Master of Arts (M.A.)

The purpose of the M.A. (thesis) degree is to encourage advanced study and research in one of the disciplines of religious studies for those who wish to become scholars or teachers, or will be engaged in some field of religious or public service. 

The M.A. without thesis is intended to ensure a student’s well rounded exposure to several religions and to several of the disciplinary approaches currently used in their academic study.

Program information

Specialization in Bioethics

An option in the M.A. (thesis) programs is the M.A. in Religious Studies with specialization in Bioethics—offered in collaboration with the Biomedical Ethics Unit. The curriculum is composed of required courses offered in the Biomedical Ethics Unit, bioethics courses offered by the base faculty or department, and any graduate course required or accepted by the base faculty for the granting of a Master’s degree. For more information on required courses, please refer to the "course requirements" tab.

M.A. with option in Gender and Feminists Studies

The Graduate Option in Gender and Women's Studies (GWS) provides graduate students with a cross-disciplinary specialization in feminist, women's, and gender studies. This Option is for those who wish to focus on gender-related issues and feminist research and methodologies. During the application process, prospective students can specify their interest in the Graduate Option when applying. There are no prerequisites to enter into the Option. However, previous coursework in gender and women's studies provides an ideal foundation for more in-depth study of and research in feminist scholarship.

Student supervision in the Option is undertaken by one's departmental supervisor who oversees student work, including choice of thesis, dissertation, or project topic. A student's M.A. thesis must be on a topic that significantly engages with issues of gender and/or women and/or feminism. For more information about GWS, visit the IGSF website.

Admission requirements

Applicants must possess a B.A. with a Major or Honours in Religious Studies or a Bachelor of Theology (B.Th.), or a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree normally with a minimum CGPA of 3.3/4.0 (B+) from an accredited university or college. Applicants with fewer than 30 appropriate credits in Religious Studies or Theology are normally required to take a Qualifying term or year before entering the M.A.  This will be assessed by the Graduate Admissions Committee at the time of application revision and the student will be informed accordingly.

Courses

Thesis

Candidates are required to complete satisfactorily a minimum of six, one-term courses (18 credits) and write a thesis (27 credits) embodying the results of their research. The minimum pass mark in courses is B- for M.A. students.

All students must consult with an advisor in the chosen area of study for selection of courses before registration.

Required Thesis Courses (27 credits)

RELG 688 Thesis Research 1 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer


RELG 689 Thesis Research 2 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer


RELG 698 Thesis Research 3 9 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer


RELG 699 Thesis Research 4 12 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

Required Course (3 credits)

RELG 645 Methods in Religious Studies 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

Complementary Courses (15 credits)
15 credits selected from the 500 or 600 level course accepted by the School of Religious Studies for the granting of the Master’s degree.

Non-thesis

The program requires completing a total of 45 credits taken at the 500 or 600 level. The student is required to take 36 credits of course work, normally by taking four courses per semester for three semesters. The remaining nine (9) credits are to be earned by writing three research papers, each based on a reading list. Of these papers, one is to be in one specific religious tradition, a second, in another religious tradition different from the first, and the third, in methods used in the comparative study of religions. Each of these papers is worth three credits and each is graded on a PASS/FAIL basis.

A non-thesis student, who normally does course and graduate work in more than one field and therefore normally does not have a supervisor in one specific field, falls either under the responsibility of an area, such as presently is the case with Asian Religions as well as with the S.T.M. program, or is directly supervised by the chair of the graduate committee.

Upon entry into the M.A. (non-thesis) program, the student should immediately consult with the Area Advisor. They will advise the student on selection of courses and on the three research papers, decide what languages are required, and be responsible for receiving the Graduate Student Research Progress Report.

Research Project (9 credits)

RELG 660 M.A. Research Paper 1 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer


RELG 661 M.A. Research Paper 2 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer


RELG 662 M.A. Research Paper 3 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

Required Courses (6 credits)

RELG 555 Honours Seminar 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer


RELG 645 Methods in Religious Studies 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

Complementary courses (30 credits)
Ten courses selected from the 500 or 600 level courses accepted by the School of Religious Studies for the granting of a Master's degree. All students must consult with the advisor in the chosen area of study for selection of courses before registration. The minimum pass mark in courses is (B-) for M.A. students.

Specialization in Bioethics

The curriculum is composed of required courses (6 credits) offered in the Biomedical Ethics Unit, bioethics courses (6 credit minimum) offered by the base faculty or department, and any graduate course required or accepted by the base faculty for the granting of a Master’s degree, for a total of 21 credits. A minimum of 45 credits is required including the thesis.

Required courses (12 credits)

BIOE 680 Bioethical Theory 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer


BIOE 681 Bioethics Practicum 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer


RELG 571 Ethics, Medicine and Religion 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer


RELG 645 Methods in Religious Studies 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

Complementary courses (9 credits)
Nine (9) credits selected from the 500 or 600 level are to be selected in consultation with the supervisor from graduate courses offered or accepted by the School of Religious Studies for the granting of a Master's degree. The minimum pass mark in courses is 65% (B-) for M.A. students.

Thesis component-required (24 credits)

BIOE 690 M.Sc. Thesis Literature Survey 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer


BIOE 691 M.Sc. Thesis Research Proposal 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer


BIOE 692 M.Sc.Thesis Res Progress Rep 6 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer


BIOE 693 M.Sc. Thesis 12 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

Specialization in Gender and Women's Studies

A minimum of 45 credits is required, including the thesis.

Required courses (33 credits)

RELG 645 Methods in Religious Studies 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer


RELG 688 Thesis Research 1 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer


RELG 689 Thesis Research 2 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer


RELG 698 Thesis Research 3 9 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer


RELG 699 Thesis Research 4 12 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer


WMST 601 Feminist Theories and Methods 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

Complementary courses (12 credits)
Twelve (12) credits selected from the 500 or 600 level are to be selected in consultation with the supervisor from graduate courses offered or accepted by the School of Religious Studies for the granting of a Master's degree. The minimum pass mark in courses is 65% (B-) for M.A. students.

Must include within (12 credits)

WMST 602 Feminist Research Symposium 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer


or
3 credits of another 500- or 600-level course in Gender and Women’s Studies.

Language requirements

All M.A. students are required to complete one language other than English during their program. The School of Religious Studies offers courses in primary text source languages, such as Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, Biblical Greek, Sanskrit, and classical literary Tibetan. The School relies upon other McGill units for instruction in languages other than those mentioned above.

The successful completion of at least twelve credits at the post-secondary level in a language course, or successful completion of a language examination administered by the appropriate member of the School, will constitute evidence of the student’s having the required reading knowledge of the language in question.

Students are required to give their area committee evidence of reading knowledge of a scholarly language other than English. This language may be either a modern language in which there is a significant amount of scholarship relevant to the student’s area of research, or a classical language relevant to the student’s area of research. If a classical language is chosen, it must be in addition to any prerequisite language for the area in question.

Thesis proposal

There are essentially FIVE main elements of a thesis proposal:

  • The question: A statement of the subject of inquiry and, in many cases, the principal text concerned. This should entail the setting out of a question or problem that is clearly something to be argued, i.e. a claim or “thesis.” The establishing of what Aristotle calls the “aporiai”, the problematic, is crucial to the solidity of any thesis proposal--and all of this should be in one paragraph. It may take a week to write, but the labour is an excellent investment. Clarifying this central substantive formulation of your thesis is some of the most important thinking actually involved in writing a dissertation.
  • The criticism: Next there follows another paragraph (or two) on a few selected critical contributions to the subject area. Ideally these should be grouped into two, three, or even four “schools” of interpretation (if such exist). I would go back 20-25 years (even earlier if you think it might be useful to draw out YOUR own key question.) Of course this need not be an exhaustive list of scholarly interpreters, but rather a REPRESENTATIVE list with “foils” over against which you can define your own inquiry. In the proposal you should frame the discussion of the key hermeneutical angles with a view to “setting up” the discussion of your own approach to interpretation in the third section. This will involve weeks (or months) of very intensive research and reading.
  • Methodology and approach: This section sets out your own key theoretical assumptions in light of the preceding discussion of other critical approaches. What is the need for a re-interpretation of the text in hand? What are the key difficulties of the earlier approaches? How does your proposed reading respond to them and offer something new, original, and worthwhile to scholarship in your field of inquiry?
  • Rationale and division of chapters: Provide a brief rationale of the main components of your inquiry followed by a division of chapters which should reflect the structure of the question and approach as previously outlined.
  • Select bibliography (one page maximum): This should include the main primary texts, or portions thereof, which constitute the focus of the inquiry. Also provide the most relevant critical literature which is most pertinent to the setting up of your own methodology and approach, specifically the most important criticism outlined in the literature review.

General observations: The entire proposal should be set out in no more than four or five pages double-spaced (plus the bibliography). In your opening sentence go directly to the main quarry of your inquiry and state your thesis explicitly, clearly, and confidently. You need to be very clear and definite about your proposal and why it is cogent. You are not bound to convince your supervisor of this, but you will have some serious convincing to achieve with other members of the Graduate Committee who must approve the proposal. Writing a good thesis proposal involves a fairly considerable effort, but you should keep in mind that THIS labour is unquestionably the most important work of all that will go into your thesis. If you get these elements clarified from the outset then writing the thesis should proceed smoothly; if not, ‘thesis neurosis’ can be a misery. I have witnessed both results. As Aristotle rightly maintains, “the beginning is most difficult.” It is perhaps more than half the labour!

Residency

Refers to the number of terms (or years) students must be registered on a full-time basis to complete their program. Students are not permitted to graduate until they have fulfilled the residence requirement (or paid the corresponding fees) in their program.

The normal residence requirement is three terms of full-time resident study. Students may apply to do the third term during the summer of their first year. Students may also register on a half-time basis.

Time limitation

Candidates for Masters degrees must complete the degree within three years of initial registration. If the degree is pursued strictly on a less than full time basis, it must be completed within five years of initial registration.

Please see GPS's policies on Time Limitation for more information.