Cultural Studies

Cultural Studies

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program

Cultural Studies

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program

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MA Guidelines

Revised April 2021

All MA students enter together via the 1-year program, and follow the same track for coursework in Year 1. To complete the 1-year MA, students complete the Professional Development module and the Capstone Course (CUST 850) in May-June. Students wishing to continue for a 2-year Thesis/Project MA apply by the end of January. If accepted, they work on their proposal and (if needed) GREB over the summer, and have one year remaining to complete a thesis or project. See chart and guidelines below for more details.

Co-Director Laura Murray is serving as the MA Coordinator for 2020-22. She will conduct the MA Professional Development module and teach CUST 850, and MA students should feel free to contact her with any questions or concerns as they move through the program.

  Fall Winter Spring/Summer
Year One

CUST 803 + one other 3.0 credit course, CUST 802

Apply for external funding if planning to continue to 2-year MA or PhD

Two 3.0 credit courses + CUST 802

​Identify supervisor and apply to 2-year MA if desired

Apply for external funding if planning to continue to 2-year MA or PhD

1-year MA

CUST 850 (including completion of PD module)

2-year MA

Research and draft proposal

Do CORE training and other prep for GREB if applicable

Year Two

Have proposal approved (deadline 30 September)
Get GREB approval if necessary
Begin research

Apply for external funding if planning to continue to PhD

Finish research

Write/do thesis or project

Apply for external funding if planning to continue to PhD

Complete and defend thesis 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 following guidelines provide more details on both streams.

1-year Coursework MA

What courses do I take?

Cultural Studies MA students must take CUST 802 (Cultural Studies Colloquium), CUST 803 (Cultural Studies Past & Present) plus three 3.0 unit courses of their choice. Overall, a student may take up to two 3.0 unit courses selected from elective courses offered by other departments.

What is the Capstone Course?

The capstone course (CUST 850) is 8 weeks long and runs in May and June. During this time, students transform, extend, or refine a paper or major piece of work done in one of their prior courses in CUST. If a student is thinking of working with a given assignment in 850, they should tell their instructor at the time of submission and ask the instructor to give feedback with that in mind. Instructors are not otherwise obliged to support work done in 850, though their input is welcome if available. Otherwise, the instructor of 850 acts as workshop leader, helping students to support each other in imagining new forms, audiences, goals, or arguments for their work. Even though class time will not be a major demand, students should expect this course to be a full time obligation, and they are required to submit their project and present it publicly by the end of June.

What is the Professional Development Module?

This component of the program is under review, but it includes some self-directed reflection and research about career paths, some Queen’s workshops (e.g. on EDI, teaching, etc. – student’s choice), a few group discussions or activities, and a small assignment or two (e.g. book review, blog post). It is not onerous, but is intended to help students recognize skills they already have and make choices about skills they would like to augment. The work is spread over the fall and winter terms and culminates in the Capstone course.

2-year Thesis/Project MA

Application

Some MA students may wish to extend their MA in order to undertake a substantial thesis or project. To take this path, a student drafts a preliminary thesis or project proposal, identifies a faculty member who agrees to supervise their work, and applies to the 2-year Thesis/Project MA by 30 January. If accepted, the student completes their winter-term courses (PD Module completion becomes optional) and skips CUST 850, working instead on a full thesis/project proposal to be defended by 30 September. If a student applies and is not admitted, they simply continue in the 1-year MA stream and complete by the end of June.

To apply, the applicant identifies a supervisor (or cosupervisors) and obtains their agreement to supervise. In consultation with the supervisor(s), they generate a preliminary proposal in 600 words, explaining the plan for a MA thesis or project. The proposal should include research question(s), say something about how they will be pursued, and give examples of some scholarly foundations for the work. The applicant then fills out the top portion of the application form and sends it to their proposed supervisor(s) who will add comments in the box below and sign the form. The applicant is responsible for submitting the completed form(s) with the preliminary thesis/project proposal to Cultural Studies at cs.office@queensu.ca by 30 January. Applications will be reviewed once all fall term grades are available.

Thesis/Project Scope and Process

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 in their Cultural Studies thesis or project. The decision whether to do a thesis or a project must be deliberate, depending not only on the student’s experience and expertise, but on their goals in terms of audience and impact.

The MA 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.

An  MA project has two elements: documented artistic production or community-based activity, and an analytical/theoretical framing element. 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 and/or https://www.queensu.ca/culturalstudies/academics/community-based-researc... for further guidance and examples.

Students in the 2-year MA meet with their supervisor in spring of Year 1 to launch preparation of an expanded proposal to be defended by 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. A second reader should also be confirmed by 1 August. (If the chosen party is not permanent Queen’s faculty, the supervisor checks with the Director before finalizing this choice.)

Thesis Proposal Format

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.

Project Proposal Format

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 pursuing community-enaged research at the MA level are generally expected to either have a prior relationship with the given community, or to be working within an ongoing faculty-led project. At the very least, they must show that they have identified and communicated with appropriate participants, and must justify their choice of participants given the theoretical, political, methodological, and practical contexts of their project.  

Process for Proposal Approval

Students defend their proposal by 30 September of Year 2 before a committee of the supervisor and a second reader, both of whom must be affiliated with Cultural Studies. Information on setting up this meeting and the relevant forms can be found here. At this meeting, which is chaired by a third Cultural Studies faculty member, 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 meeting, committee members assess the timeline and (if applicable) budget, and each committee member clarifies what they understand their consultative role to be going forward.

If the outcome is “revise and resubmit,” the student will have one opportunity to re-write the proposal and defend the revision within the following two months. Only at a second proposal approval meeting can a proposal be failed; in that event, the failure is final.

Thesis/Project Development

When a complete penultimate draft of the thesis or project is ready (by 1 July of Year 2 at the latest), 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 examiner earlier so that they can attend or view any exhibit or show component. In the case of a community-based project, assessments from community collaborators may be considered in the evaluation process in addition to the three university examiners; supervisors and students should think about this in advance in case it may need to be integrated into the methodology reviewed by GREB, and should consult with the Director if there are funding considerations.

Process for Thesis/Project Oral Examination

Information on setting up this examination and the relevant forms and processes can be found here.

MA with Research Paper or Minor Project (no longer offered)

MA with Research Paper or Minor Project

  • 6 courses (CUST 803 and at least 1 core course) + CUST 802
  • research paper or minor project

Note: This option is no longer offered. Guidelines remain for those students already enrolled in it who may complete on the terms in place when they were admitted.

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.

Process for Research Paper/Minor Project Proposal Approval

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.

Process for Research Paper/Minor Project Approval

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 Cultural Studies office (cs.office@queensu.ca)  independently and without consultation, using Form D: MA Approval of Minor Project or Research Paper.  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, and the director conveys the decision to the Cultural Studies office (cs.office@queensu.ca),  the supervisor, the second reader, and the student.

The final result is reported to the School of Graduate Studies by the Cultural Studies office using through the official SGS form . Students are requested to upload a final copy of their paper on to QSpace.

Promotion to PhD

CUST MA students who have completed two terms, who have a strong record of excellence, and who show exceptional promise in their research may be considered for promotion to the CUST doctoral program without completion of the MA. A student who wishes to be considered for transfer to the PhD program must first be accepted into the two-year MA stream; they must also discuss their intention to apply for promotion to PhD with their supervisor(s) and the Director of the program during their second term of study. Promotion to the doctoral program requires a 4.0 GPA in MA courses, a supervisor in place, the recommendation of the CUST Admissions Committee, the approval of the Chair of the Faculty Graduate Council according to its established procedures, and the approval of the School of Graduate Studies.

A student who wishes to be considered for transfer to the PhD program demonstrates their readiness for promotion in their first summer in the program by, in consultation with their supervisor(s), producing a 1000 word qualifying examination proposal and annotated bibliography as described in the PhD Guidelines. This is to be submitted, by 15 July, to their supervisor(s). A student may apply to be transferred to the PhD program if their supervisor(s) fully anticipate that when revised as per the QE process the proposal will meet the standards required of the PhD. In such a case the student submits the QE proposal and AB to cs.office@queensu.ca by 1 August. They also submit an online application to the PhD program through the SGS portal by 1 August, including a Research Statement, writing sample, c.v., and the names of two referees (one should be the prospective supervisor). Uploading transcripts is not necessary; instead, the student can write to grad.studies@queensu.ca to ask that these be transferred from the MA application.

The admissions committee reviews all the materials including transcripts and makes a decision by 15 August. If they recommend promotion, the student’s dossier is sent to SGS for final approval. 

Successful applicants move into the PhD program immediately and are included in the November 1 PhD headcount. All MA coursework will be counted towards the PhD and therefore the only additional coursework would be at the recommendation of the student's supervisor(s).  If the application is unsuccessful the student continues along the MA track, generating an MA thesis/project proposal based on the reading done over the summer. They may apply to the PhD program in the Winter term and, if admitted, as CUST MA graduates they follow the accelerated PhD track (2 courses from the MA are counted towards the PhD).