Major Research Paper

Students have the right to submit material for examination without approval of the principal supervisor or oral examination committee members. However, MRP’s are generally submitted for defence only after the principal supervisor has judged it ready for defence, and this is highly advisable.

When the MRP is ready for defence, the supervisor contacts the Graduate Program Director (GPD) to discuss the selection of a second examiner (also called second reader), and possibly a Chair of the examination. The examination committee is appointed by the Graduate Studies Committee of the Department of Philosophy, as represented by the GPD, in consultation with the student’s supervisor. The examination committee is not selected by the student, but students may suggest possible examiners to the supervisor and/or the GPD.

On most MRP defences (though not MA Thesis defences), the supervisor functions as the Chair of the examination. The examination Chair schedules the defence with the help of the Graduate Program Administrator (GPA), calls the examination proccedings to order, formally ends them, and reports results to the GPD and the GPA. The GPA prepares the paperwork for the examination (the Report from Master’s Examining Committee and the Graduate Activity Grade Report), and the supervisor (or the examination Chair, if different from the supervisor) takes these two forms to the examination and returns them to the GPA for further processing (obtaining of signatures and distribution to Dean of Graduate Studies and Office of the Registrar).

A third faculty member is required on examination committees in those cases in which two faculty members serve as co-supervisors. The third faculty member then serves as independent overseer of the examination.

The defence is in principle public, and is advertised by the Department, in particular among faculty and fellow graduate students. It usually lasts 90 to 120 minutes.

A defence begins with the MA student’s summary of the project, and an account of what motivated her or him to write it (7-10 minutes maximum). Then follow several rounds of questions (2-4 rounds are typical), with the second examiner beginning each round. An examination Chair who is not the supervisor may also ask questions during the defence, though she or he does not typically have her or his own round of questions. After the rounds, the Chair invites questions from the audience, if any.

When the examination Chair has closed questions, the examinee (and audience, if any) leaves the room so that the examiners debate the outcome. Typically, the deliberations begin by the second examiner suggesting an outcome.

After the deliberations, the examination Chair invites the examinee back in and informs her or him of the outcome.

Description

The Major Research Paper (EN695) is shorter than a thesis, but still provides an opportunity to practice well-researched and sustained research on an original topic. Typically, a Major Research Paper (MRP) will range from 40-50 double-spaced pages.

Entrance into the MRP option is not automatic. As described below, students’ proposals must be approved by both the prospective supervisor and the departmental Graduate Studies Committee in December before they can enrol in EN695.

Unlike a Directed Study (EN690), in which the student meets weekly with a professor, the MRP relies upon student research and writing rather than individual instruction by a professor.

Students whose proposals are approved should enrol in the MRP (EN695) in the spring term. Final grades are submitted in mid-August, allowing for a fall convocation and conferral of degree.

Objectives 

  • Develop a research project that requires you to write a sustained analysis on a self-generated topic.
  • Demonstrate familiarity with the field(s) of inquiry in which you are engaged.
  • Produce, in style, length and quality, what could be considered a publishable academic work.
  • Demonstrate your engagement with relevant scholarly sources.
  • Demonstrate independent thinking and research.

Finding a Supervisor

The MRP supervisor must be an academic expert in the area of study that you plan to pursue for the MRP. The supervisor is the key individual with whom you will interact throughout the course of the MRP process. The supervisor must be a full-time English and Film Studies faculty member and a current member of Laurier's graduate faculty.

It is incumbent upon the student to select a supervisor for her or his MRP, and to discuss the possibility of supervision with the faculty member prior to submission of the proposal to the Graduate Studies Committee.

Prospective MRP students are encouraged to review professors’ areas of expertise and publications on the faculty website. The graduate coordinator can also assist the student in identifying professors with expertise in the area of study.

Until the proposal has been approved by the Graduate Studies Committee, the professor’s supervision of the project is an agreement in principle only.

The Role of the Supervisor

  • To provide scholarly expertise in the proposed area.
  • To provide critical feedback and guidance as the project develops.
  • To be the assessor of the work submitted.
  • Although supervisors may have been involved informally at an early stage, their formal involvement begins after the proposal has been accepted and approved by the Graduate Studies Committee.

Proposal: Procedure for Submission

The MRP proposal should be approximately 3 to 4 double-spaced pages and is due on Dec. 5.

The MRP proposal should describe your initial ideas about what you propose to investigate, how you propose to carry out the research, and its potential relevance or contribution to scholarship in the proposed area. It should be seen as a tool for helping you define a topic that is feasible with the resources and time available — and, most importantly, it should explain why it is a topic that is worth researching and writing about.

Prior to submission of this proposal, you must approach a faculty member with expertise in the relevant area to discuss the possibility of supervision. The proposal requires that you identify a prospective supervisor who has expressed interest in working with you, should the proposal be approved for advancement into MRP.

The vetting process involves the prospective faculty supervisor and the Graduate Studies Committee. If the proposal is not passed, the student will register for a winter course. After the MRP has been approved, the student will submit the Master's – MRP/Thesis Approval Form to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

Guidelines for the Formal MRP

The proposal should aim to identify the following:

  • General subject: Identify texts/authors/field.
  • Research topic: Provide the guiding questions of your research paper.
  • Argument/Thesis: Describe your central argument or research question in relation to your primary text(s).
  • Theoretical or critical approach: Identify any theoretical or critical approaches to be applied in the paper (see literature review).
  • Literature review: Comment on the relevance of your bibliographic sources in terms of a theoretical or critical approach. Since many MRPs are based almost entirely on engagement with secondary sources, it is important to demonstrate that you have already done some research to help you arrive at your topic; a literature review demonstrates your awareness of a field in terms of past and current research; it provides a relevant research context.
  • Sources: Provide a bibliography of primary sources and a short bibliography of secondary sources (approximately six critical or theoretical essays/articles).
  • Justification: Establishing relevance – explain why your topic is interesting, compelling, timely or relevant; this is also where you have an opportunity to emphasize your own skills, qualifications or background as it pertains to your research questions and goals.

The MRP Timeline

The following is a detailed timeline that should be followed by all students in order to complete their MRPs and have a grade issued for no later than mid-August. Key dates are presented in reverse chronological order to explain the process and outline the deadlines, working backwards from the final submission date.

To avoid extra fees, you must have your revised and final version of your MRP to your supervisor for grading no later than Aug. 1. To accomplish this, you need to have a major portion of the paper (20-25 pages) completed for review by your supervisor no later than June 15, in order to allow time for the supervisor’s reading, initial assessment, and feedback.

You will then have 2-3 weeks in July to implement that feedback and complete the paper before submitting a final version of the 40-50 page MRP to the supervisor on Aug. 1.

We advise that you take these deadlines very seriously. Experience has shown that students cannot expect to receive a passing grade by mid-August if they do not submit strong work in June. You should assume, therefore, that if you do not have 20-25 pages ready by the end of June, that you will likely not be in a position to meet the Aug. 1 deadline, and must then take a fall course to complete your degree.

Evaluation

The standards for a passing grade in the MRP require that the student demonstrate a cogent and appropriate level of scholarly inquiry and conduct independent research.

To be ready to submit your final paper by Aug. 1, you must have gone through several drafts of your paper on your own; assume, with the inevitable delays and distractions, that you can write two or three good pages per day of your paper. Since the MRP is 40-50 pages long, you are going to have a writing period of 15-20 days per draft, after you have completed your research.

Format and Style

The MRP will be 40-50 pages in length. It should be organized as follows (page lengths provide approximate guidelines only):

  • Part A: introduction (5-10 pages)
    • general topic
    • research questions
    • methodology (approaches)
    • literature review
  • Part B: argument / body of essay (30 pages)
  • Part C: conclusion (2-5 pages)
  • Part D: works cited (3-5 pages)
  • Total = 40-50 pages

Style

  • Times New Roman, 12 point.
  • Double-spaced, single-sided with standard margins (i.e. the formatting requirements of a formal paper submission).
  • MLA Style (all bibliographic entries and works cited lists should conform to the current edition of the MLA Handbook).

The Progress Report

The purpose of the progress report is to ensure that you are moving through the initial stages of your research project at a good pace. In other words, your supervisor will need to assess the strength of the initial stages of your research. This will be assessed through a two-page report on MRP research undertaken over the term, due to the supervisor by March 30, and a meeting with the supervisor in the first week of April to discuss progress and plans for the research and writing stage of the project.

Grading

The MRP will be given a letter grade according to the departmental standards for master’s work. Grades for the MRP must be entered by mid-August in order to meet the deadline for fall convocation.

Additional Resources

  • Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams. The Craft of Research. 3rd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.
  • Feak, Christine M. and John M. Swales. Telling a Research Story: Writing a Literature Review. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2009.
  • Knopf, Jeffrey W. “Doing a Literature Review.” 
  • MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 7th ed. NY: Modern Language Association of America, 2009.
  • University of Toronto: Writing an Academic Proposal
  • University of Toronto: Writing a Literature Review
  • University of Toronto: Writing an Abstract

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