research thesis that is ready for defence.
  4. Passing an oral defence of the research thesis. The examination is before a committee appointed by the Graduate Program Director, minimally composed of the supervisor and one other reader from full time faculty. The target is a defence by the end of the second year of study, typically between May and end of August (for students beginning in September). Note that students must also submit a graduation application prior to their defence, see section 4 below for details.
  5. Final submission. This requires submission of a final copy of the research thesis, for the record, after approvals of whatever revisions are deemed necessary in the defence. It is also expected that students will deposit an electronic copy in Concordia's open access database, SPECTRUM.


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