Thesis and Core Seminar

M.A. Thesis

The MARSEA thesis is a substantial piece of original scholarly work, from 35 to 50 pages in length (including footnotes and bibliography), dealing with a modern or contemporary topic in Asian studies and employing social scientific methods and approaches (e.g. history, political science, anthropology, sociology, legal studies, gender studies, media studies). It will include a major focus on the student’s country of specialization, but may also incorporate comparative and/or transnational perspectives to address other countries or regions.  The use of primary source material is strongly encouraged.

For students planning to obtain the degree at the end of the academic year, the thesis proposal (with signed approval from the Thesis Advisor) is submitted in November.  The completed thesis is then due in late April. Students who plan to complete the degree in three semesters submit the completed thesis in December of the third semester, so as to receive a February degree.  

Core Seminar

All MARSEA students take the yearlong Core Seminar during their first two semesters (Fall and Spring).  In the fall, the Seminar centers on shared readings and discussions, and also guest presentations by faculty and scholars affiliated with the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, to explore critically some of the major conceptual and methodological concerns informing social scientific scholarship on the modern Asia-Pacific region. The fall Seminar also includes a series of intensive workshops designed to support the process of selecting a thesis topic, designing a research project, and beginning research.  In the spring, students in the Seminar focus on individual research and writing through a series of small-group writing workshops, as well as classes centered on student research topics.


Each MARSEA student has two advisors.  The MARSEA Academic Director offers guidance and general academic support to all students throughout their time in the program.  In addition, each student works with a second faculty member who serves as Thesis Advisor. The Thesis Advisor, who is typically a faculty member of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute but may also be a member of the Columbia University faculty at large, supervises the process of developing a thesis proposal, conducting research, and writing the thesis.