The MA thesis is an important part of the program at Dalhousie; there is no non-thesis option. The student should discuss the projected thesis with likely supervisors by the beginning of November, and have found an agreeable supervisor by the end of the first term. Adjunct professors from other universities in the Halifax area may be considered as co-supervisors. A prospectus for the thesis must be prepared by the student and submitted to the Graduate Committee by mid-February with the approval of the supervisor. The prospectus should be no more than 1500 words long, contain an outline of the proposed thesis, a brief review of scholarship already done in the field, and a general account of the student’s own approach to the topic (a sample prospectus is available for your assistance).
The MA thesis is considered to be the equivalent of two full-year seminars. It should be about 10,000-12,000 words in length. It should show the student’s ability to master a limited scholarly or critical topic and be presented in an acceptable scholarly form. The latest edition of the MLA Handbook should be consulted for information on the conventions of presentation; it is the student’s responsibility to get a copy of the most recent requirements on format from the Office of the Faculty of Graduate Studies before preparing the final version for submission. FGS is available for advising.
Evaluation of the thesis is done by an examining committee, made up of the supervisor, second reader, and an examiner. Students have the opportunity before formal submission to make the revisions required by their second reader. All members of the examining committee must be willing to approve it for it to pass. After formal submission, dated reports from all members of the committee must be filed in the student’s departmental file. If the examiner does not judge it to be passable, the Chair of the Department and the Graduate Coordinator must review the written evaluations from the committee members. The Chair of the Department may invite an appropriate new examiner to decide whether it passes or fails. If two examiners do not judge it to be passable, it fails. If the thesis fails, the student is disqualified from the program and may not resubmit. Such a final failure must be reported to the Dean. The examining committee will grade the thesis according to the following system:
Pass with Distinction: Theses that earn the highest grade are rare. They are original and innovative, and add to the scholarly discussion on the topic(s) at hand. They also show considerable command of critical and other secondary material. The student who receives this grade will have demonstrated, from prospectus to final draft, the ability to produce polished writing, coherent argumentation, and thorough research. Portions could, with minor revisions, be considered publishable in academic journals specific to the field. The thesis submitted for formal evaluation should require no more than a few minor revisions, and must be recommended for Pass with Distinction by all members of the examining committee.
Pass: To earn a “Pass,” the thesis must be original and strongly written, and show generally thorough command of critical and other secondary material, but would need significant revision before being considered publishable. The thesis submitted for formal evaluation may require some substantial revisions and minor corrections, and must be recommended for Pass (or higher) by at least two members of the examining committee and receive no recommendation of “Fail.”
Marginal Pass: Theses that earn a Marginal Pass will generally demonstrate graduate-level writing, research, and argumentation, but only minimally so or with substantially weak sections. This grade may also be used to indicate that a student has regularly required significant guidance on writing, research, and/or argumentation from the prospectus to drafts of the thesis itself. The thesis must be recommended for Marginal Pass by at least two members of the examining committee and receive no recommendation of “Fail.”
Fail: To fail, much of the thesis must fail to exhibit graduate-level research, argumentation or writing, or the thesis must fail to meet the basic requirements of the thesis (length, documentation, etc.). Theses not judged to be passable by the supervisor and second reader do not go forward to the examiner. If the examiner does not judge a thesis to be passable, the Chair of the Department and the Graduate Co-ordinator must review the written evaluations from the committee members, and the Chair of the Department may accept the examiner’s assessment or invite an appropriate new examiner to decide whether the thesis passes or fails. If two examiners do not judge it to be passable, the thesis fails. If the thesis fails, the student is disqualified from the program and may not resubmit. Such a final failure must be reported to the Dean.
These definitions draw on language in our policy on graduate grading, associating Pass with Distinction with the rare grade of A+; Pass with A and A-; and a Marginal Pass with a B+, B, and B-.
Evaluation of the thesis is done by an examining committee made up of the supervisor, second reader, and examiner.