Students enrolled in the MA programme in Philosophy 120 EC are required to write a master’s thesis in their second year (normally in their last semester).
In order to graduate, students must have successfully completed all components of the MA Philosophy 120 EC programme and have completed their final thesis as a component of that programme. The master’s thesis is an independent academic contribution to philosophy in the field of the chosen specialisation. This means that the subject of the thesis concerns a topic in philosophy of the specific (non-philosophical) discipline.
For the MA thesis 20 ECTS credits (560 hours) are available, including attending the Thesis Seminar Philosophy. The length of the thesis is approximately 20,000 words, including notes, bibliography, and appendices. Depending on the subject, the student and the supervisor may agree on a different length. The MA thesis must be supervised by a staff member of the Leiden Institute of Philosophy.
Procedure for assignment of the supervisor
The subject of the thesis must belong to the field of the chosen specialisation. The choice of subject and supervisor follows a fixed procedure. This procedure should smoothen the whole process of finding a supervisor and a suitable topic so that students can start their thesis in time.
There are only two times each academic year that students can start their thesis, in February and in September. At the end of May (for starting the thesis in September), or at the end of November (for starting the thesis in February) students choose three possible combinations of supervisor and topic out of a list and send their preferences to the coordinator of this procedure. In June or December all students who have submitted their preferences will be assigned a supervisor. Students are encouraged to contact their appointed supervisor as soon as possible for an initial appointment in which you make further arrangements regarding the supervision.
The agreements relating to the planning and supervision of the writing of the MA thesis are set out in writing by the student and the supervisor in the Agreements relating to the MA thesis form. (See part 3 of the Protocol Graduation Phase MA in Philosophy.) The agreements include details on the choice of subject of the thesis, on the frequency of sessions with the thesis supervisor and the manner of supervision, and on the phasing of the research leading up to the thesis.
At least four reporting/feedback instances should be included in the phasing, which should relate to the following:
- The research question and the selection of literature;
- The structure of the research;
- The pre-final version;
- The final version.
The schedule chosen should be realistic, taking into account the time which is available for writing the thesis (560 hrs) and the student’s other teaching obligations. The student will provide the Coordinator of Studies with a copy of the relevant form.
The supervisor ensures that the agreed periods within which the student is required to provide a report are observed. In the event of a failure to meet any of the deadlines, if such failure is expected to result in a substantial delay, the schedule will be modified and the student will keep the Coordinator of Studies informed of this modification accordingly. The supervisor will respond as quickly as possible to the reports submitted by the student, but in any event within 5 working days in the case of reports 1 and 2, within 15 working days for report 3, and in the case of report 4 within 10 working days after receipt of the report.
During the semester in which the MA thesis is being written the students also attends the mandatory Thesis Seminar Philosophy. The Thesis Seminar is an integral part of the thesis component of the programme, and is meant to support the writing process. The Thesis Seminar Philosophy is offered twice per year, both in the first semster and in the second semester.
The master’s thesis should clearly show that the student meets the attainment levels which have been set for the MA programme Philosophy 120 EC in terms of knowledge and skills. More specifically, the master’s thesis and the working method for the thesis should demonstrate that the student has:
the ability, on the basis of the knowledge and understanding, to contribute to discussions in the philosophy of the specific discipline, and related areas;
the ability, on the basis of the sound knowledge of philosophy acquired during the programme, to analyse complex philosophical problems;
the ability to judge the reliability of different kinds of sources;
the ability to form judgements based on different kinds of sources;
a realistic view of the reliability of their conclusions;
the ability to integrate different approaches to philosophical questions and compare these with each other;
the ability to write philosophical papers at an academic level.
In addition, the thesis should show that the student has knowledge and understanding in the field of the history, foundations, methodology and/or ethics of the specific discipline, in particular:
for the specialisation Philosophy of Humanities: knowledge and understanding of the methodologies, key terms, and philosophical foundations of the literary arts and humanities, as well as the philosophical reflection on the social and cultural meaning of the literary arts and humanities;
for the specialisation Philosophy of Law, Governance, and Politics: knowledge and understanding of the methodologies, key terms, and philosophical foundations of legal and social sciences, as well as the philosophical reflection on the social and cultural impact of these;
for the specialisation Philosophy in World Traditions: knowledge and understanding of one or more of the non-western philosophical traditions and their histories, as well as the relevant methodologies, key terms, and philosophical reflection on their linguistic, cultural, geographical, and historical underpinnings.
Furthermore, the thesis should show that students in all specialisations of the programme have knowledge and understanding:
with regard to the social and cultural meaning of philosophy in general and the philosophy of the specific discipline in particular;
of the main philosophical elements of the discipline as well as knowledge of the problems, methods and key terms of these elements.
Mode of instruction
The course objectives will be assessed by the following components:
MA Thesis and Final examination (oral defence): 100% of the final grade
Paricipation in Thesis Seminar Philosophy: 0% of the final grade
The thesis will be assessed by the supervisor and a second reader who has been appointed by the Board of Examiners.
Formal requirements and assessment criteria
The thesis for the Master’s programme in Philosophy 120 EC has a workload of 20 ECs, and the length of the thesis is approximately 20,000 words. Depending on the subject, the student and the supervisor may agree on a different length. In order to assess whether the required final attainment levels have been achieved, the MA thesis will be assessed on the basis of a number of assessment criteria that have been established in the Protocol Graduation Phase MA in Philosophy.
The following assessment criteria will apply:
Knowledge and insight (contents, relation to the field)
Application knowledge and insight (methodology)
Reaching consclusions (interpretation, argumentation, conclusion)
Communication (writing skills, structure)
Learning skills (process)
Programme specific requirements (knockout criteria) are:
the ability to independently arrive at considered judgements on a philosophical debate.
A sufficient assessment of each of the three knock out criteria is required in order to be admitted to the final exam. A MA thesis that, according to the supervisor and/or the second reader, does not meet the above mentioned criteria, will be assessed as insufficient. In case the thesis has been assessed as insufficient the student will be enabled to resit the thesis in view of the assessment form and the instructions of the supervisor.
The master’s thesis shall be defended as part of the final examination. The grade of the master’s thesis is determined by the examiners after the questioning (defence of the thesis) in the MA examination. The final examination cannot be scheduled before both the thesis supervisor and the second reader have assessed the thesis as sufficient for the exam. The second reader will be appointed by the Board of Examiners. The final examination may be held at any time during the academic year. However, in order to graduate on the latest possible date of the academic year (i.e. the last working day of August) the final draft of the MA thesis should have been approved by the thesis supervisor and sent to the Board of Examiners no later than 15 June.
Students don't have to enroll for the MA Thesis through uSis. They are requested, however, to apply in time for the assignment of thesis supervisors.
Enrolment for the Thesis Seminar Philosophy through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website
Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetables for courses and exams.
Coordinator procedure for assignment of thesis supervisors: Dr. Johan de Jong
Contact details of assigned supervisors are available on the website of the Institute of Philosophy