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Pre-master Thesis North American Studies


Admission requirements

Admission to the pre-master North American Studies is required. Only students who have to take a 60 EC pre-master programme have to write a pre-master thesis in the second semester of their programme. This primarily concerns students who have earned the degree of bachelor in History, English, European Studies, or Journalism at a university of applied sciences, equivalent to the level of a Dutch HBO bachelor’s degree. Students who have to take a 30 EC pre-master program do not have to write a pre-master thesis.


The pre-master thesis, 8000-10.000 words in length (including footnotes and bibliography), will be based on original research that is developed in cooperation with a thesis supervisor. It is advisable that the topic of the premaster thesis is linked with one of the premaster courses in the first or second semester; usually the instructor of this course is also the thesis supervisor. The coordinator of studies, Els Munter, can also help with finding the right thesis supervisor.

  • Before Nov. 15 students have to approach a (potential) supervisor, with whom they will meet regularly to develop their topic, do preliminary research and eventually produce a thesis proposal.

  • Jan. 21: after approval by the supervisor, submit final thesis proposal to the Exam Board for approval. The Exam Board will appoint the second reader.

  • Between Jan. 21-May 1, do research and write introduction, thesis chapters, and conclusion under thesis supervisor.

  • May 1, submit first complete draft of the thesis to the thesis supervisor

  • June 1, submit final version of the pre-master thesis to supervisor. After June 1, revisions (if necessary) will still be accepted until June 21. The final version will also have to be approved by the second reader. If the final version of the pre-master thesis is submitted after June 21, however, students cannot start the MA in September.

Aim of the pre-master’s thesis

A pre-master’s thesis, the equivalent of a university bachelor’s thesis, is an extended academic essay based upon independent research that demonstrates solid knowledge of a topic in the field of North American Studies. It will help students prepare for the master’s programme.
Written under the supervision of an academic staff member, the thesis must show that the student is capable of:

  • understanding the relevance of the chosen topic to academic debates in the field;

  • demonstrating knowledge of the relevant secondary sources;

  • identifying, locating and researching relevant primary sources;

  • summarizing and analyzing secondary and primary sources in a concise and critical manner;

  • ordering a significant body of material in a coherent and fluent way;

  • building a logical argument that develops a clear, focused research question and thesis statement;

  • writing academic English of at least a satisfactory standard;

  • following required academic conventions regarding footnotes or in-text source references, bibliography, and so on (MLA or Chicago citation style)..

Research and Writing

Students should start out by formulating a clear plan for the structure of the thesis in the form of a thesis proposal, in consultation with their supervisor. They can use the thesis proposal form for the master’s thesis, which can be downloaded from the Blackboard site of the Thesis Seminar North American Studies. Only after submitting the proposal to the Exam Board can they begin writing. The proposed topic may have to be narrowed down in order to make the thesis viable. It is important to be precise and systematic in writing down one’s sources; this avoids wasting time in having to check the sources and notes again at a later stage. Quotations from the literature must always be identified as such, and page numbers must always be noted.
Plagiarism must at all costs be avoided.

Handing in the Thesis

Students are expected to hand in the chapters of the thesis one by one and incorporate the comments of their thesis supervisor in revised drafts. Check with your supervisor for guidelines regarding format of thesis lay-out and citation style.
When the thesis has been approved by the supervisor, print two copies of the final version (one copy for the supervisor and one for the second reader), unless your supervisor and/or second reader prefers an electronic copy.

Assessment method

In assessing the quality of the thesis, the following aspects play an important role:

  • the clarity of the research question(s) and thesis statement;

  • embedding in scholarly debate;

  • the critical analysis of source materials;

  • transparency of methodology;

  • clarity and structure of argumentation;

  • integration of secondary sources (including theory) into the argument;

  • language use, structure and style;

  • correct use of citation style (MLA or Chicago);

  • the degree of independence displayed during the research and supervision process.

Assessment forms will be filled out digitally by first and second reader.


See also:

  • Regulations MA North American Studies (OER) (scroll down);

  • Avoiding plagiarism.