Graduate Student Resources

Graduate Student Handbook

This handbook is designed to ease your transition into the MA Program in Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies, University at Albany. It contains answers to frequently asked questions regarding advisement, program requirements, procedures, courses, and guidelines for the final project. 

Graduate Student Handbook

MA Final Project

Students in their final semester of graduate studies are required to complete what's known as the Final Project, for which they must enroll in WSS 690 (3-4 credits). In the previous semester, students ideally begin preparation and research for their final project, which may include their enrollment in WSS 689 (Master's Project Proposal Writing).

The Final Project is an opportunity for students to apply what they have learned in their degree program by completing a project based on original research. This project is an application and integration of feminist theory and practice, which also demonstrates in its research an analysis of the intersections of gender, race, class, sexuality, and nationality.

Students also have four options in the way that they develop this Final Project. No one option is easier than another since all of the options require the same level of research, the same time commitment, and the same comprehension of research questions and methods that will prove the most useful in shaping and completing the project. Students should choose their project options based on their own knowledge strengths and individual expertise.

The Graduate Director will help students identify research topics for the Final Project, as well as help them identify potential faculty with whom they could work on this project.

MA Final Project Options
  1. Final Exam: The examination will be based on a reading list of at least 25 book-length texts (four articles are the equivalent of one book-length text) developed by the student in consultation with her or his final project committee. The research method for this project option is intensive critical reading and a thorough literature review of key and relevant texts (including, when applicable, searching for and reading texts in their original edition) comprising an area of specialization reflecting the student's interest. The final project committee, whose areas of expertise correspond with the student's interests, will also serve as examiners. Once the student and her/his committee agree on a coherent and focused final list, the Graduate Director must then approve the reading list, which will also be copied and become part of the department's permanent file, as will the completed examination. Students who choose this option will be expected to complete the exam during a specific time period (you may choose to complete the exam in a three-hour time span or over 2-3 days). Students who are simultaneously completing work in doctoral programs at the University may include this exam option in their PhD comprehensive exams, provided that at least one exam area is a recognizable Women's Studies subject.
  2. Final Paper: The final paper, or thesis, will be based on original research and should be approximately 40-50 pages, including endnotes and works cited (research materials - graphs, illustrations, interview questions - not included). The final project committee chair will meet regularly with the student during the process of researching and writing the paper to insure that the paper emerges from a developmental and synthetic process, that it undergoes revision over time, and that its final draft reflects more depth than the typical seminar paper. If the paper is based on research involving the use of human subjects, the student will need to secure the approval of the Institutional Review Board at the University at Albany. Before working on the final paper, students must submit the Master's Project Proposal, which must be approved by the final project committee and Graduate Director. The final paper will become part of the department's permanent file. At the student's option, the final paper may later be revised as a manuscript for publication (between 25-40 pages) in a peer-reviewed academic journal.
  3. Creative Project: The creative project, like the final paper, will be based on original research and will reflect original work in any medium, depending on the availability of materials, faculty expertise, and students' own talents and experience. Creative projects should reflect a student's prior work rather than a desire to explore an unknown medium. For instance, it is terribly risky for a student who has never written creatively to propose the writing of a novella, or for a student who has never composed music to propose a music project. However, if the student has prior experience with the creative process, s/he must consider how the intense process of conducting original research will weigh alongside the intense process of creating art. It is always exciting to experiment with new forms of expression at any stage of our lives, but since the purpose of the final project is to focus on original research as it demonstrates feminist inquiry and an analysis of the intersections of gender, race, class, sexuality, and nationality, it is best to engage these issues in a medium with which the student is familiar. Students must submit with their creative project an essay (10-15 pages, including endnotes and references) that describes the project's concepts, process, and assessed outcomes. Typically, essays accompanying creative projects will also demonstrate the student's understanding of the theoretical issues raised by the project, place the project in the context of a related feminist creative work, and include a bibliography of sources consulted in the process of creation. As with the final paper, any research involving the use of human subjects must first be approved by the Institutional Review Board at the University at Albany. When applicable, students who know ahead of time that they will choose the creative project option for their final project should take related courses that instruct them on the creative process. Please note that the essay, which accompanies the creative project, is separate from the Master's Project Proposal, which must be approved by the final project committee and Graduate Director. At the student's option, the creative project may be developed for publication or presentation before the general public. The creative project will become part of the department's permanent file.
  4. Community Project: The community project, like the final paper and the creative project, is also based on original research and is conducted in conjunction with the student's political or cultural involvement with a community typically outside the University. The research method for this project option may be action research or other engagements of social science methods in the interests of feminist and social justice concerns of the community. Students who know ahead of time that they will choose the community project option for their final project should enroll in WSS 592 - Graduate Internship - a year in advance to identify potential communities and begin related community research. Since they are also primarily dealing with human subjects, this research must first be approved by the Institutional Review Board at the University at Albany. Subsequently, students may approach the community project in two ways:
    1. Applied Research Project: Students should expect to conduct 40 hours of on-site work for the semester in which the research is done. The final project committee may include a third member from the non-academic community who will be involved in the student's work. At the conclusion of the project, the student will submit a written report describing the project and assessing its progress or outcomes. Typically this report includes a discussion of feminist theories applied to the conception and implementation of the project, an analysis of the project's effectiveness and what the student might do differently in the future, as well as a bibliography that demonstrates the theory base for the project.
    2. Pedagogy Project: Students may choose to engage feminist pedagogy in their original research by designing and implementing a course, seminar, workshop, conference, curriculum plan, or an education program that explores her/his research subject. The pedagogy project may also include a plan for library and archival acquisitions or the creation of a database for educational resources. The project may envision a course or an alternative educational outlet designed for the college classroom and campus or beyond the academic setting (i.e. a local school, community center, nonprofit, company, prison, house of worship, museum, "classroom without walls" field study, distance learning, etc.). The written work should include a rationale and educational philosophy, description of possible venue(s) and resources for teaching, and detailed syllabus, with course goals and objectives, required texts, assignments, and schedule. A bibliography demonstrating the theory base for the project must also be submitted. Students may engage in actual teaching (as paid work) while completing this project; in all cases, the student must include an analysis of the impact of feminist pedagogy.

Please keep in mind that exceptionally accomplished students may creatively combine two or more of these project options into one final project. Please also note that - whatever your project option - you must submit a Master's Project Proposal, or Prospectus, approved by your committee members and the Graduate Director, before you can enroll in WSS 690. A copy of your project proposal and your completed final project will become part of the permanent files of the department as well as your own individual file. For more information on the final project and proposal process, as well as the curriculum in general, please consult the MA Student Handbook, available for download and also in the departmental office.

MA Final Project Committee

Your final project committee typically consists of two faculty members: the chair and a second member.

Chair: The chair is the faculty member with whom you will work most closely on your project. The chair is also typically a member of the Women's Studies core or joint faculty, chosen by you, with expertise in the research or creative project area.

Second Member: Typically, the other committee member is a Women's Studies core, joint, or affiliated faculty, but this is not always the case, especially if the student has had interactions with outside faculty whose expertise in her/his project area would be appreciated. Second members may meet with the student almost as regularly as the committee chair, or they may become involved in the project only at significant points.

Please consult the MA Student Handbook for more details about the process.