The dissertation (thesis in the American system) is the single most important component of the dual degree, and for many students it is also the most rewarding. The program is structured to ensure that students have adequate time and access to funding so that they may take on unique and ambitious projects. MA/MSc students have the ability to work with faculty from both institutions, as well as considerable freedom in their choice of topic and methodology. Upon graduation, many students go on to publish their dissertations.
Students are not expected to enter the dual Master’s degree program with a research project in mind. The first semester at Columbia is intended as an opportunity for students to take advantage of the university’s diverse classes, to explore their interests and improve their understandings of the fields of international and world history.
Upon returning from winter break, students submit preliminary research proposals and request to work under the guidance of one academic advisor from each institution.
Because MA/MSc dissertation topics are international and transnational in nature, the two advisors frequently come from distinct yet complimentary backgrounds in history. Students are encouraged to work with both advisors throughout the dissertation process; however, it is ultimately up to individual students to contact and stay in touch with their advisors. The year-long core course, MA/MSc Research Skills and Methods, helps students refine their topics through peer dialogue, feedback from instructors and advisors. By the end of the semester, students have identified their research questions, developed a methodology, situated their work in the existing historiography, prepared for their forthcoming research, and submitted a dissertation prospectus. The work culminates with each student giving a 10-minute presentation in a student conference at the end of the year.
Over the summer, students are expected to do research for the dissertation that they will write during their year at LSE. Many students take the 4 1/2 month summer as an opportunity to engage in ambitious, multi-archival research projects across the globe. Other students write exceptional theses based entirely on sources available online or in a single archive. As a result of the extended summer, many students are additionally able to couple their research with language study and/or work experience.
All International and World History MA/MSc students are encouraged to apply for the Columbia University Alliance Fellowship, which offers up to $4,000 for summer research and language classes. Some students also choose to pursue external funding, such as a summer FLAS.
As students are expected to complete their primary research over the summer, the majority of the dissertation writing process takes place during the second year at LSE. The year-long HY458 Dissertation Workshop is designed to help students refine their work, drawing upon the feedback of instructors and their peers.
Prior to the deadline at the beginning of Summer Term, students have a month, free of course work, to prepare the final drafts of their dissertations. Dissertations are submitted in the first week of the Summer Term and assessed at LSE in accordance with its MSc criterion. Following, students have approximately a month to prepare for exams, which are held between mid-May and late June.