M.A. in Religion: Basic Requirements (48 semester hours)
Beyond the prerequisite courses, students must complete 48 semester hours of work, which includes nine hours on the thesis project. In addition, many students must study a language to fulfill a language requirement, which will demand extra time and work.
1) Foundational Courses (9 hours)
A basic foundation in Biblical Studies and Theological Studies (BS 101, B 102, and TS 101) is required for upper level course work. Students who have studied in these areas have the option of fulfilling the credit requirements by satisfactorily passing a proficiency exam for that course.
2) Core Requirements (18 hours)
Biblical Studies (6 hours)
These courses must be advanced Biblical courses at the 300 level or higher.
Theological Studies (6 hours)
These courses must be advanced theology courses at the 300 level or higher. One of them must be Constructive Theology.
Historical Studies (6 hours)
These will be chosen from among the following three major periods of church history: History of Christianity I, History of Christianity II, or American Religious History.
3) The M.A. Guidance Committee and the Thesis (9 hours)
Upon the completion of eighteen semester hours, the student will petition the faculty for the appointment of an M.A. Guidance Committee and will present a thesis proposal. Approval of the thesis and the appointment of such a committee by the faculty constitute the student’s admission to degree candidacy.
The thesis project may take one of two forms, each worth nine semester hours of credit. It may be a major, single piece of research, which results in a monograph with a single, unified thesis. Or it may be three separate but related papers, which together form a single monograph with three related theses, but not a single unified thesis. Whichever route taken, the final monograph will normally come to about 25,000 words—a significant piece of research and writing.
In the case of the single thesis, the student will register for thesis credits and do independent research under the guidance of the Chairperson of their M.A. Committee. Students should expect a minimum of two major revisions of their research before getting it to the quality expected of a thesis.
In the case of the three related papers, the student must root their research in three additional courses beyond the normal M.A. requirements. In this case, the student begins the research with the instructors of the classes forming the context for the original papers. While offering the benefit of a course structure to facilitate research, this option contains the difficulty of showing unified interrelationships among the three papers when they are brought into the thesis project. Students should understand that a high evaluation of a paper in a class does not mean it will receive a high evaluation for the thesis project. Typically, students will have to do major expansions and revisions on their papers before they become acceptable as parts of a thesis.
As contrasted with the M.Div./M.Min. degree, it is difficult to predict when the M.A. will be completed, as this depends not on when a certain set of courses is finished but when the student produces a thesis project of sufficient quality to warrant awarding the degree. However, the M.A. must be completed within five years from the time of the student’s first class at ESR (seven years for ESR Access students).
4) Elective Course (3 hours)
Students choose an elective. Course work needed to satisfy language or research skills may be used to fulfill the credits for the elective course.
5) Area of Concentration (9 hours)
At the time of petitioning the faculty for an M.A. Guidance Committee, the student will choose to focus his or her work in one of the following areas of curricular concentration: Biblical Studies; Christian Theology Studies; Quaker Studies; or Peace and Justice Studies. Together with the chairperson of the student’s M.A. Committee, the student will develop a program of study through 300 level elective courses in the area of concentration. This program should be designed to offer a solid foundation for thesis research.
5) Language Requirement and Research Skills
Students in the Biblical Studies area of concentration are normally required to demonstrate reading proficiency in Hebrew or Greek. Students in Theological Studies, Peace Studies, Quaker Studies, or Historical Studies are normally required to show reading competence in a foreign language if they do research that draws upon primary sources in that language. A requirement in the language can only be fulfilled by examination. However, faculty may require certain competencies in research skills. Students undertaking research with human subjects must assume the obligations for the welfare of those research subjects.
6) Oral Examination
Upon satisfactory completion of the M.A. thesis as judged by the M.A. Guidance Committee, the student will take a comprehensive oral examination with the Guidance Committee. It will focus both on the student’s general knowledge and understanding of the major field of emphasis, and also on the student’s particular project represented in the thesis or three research papers. This examination must be completed successfully by the date as specified in the academic calendar.
Registration for Thesis Credits
M.A. students are expected to register for the thesis no later than the semester following the one in which all of the core courses and concentration courses are completed.
The M.A. student who has completed the required courses, who is not regularly enrolled in course work or for thesis credit, and who continues in residence at ESR, will be charged a “Continuing Research Fee.” This will formalize the student’s continuing participation in the ESR community, including community activities, mail box, library privileges, and consultation with faculty.
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