Master of Arts Program Requirements

The Master of Arts in the Department of Comparative Religion at Western Michigan University offers two options.

Comprehensive exam (Option One)

Students electing this option should plan on handing in the materials no later than the Wednesday of the week before finals week during fall of their final year in the program. Turn all required material into the Department of Comparative Religion office. Completion of the exam during fall of the final year will allow use of the exam content in applications for Ph.D. programs and teaching positions. The student is responsible for scheduling the oral exam during finals week once the graduate advisor notifies the student of the committee members. The student must bring the Graduate Portfolio Completion Form to the oral exam. Exceptions on exam dates can be made on a case by case basis in consultation with the graduate advisor.

Students must complete the following:

1. Two complete syllabi - one for a Religions of the World course (introductory or intermediate level) and one for an Introduction to the Study of Religion course (must emphasize either introductory or intermediate theoretical approaches to the study of religion). The syllabi must be class-ready and contain course readings, assignments, etc. Each syllabus must also be accompanied by a 3 to 5 page explanation for why the syllabus was designed the way it was (why were the assignments chosen, why those readings and not others, etc.).

2. One research paper of at least 15 pages. The paper submitted should reflect the student’s best work. It must be typed, double spaced, and include a bibliography of sources cited.

3. One research proposal that should include the following: (1) A title page, (2) An abstract, (3) A brief discussion of your goals and why you are interested in this project, (4) A literature review, (4) Research aims and objectives, (5) Significance or the project/contribution it will make to the field, (6) Statement of your research question, (7) An explanation of methodology.

4. An up-to-date curriculum vitae. The C.V. should list your educational background, relevant work experience, service and awards.

Thesis requirement (option two)

Option two requires a thesis and four additional requirements:

  • Complete a total of at least 27 hours of course work, including 12 hours of required core courses and 15 hours of electives chosen from approved courses.
  • Prepare a master's thesis (six hours) under the direction of a thesis advisor.
  • Demonstrate reading proficiency in one foreign language relevant to their research area.
  • Defend the master's thesis in oral examination.

Course requirements

Students are required to complete 33 credit hours of coursework consisting of core and elective courses.

Core courses (required of all students)

Elective courses

Students who choose the thesis option are required to complete 15 hours of elective coursework. For those who choose the non-thesis option, the requirement is 21 hours. Electives may be drawn from the following courses:

Cognate courses

Approved cognate courses may be drawn from related disciplines such as anthropology, philosophy, sociology, psychology, English, history and art history in consultation with the student's advisor.