Guide To Graduate Study
Before registering, incoming students should contact their advisor to discuss courses and programs of study. There are no faculty available for advising between May 31 and August 15. Each year, several advising days are set up prior to the start of the Fall semester. Advising is on a walk-in basis. The advising dates will be announced via email over the summer.
As students proceed through their course work, they should find a mentor who will serve as a more in-depth source of intellectual and professional guidance.
By their second semester, students are required by The Columbian College of Arts and Sciences to complete a Program of Study form. It must be signed by their advisor and forwarded to CSAS before registration for the second semester. Revisions to the Program of Study form should be made as appropriate; each change requires the advisor's signature.
Designing Your Program of Study
MA in Women's Studies with a concentration in a discipline
three theory/methods courses (9 credit hours):
- WSTU 6220: Fundamentals of Feminist Theory (Fall, usually first year)
- WSTU 6225: Contemporary Feminist Theory (or women's studies approved theory course)
- WSTU 6221: Research Issues in Women's Studies (2nd Year, Fall)
6 credit hours from among the following three options:
In addition, students take four graduate courses (12 credit hours) in their chosen discipline/field and three courses (9 credit hours) of electives related to their program of study for a total of 36 credit hours. It is highly recommended that one course in the chosen discipline/field should be a graduate research methods course. Students may take more then four courses in their discipline/field of choice. For advice about these courses, students should locate a mentor in the relevant department as early as possible.
A typical program of study for the MA in Women's Studies with Anthropology as the chosen discipline and the thesis option, for example, might look like:
Typical choices for a liberal arts concentration include disciplines such as Philosophy, History, Sociology, Anthropology, English, Religion, Political Science, or Economics. Some students have designed non-traditional concentrations such as Communications, Public Administration, International Development, and Counseling.
MA in Public Policy with a concentration in Women's Studies
One theory course:
- WSTU 6220: Fundamentals of Feminist Theory (Fall) or
- WSTU 6225: Contemporary Feminist Theory (or WSTU approved theory course)
One methods course
- WSTU 2621: Research Issues in Feminist Studies (2nd Year, Fall)
5 courses in the Women's Studies and Public Policy core (15 credit hours):
- WSTU 6240: Women and Public Policy (Spring)
- ECON 6217: Survey of Economics (Fall/Spring) or a more advanced course in economics
- PPPA 6002: Research Methods in (Fall/Spring)
- PPPA 6006: Policy Analysis (Fall/Spring)
- PPPA 6010: Politics & the Policy Process (Fall/Spring)
6 credit hours from among the following three options:
In addition, students take three elective courses related to their program of study (9 credit hours) to complete the total of 36 credit hours. A typical program of study for the MA in Public Policy with a concentration in Women's Studies might look like:
Choosing Between the Public Policy and Liberal Arts Options
The M.A. in Public Policy with a Concentration in Women's Studies was established in 1982 as a "first-of-its-kind" graduate degree option formally combining Women's Studies and Public Policy. It remains a unique and distinctive feature of the GW program. Students take required core Women's Studies courses and electives with other Women's Studies graduate students and required core Public Policy courses with students in other public policy graduate programs. This program provides students with a professionally oriented degree, the M.A. in Public Policy, including training in the conventional social science components of that degree: economics, quantitative methods, policy analysis. This training makes our graduates competitive in the mainstream world of public policy. Most important, it also provides students with a feminist analysis and the tools to criticize conventional ways of thinking about and studying public policy that have traditionally excluded women. It offers opportunities to gain expertise in specific policy issues important to women, and to participate in Washington women's policy networks and organizations.
The M.A. in Women's Studies with a concentration in a liberal arts discipline or a topical focus offers students the opportunity to craft an individualized program of study in close consultation with faculty advisors. Students are expected to develop intellectual depth and a degree of expertise through a four-course concentration in either (a) a specific discipline such as Anthropology, Sociology, English, History, Philosophy (other disciplines are also possible, with permission), or (b) a topical area such as women and health, women and international development, race and gender (other areas are possible). There are ample opportunities for students with policy interests to include policy courses (such as Women and Public Policy, among others) in their program of study, either as part of their chosen discipline/field or as electives.
The disciplinary concentration works well for students interested in going on for a Ph.D. in a discipline and for those whose interests fit easily within disciplinary lines. Students are encouraged to find a faculty mentor in their disciplinary concentration. Alternatively, students may choose an M.A. in Women's Studies because their intellectual passions and career objectives are truly interdisciplinary. The topical focus option provides academic space for students with diverse interests.
Choosing Between the Practicum & the Thesis Option
Each MA student faces the choice of whether to write a thesis or do one of the practicum options. Although it is possible to do both a thesis and a practicum, most students do one or the other.
The Practicum & Independent Research
Professor Cynthia Deitch, Practicum Coordinator, convenes a meeting each fall to discuss the practicum option. She can be contacted at 202-994-7438 or email@example.com.
The practicum provides students with professional level experience in a policy-related organization combined with weekly seminar meetings, readings and written work that integrates theory and practice. The practicum is offered only in the spring semester of each year. Most students take the practicum in their second year, but some do it earlier. Timing depends on what works best for the student's interests, needs, and schedule. The WSTU Program gathers information on internship opportunities in a wide range of organizations.
Placement arrangements, including an application, interviews, and a contract, are completed in November-December of the preceding fall term. Thus, students who wish to take the practicum in the spring of their first year must decide before the end of their first semester. Professor Deitch and a graduate assistant will provide individualized assistance in finding a placement if the student begins the process by November or earlier. Students considering the Practicum are strongly urged to consult with Professor Deitch or the graduate assistant early in the Fall semester.
The Practicum includes two options, both of which require attendance at the weekly seminar:
- WSTU 6283 (3 credits): 60-hour placement and 3 credits of independent research (WSTU 6295) though not necessarily in the same semester.
- WSTU 6283 (6 credits): 120-hour placement plus a case study, a major research paper that analyzes some aspect of the placement experience.
WSTU 6295 and WSTU 6280
All students taking WSTU 6295 Independent Research or WSTU 6280 Independent Study, whether for an elective or a requirement, must submit a brief description of their proposed project and obtain written permission from a faculty sponsor who agrees to supervise the research prior to registering. Forms are available in the Women’s Studies office.
WSTU 6295 Independent Research
For students taking WSTU 6295 to fulfill the MA requirements under the non-thesis option, general expectations are that the student will:
- spend one full semester (or more) doing independent original research, that is, collecting original data or otherwise using primary sources and making an original scholarly contribution, rather than simply reviewing what others have already written;
- produce an article-length (25-35 pp.) professional paper--that is, a polished paper suitable for presentation at a professional conference and approaching publishable quality.
Students should anticipate one or more rounds of directed revision. Specific requirements will be worked out with the faculty sponsor.
WSTU 6280 Independent Study (elective)
Although it may take a variety of forms, WSTU 6280 is typically a directed readings course, designed so that the student may gain command of the literature in a specific field of inquiry not readily available through offered courses. Students and faculty sponsors may agree on a variety of written outcomes or final projects.
A student invites a faculty member to serve as thesis advisor. After a suitable topic has been agreed upon by advisor and student, the student invites a second faculty member to serve as reader (the thesis advisor can help find a reader). A thesis topic approval form should be filled out and submitted to the Women's Studies Program. It is recommended you submit this form no later than the end of the first semester of registration. Most students need about two semesters to complete the thesis.
The Women's Studies website provides a list of Faculty and Associated Faculty to assist students in finding a faculty member with whom they would like to work, but generally the thesis advisor is someone with whom the student has already worked and established a rapport. This list is not exhaustive, and students are welcome to create links with other faculty. Students should also consult with the Director of Women's Studies.
Further details concerning the MA thesis:
- The length of a thesis varies. Usual length is from 50 to 100 pages.
- In addition to full-time faculty, part-time GW faculty may serve as either thesis advisor or reader.
- If the proposed director or reader is from outside GW, her/his curriculum vitae must be submitted to the Columbian School of Arts and Sciences (CCAS) by the Women's Studies Program for approval.
- The final thesis, after being approved by reader and advisor should be submitted electronically at www.gwu.edu/~etds/theses.html.
- It is important to consult this website early on as it also contains important information about the submission requirements, as well as the final submission process and deadlines. It is helpful to set up a timeline in consultation with your advisor.
- In planning your schedule, keep in mind that most faculty are not on contract in summer and may be unavailable to work with you in June, July and August. Individual faculty may chose to make themselves available, but you should consult with your advisor early on to agree on deadlines.
- Once you have submitted the thesis electronically, the site will provide a paper approval form that needs to be signed by your advisor. This form goes to CCAS. A copy should also be submitted to Women's Studies.
- Accepted theses become the property of the University and are kept on file with Gelman Library.
Some general guidelines for Writing a Thesis:
- Define a research question.
- Contextualize the topic within existing literature, discussing how it relates to previous research and theory, and what it will contribute.
- Explain your methods and sources of information.
- Present your findings.
- Discuss the theoretical, policy, or other implications of the findings.
- Draw some conclusions.
Human Subjects Permission: See the Office of Human Research website www.gwumc.edu/research/human.htm. If your thesis involves research on living people (such as interviewing, observing, questionnaire, focus group, etc.) you must get IRB approval. The website provides additional details, required CITI training, and access to required forms. For student projects, they usually try to process the forms quickly, in about two weeks. Your advisor and/or other WSTU faculty can help you figure out what to do. If you fail to obtain Human Research approval, the University may require you to start your thesis all over again, not use any of the data (interviews, etc.) you collected without permission, register and pay again for thesis credits, and other penalties.
What happens if you need more time?
If you have finished your coursework and taken your 6 thesis credits but need more time to finish the thesis, beyond the Spring semester, current CCAS policy permits the following:
- If a student registers for “continuous enrollment (CE) for the summer and finishes by August 15, the student pays a nominal fee and graduates in August.
- If a student registers for CE for the summer but does not finish by August 15, she/he may register and pay again for CE for Fall, finish within the first 3 weeks of the Fall semester, and graduate in January.
- If the student needs more time (beyond the first 3 weeks of the Fall semester), she/he registers for “continuing registration” (CR) for the Fall and pays for one credit. The student must file by January 15, to graduate in January.
These rules can be confusing, so be sure to consult your academic advisor and CCAS
The Comprehensive Examination
Each student needs to pass the comprehensive exam in order to complete the MA degree. The MA Comprehensive Exam is offered twice a year: in the fall and spring, near the end of each semester. Students who plan to take the exam should notify the Program secretary at least one month (30 days) before the date that the exam is given out.
Women's Studies faculty and the Executive Committee determine format of the comprehensive exam. It may change, depending on periodic review. In the event of changes, a student may opt to follow either the format in effect when they entered the program or the revised format.
- It is an open-book, take-home exam.
- Students will be required to answer a total of three questions: one on feminist theory, one on feminist research methods, and one on the student's area of concentration (Public Policy, English, History, etc.).
- There will be a choice of one out of three questions in theory, and one out of three questions in methods. There may not be a choice for the specialty question, but it will be broad enough for each student to answer it on the basis of her/his own program of study.
- There is a maximum length of 1,500 words for each essay. (Faculty readers will be instructed not to read more than that for any one essay.)
- Essays should be clearly typed, double-spaced, and carefully proofread.
- Because this is an open-book exam it is expected that references will include author, title, and date. Direct quotations should include page numbers.
- Direct quotation from sources is permitted, but excessive or lengthy use of direct quotation in a short essay is not advisable.
- Students pick up the exam on a Friday, anytime from 9 am to 5 pm. The answers are due by 9:15 am the following Monday.
Purpose and Scope:
The goal of the exam is to demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of the material. Therefore essays should include discussion of several relevant sources, not just one or two authors. References to "classic" literature may be appropriate, but we also want to see inclusion of recent 1980's and 1990's literature to demonstrate a grasp of the latest thinking. Specific authors and titles should be cited and discussed in all three essays.
When to Take Comps:
To qualify to take comps, a student must have completed all non-elective courses or be in the process of completing remaining non-elective courses the semester the exam is taken. It is permissible to take comps before finishing a thesis or independent research if all other non-elective courses have been taken, but it is advisable to have completed as many courses as possible, including electives. Students should consult an advisor if they have any questions about when to take the exam.
Students will be required to sign and attach to their exam a copy of the University academic integrity code (which will be provided with the questions.) Answers must be written in your own words and must represent original responses to the questions. "Re-cycling" your own writing from other sources (previous papers, exams, assignments, etc.) is not allowed.
Copies of past exams are available for your review in a folder marked "MA Comprehensive Exams" in the Women's Studies Library.
Students must receive a satisfactory grade on all three questions in order to pass the Women's Studies MA comprehensive exam requirement. At the discretion of the faculty, a student may be permitted to re-write one question without officially failing the entire exam. As stipulated in the Bulletin, a student who fails the MA comprehensive exam may apply to the Dean for permission to repeat the exam at the next regularly offered time. Superior achievement is noted when a student earns a "pass with honors" on one or more question.