Master’s Curriculum

The thinking behind the CMS master’s curriculum is straightforward but deeply considered: a first year used to build a common experience and media studies vocabulary—first-year students, in fact, take all but one of their subjects together—followed by two semesters with flexibility.

Each semester includes the weekly Colloquium, a talk by a media scholar or practitioner. While colloquia are open to the public and shared widely as videos and podcasts, they offer the opportunity for students to learn closely from and even critique the work of people working in graduates’ likely fields.

The master’s program culminates with the thesis.

You can see a list of frequently used resources for graduate students.

First Year

Semester One Semester Two
CMS.790 Media Theories and Methods I (12 units)
CMS.950 Workshop I (12 units)
CMS.796 Major Media Texts (12 units)
CMS.990 Colloquium (3 units)
CMS.791 Media Theories and Methods II (12 units)

One of the following: (9-18 units)

CMS.990 Colloquium (3 units)

Elective (9 or 12 units)

Second Year

Semester One Semester Two
CMS.801 Media in Transition (12 units)
CMS.990 Colloquium (3 units)
Elective (9 or 12 units)
Elective (9 or 12 units)
CMS.THG Thesis (24 units, some can be taken in the Fall term)
CMS.990 Colloquium (3 units)
Elective [optional]  (9 or 12 units)

The Master’s Thesis

The CMS master’s thesis is a substantial research paper or comparable exercise that satisfies MIT’s scholarly standards and uses methods appropriate to the topic and fields. A written thesis will range in length from 50 to 100 pages. Digital projects will be assessed on the basis of the quality of research and argumentation as well as presentation and must include a substantive written component. Students choose a thesis topic no later than the first semester of their second year. The thesis may take a variety of forms, including traditional expository prose or more experimental projects that use additional media formats appropriate to the topic.

The thesis advisor supervises and advises on the entire thesis process, from research to writing structure to oral presentation, giving feedback and advice as necessary before approving the final thesis and assigning a grade. The student and advisor meet regularly in person, provided acceptable social distancing guidelines are met. The thesis advisor may be any faculty member affiliated with CMS/W.  The committee member may be an instructor relevant to the thesis topic, but need not be affiliated with CMS/W.  Students petition directly to the advisor and committee member to be part of the thesis.

Our past graduate students’ theses are available. Theses may include a media project component, but they will still require a written component reflecting on the process, implications, wider conceptual frame, etc.

Thesis Timeline

By October 1, Second Year Identify your Advisor (a CMS faculty member, by regular or joint appointment).
Friday, October 16 Thesis Proposal Form due (download: CMS Graduate Thesis Form, PDF .
First week of November Thesis Committee Approval by Director & Academic Coordinator.
Last day of classes, Fall term, December 10 Paper, outline and bibliography due.
First week of February Evaluation Meeting with Thesis Committee.
First week of March Evaluation Meeting 2 (if necessary).
April 2
Thesis Presentations.
April 3 to 30 Thesis Review with Committee.
Friday, May 7
Thesis Submission (deadline established by MIT each academic year).