M.A. in Spanish (Graduate Study Checklist)

Checklist for completing the graduate program

  1. See the graduate advisor to discuss the course of study upon entering the program. All new graduate students should meet with the graduate advisor upon beginning the MA program at SFSU, or before entering the program. The MA degree requires 30 units of postgraduate coursework and 3 units of Culminating Experience.  Up to 3 of those units may be upper division courses (500-level and above), but at least 21 of those units must be seminars.  With careful planning you should be able to complete all of your necessary coursework within two years (four semesters).
  2. Graduates are admitted to the program as “classified” or “conditional” students.  If you have been conditionally admitted to the program, you need to discuss with the graduate advisor the classes you will need to take to advance to “classified” status.  Depending on your preparation, you may end up taking 15 units of conditional work in addition to the 30 units you need for your degree.  You will advance to classified status when you have completed the conditional coursework.  Conditional coursework may not be used to meet degree requirements.  In other words, conditional coursework does not count toward the 30 units you need to complete the MA.
  3. File the ATC (Advancement to Candicacy form) with the graduate advisor/department chair. The ATC should show at least 6 units yet to be completed for the degree (file it before the semester in which you plan to graduate). The ATC form and more information about filing the ATC is available online.
  4. Complete the Culminating Experience requirement. We offer in our program two option for the culminating experience. The first one consists of a series of comprehensive written and oral exams covering Spanish Peninsular and Latin American, and the oral exam is given one week after the written exams. The second one consists in a thesis in Spanish and a master thesis defense two weeks after the submission of the thesis.

Procedures for completing the Culminating Experience requirement:

  1. Six months before taking the exams or submitting the thesis, students must have a pre-qualifying screening interview, called “prueba ensayo”.  This interview helps you assess your preparation.  If necessary, the committee will advise you to delay taking your exams until you are ready. The committee is formed by three professors. At least two of them have to be members of the Spanish Program.
  2. There are two options for the screening interview: OPTION A) After the screening interview the candidate can request a copy of the questions for the written exam. Exam questions will be drawn from the list given to the candidate. The candidate will have six months to prepare for the comprehensive exams. OPTION B), the candidate has to submit a three-page proposal, an exhaustive bibliography (around 30 books and journal articles), and a brief outline a week before the screening interview. The candidate will have six months to write the thesis.
  3. Comprehensive written exams are given twice annually over a two-day period, generally at the end of November/April or the first week of May/December.  If you take OPTION A, the exam is given over two days and takes a total of five hours: three hours the first day and two hours the next. Students who pass the written exams will sit for their oral exam the next week. The oral exam takes one hour. If you take OPTION B the master thesis defense takes one hour.
  4. Receive the Graduate Coordinator's signature on "Report of Completion of Specified Graduate Program Requirements" and file it with the Foreign Language Department Office (which submits the report to the Graduate Studies). 

Submitting an Application for Graduation

  • Submit an "Application for Graduation" form. Information about where, when, and how to submit this form can be found at the Graduate Studies website. Submit the "Application for Graduation" form to the Graduate Division typically before the third week of instruction of the term you expect to graduate. Check for the deadline in the Class Schedule.  Submission of this form is the responsibility of the student; without it you cannot receive your diploma.


Culmination Experience Checklist 


Option A: Written and Oral Examinations

Students who opt for the written and oral exams will use their culminating experience semester to produce three short written assignments based on the reading lists (general and personal), followed by an oral exam. The process is as follows:
Screening Interview
  • One semester before the exam, the student meets with their committee for the Screening Interview, which serves as a formal step for the Advancement to Candidacy.
  •  One week in advance of the screening interview, the student informs the committee of the 10 works from the general reading list they wish to focus on, and provides their personal list of 10 readings.
  • At the meeting, the committee will evaluate the student’s preparation and each professor will provide two questions based on the general list and the student’s personal list, for a total of six questions.
The essays
  • Questions will be divided into the following eras: pre-modern, modern, and contemporary.
  • The student will choose one question from each professor and, over the next semester, will write three short essays, one for each question.
  • The student has the right to consult with professors during the process, but only to answer general questions (questions of structure and bibliography, or advice on interpretation, for example). Professors do not have a duty to “pre-grade” any essay.
  • Each essay must be between 1,700-2,000 words, must include a bibliography and must be written in the proper academic style.
  •  Complete essays must be turned in to professors by the first week of December (Fall) or May (Spring); the exact deadline will be determined in the Screening Interview.
  • Each essay must receive a minimum of 80 percent in order for the student to move on to the oral exam.
The oral exam
  • Once the student passes the written exams, they move on to the oral exam, which will take place two weeks after the written portion.
  • The oral exam will be one hour long and professors will be free to ask questions about the reading lists as well as the student’s written essays.

Option B: Thesis in Spanish and Oral Defense

The student should contact the three advisors the semester before he or she plans to write the thesis. The first and the second advisors must be professors in the Spanish program, and the third advisor may be from another department, but he or she has to be able to read and understand Spanish.
A week before the screening interview the student should present a three-page proposal, an exhaustive bibliography (around 30 books and journal articles), and a brief outline (3 pages). During the screening interview the student must convince the future advisors of the value and interest of their project. The screening interview is not an exam, is a conversation with the committee.
The master’s thesis is a carefully argued scholarly paper of approximately 12,000 words (roughly 50 pages). After the screening interview, the candidate has 6 months to complete it. The thesis should present an original argument that is carefully documented from primary and secondary sources. The thesis must have a substantial research component and must be written under the guidance of an advisor from the Spanish program. 
The candidate must deliver a summary in English (10 pages) as well.
The student has to submit a copy for each member of the committee.
The last appointment of the master thesis involves an oral defense. At least two weeks prior to the meeting, all committee members shall have received copies of a final draft of the thesis. The candidate has to make an appointment with the three advisors. The oral defense is a presentation of the thesis, followed by an academic discussion.  
The oral defense of the thesis is open to the public.
Please see the Manual for Formatting and Submitting a Master’s Thesis at the Graduate Studies site.