Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

The Academic Program

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Degree Paper

The required degree paper is a one-unit, one-semester project that the student undertakes with a paper adviser—any member of the Reed faculty. The topic should be one that emerges out of the student’s prior coursework, which provides the discipline context and methodology(ies) used in the project. The experience of writing the degree paper is intended to allow the student to investigate a particular topic in depth and to present a conclusion in the scholarly manner appropriate to the field(s).

Procedure and Timing
A complete description of the degree paper topic, including an outline and proposed bibliography, must be approved in advance by the Committee on Graduate Studies. Candidates should submit the degree paper proposal to the MALS office according to the following schedule:

  • Fall paper proposals are due the last day of classes of the preceding spring term;
  • Spring paper proposals are due the last day of classes of the preceding
    fall term;
  • Summer paper proposals are due the first Monday in April of the preceding spring term.

The degree paper is due on the date specified in the academic calendar for senior thesis submission. Students will have a two-hour oral exam on their degree paper during or shortly after orals week at the end of the semester. (Due dates and orals for summer degree papers are determined on an individual basis.) The director sets the exam committee in conjunction with the student and the degree paper adviser. The committee of examiners typically includes the paper adviser, one member of the Committee on Graduate Studies, and at least one but often two other faculty members. As a whole, faculty members of the examining committee should represent at least two different academic divisions of the college.

The Reed library tower room houses copies of all degree papers and senior theses, easily accessible for both reference and check out. After orals and final approval, students file two bound copies of the degree paper with the library; an additional bound copy is to remain with the degree paper adviser. (Deadlines for submissions are noted in the academic calendar.)

When necessary, MALS students may take the three-day extension, provided a $50 late fee is paid and the bound copies are submitted to the library by the regular deadline.

Creative Projects
The committee is cautious about approving creative degree paper proposals and considers carefully the nature of the project, the educational benefit of the project for the student, and the availability of an appropriate adviser. It is imperative that the project arise out of prior coursework at Reed. Since creative projects also include a critical component, they generally require substantially more work on the part of the student. Students interested in a creative project should carefully review the creative paper guidelines and requirements (pdf).

Two-Term Projects
On an exceptional basis, students may petition to write a two-unit, two-term degree paper, leading to a 10-unit degree program. This opportunity is for the unusual student who wishes to research and write a longer, more ambitious paper. The student must explain the reasons for extending the project to two terms in the degree paper proposal, and obtain explicit permission from the paper adviser. Extensions to a two-unit degree paper are not permitted.

View a list of recent degree paper titles. 

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I was an English major at an ivy league college, but I did not really learn how to write or how to fully develop an idea, until I came to Reed.  What I love about the MALS program is that it is interdisciplinary by design. You not only learn about individual traditional disciplines, but also how they overlap and fit together. Reed is second to none;  with its small class sizes and professors' focus on teaching, students truly gain a lot.

MALS ’11