As a cornerstone of their academic training in the Committee, all students propose and complete a MA thesis, which follows the format of an article in an academic journal. The thesis writing process trains students to identify a productive tension in a scholarly or policy debate of their own choosing, and apply a combination of rigorous logic and compelling evidence to ease that tension. The result is a piece of original research, which often merits publication. It runs between 10,000 and 14,000 words (35 to 45 double-spaced pages).
In crafting their theses, students work closely with a member of the CIR faculty and a preceptor. Both individuals serve as readers, and provide a written evaluation of the MA thesis. At the beginning of the academic year, each student is matched with a preceptor, based on their research interests. During Fall, Winter and Spring quarters, students complete a non-credit lecture and workshop sequence, during which preceptors and selected guest speakers convey the nuts and bolts of MA thesis research, and provide detailed feedback on the evolving thesis project. As students write up their MA thesis proposals during Fall and Winter quarters, they recruit a CIR faculty member to serve as first reader. Faculty and students collaborate informally during office hours, or via an optional independent research course.
Submitting or Accessing the MA Thesis
Students submit their thesis drafts for review during Spring or Summer quarter. Although students complete all coursework at the end of Spring quarter, they have the option of deferring the completion of their MA thesis until Summer. If students choose to defer graduation from the program until Summer quarter, they do not incur additional fees. Final drafts are uploaded to CIR's online thesis archive. A detailed description of the MA thesis requirements and a timeline are contained in the CIR Study Guide.
Each Spring a special faculty committee awards the Morton A. Kaplan Prize to the author of the best MA thesis submitted by a CIR student during the previous academic year. This award carries a $1,000 cash prize.