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M.A. Program Description

The objective of the program is to provide students with a deeper knowledge of Greek and Roman civilisation than they have obtained in their undergraduate degrees, to improve their ability in Greek and Latin as well as in the major modern languages of classical scholarship, and to develop their skills in research, critical thinking, and written expression. This training furnishes students with valuable skills that can be applied to employment in contexts beyond the university, such as museum work, and beyond Classics, such as law, librarianship, teaching at the secondary level, and the business world. This objective is achieved through course work, major research papers, and a thesis (2-year degree) or project (1-year degree), teaching and research assistantships, and excavation and museum fieldwork for archaeologists and others.

Admission Requirements for the MA program

Applicants for the M.A. Program in Classics may be admitted as Regular Students if they are graduates with at least B+ standing of any Honours program taken at McMaster or other university, which includes:

  1. At least 12 units of either Ancient Greek or Latin and at least 6 units of the other language with an average of at least B in each language.
  2. At least 36 additional units of Classical Civilization, Greek, Latin, Ancient History, or other courses approved by the Department of Classics, at least 12 of these units to be in upper-level courses.

Graduates without sufficient specialization may be admitted with the requirement that they complete extra prerequisite courses with a grade of at least B+.

Candidates will not be allowed to take a graduate course in a language or area in which the Department feels they do not have sufficient background.

Program Requirements:

With the approval of the Department of Classics, candidates may take the degree either with or without thesis. A grade of at least B- is required in all courses.

Requirements for the M.A. degree with thesis are:

  1. Ten half courses (one-term courses) offered by the Department, of which no more than four may be at the undergraduate level, and of which at least four, two in each year, must be graduate or undergraduate Latin or Greek (permission of the Graduate Advisor is required to take a course at undergraduate level). Students must pass at least one language class at the graduate level in each ancient language. Six courses are completed in the first year of study and four additional courses are taken in year two. Courses will be selected in consultation with the Graduate Advisor. A grade of at least B is required in all courses. Upon entry into the program all students will take diagnostic exams in Ancient Greek and Latin to determine appropriate language level placement.
  2. A comprehension test in French or German or Italian; exemption from this test may be granted to candidates who have completed an equivalent test at this or other universities.
  3. A satisfactory thesis of approximately 80 pages on an approved topic.
  4. An oral examination to defend the thesis.

Requirements of the M.A. degree without thesis are:

  1. Six half courses offered by the Department, of which no more than two may be at the undergraduate level, and of which at least two must be graduate or undergraduate Latin or Greek (permission of the Graduate Adviser is required to take a course at undergraduate level). Courses will be selected in consultation with the graduate advisor. Students entering with less than 24 units of Greek and Latin may require two years to complete the degree and so should anticipate taking the degree with thesis. Upon entry into the program all students will take diagnostic exams in Ancient Greek and Latin to determine appropriate language level placement.
  2. A project consisting of a major research paper to be written during the summer, under the supervision of a faculty member;
  3. comprehension test in French or German or Italian; exemption from this test may be granted to candidates who have completed an equivalent test at this or other universities.

MA Supervisory Committees

Students entering the program are instructed to think about possible thesis topics and to approach appropriate faculty members to discuss ideas in term 1. At the beginning of term 2, once students have been granted permission to write a thesis (as opposed to writing a project), assignments of supervisors and students are made with agreement on both sides, usually arranged with the aid of the graduate advisor. Throughout term 3, while the proposal is being researched and written, the student and supervisor decide on two appropriate committee members among the faculty; the student is responsible for asking those two faculty members to serve on the committee. A committee meeting is held before the proposal is submitted for circulation to the whole department to establish a time-table for completion. The two secondary committee members may be consulted throughout the writing of the thesis and may read drafts.

MA thesis or project

Students write either a thesis or project; the former results in a two-year MA, the latter in a one-year MA. The aim of both thesis and project is to address a specific issue or set of issues, a corpus of material, or set of problems and, through research and critical inquiry, produce a thoughtful piece of scholarship. The major difference is one of scale. A thesis is approximately 80-100 pages while a project is 50-60 pages. A thesis involves a proposal of 5-6 pages with bibliography, and, in the course of production, a series of chapter drafts. A project is less ambitious, and involves consultation and discussion with a supervisor, but no drafts; a single, final text is submitted to the department, with a transcript notation of ‘pass’ or ‘fail’.

Summary: Timetable for the MA program

Year 1: September-April

  • modern language exam in Term 1;
  • 6 courses (3 courses per term), 2 of which must be Greek and Latin (undergraduate or graduate, depending on student’s level of preparation);
  • students sometimes do extra modern language study, usually in German.

Year 1: summer

  • students complete a project OR do reading and research which leads to a thesis proposal by the end of June;
  • archaeology students sometimes participate in excavations in Europe (e.g., the agora in Athens); take short study trips to specific museums or sites related to their thesis; or do summer programs in specialized subjects (e.g., numismatics, epigraphy). These efforts are usually funded in part by the E.T. Salmon fund in Roman Studies, the Edith Wightman travel scholarship, or the Raynsford-Eatock Travel Bursary in Greek studies;
  • some students take extra language courses in another modern language.

Year 2: September-April

  • 4 courses (2 courses per term), 2 of which must be Greek and Latin;
  • completion of Master’s thesis

Year 2: summer

  • thesis submitted and defended by the end of summer.
  • in unusual cases students finish their thesis by term 5, and graduate at spring convocation. The great majority of students, however, require the full second year to finish their thesis.