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Athabasca University


Core Courses

Students must first complete the two core courses: MAIS 601: Making Sense of Theory in the Arts and Social Sciences and MAIS 602: Researching Society and Culture. These courses provide students with a foundation for subsequent studies. The courses approach questions of theory and method in disciplinary, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary ways. The courses encourage reading actively and critically, writing succinct critical commentaries and posing insightful questions, and researching and writing academic papers that are both integrative and questioning.

NOTE: We do not recommend completing the two core courses at the same time. The core courses are challenging, and take time and effort to complete. If students wish to complete two courses at one time, we recommend a core and an elective.

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Elective Courses

Please check the MA-IS website for a list of elective courses.

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Reading Courses

Students, individually or in small groups, may conduct readings under a faculty member's supervision in one or two selected subject areas. Students interested in a reading course should approach a faculty member to request assistance in identifying areas of study. Please review faculty members' areas of research and teaching interests on the MA-IS website.

Independent reading courses may be either foundational reading courses or advanced reading courses. Students are required to submit a copy of their Learning Contract agreed to by the professor to the Director of the Graduate Program in Interdisciplinary Studies (see Learning Contract).

Foundational Reading Courses

These courses are for students wishing to establish a strong base of understanding of the key authors, research, and knowledge in a subject area. Typically professors determine the majority of the readings required in the area, while students suggest specific additional reading.

Advanced Reading Courses

These courses are for students who have a solid background in an area and wish to study in depth a specific problem or question. Students work with their professors to define an area of study and to identify the assigned readings.

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Focus Areas

Upon completion of the two MA-IS core courses (MAIS 601 and MAIS 602) and two elective courses, students are required to declare a focus area by submitting a study plan to the MA-IS Office for the Director’s approval.

A minimum of four courses within a focus area must be completed before a specialization in that area of study is awarded. Students must complete at least one focus area and four elective courses before undertaking their Final Project.

Students who wish to declare 2 focus areas must obtain the permission of the MA-IS Office. Applications for permission must include: a complete list of courses, the sequence and timeline within which they will be completed, and an explanation as to how the focus areas will be integrated into their Final Project.

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Project Courses

MA-IS program students now have a choice between two course formats for completion of their MA-IS degree: MAIS 700 Group Study or MAIS 701 Individual Study.

MAIS 700: Group Study Final Project, is a paced course providing for intensive reading in interdisciplinary method and theory and structured reflection on the way students’ understanding and practice of interdisciplinarity has developed throughout the course of their MA-IS studies:

  • Grouped study course with 17 week contract dates.
  • Students follow structured timeline.
  • Students interact with and receive feedback from their peers.
  • The Final Project Essay is a 4000-word paper submitted to the MAIS 700 area of the Digital Project and Reading area of the AU Library website.

MAIS 701: Individualized Study Final Project, allows students to explore an intellectual question, to relate their research to a work situation, or to engage a community problem.

  • Individualized study course with 6 month contract dates (with up to three 2-month time extensions).
  • One-on-one guidance and instruction by supervisor.
  • Students have flexibility for developing their course timelines.
  • Prior to registering in the course, students are required to find an available MA-IS or other AU supervisor. In special cases, with Director’s approval, the supervisor may come from another university.
  • Students and their supervisors create a learning contract for approval by Program Director.
  • Maximum project word count is 7500 words.

As students begin the last third of their study plan, they should begin planning for the final project. This will include identifying a topic and choosing a project supervisor (if students need help identifying a supervisor for their topic, they are encouraged to contact the MA-IS Office).

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Learning Contract

A learning contract is typically a letter of agreement between a professor and a student. It should include a detailed plan stating the work to be carried out by the student, intended outcomes, a description of the role of the faculty member, a plan for assessing the work undertaken, and timelines for completing each stage of the work. Students identify, with the supervisor, the key books, articles, and other materials in a subject area to be read. For the reading and project courses, students are required to submit a detailed learning contract (approved by the faculty supervisor) to the MA-IS Office for approval.

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Submission of Final Project to the MA-IS Office

Once the final Project has been graded and returned to the student by the course supervisor, students are then required to submit a clean copy to the Library's Digital Thesis and Project Room (DTPR) in a PDF file, before their final grade will be processed. Students failing to submit a copy of their final project to the site will not be eligible to graduate.

Upon receipt of comments and feedback from the project supervisor/instructor, students may take an opportunity to make minor revisions to their projects prior to submitting it to the DTPR (i.e. correct spelling errors, grammatical errors, minor organizational issues, etc.).

When submitting the project to the Library's Digital Thesis and Project Room (DTPR), students are required to use our MA-IS template for the title page MS Word 156 KB).

In addition to the title page (in the above format), the document should include both a Table of Contents and an Abstract.

The Abstract is a key document. It is designed to accurately and effectively describe the central concerns of the project, so as to lead potential readers to read the document itself. As such it needs to clearly convey the focus of your topic, its rationale, and your principal findings and conclusions. The abstract should not exceed 300 words.

Among many helpful online guides to writing an abstract, here is one entitled “How to Write an Abstract” by Philip Koopman of Carnegie Mellon University.

Note: It is the student's responsibility to convert his/her document to a printable PDF file (i.e. using Adobe Acrobat) prior to submitting it to the DTPR Site. Students may access a free PDF site by going to the Adobe Acrobat website.

Students are to complete Athabasca University's online "Digital Thesis and Project Room (DTPR) Release Form", which will allow the MA-IS Office to place a copy of the final project in the Athabasca University Library, in digital format, for circulation. When granting permission for Library circulation, please provide an abstract (not to exceed 300 words) summarizing the content of your interdisciplinary project.

We will also require a listing of 4-5 relevant keywords for cataloguing purposes; however, please do not include these in your paper. You may either post them in the "Keywords" field on the DTPR Release form, or send them in the body of an e-mail to the MA-IS Office.

To access the electronic DTPR Release Form you will require a username and password, which you may obtain from the MA-IS Office.

Grades for the Final Project will be released once the final, revised copy of the project has been received by the MA-IS Office.

For information on the overall DTPR E-submission process please visit the following website.

Remember to visit the Convocation web site for details on how to apply for graduation and associated deadlines.

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Updated October 01 2018 by Student & Academic Services

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