Thesis in American Studies

Students complete a thesis project as the final requirement of their course of study. Although most of the projects take the form of an academic paper, some students, with the permission and guidance of their advisors, have chosen to present their research in unconventional mediums such as documentary films and graphic comics. Some of the thesis topics by recent graduates include:

  • “I Am a Man!”: Protest, Photography, and Masculinities from 1960-1977
  • “Do It For the Vine”: Unwaged Digital Labor and Black Content Creators
  • The Aging Population in New York Prisons
  • Black and White and Red All Over: 1920’s Communist Editorial Cartoons and Race
  • Spectacle and Imagination of the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Representations of Serbia in American Media During the Kosovo War
  • White Southerners and the Freedmen’s Bureau, 1861-1868

In the term before registration for thesis credits, students should secure an advisor who works in an era that is relevant to their intended thesis topic. They must submit a proposal (approximately 1000 words) delineating the topic, argument, intervention, and methodology of the thesis to both their advisor and the program director. Upon approval of the thesis proposal, the student proceeds to meet with the program director to proceed with registration of the thesis credits.

Here is a more detailed set of suggestions for students about getting started on a M.A. thesis project.

GSAS provides this handout, especially useful throughout the thesis process, which clarifies the responsibilities and expectations of M.A. students and advisors.

Thesis advisors must be current, full-time Columbia faculty members. Adjunct lecturers are ineligible to serve as thesis advisors. Each student may designate only one official advisor, but they are encouraged to seek informal guidance from other faculty members.

Students are required to submit their theses to both their advisor and the program director. They must use the M.A. Title Page for their cover sheet. Submission of both hard copy and electronic versions of the thesis, typically around 12,000 words in length, is necessary for approval for graduation from the program director.

During the term in which students are writing their thesis, they must submit paperwork for graduation to the Office of the University Registrar. Instructions and deadlines for this process are available here.

M.A. theses are not publicly available by the university. However, students have the option to submit their theses to Columbia’s Academic Commons database, where members of the Columbia community can share their research to make it accessible.

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