Field Exams and Thesis Information

M.A. students have special program requirements and opportunities, including sitting for a field exam and completing a master's thesis.

Political Science Field Exam

All students in Saint Louis University’s Master of Arts in Political Science program must sit for a field exam early during their last semester of coursework.

The field exam has two parts. During the first three-hour segment, students choose one question to answer from a list of questions drawn from key debates in the literature of the student's concentration or track. During the second three-hour segment, students will choose one question to answer from a list provided by the exam committee.

The exam committee is comprised of a chair and two other committee members. The chair must be in the student's examination field; ordinarily, the two committee members will be in the same field, as well. Students should choose committee members with the advice of the committee chair.

Students should be prepared to engage explicitly with the relevant scholarly literature during their field exams. Students may have access to notes and other sources during the field exam but they are unlikely to do well on the exam if they rely heavily on those resources due to time limits. We advise that students develop effective strategies to retain and integrate the information learned in all their classes early on in their master’s program.

All students must pass the written portion of the exam. An additional oral exam will be required at the discretion of the exam committee.

If two members of the committee determine that the student has passed the field exam, a passing grade is warranted.

Cognate Field

Students in the Master of Arts in Political Science program may choose to complete some of their course work in a cognate field. A cognate field is made up of three courses (nine credit hours) in departments other than political science that are relevant to the student's areas of interests.

Some possibilities for cognate fields include:

  • Coursework toward a graduate certificate program, such as women's studies
  • Graduate classes in another discipline, such as economics
  • Three courses in different disciplines all touching on the same subject area, such as Asian studies

Political Science Master’s Thesis

The M.A. thesis is only an option for students in good standing, with no incompletes. All students must have the permission of the graduate committee and the thesis director before registering for M.A. thesis work.

A master's thesis:

  • Proposes an argument that addresses an important question to the discipline or area of study in question
  • Grounds the argument thoroughly in the literature of this question
  • Articulates what effect or contribution the argument of the thesis has on this literature
  • Presents supporting evidence

The M.A. thesis is a two-semester project. Students complete a thesis proposal in the first semester and the thesis itself during the second semester. Students who are not able to defend their proposal successfully during the first semester will not be allowed to continue to the second semester of thesis work.

The length of the thesis varies according to the nature of the project, but most theses fall between 40 and 75 pages.

Students who write master's theses will work closely with a faculty director and a committee of two other faculty members chosen with the director's guidance.

The oral defense of the M.A. thesis will be advertised and open to the public. All three members of the committee must approve the thesis for the student to pass.