Site Accessibility Statement
Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Arts
September 29, 2016
Canadian Excellence

Program Information

There are two required core courses in the program. The Graduate Seminar in Communication Studies is team-taught by faculty members.  Key texts and current debates in the field are surveyed so that students are given the opportunity to expand and deepen their fundamental skills.  

Communication Studies Research Methods is the second core course, reviewing central methodological issues necessary for successful research at the graduate level.  Students will work on preparing their research proposals, in order to help them meet the April 1 deadline for submitting a research proposal set by the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

In addition to these two core courses, students will normally take four courses of electives.  Once course work has ended, students will write a major research paper (MRP).  Under certain exceptional circumstances, and with the written permission of the Graduate Officer, students may be allowed to write a thesis and take 2 elective courses. 

There are two options for completing the degree requirements for the MA in communication studies.

Major Research Paper Option

    CS600 - Graduate Seminar in Communication Studies (0.5 credit)
    CS601 - Communication Studies Research Methods (0.5 credit)
    Four half-credit electives
    CS695* - Major Research Paper (1.0 credit)

Thesis Option (in exceptional circumstances only)

    CS600 - Graduate Seminar in Communication Studies (0.5 credit)
    CS601 - Communication Studies Research Methods (0.5 credit)
    Two half-credit elective courses
    CS699 - Thesis (2.0 credits)

Course Offerings 2016/17

Fall 2016
CS600  T 8:30-11:20 a.m.
CS601  M 11:30-2:20 p.m.
CS602  R 11:30-2:20 p.m.

Winter 2017
CS603  T 10-12:50 p.m.
CS604  M 12:30-3:20 p.m.
CS650  W 8:30-11:20 a.m.

R - Thursday
Course descriptions

MRP guidelines

     The Major Research Paper is an independent research project that presents an articulate, thoroughly substantiated argument on a topic within the field of Communication Studies.  The MRP should demonstrate familiarity with the relevant academic literature and should be clearly situated in terms of one or more trajectories in Communication Studies research and theory.
     MRPs should be 50-60 pages in length and follow the formal guidelines outlined below. Students may pursue any or all of interdisciplinary research, empirical research, and theoretical argumentation, and may also engage in creative projects (i.e. some students may want to create a film, web-based or print-based project that may be considered part of the MRP). Although the form and content of the MRP will vary between students, a typical MRP includes the following:

Statement of the problem / issue
Theoretical and methodological framework
Literature review
Analysis and argument
Limitations of the project and avenues for further inquiry

December 1-15
     Students should arrange to meet informally with faculty throughout December.  In consultation with the Graduate Director, each student will approach faculty members about supervising his/her MRP.  Informal contact can be made during this time period, so that students may begin discussing their proposals with a faculty member.

Outline of topic (due January 15)
     After preliminary research, students submit a brief (250 word) outline of their proposed topic to the Graduate Officer.  The outline should briefly identify the primary issue(s) to be addressed along with the rationale for the project.  Students may indicate their preferred supervisor and reader; however, the Graduate Committee is ultimately responsible for assigning these roles.

Announcement of supervisory committees (February 1-March 15)
     Advisors are formally assigned.  Students begin working on their proposal with their advisor.

Draft (due March 15)
     Students will submit the draft to their respective advisors for comment

Final proposal (due April 15)
     The proposal is a substantial, well-researched, formal document which provides a detailed outline for the MRP (10-12 pages in length).  To this end, the proposal must accomplish three things:

  1. The proposal must identify the particular topic or issue(s) you are addressing and clearly situate it within the relevant academic literature.  It is not expected that the student will have read all of the material cited in the proposal; instead, the proposal identifies both sources consulted and those that will be consulted as part of the project.  The proposal will therefore include a working bibliography.
  2. The proposal will document the personal standpoint, theoretical perspective and methodological approach, values and ethics pertinent to the proposed MRP, and will indicate, to the best abilities of the student, the assumptions and exclusions that the project makes.
    *Please note that students who intend to work with human subjects must receive ethics approval and should consult with their supervisor prior to submission of the proposal.
  3. The proposal will include a clearly articulated schedule of research and writing for the project which is in keeping with the timeline provided below.

Research, Writing, and Revisions (May-Aug)
     In continued consultation with the supervisor and guided by the proposal, students will research and write the MRP in spring and summer.  It is important that students pay particular attention to the possibilities of racism, heterosexism, sexism and other forms of oppression within the language or the design of the MRP.  An initial draft of the MRP is due to the supervisor on June 15.  This draft should be a complete, formal document with full citations.  It is expected that the supervisor and student will meet shortly after the submission date to discuss the draft and plan for subsequent research and writing.  The final draft of the document should be submitted to the supervisor by July 15.  At this point the supervisor will consult with the reader and, if they conclude that the MRP is defensible, will notify the student of a defense date by August 1.

Oral Defense (early Aug)
     The oral defense is an opportunity for the student to present and defend their MRP research.  Defenses are Chaired by a Presiding Officer (typically the Department Chair or Graduate Officer or designated) and include the student, supervisor and reader.  Defenses are also open to the Laurier community.  The defense begins with a 10-15 minute presentation by the student, which should move beyond a simple summary of their project to situate the project within the student’s own intellectual growth and learning experience.  This is followed by a period of formal questioning by the reader and supervisor respectively, after which questioning is opened to the audience.  The defense committee will determine whether or not the MRP is to be passed, as well as the extent of revisions (if any), and will inform the student of the results at the conclusion of the defense.

Final Submission (Aug 31)
     The final copy of the MRP must be submitted directly to the Communication Studies Office by August 31st.  You must submit an electronic copy.  Please consult the department office for more detailed instructions.  It is expected that this final copy will take into account the criticisms and suggestions made on the final draft of the MRP as well as in the defense.  Please note that the final copy of the MRP must be approved by the supervisor before submission to the Department.  It is therefore recommended that the document be submitted to the supervisor in advance of the deadline.

MRP Timeline

December 1-15
Informal consultation with various faculty members

January 15
Submit outline of proposed MRP topic to Graduate Committee

Feb. 1-March 15
Graduate Committee notifies student of supervisor and reader selection

March 15 onward
Student, supervisor and reader meet to discuss project and develop  timeline

March 15 onward
Student submits ethics review material to supervisor and ethics review board (if necessary)
Draft proposal of the MRP is due to supervisor.

April 15
Student submits final proposal to supervisor and reader
Research and writing, in consultation with the supervisor

June 15
First draft of MRP due to supervisor

June 15-July 15
Revisions, research and writing

July 15
Final draft of MRP due to supervisor

July 15 – Aug
Revisions and defense preparation

Aug 1
Student to be notified of defense date

Aug 1- 15
MRP defense

Aug 21
Submit final, revised copy of MRP to Department Office

Thesis guideline

In exceptional circumstances, students may be allowed to complete the Thesis Option instead of the Major Research Paper (MRP) Option. The thesis shares the same basic properties and structure of the MRP, but is considerably larger in scope (100-120 pages) and must contain a substantive amount of original scholarly research.

Students wishing to write a thesis should consult with the graduate program director during the fall term of their first year. A thesis abstract, of approximately 500 words, is due December 15 to the graduate program director. The abstract, along with the student's academic record from the fall term, will be assessed by the director and the Graduate Committee and, if approved, a supervisory committee will be established. Students will be notified of the committee's decision within three weeks of the submission deadline. The committee will then decide upon a work schedule, using the MRP guidelines as a template.

Formatting Guidelines

The MRP (or thesis) must be formatted according to these guidelines:

  • The MRP must be double spaced throughout and in 12-point font.
  • Paper used for the defense copies should be 8 ˝ x 11 inch and of any weight and can be double-sided but the final copy must be 8 ˝ x 11 inch, 20 lb. bond paper and single sided. Acceptable printers include laser and ink-jet.
  • Margins must be 1 inch on each side, with the exception that the final copy must have a left margin of 1.5 inches to allow for binding.
  • The first line of every paragraph should be indented a standard five spaces. 
  • Abbreviations may be used (if conventional in the particular discipline) but must be defined the first time they are used.
  • If there are alternative correct spellings of a particular word, either form may be used, but such use must be consistent throughout the MRP.
  • The pages should be numbered in consecutive order with Arabic numerals, starting with the first page of text and continuing through to the last page of the entire MRP, including endnotes/footnotes, appendices and references. Pages preceding the text, starting with the first page of the abstract should be numbered consecutively with lower-case Roman numerals.
  • The title page of the MRP must contain the Universal Copyright Notice©.
  • References and citations must follow either APA or MLA format.
  • The organizational sequence should be as follows:
    • Title page of the MRP;
    • Abstract;
    • Acknowledgments;
    • Table of Contents;
    • List of Tables (if appropriate);
    • List of Figures (if appropriate);
    • Text of the MRP;
    • Endnotes and/or footnotes (may be included in the text);
    • Appendices (if appropriate);
    • References.

The title page must be organized as follows:

(full name of the author)©
(undergraduate degree, university, year)
Major Research Paper
Submitted to the Department of Communication Studies
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for
Master of Arts
Wilfrid Laurier University


Related Information Title Type
2012 Thesis Guidelines Document
2009 Major Research Paper Guidelines Document