Students pursuing terminal M.A.'s have two options for completing the degree program, both of which are equally acceptable to the department. One option is to take 30 hours of coursework and an examination; the other option requires completion of 30 hours of coursework plus 6 hours of thesis research and writing. If a student believes they might pursue a Ph.D., however, they should prepare for the demands of a doctoral program by writing a thesis. Either option totals 36 credit hours. A student who has had difficulty with research and writing during the first two semesters may not be permitted to write a thesis if the faculty considers the likelihood of success doubtful.
If a student chooses the exam option, a masters exam will be devised to match their coursework and interests. Students are examined in three fields (one major and two minor). More detailed information on the exam option is available on a separate page, "Instructions for M.A. Examinations" (available from the Department of Art History office).
If a thesis option is chosen, the topic will generally grow out of the student's seminar work. The topic should take shape in consultation with a member of the faculty, preferably during the first two semesters. We recommend that students begin thinking of a topic toward the end of their second semester (or after 18 credit hours of course work) and that they frame a proposal and enlist an advisor and committee no later than the beginning of their third semester. If an advisor agrees to supervise the thesis, the student's proposal is submitted to the faculty for review. Acceptance of a proposal is not automatic, but is contingent on the quality of the proposal and a belief that research can be carried out successfully.
Three members of the faculty will read the thesis. The student will also need to present it in an oral defense.
More detailed information on the thesis option is available on a separate page, Guidelines for the M.A. Thesis.