American Studies
American Studies

Master of Arts Degree (M.A.)

The following is an outline of regulations governing the MA in American Studies. Full-time students are expected to complete the MA within four long semesters (two years).


M.A. with report: 36 hours required, including:

  • 6 hours: AMS 385 (Cultural History of the United States to 1865) and AMS 386 (Cultural History of the United States since 1865)
  • 3 hours: AMS 393
  • 6 hours: two AMS 390 research seminars (topics vary)
  • 9 hours: coursework outside the American Studies program
  • 9 hours: electives (primarily American in content)
  • 3 hours: report course (AMS 398R)

All of the required courses in the above plan must be organized courses except the outside courses, which may be graduate-level conference courses completed in another department for a letter grade and approved in advance by the graduate adviser. 

Important: AMS 392 conference courses and undergraduate coursework may not be used to satisfy Master’s requirements.     


All students completing the M.A. degree in American Studies must write a research report by the end of their second year. The report is typically about 40 pages long, and is expected to approximate a publishable journal article. Ideally, the report represents an original contribution to knowledge and demands more extensive research than a typical seminar paper.

The report course
Students who wish to submit an MA report must register for AMS 398R.  This is a single course providing only three hours of credit, even if taken several semesters in a row while completing the project.  A student must be registered for 398R during the semester(s) in which the report is completed and the master’s degree awarded.

Explanation of the Supervisor and Second Reader
The supervisor of a report is a member of the core American Studies Graduate Studies Committee who is knowledgeable about a student’s topic and with whom a student works most closely.  The second reader proves additional faculty contact and assistance.  The second member need not be a member of the Graduate Studies Committee but must be a member of the graduate Faculty of the University.  A third reader may be added when appropriate.  All committees must be approved by the Graduate Program Committee in American Studies.  Both readers will suggest changes to improve a student’s work, and both must approve the final draft. 

We recommend identifying a potential supervisor during the second semester of the M.A. degree. It is a very good idea to begin brainstorming for potential projects this semester as well so that you can use the summer between M.A. course years for a good portion of the report’s research.


Applying for MA Graduation
At the beginning of the semester in which he or she intends to graduate, the MA candidate must submit the Master’s Graduation Application form online.

Procedure for filing required forms and submitting the report
First, obtain the approval of the graduate adviser regarding the report topic, the supervisor and second reader.  Then refer to the Office of Graduate Studies website for specific forms, instructions, and deadlines.  The form entitled “Masters Degree Certification” will require the graduate advisor’s signature. IT IS ESSENTIAL TO READ THIS INFORMATION VERY CAREFULLY AND PAY ATTENTION TO EVERY DETAIL.

Reference Notes
The American Studies Department has no standard format for reference notes, but they must be consistent.  Notes may be placed at the bottom of each page, at the end of each chapter, or at the end of the work.  Check with your supervisor to see if he or she has a preference.

Time Limit
The department expects students to complete the MA degree within two years.


  • Be sure to consult both the Department and the Graduate School for procedures to graduate. You must meet all deadlines.
  • The Graduate School holds graduation ceremonies at the end of each fall and spring semester. (The University Co-op can assist you with regalia, announcements, and more.)
  • Diplomas are mailed approximately six weeks after the student’s graduation.        
  • If you plan to leave the program after completing the MA, please make sure we have your forwarding address. We like to hear from former students, so please keep in touch!


Students wishing to continue for the PhD will be required, within two weeks after receiving an MA from the program, to submit a 1-2 page letter of intent to the graduate coordinator. The letter will be read by the entire faculty and should state:

  1. the student’s interest in continuing on for the PhD, and
  2. a statement describing potential future research interests and which faculty member(s) the student envisions working with on a dissertation.  (This letter is in no way binding.)

In addition, a student must submit a writing sample in the form of a seminar paper or a chapter from his/her MA report.

The faculty will decide whether or not to admit the student into the PhD program.  If the graduate coordinator does not receive a letter and writing sample within two weeks of receiving the MA, it will be assumed the student will not be continuing on for the PhD.