Program Requirements

Candidates must take at least 10 courses (30 hours of course work).  In addition to the introductory course, AMST 400 (American Studies: Theory and Method), students must take at least one discipline-based research methods course chosen in consultation with their advisor, four courses in their area of concentration, and six credits of thesis. Concentrations or tracks are established in areas of scholarly strength. Currently, we have five tracks: gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, culture and ideas, documentary film, and the environment. Some tracks offer the option of completing a graduate certificate. In those tracks, students can complete a selection of courses of their choosing or follow the structured requirements to complete the relevant graduate certificate. An individually designed concentration is also available. Students who wish to pursue a custom track must propose their individual concentration during their second semester. 

AMST 400 3)
Methods course(s) (3-6)
Thesis/project (6)
Concentration courses (Track) (12)
Elective (3-6) 

For more information on graduate courses, please click here.


Gender and Sexuality (WGSS)*
Race and Ethnicity (AAS)
Culture and Ideas
Documentary Film*
Environment *
Individual concentration
* available graduate certificate


In order to reflect the diverse skills that our M.A. program allows students to acquire, the required M.A. thesis may take many forms.  Students may choose to write an interdisciplinary research paper, to create a documentary film, to produce a multimedia exhibit for a local gallery or history museum, or to build and to index an on-line archive focused on specific research interests.  Working with a faculty advisor at the end of the first year of the program, students will develop a project proposal for the thesis that will guide research, writing, or filming in the following year. Upon approval of the proposal, students will enroll in an independent study with a faculty advisor in the fall semester of their second year in the program during which students will conduct extensive research and data collection, and generally begin necessary preparatory work for the completion of the thesis.  In the spring semester, students will continue to work with the selected faculty advisor to conclude thesis research, to develop the final product, and to prepare to present their work to the University community.  At the end of the spring semester, the American Studies program will celebrate all students’ thesis work with a research symposium open to faculty, staff, students, and community members. 


The purpose of the M.A. thesis is to give graduate students the opportunity to delve deeply into an area of interest, to conduct intensive research, and to produce a substantial project that reflects engagement with an area of study.  The thesis also allows students to develop the skills and experience necessary for future careers or doctoral programs.  Working closely with a thesis advisor, students will spend time identifying the topic and format for a thesis project that fits their interests as well as their long term aims. 
Even as the thesis requirement allows for flexibility, we do suggest a few guidelines for the development of a project, which are listed below.  Despite the formal difference, each completed thesis project also must include a written component that 1) displays significant research into the area of study 2) showcases the student’s contributions to that area of study with her/his/their project 3) reflects upon the development of the project and possible future directions for the work.  Possible formats for the M.A. thesis project include: 
  • Research Paper:  With a research paper, students are asked to produce between 35-50 pages (double spaced) of writing that both shows deep engagement with published scholarship on their topic and moves the scholarly conversation into new directions.  Revealing profound knowledge of the area of study as well as innovative and fresh insights into the topic selected, students will produce written work worthy of conference presentation or submission to an academic journal.  Students may choose to use a seminar paper from graduate coursework as the seed for a thesis project.  With extensive additional research, significant revision and development of the foundational paper, and substantial reframing of the project within precursory academic conversations, students will produce a vibrant thesis that differs greatly from their initial investigation.  Alternatively, students may choose a new topic for the thesis that they were unable to explore in depth in coursework with approval of a faculty advisor.  With either option, the resultant thesis will show mastery of scholarship on the selected topic and contribute new knowledge to the area of study.
  • Documentary Film:  With this option, students are invited to produce a documentary film of at least 15-20 minutes in length on a selected topic.  The film should draw upon significant research into an area of study, display expertise in compiling and editing recorded material, and be ready for viewing at the end of the spring semester.  Ask documentary film program members to complete this section with guidelines for the development of this kind of project.
  • Archival Work:  With this option, students may 1) annotate material from an archive and produce a written introduction to annotated material replete with reference to detailed research about archival materials 2) add to or create an online archive to be utilized by researchers, policy makers, or community members and produce a written account of their work.  Ask Ed Whitley to produce more on this topic as he has such extensive experience with the creation of on-line archives and working with graduate students in this area. Also, consult Kim and Julia as they have worked with grad students on this kind of project.
  • Multimedia Presentation: With this option, students will engage in research on a selected topic and will collect materials to develop a multimedia presentation to be displayed in an exhibition either at Lehigh or in a community historical museum or gallery.  The resultant exhibition will include the creation of accessible contextual narrative for the material presented, detailed information about each piece in the collection, the construction of a lecture to introduce viewers to the collection, and a written guidebook for visitors.  Additionally, students who choose this option will be asked to write an essay on the multimedia presentation that shows deep research into the selected topic as well as reflection upon the creation of the exhibition.
  • Other:  The flexibility of our thesis requirement allows for students to design their own thesis project with approval of a faculty advisor.  Thus, students may propose 1) to research a topic of import to our community in connection to the creation of a series of public forums to address the selected topic 2) to work closely with a community organization to create written material for websites, grant applications, or policy recommendations for political officials or 3) to construct a series of reading groups at the public library to explore a historical, cultural, or political issue of import to American Studies.  If students choose to design their own thesis project and receive approval from a faculty advisor, they will be asked to write an essay that positions their work within academic research on a selected topic, discusses their project in detail, and reflects upon the successes and possible future directions for their work.  

Important Steps in the Process:

  • You will be matched with a faculty mentor prior to your arrival on campus.
  • Choose a concentration/track or propose an individual option (first or second semester).
  • Identify your thesis advisor in your second semester. In consultation with your thesis advisor, choose a second reader from a different discipline. 
  • Completion of the thesis/project proposal is recommended by the end of your first year or over the summer.
  • If you are collecting data using human subjects, begin your IRB approval early in your third semester. 
  • Present your thesis/project at American Studies colloquium 

Financial Support

Fellowships with stipends and tuition credits are awarded on a competitive basis. Detailed information regarding financial aid is available through the College of Arts and Sciences' graduate office. The application deadline for students interested in financial aid is March 1.

Admission Requirements

Any student who has attained a bachelor's degree at any recognized university may be admitted as a graduate student. An application for admission may be submitted to the Graduate Programs Office or directly to the Program. A complete application consists of the following:

  1. Completed data sheet
  2. Official transcripts of all post-secondary education
  3. Official record of GRE scores
  4. Writing sample
  5. Two (2) letters of recommendation
  6. $75 application fee (nonrefundable)
  7. TOEFL scores for students whose native language is not English

Deadlines & Request

The deadline for the fall semester is July 15; however, the deadline for financial aid consideration for the fall semester is March 1. Those interested in spring admission must have their application in by December 1.

Please note, after March 1 deadline, there is no consideration of financial aid for that academic year.

For more information on Graduate Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, click here...

Take the Next Step

More detailed application/admission information for the graduate program in American Studies is available through the College of Arts and Sciences' graduate office.

Looking for information about graduate student life at Lehigh? Check out the Graduate Student Life Office