MA in Classical Archaeology Master's Paper


Successful completion of the M.A. paper is required for the major in Classical Archaeology at Florida State University. The subject of the paper must be within the major field and must reveal independent investigation and knowledge of the methods of scholarship. The goal of this independent research project is for a student to show his or her ability to do research and to write up the results. It should also show an ability to organize and synthesize that material.

All requirements are in keeping with the stipulations of the Graduate School at Florida State University, whose requirements for the M.A. degree are available on its website (see and in its Graduate Student Handbook.

Guidelines for the M.A. Paper

Normally the paper should have between 25 and 40 pages of text, plus the appropriate back matter (bibliography, appendices, illustrations, etc.) which are in addition to the text pages. It will normally focus on a research topic the student has addressed in a term paper in a previous course, but will go into greater depth and more detail, and will attempt to sustain an original argument. It should be modeled on published articles in the field, and should have a fully professional apparatus of citations and illustrations. The paper will be submitted to a directing professor and to a second reader. The format and deadlines will be determined by the director. No defense is required, and the grade will be assigned by the directing professor, on the basis of S/U for 3 hours of credit (CLA 5910). The student must fulfill the same number of hours as in the program with the MA thesis. The additional 3 hours should be obtained through an elective. It is strongly recommended that the elective be taken in a course in Latin or Greek.

Prospectus for M.A. Paper

The prospectus is a proposal of the paper which is to be submitted at the time of the M.A. Comprehensive Examinations; it presupposes that the student has done sufficient research to determine the current state of research, the appropriate bibliography, and the proposed conclusions. The prospectus is a formal part of the process of obtaining the M.A. in Classical Archaeology at Florida State. It should be approximately 2 pages long, not including bibliography. The prospectus should include:

  1. A clear statement of the problem that the student wishes to address.
  2. A clear statement of the current state of research on the problem, naming the scholars who have worked on it and giving a critical evaluation of their results.
  3. A clear statement of what the student proposes to contribute to scholarship. For a Master's paper, the student must produce a sustained original argument on the chosen topic.
  4. A full bibliography on the topic.

Communication with the committee

The Archaeology Committee stresses the importance of regular meetings of the student and the chair of the committee, at least once a month, to discuss progress. Students should be in contact with the other members of the committee to find out how often they wish to meet. Some members of the committee wish to see work one chapter at a time, and by the final copy will have read it a total of four times. Other members of the committee may not want to see each chapter, but will wait to see the final draft. It is the student's responsibility to check with all members of the committee.

The first draft should be as polished as possible, with no typographical errors. It should be perfectly legible, printed in near letter quality type. All footnotes, bibliographical references, and illustrations should be complete. Professors do not wish to be distracted by misspellings, inconsistent and irregular references, incomplete documentation, etc.; rather they wish to concentrate on the content and ideas. Students should submit an outline and a cover sheet with each submitted chapter. Students should always submit a printed rather than electronic copy of the work.

The second draft should be submitted with the revisions completed. Students should also return in the original draft with our comments. This is the stage at which professors hope to approve the particular chapter.

The final draft will be read as a whole. This draft should be given to all members of the committee at least two weeks before the defense in the case of the thesis and by the last day of classes in the semester in which students receive a grade in the case of the paper. At this stage the work is for all intents and purposes finished, but students must expect that there may be recommendations for revisions.

When all revisions are completed (and in the case of the thesis when it is ready to be sent to the Graduate School) the major professor will check it over one last time. It is at this time that the major professor will sign the appropriate forms; other members of the committee may wish to sign at the defense.


The timing of thesis or paper preparation and completion is important -- students do not wish to be in the situation where their major professor is out of the country for an extended period of time when they want to submit their work. Professors generally recommend six months from prospectus to defense for the M.A. thesis; rarely should it take a year and in no cases more than two years. It can take several weeks for a professor to return the draft of a chapter; the defense process from submitting the final draft to the committee to turning in the completed thesis to the Graduate School can take up to one month. And the Graduate School's deadline for submission is often two or three weeks before the end of the term ( This is why students should be in constant contact with the major professor and committee.

The ideal schedule for the thesis is submission and acceptance of the prospectus in the Fall semester, upon completion of the Comprehensive Exams and all coursework. The final complete draft should be submitted to the committee by the middle of March in order to allow adequate time for the committee to read the thesis, hold the defense, and for the student to prepare the final revised copy for submission to the Graduate School by its deadline two to three weeks before the end of the Spring semester. Similar deadlines apply to students seeking degrees in the Fall semester. For those students, the final complete draft should be submitted to the committee by the beginning of November.

The ideal schedule for the paper is submission and acceptance of the prospectus in the Fall semester, upon completion of the Comprehensive Exams and all coursework. The M.A. paper should be completed in the semester in which the student registers for credit, ideally in the immediately following Spring semester. The M.A. paper should be turned in near the end of the semester, and in no case will it be accepted after the last day of classes, to allow faculty sufficient time to read it.

Completion in the summer can be especially difficult to arrange, for faculty often are out of the country. This is not encouraged. Likewise, some of the archaeology faculty, for example, will not accept any work one month prior to departure for the field. Faculty do go on leave or may be assigned to teach in Florence or London during the academic year.

If students do not adhere to these guidelines, if students fail to make adequate progress, or if the work is of poor quality and does not meet the high standards that professors demand, then they reserve the right to resign from the committee and recommend that the student choose an alternate plan to seeking the M.A. in Classical Archaeology.


Grades for the thesis and paper are assigned on the basis of Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U). The major professor will assign an S grade once the supervising committee has approved the thesis or paper. If a student registers in one semester and does not complete his or her thesis or paper in the same semester, the major professor may assign an Incomplete grade (I) or an Unsatisfactory (U) grade. Professors are not obligated to assign an I grade. Generally, if a student has turned in a draft or demonstrated substantial progress toward completion of the thesis or paper, the grade of Incomplete (I) should be assigned. If a student has not turned in any work or has not made substantial progress toward completion of the thesis or paper, the grade of Unsatisfactory (U) should be assigned. Likewise, if students have not made substantial progress toward completion of their projects, professors may decline to write letters of recommendation for them.

Bibliographic references and notes

There are many styles to bibliographic citations; some prefer the footnote or endnote system, others prefer the in-text ("Harvard") system. The most important aspect of whichever system a student uses is consistency. For the footnote or endnote system, students should utilize the system in the American Journal of Archaeology (most recent version online). For the in-text system the style guide in American Antiquity 57 (1992) 753-770 can be used. A full and complete bibliography will appear as part of the end matter in all theses (please note that AJA reference style is incomplete in that the publisher is not included; this information must appear in the bibliography).


All material submitted to the committee, whether it is the prospectus or chapters of the thesis, must include appropriate illustrations. These must be clearly legible, and as near as possible to the final form the student will use in the document. They must be fully labeled, with identification of the object, building, site, etc. illustrated, and a citation of the source for the illustration (even if it is the student's own photograph). The illustrations should be put in sequence at the end of the text and numbered continuously.


If the work is to include a catalogue of objects, buildings, sites, etc., to be analyzed or discussed, the student should devise a well-organized catalogue format. A brief sample of the catalogue or list of all objects, buildings, sites, etc., to be included in the work should be part of the prospectus, along with sample illustrations of all objects in the catalogue. The catalogue can form portions of chapters, a separate chapter, or an appendix.

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