The MA in Science and Technology Studies will provide students with an advanced introduction to STS research and its fields of application. Students will be encouraged to address existing STS literature in-depth, and will have the opportunity to pursue a major, but short-term, research project of their own design. This experience will offer those students coming into the graduate program with an undergraduate degree in STS with the chance to both focus their existing interests in the field while expanding their repertoire of interdisciplinary tools to analyze the diverse structures of the sciences and technology.
Many students, however, will lack a deep knowledge of the field, as there are currently few STS undergraduate programs across Canada. These students will likely have had their interest in STS piqued through courses in fields that examine the sciences and technology from a disciplinary perspective, such as history, philosophy, or sociology. In the case of students with a BSc, they will likely have become engaged in thinking about aspects of their own field of specialization in the physical, computer, or life sciences that were either invisible or under-represented in their undergraduate training. These students will be introduced to a new and diverse set of matrices originating in the historical and social sciences in which they can fit their existing expertise and interests.
The program’s objective is thus to facilitate a critical and rigorous engagement between the social sciences, the humanities and the natural sciences. It is anticipated that, for most students, the MA serves as a chance to determine whether doctoral research in the field is something they are both interested in and capable of doing. The MA will prepare them for doctoral work in Science and Technology Studies. Students will complete the program with a demonstrated ability to both examine the sciences and technology from a broad framework, and to communicate the results of their research in a manner comprehensible to non-specialists. The MA in STS will thus also be a valuable complement for those interested in working in various professional fields such as policymaking, jurisprudence, education, and journalism.
Coursework and a Major Research Paper
The objectives of the MA program will be achieved through coursework and a major research paper. Shared knowledge must be an integral component of such an interdisciplinary program. At the level of the Master’s Program, coursework will both encourage students from the social sciences, humanities, and the physical and life sciences to exchange their diverse approaches, even as the courses themselves expose students to unfamiliar fields of investigation. A major research paper will challenge students to pose an original and innovative question that can be usefully answered with appropriate tools and methodologies.
- Normally completed in one year (3 terms)
- Students will be required to take the equivalent of three full graduate STS courses (18 credits), of which up to 6 credits may be directed readings
- Students will be required to take the 3 credit introduction to STS in the fall term
- Students will have the option of taking up to 6 credits in Arts type courses outside of the STS course offerings in an area relevant to their studies and in consultation with the Program Director
- Completion of a major research paper
- Students taking the degree on a part-time basis are normally expected to complete the program within 2 years (six terms)
The Major Research Paper
The MRP is the major research requirement for the MA degree. It is an opportunity for students to put their STS knowledge to work. While the MRP may be done in conjunction with an STS or a Directed Readings course, it is more than a regular piece of coursework. The MRP gives students the chance to design, develop and execute a conscise program of research in collaboration with a Supervisor, which is ultimately evaluated by committee. Equally, the MRP is not an MA thesis. It occupies a smaller amount of a student’s time, it does not culminate in an oral defense, and the number of draft versions of the paper requiring revisions is typically fewer. The student’s task is to select a focused topic that will result in an intensive, original piece of scholarly work of around 15,000 words (exclusive of notes).
Like any good research essay, the MRP should contain an analysis of the extant scholarship on the topic, and its relationship to the new analysis being proposed. It must present a clear argument and support it by identifying and evaluating a body of relevant evidence. An MRP should have the usual scholarly apparatus, including footnotes or endnotes and a bibliography, presented in a consistent and standardized form.
Procedures and timelines — best practices
Most students will have only a vague idea as to what their MRP topic will be at the outset of the program. But they should be thinking about it and discussing it with faculty and fellow students whenever they get the chance. In the fall term, students should discuss their project with the Graduate Program Director as soon as possible. The GPD will then direct them to the relevant STS faculty member for supervision. The student should begin conducting preliminary research immediately, to enable them to frame an MRP proposal and to determine whether their project involves human participants research (if it does, the project needs to approved by the STS Ethics Review Committee).
By January 31st of their first year (or September 30th of their fourth term, in the case of part-time students), students should have settled on an MRP Supervisor, and completed an MRP proposal form. They should also have secured approval by the STS Ethics Review Committee, if necessary. A month later (two months in the case of part-time students), they should have identified a Second Reader for their MRP Committee. At this point, the student should begin serious work on the paper, in regular consultation with the Supervisor. A draft should be completed by the middle of the following July, at the latest (June 15th of the sixth term for part-time students). The Supervisor will read this draft carefully, and make suggestions for revisions. The student then responds to and incorporates these suggestions in the final version of the MRP, which must be submitted by August 15th (two weeks from the end of the 3rd term for full-time students or the 6th term for part-time students).
The Second Reader may be consulted during any part of the process, but this is not necessary, as the main task of this committee member is to evaluate the final version of the paper. The Supervisor and Second Reader then meet to determine the grade, which is then communicated, with supporting commentary, in writing to the student. If the committee is unable to come to an agreement concerning the grade, the matter will be referred to the Graduate Program Director, who may request that a third reader evaluate the paper.
Copies of all commentary and grades by the committee and all readers will be submitted to the Graduate Program Assistant, and will be kept on file in the Graduate Program Office. The title of the MRP, the name of the supervisor, and the final grade will be entered on the student’s transcript.