Final Project or Thesis

All candidates for the master’s degree in American Culture Studies are required to complete a final written project. Normally completed during the final semester of the program (and in some cases the final year), the project entails substantial research and analysis on a topic determined by the student in consultation with the program coordinator. Candidates should consult their advisor early in their studies to begin developing questions that might lead to a successful final project or thesis.

The project is completed under the primary supervision of a faculty advisor, along with a faculty committee, and it is evaluated by this committee in the form of an oral examination at the conclusion of the student’s program.

There are two options for the final written project: 1) Directed Research Project (DRP), the minimum requirement for all students; and 2) Master’s Thesis, available to exceptionally strong students authorized by the program coordinator. American Culture Studies students are required to submit a brief narrative essay (4-6 pages) with the final written project, whether it is a Directed Research Project or a Master’s Thesis. Students should consult with the AMCS coordinator before and after the DRP or thesis are undertaken; the set of questions for the narrative essay will be decided then.

Directed Research Project
A three-credit Directed Research Project (DRP), developed under the supervision of a Washington University faculty member, is one of the two options for completion of the M.A. degree. The project is to be completed at the conclusion of a student's course work, normally during the final semester. This project presents an opportunity to explore an area of personal interest. The project also provides an opportunity for students to work closely with a member of the ACS faculty. The project may be a subject first identified during a course or one that has emerged over time in the program. The DRP, approximately 40 pages, should be comparable to a research paper produced in a graduate research seminar, and should reflect a substantive engagement with relevant issues, questions, and scholarship.

However, students may also apply to receive credit for other projects, such as museum exhibits, courses, and creative writing projects. If the nontraditional project is approved, the student should submit all relevant materials and a brief paper (4-6 pages) discussing the experience of working on the project, and its importance and objectives.

Master's Thesis Option
Students with exceptionally strong academic records and writing skills may be authorized by the American Culture Studies program coordinator to pursue a two-semester, six-credit Master’s Thesis rather than the three-credit Directed Research Project. The difference between the Master's Thesis and the Directed Research Project is primarily one of scope. Students who undertake the Master's Thesis will spend the first semester researching their topic and beginning to write, and the second semester writing and revising. The Master's Thesis in American Culture Studies should be approximately 75 pages, and like the three-credit DRP must reflect a substantive engagement with relevant issues, questions, and scholarship. The student will develop this work in consultation with a faculty advisor responsible for helping the student define the project's scope and objectives and identify useful sources. Students who are approved for this thesis must meet Graduate School of Arts & Sciences Master's Thesis guidelines.

Advisor and Committee
All candidates for the master’s degree in American Culture Studies complete the final project (DRP or Master’s Thesis) under the supervision of a faculty advisor and committee. The program coordinator will assist the student in selecting a faculty advisor and two other faculty readers for a thesis or a faculty advisor and one other faculty member for the DRP. The advisor or “director works closely with the student at all stages of the project. The committee, in addition to the advisor reads the final paper and participates in the student’s oral examination. DRP advisors and committee members should be teaching faculty with the relevant graduate program. Master’s Thesis advisors and committee members should be tenured or tenure-track faculty at Washington University. Students select the appropriate advisor and committee members in consultation with the program director and University College.

Oral Defense
American Culture Studies students must pass an Oral Defense at the end of their program of study. The exam is one hour long, and the examining committee consists of the final project director and committee. The oral defense gives the student an opportunity to discuss the directed research project or master's thesis, as well as the entire American Culture Studies program experience. Please consult the University College online calendar for specific deadlines for the oral defense. Usually the defense must be completed by the beginning of September for summer graduates, the beginning of January for fall graduates, and late April or early May for spring graduates. Please note that these dates conform to deadlines for all graduate programs and are not flexible.

Procedures and Timeline
All candidates for the master’s degree in American Culture Studies are required to complete the Final Project Proposal Form for M.A. Programs. All students authorized to pursue the Master’s Thesis also must complete the Title, Scope, and Procedure Form.

You should begin planning for your Directed Research Project the semester prior to your final semester of study. If you have authorization to pursue a Thesis, begin planning two semesters prior to your final semester of study. The Title, Scope and Procedure Form must be completed and returned to University College at least six months before the month in which the degree is expected to be conferred (August, December, or May). University College will forward approved Title, Scope & Procedure forms to the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.

The Final Project Proposal Form must be completed with all required signatures for registration. Registration follows the normal academic schedule. Refer to the current course schedule for registration deadlines. Submit your Final Project Proposal Form to the Administrative Assistant for Academic Programs, University College, January Hall, Room 100. This will serve as your registration form. The Oral Defense should be scheduled as soon as possible after you have registered. Candidates should consult with their advisor and committee on all matters before registering or scheduling an oral defense. The advisor will provide instructions for completing this phase.

Michael Allen

University College Coordinator, AMCS