Once admitted, the process of completing your MAIS degree involves a several components.

Your first term or two will be spent taking classes in your three fields of study, beginning an assistantship if one is awarded, developing a program of study with your committee, and getting acquainted with faculty. 

The key program requirements for the MAIS include:

  1. Coursework
  2. Program of Study
  3. Working with Your Committee
  4. Program of Study Meeting
  5. Annual Review
  6. Thesis or Project
  7. Final Defense

1. Coursework

The MAIS degree requires a minimum of 49 graduate credits, (500 level or above), consisting of courses in your three fields of study, plus two required courses for all MAIS students. Classes can come from any department or program at OSU, provided your committee approves them as part of your program of study (for example, a class in Political Science on Gender and the Law might be an excellent fit for your field in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies). You will work with the MAIS Director and your faculty advisors to determine the courses you’ll take.

In addition to the courses you take in your three fields of study, there are two additional courses on interdisciplinary study and research methods that are required for all MAIS students: IST 511 and IST 512.

  • IST 511, Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies, is a one-credit course that brings MAIS students together in their first term to teach them how to complete their interdisciplinary program. Students will read about the nature and process of interdisciplinary study, design their program of study, access library and other university resources related to their fields of study, and work on synthesizing aspects of three differing fields. 
  • IST 512, Applying an Interdisciplinary Perspective, is designed to develop a research proposal and explore further how to synthesize three fields of study into a research goal. Students will develop knowledge and skills in theory, research methods, and practice of approaching problems, issues or events from an interdisciplinary perspective. The final work product from this course will be a thesis or project proposal.

2. Program of Study

The program of study is your plan for earning the MAIS degree. It will include all the courses you will use toward your degree. The program must be completed and approved by your committee in a formal program meeting. This should be done by the time you have completed 18 credits.

The program of study, and instructions on completing it, are available at the Documents and Forms page. Some key points to keep in mind include:

  • The MAIS degree requires a minimum of 49 credits. This includes 45 credits in your three fields of study and 4 credits of coursework on interdisciplinary study and research methods (IST 511 and 512).
    • A minimum of 9 credits in each of the three fields of study is required.
    • No more than 21 credits should be taken in any one field unless the total program exceeds 49 credits.
    • If you are writing a thesis, you must have 6-9 credits of Thesis (503) on your program of study. If you are completing a project, you must have 4-7 credits of Project (506) on your program of study.
    • No more than 3 credits of blanket-numbered courses (501, 502, or 505) in each field of study may be used in the program. Thesis credits or project credits are exempt from this limitation.
  • All programs of study submitted to the Graduate School must consist of at least 50% graduate stand-alone courses (numbered 500 and above). The remaining credits may be the 500 component of 400/500 “slash” courses.
  • Students may be able to apply up to 15 transfer credits from other institutions and reserved credits (credits earned as OSU in graduate courses in excess of the requirements for a baccalaureate or postbaccalaureate degree) toward their program of study. This will require the approval of your committee and must meet all program of study requirements.
  • There is no foreign language requirement.

Students can, with the approval of committee members, change their programs of study. Plans change, research topics change, courses get canceled, things happen. It is not uncommon for students to make changes to the program of study.

3. Working with Your Committee

Your graduate committee guides your coursework and research and serves as your final examining committee. All graduate students are required to form a committee. MAIS students have a committee consisting of four faculty members: one representing each field of study, plus one Graduate Council Representative. The committee will be constituted by the student, who will ask faculty from each of the three fields of study and the GCR to serve on their committee. The committee member from your primary field of study will serve as your thesis/project advisor (also called major professor). Your major professor serves as your primary academic advisor, your principal thesis advisor, and the general mentor for your academic program and your research. You will also have one faculty member each from your second and third fields of study.

All MAIS students are required to include a Graduate Council Representative (GCR) on their committee. The GCR serves in the role of impartial committee member who advocates for the student and ensures that all rules governing committee procedures are followed.

Your committee will hold two formal meetings: one to approve your program of study, and a second for the oral defense of your thesis or project. All committee members, including the GCR, must be present at both of these meetings. Communicating with your committee (and especially your major professor) outside these meetings is essential. What you get out of your graduate school experience will in large part be determined by the relationships you form with these faculty.

4. Program of Study Meeting

The program of study meeting is a key milestone in earning your degree. You should make the most of the opportunity to have all your committee members together and focusing on your work. This is the one time you will have them available to talk to as a group while you are still in the stage of mapping out your program and developing your research project. Use the meeting to discuss your research interests, the classes you’re taking, and how all these elements fit together to help you meet your objectives. If you have a brief (or fully developed) proposal to provide your committee before the meeting, this will help them offer advice on focusing your research question, selecting research methods, choosing data sources, and determining the design of your research project.

5. Annual Review

Each year every student in the MAIS program is required to have an evaluation completed of their academic progress. This annual review addresses the extent to which the student is making satisfactory academic progress. Satisfactory academic progress is typical and expected. It includes:

  • Completion of courses with satisfactory grades.
  • Timely removal of incomplete grades, typically within one term.
  • Filing a Program of Study with the Graduate School, typically during the second or third academic term.
  • Progress on the thesis or capstone project.

The annual review form can be obtained on the Documents and Forms page. Students will complete the form, then meet with their major professor to discuss the student’s academic progress. The major professor will complete the faculty review section, then both parties will sign the document and return it to the MAIS Program Director.

6. Thesis or Project

Your MAIS graduate study will work toward the writing of a thesis or a project, integrating different fields of study to thoroughly explore a topic, question or problem in great detail.

Your major advisor will work closely with you in selecting a topic, conducting research, writing and revising a thesis or developing a comprehensive project. Your committee members may also take an active role in directing your research and offering critiques of your written work. All of your committee members must be a member of the MAIS graduate faculty authorized to direct theses.

What's the Difference Between a Thesis or a Project?


In general, a thesis can be defined as the written product of a systematic research study of a well-defined issue. The thesis will integrate work from all three fields of study, and will clearly identify the research question, state the major theoretical assumptions, explain the significance of the undertaking, review relevant literature, identify and justify the sources for and methods of gathering information, analyze the information or data, present and discuss results, and offer a conclusion or recommendation.

Examples of submitted theses can be found in the Scholars Archive.


A Project involves two separate parts.

1. A project is a significant academic and creative undertaking that demonstrates originality and independent thinking, appropriate form and organization, and a justification, while integrating work from your fields of study. The amount of work involved for a project and a thesis should be similar, and project may have goals similar to those of a thesis. However, the project generally presents a working deliverable that is also a significant scholarly effort. Projects take a variety of forms such as:

  • Writing a novel or short stories
  • Designing a website
  • Producing a film
  • Developing an action plan for an organization
  • Developing a course or instructional manual
  • Displaying an art exhibit
  • Developing a database

The options are wide ranging for a project, and committees can have some latitude in deciding what qualifies.

2. All projects, regardless of the form, should be accompanied by an academic paper that clearly explains the problem or topic you want to address, a review of the academic literature on your subject, and an explanation of how your project addresses or speaks to the topic/problem. 

7. Final Defense

The final defense of your thesis or project is an oral examination in which you will present your work and be examined by your committee. The examination is intended to test the student’s ability to integrate and interpret material in the three fields of study with emphasis on the work presented in the thesis or project.

Final oral defenses should not be scheduled until the student has approval from the major professor, and all committee members are satisfied with the quality of the thesis or project. You must provide your committee a copy of your thesis or project at least two weeks prior to the defense.

In addition, you must have a minimum GPA of 3.00 on both your program and transcript, and all coursework with a grade of “I” appearing on the program of study must be completed before scheduling the final oral examination.

The defense must be scheduled with the Graduate School using the Exam Scheduling Form on the Graduate School website. Submit this form at least two weeks before your defense.

The student should expect the final oral to take approximately two hours. At the conclusion of the examination, the committee members meet in private and vote on whether the student has passed the examination. In the event the thesis or project requires additional revision after the defense, you have two weeks to submit the revised work to your major professor.

Students must be registered for a minimum of three credits during the term in which they defend. This includes the summer term.