Master’s thesis and requirements for graduation
Title: Master of Arts
Duration: 2 years, full-time
Start dates: September and February
Language of instruction: English
Responsibility: Programme director Master Middle Eastern Studies (research), Prof. Dr. J.A. Silk
This research master provides core training in an Area Studies approach to knowledge, opportunities for the development of disciplinary skills (politics, history, literature, philosophy, religion, etc.), and possibilities to build upon regional and language specialisation (such as Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Hebrew). Master students in Middle Eastern Studies develop sophisticated theoretical and methodological tools for scholarly reflexivity as well as tools specific for their research projects – which may be framed in more conventionally disciplinary and regional terms. They are guided to understand the parameters of the various disciplines and the ways in which they may be creatively combined into sophisticated forms of inter-disciplinarity, suitable to their subject matter. Students develop in-depth knowledge of one of the regions of the Middle East and/or a transregional/comparative perspective that tracks particular themes through their relationship with ‘areas.’
Preferably during the first weeks after the start of their studies, the students of the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) are coupled with a “consultant”, one of the professors involved in the programme who (preferably) works on a topic of interest to the individual student. Together with his or her “consultant” the student composes a programme which caters to her or his interest.
Common Core Courses
The programme consists of four semesters with a course load of 30 EC each. The courses have a weight of 10 EC each (some language courses have a weight of 5 EC) and students generally follow three courses per semester. During the first year students have to take two Common Core Courses: ‘Theory and Issues of Area Studies’ (Fall Semester) and ‘Methods in Area Studies’ (Spring Semester). These courses are obligatory for students of both the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) and the MA Asian Studies (research) and attended by them jointly.
Core Electives and Electives
Besides these Common Core Courses students take elective courses. The programme offers two kinds of electives: “core electives” and “electives”. Every student needs to choose at least one “core elective” in each semester.
These core electives are courses which are also attended by regular MA students, but they aim at the same time at offering an extra intellectual challenge to the students of the research MA: during the course more challenging literature is read and extra tutorials are offered by the convernors of the courses to discuss the literature read. Moreover, the assignments are assessed at a higher level to cater to the higher intellectual need of research MA students. The remaining regular “electives” are courses attended jointly with the students of the regular MAs and lack the extra challenges offered by the “core electives”.
It is also possible to take courses from other programmes, but when students choose to do so, they need to obtain approval from the Board of Examiners first. Students should be aware, though, that for some of the courses a certain level of knowledge of a particular language is required (see course descriptions).
Fieldwork / Study Abroad
Students are expected to spend the third semester of the programme abroad doing fieldwork and/or studying at an affiliated institution.
The last semester: Thesis Writing Seminar and MA-Thesis
After their return from Fieldwork or Study Abroad, the students write their MA-Thesis. The process of writing is supported by a “Thesis Seminar” which is obligatory and offered bi-weekly. Students present their research during this seminar and discuss relevant issues with their peers.
Master’s thesis and requirements for graduation
In the third semester students start working on their individual research (and if they want to do fieldwork in the third semester, even earlier). This will result in a master’s thesis. The thesis must be based on the student’s own research, including primary data. Whether this material is gathered during fieldwork and/or a study-abroad period depends on the road chosen by the student. The fourth semester is entirely reserved for the writing of the thesis. During this semester, the students gather on a regular base under the guidance of Prof. E.J. Zürcher in the Thesis Writing Seminar to discuss their progress. This “course” has a weight of 5 EC and is obligatory for all students in the fourth semester. In order to graduate, students need to have successfully completed the 120 EC programme including having completed the thesis (25 EC) as part of that programme. The thesis should be related to the expertise of at least one of the members of staff involved in the programme.
MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) programme
Secretariat Vrieshof 4, rm 112a
2300 RA Leiden
Visiting address (also address for courier services)
Matthias de Vrieshof 4, 2311BZ Leiden
Witte Singel 25, 2311BG Leiden
Matthias de Vrieshof 4, room 112a
Phone +31 (0)71 527 2253
N.A.N.M. van Os, PhD
Phone: +31 (0)71 527 2937
Office hours: upon appointment on Mondays (until 13.00 hs), Tuesdays, Wednesdays