The M.A. Thesis is the premier component of the M.A. program in Art History and provides a student with the opportunity to develop the skills necessary to perform in-depth research, careful argumentation, and editorial revision of his or her prose style. While the length and scope of each M.A. Thesis will depend on the individual nature of each proposed topic, the general expectation for the M.A. Thesis is that it will be an article-length research paper. This paper will be written under the guidance of three art history faculty members, one of whom will be designated as the student's first, or primary, reader/advisor. Typically the student will seek out an advisor in the appropriate field of study to serve as his or her first reader and consult with that person on the selection of second and third readers. The student should define the paper's content, scope, and length with each of his or her readers and devise a schedule for internal and external deadlines to make sure that he or she successfully completes the M.A. Thesis within the acceptable timeframe allotted to him or her for the M.A. Program.
The M.A. Thesis is normally 40-50 pages, but in some cases (if the topic warrants it) an alternative format/length will be decided upon in consultation with the student's committee chair. The student's faculty advisors are the final arbiters as to appropriate length. While the form will be dictated in part by the student's topic and guided by your faculty advisor, a good thesis should include the following:
- A clear definition of the nature and parameters of your research project.
- An assessment of relevant scholarly publications in the field and how your research project draws on and/or contributes to that work.
- A claim or critical interpretation supported by visual and textual evidence and presented in a well-structured argument.
- An original conclusion stating your findings, the main evidence for them, and their significance.
- All citations must be documented with notes and bibliography. All citations should conform to the conventions outlined in either the Chicago Manual of Style or the M.L.A. Handbook.
- Your M.A. Thesis should include illustrations of the works of art most relevant to your project. Some projects will demand more illustration than others. Scans or photocopies are acceptable. Each image must have a figure number (e.g. Fig.1) and a brief caption identifying the title of the work, artist/maker, and date (where known), and the source of the image (e.g. the publication from which you copied it). Include references to figure numbers in your text, as appropriate.
Make sure that you comply with the College of Arts and Sciences deadlines in proposing and completing your thesis. For example, your thesis topic must be approved by your committee and submitted to the Graduate College prior to completing your MA comprehensive examinations, which must be passed successfully prior to writing your thesis.
For more information on the Graduate College's requirements and guidelines, please see the Thesis and Dissertation Handbook.
For more information on the MA Thesis, see the Expectations for the Master of Arts Thesis: Division of Art History (.doc).
M.A. Comprehensive Qualifying Exam: Art History
Prospective M.A. candidates will take a comprehensive qualifying exam after they have successfully completed their required art history coursework (currently 30 hours). Generally, students should pass this exam before they receive approval of their M.A. thesis topic, but all students must share their current thesis topic idea with their advisor prior to scheduling this exam.
Scheduling of the comprehensive qualifying exam by the candidate and advisor should be done one semester in advance in order to provide sufficient preparation time for the student and faculty. Typically the exam will occur near the beginning of the student's third semester, but it may be offered at other times including during the summer. All candidates taking the exam in any one semester should take it at the same time. The exam will be administered over a two-day period with the first two parts, slide identification and essay, given on the afternoon of the first day, and the last two parts, consisting of two essays, given on the afternoon of the second day. The focus of the essays will move from broad to more specific through the two days. Half-hour breaks will be allotted between all sections of the exam.
For more information, see the Guidelines for the M.A. Comprehensive Qualifying Exam in Art History (.doc).