Department of Global Development Studies


Global Development Studies

site header

Master's Program

The department offers an interdisciplinary Master of Arts degree in the field of Global Development Studies. The focus of our program is academic training for development research. To do so, we presently offer two parallel streams:

  • A course-based stream that ensures the development of conceptual thinking and analytical and interpretive skills, but does not require primary research. Instead, students will complete a Major Research Paper (MRP) of 50-60 pages, based on secondary research, dealing with a specific interdisciplinary question related to the field of development studies. Time required to complete the course-based program is 10-12 months.
  • A thesis-based stream that culminates in a full Master's thesis of between 75-100 pages defended before a committee of three examiners. The thesis will demonstrate the student’s ability to produce original work using primary data often (but not necessarily) gathered through fieldwork. Time required to complete the research-based program is 18-24 months.

Students do not choose between these streams before they start the program. Instead, all students are admitted into the course-based stream with guaranteed funding for one year. Subsequently, those students interested in entering the research-based stream can apply for entry once they have begun their studies during the Fall term.

Entry into the research-based stream is dependent on having an overall average of at least A-, a clear research project and close supervisory support from a faculty member.

Course-Based MA Stream

All students who enter the MA program in Global Development Studies begin their studies enrolled in the course-based stream. This stream promotes the development of strong conceptual foundations and research tools in development studies through an intensive series of courses and the writing of a Major Research Paper (MRP) based on secondary research. The program is normally completed within 10-12 months.

Course-based stream details

Students take six half-courses. These include the core courses DEVS 801* (Political Economy of Development); DEVS 802* (Cultural Politics of Development) and DEVS 850* (Professional Seminar in Global Development Studies); plus three further courses, two of which may be from outside the Department.

After completing their coursework, students produce a Major Research Paper that is 50-60 pages long. This work is based around secondary research on a theme within the field of Global Development Studies.

Completion normally takes 10-12 months.

Why do the course-based stream?

This option provides students with an integrated series of courses that builds on the core research strengths of the department. It complements these with a professional seminar on undertaking research in development studies and three further courses. The latter can be drawn from departmental offerings (see website for listings), courses offered in other departments that are related to key themes in global development studies, or reading courses with faculty within or outside the department (depending on faculty availability).


Students generally complete their coursework in the fall and winter terms, following this by writing their MRP over the spring and summer months (summer term). In writing an MRP, students have an opportunity to further engage with an important theme within the field of global development studies. The MRP is generally based upon secondary sources, including academic literature, government documents, development agency reports, etc. The MRP does not require primary research. After submission, the MRP is graded by the supervisor and a second reader.


The course-based stream normally permits completion of the MA within a year. Students taking the course-based stream have gone on to a range of professional careers and further studies, including work within the field of international development.

Thesis-Based MA Stream

Some students enrolled in the MA program wish to undertake more prolonged research that will lead to a full Master's thesis. Students can therefore apply to move from the course-based stream into the thesis-based stream at the beginning of the winter term.

Thesis-based stream details

Students take four half-courses, which may not include DEVS 850.

These include the core courses DEVS 801 (Political Economy of Development), DEVS 802 (Cultural Politics of Development) and two additional courses from inside or outside the department. 

During their first year, students design a research program that will lead to a Master’s thesis. The thesis is a work of 75-100 pages long and makes an original contribution to the field of global development studies.

Completion normally takes 18-24 months.

Why do a thesis?

The thesis option gives students the time necessary to pursue a deeper program of research, often involving fieldwork or other primary data collection. The student completes five half-courses, rather than the six in the course-based program. This is to allow the student time to develop a concentrated program of research that will result in an original thesis that uses primary data. The thesis will be between 75-100 pages and will be defended before a committee of three examiners. Notably, this option provides research experience that better prepares students for doctoral studies or other forms of research-based work.

How do I apply?

Students applying to the Global Development Studies MA Program who think they might be interested in an eventual switch to the two-year research stream are encouraged to contact potential supervisors at the time of their application to discuss research interests and availability. They should discuss a focused thesis topic, funding options, and data collection processes early and consistently during the fall term with their potential supervisor, in order to submit a strong thesis stream application. They should also take the initiative to apply for external scholarships, including the SSHRC Master's Scholarship in early December and the Ontario Graduate Scholarship in January.

The deadline for applications to switch into the thesis-based stream is January 31.  Please submit the following to the Academic Programs Assistant by this date:

  • a detailed research proposal (up to 5 pages, including a budget for field work if intended);
  • a budget for fieldwork (if intended).
  • a letter of support from your supervisor stating funding commitments.

Criteria for acceptance

Successful applicants will be chosen on the basis of:

  • Academic merit: a minimum average of A-  from the Fall courses is required to be considered.  Please confirm eligibility with the DEVS Graduate Chair by January 15
  • Strong supervisory link: you must have a suitable supervisor with good expertise in your prospective research area who is keen to support and supervise your work.
  • Coherent proposal: you need to demonstrate a strong and coherent proposal for a thesis.

Funding for the second year

Please be aware that, if accepted into the thesis-based stream, the department will do its best to find additional sources of funding such as TA-ships and RA-ships through faculty members' research grants.  Unfortunately, the Department cannot guarantee that such funds will be available.

Who Should Apply to the DEVS MA Program?

Students who are looking for an academically oriented, research-based program in development studies.

The DEVS MA program is academically oriented: its primary goal is to provide students with important conceptual tools and knowledge for undertaking academic research in the broad field of development studies. Our graduates have gone on to a range of professions, including further academic studies and/or careers in government, law, media, social justice and NGOs, international business and other fields.

Students who have an academic background in the social sciences or have pursued coursework in the social sciences.

Global development studies is a social science field and the core courses we offer are based upon social science approaches. As such, we require a minimum of a B+ average in the last two years of study from a recognized four-year undergraduate program (or equivalent) in a social science field or discipline relevant to the area of development studies. Relevant degrees include development studies, politics, sociology, geography, economics, gender studies, environmental studies and aboriginal studies. Students with humanities-based backgrounds – for example in history, film, religion and literature – may also be suitable candidates provided they have pursued course work in social science fields during their degrees. Students from traditionally unrelated fields (such as engineering, education or nursing) may also be considered for admission if they have completed sufficient course work in relevant social science fields. For more information, please contact the Academic Programs Assistant.

Students whose research interests coincide with the Department faculty's core strengths.

We do not expect students to enter the MA program with an established research project, but rather we expect you to have a keen interest in exploring research in some specific development themes. If you are keen to pursue research on a specific topic, you should examine the range of faculty we have in Global Development Studies to be certain that we have suitable expertise to help you conduct research in that areas. More broadly, our core courses are organized around four themes:

  1. The Political Economy of Development
  2. The Cultural Politics of Development
  3. Indigenous Studies
  4. Environment, Development and Sustainability

We supplement our two core courses (DEVS 801 and DEVS 802) with a range of topics courses that change from year to year. When completing the online application, please be sure to clearly indicate in one or two sentences your main areas of interest in the Research Interests section and why you consider the Department of Global Development Studies at Queen’s a good fit for you to pursue development research. 

How are admissions decisions made?

Entry into our program is highly competitive. We are looking for students who demonstrate strong research potential, are a good fit with our areas of expertise and who fall within our areas of supervisory capacity. The Admissions Committee closely reviews statements of interest, transcripts and academic letters of reference to determine the most qualified and suitable candidates. While we run an academically-oriented program, additional selection criteria may include experience in practical development or community-oriented programs and written and/or spoken language skills other than English (particularly languages spoken in the global South or in aboriginal communities in Canada).