Thesis in American Studies

Students complete a thesis project as the final requirement of their course of study. These can take a number of forms, and with the permission and consultation of their advisors, recent students have represented their research in documentary films and graphic comics. Most theses take the form of traditional academic papers. 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 registering for the thesis credits, students will secure an advisor who works in an area relevant to the topic they wish to explore. They must then submit to both the advisor and the program director a proposal (1000 words) describing the topic as well as the argument, intervention, and method of the thesis. Once the advisor approves the thesis proposal, the student meets with the program director to get registered for the thesis credits.

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

GSAS has guidelines for effective practices for MA students seeking advisees (and vice versa for faculty advisors of MA students) visible HERE, which are especially useful in thinking through the thesis process.

Thesis advisors must be current, full-time Columbia faculty members. Adjunct lecturers may not serve as thesis advisors. Students may only have one official advisor but are encouraged to consult other faculty informally about their projects if possible.

Students must deliver the thesis to their advisor and the program director. They must also use this MA Title Page to make their cover sheet. Finally, they must turn in paper and electronic copies of the thesis (usually around 12,000 words) to the program director before they can be approved for graduation.

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

​MA theses are not made publicly available by the university, but students are free to submit their theses to Columbia’s Academic Commons database, where members of the Columbia community can make their research accessible if they so wish.

CSER continues to be Columbia's main interdisciplinary space for the study of ethnicity and race and their implications for thinking about culture, power, hierarchy, social identities, and political communities. The Center also offers a wide range of public programming, including Artist at the Center, Indigenous Forum, and Latino Public Speaker Series and the Transnational Asian/American Speaker Series. CSER's most recent spaces include the Media and Idea Lab and Gallery at the Center, a space dedicated to curating artistic and thematic exhibits around the Center’s key areas of interest.
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