1. Official Guidelines

The authoritative and official guide for your program is the Carleton University Graduate Calendar.

You are responsible for being familiar with, and following all guidelines and regulations in that Calendar.

2. Option Description

These guidelines are to help students meet the requirements of the M.A. Program in Canadian Studies at Carleton University. The School of Indigenous and Canadian Studies specifies that all candidates must select one of the following program patterns:

  • OPTION 1: 4.0 credits, or
  • OPTION 2: 3.0 credits, and a research essay (CDNS 5908,1.0 credit), or
  • OPTION 3: 2.0 credits, and a thesis (CDNS 5909, 2.0 credits).

We request that you “declare” your option at the end of December in your first year. How do you make the decision of which option to do? First, it is necessary to say there is no “better” or “worse” option in terms of status or in terms of admission to other graduate programs. An MA is an MA. Many MA programs around the country have stopped offering a thesis option, or only offer coursework MAs.


OPTION 1: Coursework Stream

  • You must complete four credits. All options must complete the mandatory core course CDNS 5001.
  • The remaining 3.5 courses should be reviewed with the Supervisor of Graduate Studies prior to beginning your program

Courses available (if offered): CDNS 5101, CDNS 5102, CDNS 5201, CDNS 5202, CDNS 5301, CDNS 5302, CDNS 5401, CDNS 5402, CDNS 5501, CDNS 5601.

CDNS 5800, CDNS 5801, CDNS 5900, CDNS 5901—require applications and approval prior to registration.

OPTION 2: Major Research Paper

The research paper is a one-credit research project of approximately 40 to 50 pages, although specific page limits should be decided with your Supervisor. There is no oral defence. Thus, the Research Essay is a shorter and more condensed piece of research and writing. Nevertheless writing an M.A. research paper means you are making a claim that you have something important to say, and you must communicate (in your proposal and your Research Paper) that you have clear foundations, perspectives, and evidence that advance existing understanding of the issue(s) being investigated. Are you prepared to write a rigorous paper probably almost twice or three times the length of your previous essays? Do you have the self-discipline and motivation?

A Research Paper differs in length, and may differ in academic style, from a Thesis. While a Research Paper must of course be well-written and rigorous, and directed by a central focus, it can also be a bit more exploratory than a thesis. It does not require the same tight organization — directed to marshalling evidence to support the thesis statement — as a thesis. A Research Paper may clarify a concept, define a method, resolve a dilemma, provide a systematic critique of the literature, or identify a new area or methodology for research. It may do so in ways that, while appropriate for a research essay, might form only part of a thesis. A research essay may also lend itself to creative methods of inquiry or presentation not generally quite as acceptable for a more academic thesis form. Of course, any of these less traditional academic forms must be discussed in detail with your advisors and approved by the School.

Therefore, if you have an exciting and doable project that may be a bit less traditional than a thesis project, a Research paper may be the choice for you, if you are certain you have the discipline and motivation. An additional benefit of the MRP option is that you have the opportunity to undertake an internship as part of your program, which you do not in the thesis option. We recommend you discuss this option seriously with your Professors and the Supervisor of Graduate Studies.

Courses available (if offered): CDNS 5101, CDNS 5102, CDNS 5201, CDNS 5202, CDNS 5301, CDNS 5302, CDNS 5401, CDNS 5402, CDNS 5501, CDNS 5601.
CDNS 5800, CDNS 5801, CDNS 5900, CDNS 5901—require applications and approval prior to registration.

OPTION 3: Thesis

Because a thesis is a two-credit major piece of rigorous academic writing, (80-100 or more pages) students must have a Grade of 10.5 in their MA courses in order to be accepted in the thesis option.

Remember, a thesis must be organized around a tightly focused thesis statement or argument. You must then marshal appropriate evidence to explicate and defend that thesis. The result should be a rigorous, scholarly, original, investigation of its subject which contributes to a deeper understanding of a question of substantial academic interest.

If you have an exciting, academically relevant, and manageable topic that you are absolutely obsessed with investigating — and in doing so in an in-depth and very rigorous academic manner — a thesis may be a consideration for you. However, it is important to think carefully and honestly about your level of self-discipline, drive, and ability to focus and contain your research process to a manageable size. We have found, with both theses and research papers, one of the main problems students have is finding and keeping a fine enough focus. Many students select topics that may seem fine enough, but later becomes overwhelming when they undertake too much research, and lose that fine focus. The result is often over-writing, or serious writing blocks, and sometimes even complete withdrawal from the program before completion. You should honestly assess your own interests, capabilities, and self-discipline before selecting this option. We also require that you discuss this option seriously with your Professors and the Supervisor of Graduate Studies.

Courses available (if offered): CDNS 5101, CDNS 5102, CDNS 5201, CDNS 5202, CDNS 5301, CDNS 5302, CDNS 5401, CDNS 5402, CDNS 5501, CDNS 5601.

3. Course Selection

Please see the Canadian Studies Graduate Calendar

4. Choosing Topics and Supervisor for Research papers and Theses

Choosing Topics

Choosing a topic and developing a research proposal takes time; begin to plan your project early in your program. Take courses related to your research interests and consider term papers that will advance your knowledge of the field. A central emphasis on Canadian subject matter is required. The work is also expected to be interdisciplinary. You may need to prepare yourself with course work in disciplines in which you have not been trained. When you are choosing a topic, give careful consideration to what methods of analysis and research it demands. A feasible topic is not just one that can be investigated, but one that you have equipped yourself to investigate or are willing to prepare yourself to complete. Set reasonable parameters for the work. If your topic will take five years to complete, it is not an MA project.

It is considered normal to complete the full-time M.A. with a thesis in Canadian Studies in five or six terms (up to two years).

For a sense of what is expected, please ask for the file “How to Write a Proposal” available from the Grad Supervisor and the School Administrator, and consult some of the completed proposals, research essays or theses in the School.

Choosing A Supervisor

  •  As you are developing a topic for your thesis or research essay, you should begin the process of finding a supervisor. The supervisor can come from any unit within the University, but must be approved for graduate supervision. If you choose a professor from one of your seminar courses, you will perhaps know each others’ approach and work well enough to assess if you might work well together If the person you wish to have as supervisor is not well-known to you, or is not a Canadian Studies faculty member, please consult with the your program co-ordinator or the Graduate Supervisor before approaching them. In all cases, it is important to ask for advice from the Graduate Supervisor and other faculty in the School.
  • Approach a potential supervisor with an initial written statement of your topic and approach. It will help professors evaluate your direction and determine whether they are an appropriate supervisor. You must first discuss co-supervisions with the Graduate Supervisor before proceeding.
  • When adjunct research professors serve as principal supervisors, academic units will appoint internal co-supervisors to ensure that the student receives normal academic counselling and administrative support.
  • You must choose a topic on which faculty expertise is available to guide your work. Please look at other university web sites to see faculty research profiles.

7. Theses and Dissertation Requirements

Theses & Dissertation requirements

8. Language Requirement

The School requires students to demonstrate proficiency in a second language, normally French. This is a program requirement, not an admission requirement.

1) Successful completion of a French language examination given by the School. It includes translation from French to English, with a dictionary. It is held in September and January of each year.

2) Successful completion of FINS 3105 or its equivalent (with a grade of B- or better).

Students should note that examination results in these courses form part of their record, although they are additional to the course requirements for the degree.

Students may also offer an Indigenous language or another language relevant to their research in place of French. This requires at least one full credit of language study at the University level. Courses with elders may also be approved. Students who already have knowledge of French or of an aboriginal language at the required level may apply in writing to the Graduate Supervisor to have the language requirement waived. Students should do this on entry or as early into the program as possible.