MA degree requirements

Incoming students are assigned an individual advisor who will guide them with their choice of courses and will help them with the first steps towards the choice of a research field. Once an MA essay topic is chosen, the MA sponsor becomes the main advisor.  All requirements for the MA degree must be completed by the end of the second year (four years for students attending part-time).

The minimum for good standing is a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 derived from all courses in which a student has registered and received a grade.

The total number of credit points for the degree is 30 (8 courses worth 3 points each, plus one MA essay worth 6 points).

Registration at the Graduate School is a two-part process that consists of registering for individual courses and registering for Residence at the University. All students must complete BOTH parts of the registration process.

  • Students in all degree programs are required to register in each fall and spring semester until all degree requirements have been completed or until the time-to-degree limit has been reached. 
  • Enrollment is the completion of the registration process and affords the full rights and privileges of student status.

Students must petition for Transfer Credit within their first semester of registration.

The Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) will consider, in consultation with other faculty, transfer credit awards for graduate courses taken previously at Columbia. Students will submit the Application for Transfer Credit and relevant materials to the department’s DGS.

Degree requirments

MA students are required to take eight classes at the 4000-, 6000- or 8000-level and to write an MA essay (see details below). No class other than the MA Research seminar may be taken Pass/Fail. Courses should include the following:

  • Spring MA research seminar: an introduction to research methods and to long-form writing in which students refine their MA essay topic and begin to workshop a draft. This class is taken Pass/Fail.
  • At least one course with a focus on literature/culture before 1800, taken in the French Department.

No more than two courses may be taken outside of the French department and no more than two courses may be taken for R credit.

The MA essay is a paper of approximately 30 pages, either developing a paper written for a class or presenting new research. It can take many different forms, e.g. original textual/ historical research, close reading and/or intervention in a critical/theoretical debate. Students choose a sponsor and consult regularly with this adviser.

  • The MA essay gives students practice in carrying out a research project that, while limited in length and in scope presents a problem treated in more depth than in a term paper. They compile a bibliography, choose the appropriate methodological approach, organize the material, and present it in a scholarly and readable form.
  • The essay should follow the MLA Style Sheet or the Chicago Manual of Style and must be approved by the sponsor. At the student’s request, the essay can be defended orally before a committee consisting of the sponsor and one other member of the faculty.

To receive credit and a letter grade for the MA essay, students must register for FREN G8092 MA Essay Direction.

The MA degree is awarded in October, January and May. Please consult with the Graduate Coordinator for all questions concerning deadlines for applying. All requirements for the MA degree must be completed by the end of the second year (four years for students attending part-time).