Master of Arts in Digital StudiesA one-year general M.A. or a two-year specialized M.A. with a thesis project.
The Master of Arts in Digital Studies of Language, Culture, and History provides a solid grounding in computational methods and their use in the arts and humanities. It is a stepping stone to careers that require a combination of coding skills with the capabilities in research, writing, and critical thinking provided by an education in the humanities.
Graduates of this program are eligible for non-academic jobs in software development or software-related marketing, communications, and technical writing. Alternatively, they may pursue doctoral studies in order to apply their computational skills to research and teaching; or they may take on an academic support role in digital humanities at a college, university, or cultural institution.
There is a one-year version of the master’s program with no thesis requirement and a two-year version of the program that entails a thesis project and a specialization in a particular area. The two-year M.A. is recommended for students who wish to pursue a Ph.D. in the future.
In addition to the information provided in this website, the academic policies pertaining to this master’s program and other useful information may be found here in the Digital Studies Student Manual.
A STEM Designated Degree Program
This master’s program qualifies as a STEM Designated Degree Program under the regulations of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
The program is primarily intended for students who have previously majored in the arts or humanities. However, students who majored in the sciences, including computer science, may also benefit from the program and are encouraged to apply.
Click the image to view a recent info-session video about the program.
Video of an information session with program staff (click here)
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Students in the one-year version of the master’s program take courses full-time on the University of Chicago campus for one academic year, from late September to the end of May. They do not do a master’s thesis.
Please note that students who are admitted to do a one-year M.A. will not be able to stay on to do a two-year M.A. The decision about whether to do a one-year M.A. or a two-year M.A. must be made at the time of application.
Students doing the one-year M.A. take three courses per quarter in the Autumn, Winter, and Spring quarters, for a total of nine courses, including six core courses in Digital Studies (DIGS) and three elective courses. The elective courses may be in any department of the humanities or social sciences.
The Associate Director of Curriculum and Instruction of the Forum for Digital Culture will meet with each student once per quarter, in Week 7 or Week 8, to discuss the student’s academic progress and elective courses.
In the Autumn Quarter, students take three required core courses in Digital Studies (DIGS):
- DIGS 30001, Introduction to Computer Programming with Python
- DIGS 30002, Data Analysis I: Introduction to Statistics
- DIGS 30003, Data Management for the Humanities (in this course students learn how to acquire and clean data stored in diverse formats, how to use relational databases and the SQL querying language, and how to construct ontologies for non-relational graph databases using the Web Ontology Language)
- DIGS 30004, Data Analysis II: Data Visualization and Machine Learning (this course provides additional practice in Python coding)
- DIGS 30007, Introduction to Digital Humanities (this course surveys the the history and theory of digital computing, the use of computers for research in the humanities, and current debates about digital humanities)
- One elective course chosen from a preapproved list or individually approved by the Associate Director of Curriculum and Instruction
- Two elective courses chosen from a preapproved list or individually approved by the Associate Director of Curriculum and Instruction
A grade of C (2.0) or higher in the Autumn core courses (DIGS 30001, 30002, and 30003) is a requirement for continuing in the M.A. program because these courses are prerequisites for subsequent required courses in the Winter and Spring. Students who have previously passed a college-level course in computer programming or statistics with a grade of B (3.0) or higher may petition the Associate Director of Curriculum and Instruction for an exemption from taking DIGS 30001 and/or DIGS 30002, allowing them to take one or two additional elective courses.
Two-Year Specialized M.A. with Thesis Project
Students in the two-year research-intensive version of the master’s program take courses full-time on the University of Chicago campus for two consecutive academic years. In their first year, they take the same six core courses as the students doing a one-year M.A. (described above) and three courses prescribed for their area of specialization. In their second year, they take additional courses prescribed for their area of specialization and do a thesis project in that area under the supervision of a faculty advisor. The tuition fee is reduced by 50 percent in the second year.
The proposed area of specialization must be indicated at the time of application to the two-year M.A. program. Four areas of specialization are currently available and are listed below. A specialization in Digital Ethics and Public Discourse is planned for the future.
Applicants to the two-year specialized M.A. who are not admitted to that program will be automatically considered for the one-year M.A. and may be offered admission to the latter.
Click the links below for more information on the areas of specialization:
In their second year, students will do a thesis project under the guidance of a thesis advisor who is a University of Chicago faculty member, instructional professor, or lecturer. The thesis advisor may or may not be someone whose own research entails computational methods. The Associate Director of Curriculum and Instruction of the Forum for Digital Culture will work with students to select a feasible topic and find a suitable advisor. Training and advice concerning the computational methods used in the thesis project will be provided by the staff of the Forum for Digital Culture.
The thesis must have a software component as well as a written component. In the written component, the student will explain the computational aspects of the project and reflect critically on the methods being used with reference to the historical development of these methods and the assumptions underlying them and with reference to current debates in digital humanities. The length of the written component of the thesis may vary, depending on the subject matter and the expectations of the thesis advisor, but it will be at least 25 pages and no more than 50 pages of text (double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman with one-inch margins), not counting illustrations and bibliographic references.
Students must submit to the Associate Director of Curriculum and Instruction a thesis proposal form signed by the thesis advisor no later than the end of Week 6 of the Spring Quarter of their first year. This form will contain the thesis title and abstract and a schedule for regular consultation with the faculty advisor and the Forum staff, who will help the student with the technical aspects of the project.
The completed thesis project (both the software component and the written component) must be submitted to the thesis advisor and the Associate Director of Curriculum and Instruction no later than the end of Week 6 in the Spring Quarter of the student’s second year in the program.
Students doing a two-year M.A. are eligible for a paid internship to work part-time on campus in the summer between their first and second year under the supervision of a member of the staff of the Forum for Digital Culture. They are also expected to begin work on the software component of their thesis projects during that summer.
Admission Requirements and Minimum Grades
No previous background in computer programming is required and students are admitted from a wide variety of undergraduate majors. However, to be admitted to the program, the student will normally have passed at least one college-level course in mathematics or statistics with a grade of B (3.0) or higher.
Students will apply for either the one-year M.A. or the two-year research-intensive M.A., which requires a thesis project and a specialization in a particular area. Admission to the two-year M.A. will take into account the applicant’s prior training and aptitude for the area of specialization specified in the application. However, an undergraduate major in the chosen area of specialization is not required.
While in the M.A. program, students must maintain a cumulative grade point average of 2.7 (B-). If they fall below this average, they will be placed on academic probation and if their grades do not improve, they may be withdrawn from the program.
In addition, a grade of C (2.0) or higher in the initial courses in computer programming (DIGS 30001) and statistics (DIGS 30002) is a requirement for continuing in the M.A. program. These courses are prerequisites for subsequent core courses required to complete the program. Students who fail to obtain a grade of C (2.0) in either of these courses in the Autumn Quarter will be placed on academic probation and must then either (1) request a leave of absence, if they plan to return in the Autumn of the following year to re-take the course or courses in which they failed to obtain the required grade, or (2) withdraw from the program entirely.
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