Non-Thesis Options

The Center for Global & International Studies offers two non-thesis options. These options are designed only for students who do not intend to pursue further graduate study beyond the M.A. in Global and International Studies

1. Research Project   

Students selecting this option are required to take either GIST 810 or GIST 898 and complete an original research project of between 30-45 pages of text, not including notes, references, or appendices. The project must involve original and systematic analysis of data/information (i.e. it must utilize a research method) and will include an oral defense. 

For additional information on the research project option, please see our Research Project Degree Checklist (PDF).

Defense Committee- The Research Project will be supervised and evaluated by a three-person faculty committee; two of these committee members should be tenure-track faculty at KU affiliated with CGIS. Your committee members should be instructors who share your research interests and with whom you have taken previous coursework.

Your committee chair will serve as the primary advisor for your project, give your feedback, and help you choose your other committee members. Students should work closely with their committee chair to develop a plan for writing, revising, and defending their research project. The Center recommends that students utilize our Mentoring Agreement in early meetings with their committee chair. Additionally, all MA students who have been enrolled in two or more semesters of either GIST 810 or GIST 898 must complete a Mentoring Agreement and have it approved by the graduate director each subsequent semester of enrollment.

Oral Defense of Research Project- The oral defense stands in for the final oral examination required of all KU candidates for the MA degree. The student is responsible for scheduling the defense date, time, and location according to the committee members' schedules and the College’s deadlines for May, August, or December graduation. At least three weeks prior to the defense date, the date and time of the defense must be established and submitted to the Graduate Advisor in order to have his/her defense approved by the College Office of Graduate Affairs (Contact your graduate advisor for a detailed defense timeline for the current semester). Additionally, the research project must be submitted to the committee, the graduate director, and the graduate advisor a minimum of 10-days prior to a scheduled defense. Failure to meet either one of these deadlines will result in the defense date being pushed back, even if this changes the student's semester of completion.

Questions posed by the committee members will focus on, but are not limited to, the research topic and are intended to provoke thought and explore challenging issues. Related topics are often probed to evaluate a student's overall knowledge of international studies and ability to formulate independent judgments. The duration of the exam is usually about one hour. The M.A. in Global & International Studies degree will be awarded after the student has passed this oral defense and completed all other College graduation requirements.

Should a repeat of the oral exam be necessary as determined by the student’s committee, this must take place no less than 30 days and no more than 90 days after the first attempt. The faculty committee for the first oral exam also administers the second oral examination. Students who fail the second exam will be dismissed from the program.

2. Oral & Written Exam

This option is only available under extenuating circumstances. Students considering it must receive the written, advance approval of the GIST Director of Graduate Studies and their faculty advisor. Students choosing the oral and written exam must take an additional 3 credit hours, corresponding to 1 of their 2 coherent clusters. In the final semester, the student must successfully complete a written examination over the course content and the student's regional and substantive area of focus. Students receive comprehensive questions over the areas mentioned above and are given 72 hours to respond to each of the three questions with a minimum of 10 pages of text per question. 

For additional information about the exam option, please see our Exam Option Degree Checklist (PDF).

Exam Committee- The exam questions will be written and evaluated by an examination committee of 3 faculty members. It is up to the student to identify, with the advice of their committee chair and the program director, who will serve on the committee. Generally, the student should select faculty members with whom they have already taken a class and who represent at least one of the content areas of the written exam; one committee member should be familiar with the core course content, one committee member should be an expert in the region of the student’s specialization, and one committee member should be an expert in the student’s topic of specialization. The final composition of the exam committee must be approved by the program director at least six weeks prior to the date of the first written examination.

The student should plan to meet with each committee member individually early in the semester during which s/he intends to take the exam. It is recommended that the student brings copies of all relevant syllabi reflecting coursework completed in the examiner’s specialty area to these meetings; these syllabi will guide the committee member in determining the scope and content of the exam questions.

Each committee member shall use the course syllabi and his/her conversation(s) with the student to draft questions for the written exam; s/he may also consult with other faculty in the student’s focus area in drafting the questions. Examiners should draft two questions that synthesize the material covered in the student’s coursework in that area and forward these questions to the committee chair. Students may request study guides from each of their committee members on their topics.

Students who commence the oral and written exam but are unable to finish it for highly unusual extenuating circumstances, such as documented medical issues, must retake the exam within 90 days. Students should inform the Director of Graduate Studies at the earliest possible time if an exam must be stopped. 

Exam Timeline- Essentially, students should plan on taking their written exams near the middle of the semester and to complete their oral exams at least a month before classes end. The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences sets a deadline each semester by which all graduation requirements must be completed in order to graduate that term. In order to have all graduation requirements completed during the student's final semester, he/she must complete the written exams early enough to allow the oral exam to be scheduled by this deadline (Please contact the graduate advisor for a detailed timeline for completing written and oral exams for the current semester.) The student is responsible for scheduling the oral exam date, time, and location according to the committee members' schedules and the College's Deadlines for May, August, or December graduation. At least three week's prior to the oral exam date, the date and time of the exam must be established and submitted to the graduate advisor in order to have his/her exam approved by the College Office of Graduate Affairs (Contact your graduate advisor for a detailed timeline for the current semester).

Requirement for Continuous Enrollment

Students in any KU master’s program are required to be continuously enrolled during the regular academic year (fall and spring semesters) from the time all courses are completed until all graduation requirements are completed. This means that if a student doesn't take the final exam during his/her last semester of coursework, the student must keep enrolling in each subsequent spring and fall semester (and summer if the student will be graduating during the summer semester) until s/he finishes, usually repeating GIST 897.


Quick Links


Follow us @kuglobal! (Click to Connect!)