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Typical Timeline for the MA in Art History

MA timeline

Semester One:
Proseminar (ARTH 600, the required course) and two additional complementary seminars. Find a supervisor and fill in Declaration of Supervisor form with the Graduate Program Coordinator; discuss potential thesis research topic with the supervisor. Possibly take Directed Reading (ARTH630) with the supervisor this semester.

Semester Two:
Three complementary seminars and possibly a Directed Reading (ARTH630) with the supervisor to establish thesis research area. Begin working on a thesis research proposal.

Really work on your thesis: finalize the proposal, do in-depth research, begin writing a first draft if possible.

Semester Three:

Final complementary seminar; thesis research and writing 1 (ARTH698). Work mainly on the thesis, aside from the single seminar.

Semester Four:

Thesis Research and writing 2 (ARTH699); complete and submit the thesis in March for April submission.

Year One

In the first year, you will take 3 seminars each semester as well as one Directed Reading (ARTH630) either first or second semester. This is a challenging workload, so be prepared to read a lot and to keep on top of initial thesis progress. During this year, we expect your main focus to be your course work, but you definitely should be thinking about your thesis, reading around it, brainstorming your topic, etc.

In your first semester, you should meet with your prospective supervisor at least once to confirm he/she is willing to supervise the thesis, and to discuss your research paper ideas, relevant coursework, any language requirements, etc. If your Directed Reading is in this semester, you should be beginning compiling bibliography for the thesis and write a preliminary proposal.

In the second semester, you should meet at least once with your supervisor to hone your topic and discuss how to proceed with the proposal. The program does not impose a specific deadline for the submission of the proposal, so you should discuss the preferred date of submission with your supervisor. Your thesis can be based on one of your seminar papers, but be aware that you will need to expand and rework it significantly in order to fulfill the requirements of a thesis (the thesis should be roughly the length of a major journal article, or 40-50 pages note counting notes, bibliography, and illustrations). If your Directed Reading is this semester you can complete the preliminary thesis bibliography and the proposal.


The summer is the time to really get going on the M.A. thesis. Be sure to schedule a meeting with your supervisor before she/he leaves for any research travel. If you have not already done so, you should finalize the date for the submission of the thesis proposal. There is no required length for the proposal, but it should detail the research to be pursued, define the particular argument to be advanced in the thesis, and indicate the methodology to be employed. It also should include a preliminary bibliography of primary and secondary material.

Year Two

You now have one final complementary seminar (3 credits) and 24 credits of Thesis Research and writing to complete. Register for ARTH 698 in semester 3 and ARTH 699 in semester 4 (Thesis Research I & II).

By the end of semester 3, you should choose a second reader for the paper in consultation with your supervisor. This will normally be a professor in the Department. In agreement with your supervisor either you or your supervisor will contact the prospective second reader to request her/his participation. After the second reader agrees to participate, you should meet with her/him to discuss the project.

Complete final draft at least a month before submission deadline to give the readers time to write comments and yourself time for necessary revisions. It is the student’s responsibility to be aware of the submission deadline for the thesis and to make sure both readers have it in time to make comments and allow for revisions; this deadline is posted every semester at: http://www.mcgill.ca/gps/students/graduating/deadlines.

Suggested Writing Timeline

Specific dates and deadlines must be agreed upon in consultation with your supervisor and second reader. The following gives a rough idea of what to aim for:

1) It's a good goal to have a rough working draft of the thesis by the beginning of semester 4.

2) You can then rework this and submit a more polished draft to your supervisor by mid-Feb.

3) If the supervisor approves this draft, it goes to the second reader—this should happen by the beginning of March.

4) The readers require at least a 2-week turn around time to read and comment on the paper. You then will have 3 weeks to make any suggested revisions to the paper.

5) All revisions need to be completed and approved by a specific date in April in order to meet the May convocation deadline (as noted above, exact deadlines are posted every year on the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website: http://www.mcgill.ca/gps/students/graduating/deadlines). (If you cannot meet this deadline, the next convocation is in October. Please consult with your supervisor and the Graduate Program Coordinator about the deadlines for this; we do not recommend extending your MA into the third year; there will be little or no funding to support your studies at this point.)