Cultural Studies

Cultural Studies

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program

Cultural Studies

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program

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Guideline for Progress Through the MA Program

The following guidelines describe the various tracks and stages of the MA program, their purposes, their relation to each other, and their recommended timing. They are meant to elaborate on the requirements listed in the Calendar, and to guide supervisors and students.

The timing outlined here is not prescribed; it may be adjusted as needed due to personal circumstances or academic specificities. The timetable should help supervisors, whatever the norms are in their home disciplines and departments, to support students in meeting the expectations and general practice of Cultural Studies. Students are expected to submit a progress report by the end of June in their first year, and this timetable provides a reference point for that report.

Supervisors and students are advised to speak with the Program Director if they have questions about latitude in interpreting these guidelines.

  Fall Winter Spring/Summer
Year One Two courses + CUST802
Apply for external funding

Complete two courses + CUST802
​Meet with supervisor about emerging work, summer goals
Begin researching committee members
Do CORE training for GREB if applicable
Consider applying for a study exchange for following year

Research and draft proposal
Submit Progress Report
Submit Supervisory Committee form

Year Two

Apply for external funding if continuing to PhD

If thesis, major project:
Have proposal approved
Get GREB approval if necessary
Begin research

If research paper, minor project:
Complete two courses

If thesis, major project:
Finish research, write/do thesis/project

If research paper, minor project:
Have proposal approved if not done in the fall
Begin research/writing

Complete thesis/ project/ research paper
If thesis, major project:
Defence/ oral exam

If research paper, minor project:
Supervisor approves paper or project

Throughout Stay in touch with your committee
Pursue funding opportunities as available
Attend pertinent events at Queen's
Consult and share work with fellow students
Reach out to potential colleagues, audiences, and supporters via conferences, community events, etc.
The MA Program

The MA Program

There are four tracks within the Queen’s Cultural Studies Master's degree: Thesis, Major Project, Research Paper, and Minor Project. All students take four courses (including at least two CUST core courses) plus CUST 802 (Cultural Studies Colloquium). This is normally completed within eight months. Those undertaking a thesis or major project then defend a proposal and pursue the work so defined. Those undertaking a research paper or minor project take two further courses, have a proposal approved, and then pursue the work so defined. Either way, the MA is designed to be completed within 24 months.

Cultural Studies is an emphatically interdisciplinary area of inquiry that intersects the humanities, science studies, the social sciences and the arts. Drawing on a range of practices, we investigate values, beliefs and belongings, cultural processes and cultural objects, economic and social relations, institutions and identities. Cultural Studies therefore draws on a range of methods and critical theories and strives to do so self-reflexively. In this way we break down conventional divisions not only among academic disciplines but also between academia and activism, and between theoretical analysis and cultural production. Accordingly, it is expected that students take an interdisciplinary approach throughout the program: that is, in coursework, in the proposal, and in the Thesis/Project/Research Paper. 

The thesis is typically a major academic essay of several chapters (20,000 - 25,000 words) presenting evidence to illuminate a research question. It makes clear its methodology and engages with relevant scholarship.

The major project has two elements: artistic production or community-based activity or research, and an analytical/theoretical framing document. That is, students are required to articulate their project’s rationale, conditions of production, and implications in relation to academic scholarship. The two components together are expected to be equivalent to a MA thesis in ambition or scope. See http://www.queensu.ca/culturalstudies/academics/project-option for guidelines for research-creation projects. 

The research paper is an academic essay (10,000 - 12,000 words) presenting evidence to illuminate a research question. It makes clear its methodology and engages with relevant scholarship. It may be an expansion and elaboration of a paper written for a course.

Like the major project, the minor project has two elements; however, its scale is smaller. A minor project may be appropriate for a student with less experience in art or community-based practice who wishes to attempt a modest experiment or pilot. Students should consult with their supervisor for advice on the distinction between major and minor project options.

MA with Thesis or Major Project

MA with Thesis or Major Project

  • 4 courses (including at least 2 core courses) + CUST 802
  • thesis or major project

Students pursuing a thesis or major project meet with their supervisor in winter or spring of their first year to discuss summer research plans, which should include preparation of the proposal to be defended in September. Thought should also be given at this time to Ethics Review, if needed; while it may not need to be complete before proposal approval, it should be planned for and students should do the CORE training online. In the situation where a student wishes to do interviews over the summer, they will have to accelerate this suggested timeline. A second reader should also be confirmed at this point. (If the chosen party is not permanent Queen’s faculty, the supervisor checks with the Director before finalizing this choice.)

Thesis Proposals
The format of the proposal may vary, and is determined in consultation with the supervisor, but the general expectation is for a document of 8-10 pages, accompanied by a bibliography, that makes clear the theoretical, methodological, and substantive elements and structure of the thesis. Students are required to show the relation of the research to the relevant academic literature. All proposals are to include a timeline. Proposals for research that requires expenditures should include a budget.

Major Project Proposals
As above, the general expectation is for a document of 8-10 pages, accompanied by a bibliography, that makes clear the theoretical, methodological, and substantive elements and structure of the project. In consultation with the supervisor, a Research-Creation proposal may integrate artistic production (see the Guidelines for Research-Creation for more information). If it does, the length of the written part of the proposal will be reduced accordingly, again in consultation with the supervisor. In the proposal, students will demonstrate how they conceive the relationship between the artistic or community-based component of their work and the analytical/theoretical component, and will explain how they will document the artistic or community-based component. Students are also required to show the relation of the research to the relevant academic literature. All proposals are to include a timeline. Projects that require expenditures should include a budget. Students whose work will involve community collaborators must show that they have identified and communicated with appropriate participants, and they must justify their choice of participants given the theoretical, political, methodological, and practical contexts of their project.

Students defend their proposal early in the fall of Year 2 before a committee of the supervisor and a second reader, both of whom must be affiliated with Cultural Studies. At this meeting, the committee assesses the student's understanding of the relevant intellectual frameworks and methodologies, and the viability, scope and coherence of the proposal, and offers suggestions for refinements or changes as appropriate. It is important that the committee recognize the time constraints of the MA degree and set expectations accordingly. Also at the defence, committee members assess the timeline and (if applicable) budget, and each committee member clarifies what they understand their consultative role to be going forward.

Formal Process for Proposal Approval
There must be an independent chair for the proposal approval meeting; the supervisor consults with the director to see if they are able to chair or wish to delegate this task. The supervisor then fills in and submits Form B: MA Request for Meeting for Proposal Approval at least ten days before the proposed date. Also at least ten working days in advance of the arranged date, the student provides examiners, meeting chair, and the Student Records Assistant in the CS office with the proposal in digital form, with an offer to send a hard copy if requested. Once the proposal has been approved, the chair of the meeting submits Form C: MA Approval of Proposal. If the proposal is deemed insufficient, the student will have one opportunity to re-write the proposal and defend the revision within the following two months.  

When a complete penultimate draft of the thesis or project is ready, it is typically read by both the supervisor and the second reader. As the work approaches completion, the student and supervisor confer on the choice of a third examiner, who can be but need not be affiliated with Cultural Studies. (If the chosen party is not permanent faculty, the supervisor checks with the Director before finalizing this choice.) In the case of a research-creation project, it may be appropriate to choose this third reader earlier so that they can attend or view any exhibit or show component; if this is not possible, the student will provide some documentation along with the analytical component prior to the defense. In the case of a community-based project, assessments from community collaborators may be considered in the evaluation process in addition to the three committee members; supervisors and students should think about this in advance in case it may need to be integrated into the methodology reviewed by GREB.

Formal Process for Thesis/Major Project Defense
Supervisors and students should consult the SGS regulations. There must be an independent Chair for the thesis/major project defense; the supervisor consults with the Director to see if they are able to chair or wish to delegate this task. To initiate the defense, the supervisor submits Form E: MA Request for Oral Examination a minimum of ten working days prior to the proposed date of the exam, and also the first page of the requisite SGS form. Also at least ten working days prior, the student must supply the supervisor, committee members, and chair of the defense a copy of the thesis or written component of the project. Unlike the PhD process, examiners do not submit reports. After the defense, the Cultural Studies Director reports the result to the School of Graduate Studies using the signed required SGS form. Before the student can graduate, they must submit a final copy of their work and documentation of any project activities to Qspace.

MA with Research Paper or Minor Project

MA with Research Paper or Minor Project

  • 6 courses (including at least 2 core courses) + CUST 802
  • research paper or minor project

Research Paper Proposals
The format of the research paper proposal is determined in consultation with the supervisor, but the general expectation is for a document of 4-6 pages, accompanied by a bibliography, that makes clear the theoretical, methodological, and substantive elements and structure of the thesis. Students are also required to show the relation of the research to the relevant academic literature. It is important that the supervisor recognize the time constraints of the MA degree and the reduced scope of the research paper compared to the thesis, and set expectations accordingly.

Minor Project Proposals
As above, the general expectation is for a document of 4-6 pages, accompanied by a bibliography, that makes clear the theoretical, methodological, and substantive elements and structure of the project. In consultation with the supervisor, a Research-Creation proposal may integrate artistic production (see the Guidelines for Research-Creation for more information). If it does, the length of the written part of the proposal is reduced accordingly, again in consultation with the supervisor. In the proposal, students demonstrate how they conceive the relationship between the artistic or community-based component of their work and the analytical/theoretical component, and explain how they will document the artistic or community-based component. Students are also required to show the relation of the research to the relevant academic literature. It is important that the supervisor recognize the time constraints of the MA degree and the reduced scope of the minor project compared to the major project, and set expectations accordingly. All proposals are to include a timeline. Projects that require expenditures include a budget. Students whose work will involve community collaborators must show that they have identified and communicated with appropriate participants, and they must justify their choice of participants given the theoretical, political, methodological, and practical contexts of their project.

Formal Process for Research Paper/Minor Project Proposal Approval & Assessment
Students pursuing a research paper or minor project must submit a proposal to their supervisor by the end of the fall term of their second year. There is no proposal defense. When the supervisor is satisfied with the proposal, they submit Form C: MA Approval of Proposal.

When the supervisor deems the research paper or minor project to be ready for submission, the supervisor and student consult on the choice of a second reader. (If the chosen party is not permanent faculty, the supervisor checks with the Director before finalizing this choice.) The supervisor and the second reader each read (or read and view) the work and send their decision of pass or fail to the Director independently and without consultation. In the case of a decision of fail, written comments must be supplied; comments are encouraged but not mandatory with a pass. Any comments are passed on to the student. In the case of a disagreement between the supervisor and reader, the director acts as a referee and may (a) overrule the decision of fail or (b) ask the student to resubmit the work to take into account the comments and resubmit. Should revision be required, the student has two months to do this work. At that point, the director and the reader who failed the original version consult to reach a decision. The Director conveys the result to the program administrator, the supervisor, the second reader, and the student. The final results are reported to the School of Graduate Studies by the director using Form D: MA Approval of Minor Project or Research Paper. The supervisor, second reader and director also need to submit a completed SGS form to the Cultural Studies office. Before the student can graduate, they must submit a final copy of their paper on QSpace.