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MA Thesis Literary Studies (track Literature in Society. Europe and Beyond)


Admission requirements

Students can start working on their thesis once they have obtained at least 20 EC for MA courses.

Students who have been admitted to the Master's programme in September 2020, on the basis of having completed at least 165 EC of the relevant Bachelor's programme, cannot start their Master's Thesis before successfully completing their Bachelor's thesis.


In order to graduate, students must have completed 40 EC worth of courses and the master’s thesis, consisting of 15.000-20.000 words. The thesis needs to be written under the supervision of a lecturer who is a member of LUCAS (Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society). It is evaluated by the supervisor and a second reader (selected by the supervisor and approved by the Exam Board).

Aim of the Master’s Thesis

A thesis is an extended academic essay based upon independent research that demonstrates extensive knowledge of a topic and a degree of originality. Written under supervision of a staff member, the thesis must show that the student is capable of summarizing and analyzing existing secondary academic source material in a critical manner, formulating one or more well-defined and motivated research questions and of building a logical argument in academic English.

Choosing a Topic

Generally speaking, students are encouraged to select the topic of their thesis themselves, in consultation with a lecturer. It may be based on a Master’s course that they took. Students should approach a lecturer and discuss with him/her the chosen topic and potential research question(s). Be aware that your topic should be in the field of research of a possible supervisor so not all topics can be supervised. Moreover, our lecturers have a maximum of theses they can supervise per semester/ year. Therefore it is advised to contact a possible supervisor at an early stage. The supervisor, also known as ‘first reader’, will be able to recommend relevant literature. A second reader is chosen by the supervisor. At this point, clear agreements should be made concerning the supervision procedure.

The goal of doing research for and of writing of a Master’s thesis is to find (an) answer(s) to a research question. Before a viable and valid research question can be formulated, the student first has to do preparatory reading. The student then suggests an approach to arrive at possible answers (‘hypotheses’) to the research question. The research can be done by comparing and critically analyzing views found in the literature and/or by collecting and analyzing primary (e.g. corpus analysis) and secondary literature.

Possible supervisors

Visit the instructors' profile pages for information about their fields of expertise.

Timeframe and deadlines

Students are expected to complete their MA thesis within one semester. When planning your thesis, bear in mind that instructors have limited time allowed to supervision, and that there will be no thesis supervision in July and August and between 24 December and 2 January.
To guide you through the process of writing your thesis, a detailed schedule has been set up, which can be found on the Brightspace course.

For students who wish to graduate at the end of the 2nd semester, the thesis submission dates are the following:

Submit final thesis proposal to the Board of Exams: 1st February
Submit complete draft version of the thesis: 1st June
Submit final version to supervisor: 21st June.

For students who wish to graduate at the end of the 1st semester the thesis submission dates are the following:
Submit final Thesis proposal to the Board of Exams: 1st July of the year preceding graduation
Submit complete draft version of the thesis: 1st December
Submit final version to supervisor: 21st December

Submitting the Thesis Proposal

Once the student has selected a topic, formulated a research question and put together a provisional bibliography, the Thesis Proposal form can be completed (see Thesis Proposal form). The Thesis Proposal form should include the title of the thesis and a short description of the topic. It has to be approved and signed by the supervisor before it is submitted to the Board of Examiners. The Board will then assess the thesis proposal to ensure that it is of an appropriate academic level.

Thesis seminar
A thesis seminar is set up in order to guide and help you through the first stage of the thesis: the preliminary process of choosing a topic and finding a supervisor. The seminar consists of 3 group meetings in which students will work at developing research questions and brainstorming about the necessary theoretical and methodological tools to answer such questions.
At the end of the seminar, students should be ready to write their thesis proposal and start on the writing process.
Students starting in September follow the seminar during the first semester, in order to write their thesis during the second semester; students starting in February follow the seminar during the second term in order to write their thesis during the first term of the following academic year.
Please note that class attendance and active participation during the thesis seminar will be taken into account in the assessment of the thesis.

Students are required to enrol in the Brightspace course MA thesis Literary Studies: linkxxx

Individual supervision meetings on your research and writing

During the second stage of the thesis, you will have meetings with your supervisor, of which the first will be about making a plan for the structure of the thesis. With your supervisor, you will then set up a schedule for handing in the planned chapters, one by one. During meetings you will receive feedback about each of them.

Handing in the Thesis

Students are expected to hand in the chapters of the thesis one by one and to incorporate the comments of their thesis supervisor in revised drafts. Once the final version of the thesis is approved by the supervisor, it can be sent to the second reader for assessment. The supervisor and second reader have four weeks in total to assess the thesis, in July and August they have two weeks extra. Check with your supervisor for guidelines regarding the format of the thesis, the lay-out and style of bibliographic references. For practical information on the thesis repository and the graduation procedure, see the graduation page.


In assessing the quality of the thesis, the following aspects are taken into account:

  • The originality of the research question

  • Formulating and analysing the research question;

  • The critical analysis of source materials

Transparency of methodology;

  • Integration of secondary literature into the argument;

  • Language use, structure and style;

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

For detailed assessment criteria, see the Word version of the Assessment form for the MA thesis Literary Studies (Brightspace course MA Thesis Literary Studies).