MA Capstone Requirement

August 2020

This page discusses your MA capstone requirement. According to the Brandeis University Bulletin, in addition to other degree requirements, the NEJS MA requires the completion of a culminating assignment, either:

  1. Writing a MA thesis;
  2. Completing a significant project; or
  3. Taking an oral examination.

The thesis is typically 50 to 75 pages and involves original research. The MA thesis must be deposited electronically to the Robert D. Farber University Archives at Brandeis.

The project might take the form of a film or video; a museum exhibition or museum catalog proposal; a musical or dance production; a curriculum with rationale; a website; a photographic or other artistic/visual project; an annotated translation with a scholarly introduction; or another form proposed by the student. The number of hours involved in producing a project is comparable to writing a thesis; only the format is different. Standards for evaluating the thesis and the project are also comparable.

The examination is 1-hour, oral (rather than written), and typically tests factual knowledge, analytical skills, and ability to synthesize relevant material. It may include work covered in courses as well as new material. Students should establish with their examiners an agreed-upon list of materials that the examination will cover.

Class of 2021

After consultation with your NEJS academic advisor, please email Joanne Arnish to confirm which option you would like to choose as soon as possible: thesis, project, or exam. If you have any questions about the choice, please be in touch with your NEJS academic advisor or Professor Jockusch, Director of NEJS Graduate Studies.
If you are writing an MA thesis or creating an MA project you must submit a written proposal on or before September 4, 2020 to Joanne Arnish. The proposal should be approximately one page in length and be accompanied by a preliminary bibliography. Please include a:

  1. Working title
  2. Clearly stated research question or project goals
  3. A brief discussion of why the research question is important
  4. Methodology planned (how you plan to do your research)
  5. Preference for NEJS thesis advisors
  6. Preliminary bibliography of written materials on your chosen topic.
All proposals will be reviewed by a committee of NEJS faculty so that you will have feedback as soon as possible. Students may apply for funding assistance, if relevant, via GSAS and/or NEJS GTR.

Requirements for the MA Thesis, Project, and Oral Exam


  • Proposals: September 4, 2020
  • Final defense or exam: April 19, 2021
The NEJS MA thesis or project serves as a culminating, capstone project for a student’s studies in the NEJS MA or NEJS MA/HRNS MA or NEJS/WGS or NEJS/COEX graduate programs. Discussion of these capstone options should begin with a student’s advisor in the spring of the first year. The thesis or project is submitted and defended in the student’s final semester of study, usually the spring of the second year.

Additional Information

Students are encouraged to take NEJS 295a: Readings for Master’s Capstone (for credit, typically given by one of the readers or examiners) to help them prepare for each of these options during their third semester. Students should register for the appropriate course during spring 2021 registration: NEJS 299a Directed Research for Master’s Thesis, or NEJS 298a: Directed Research for Master’s Project. No additional course is needed for the Exam option.

Each of the three options requires a formal presentation in front of at least two faculty members which should be scheduled usually the second week of April. It is the responsibility of the student to find a mutually agreeable day and time and to inform the NEJS office administrator who will assign a room and provide necessary paperwork.

All capstone options are graded fail/pass/distinction; distinction is reserved for truly exceptional circumstances. In all cases, the graduate program chair will arbitrate any grading dispute between the two examiners. The NEJS 200-level courses are usually given letter grades.

Students may apply for funding assistance, i.e. research travel, from GSAS, Tauber, WGS, Schusterman and/or the NEJS GTR fund.