MA Program

For over thirty years, the Department of East Asian Studies at the University of Alberta has been one of the leading Canadian academic departments devoted exclusively to the study of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean language, linguistics, literature and culture. Our two-year master's degree program is large enough to accommodate a diverse array of research interests in linguistics, literature, art history, religion, and cultural studies; at the same time we are small enough to give students the individual attention and direction they need to develop focused areas of expertise. 

Our library system has extensive holdings of primary texts and scholarship in Asian and Western languages, and the University of Alberta also has unique resources such as the Mactaggart Collection, one of the most extensive Canadian collections of classical Chinese art and artifacts. Student research projects are often supported by travel grants from our university’s research institutes. Many students receive funding packages covering the cost of tuition, or more, through a combination of grants and TA work; all students are given valuable training in how to teach undergraduate courses. Recent graduates from our MA program have gone on to careers in business and government, and to PhD programs at top schools. 

  • Traditional research strengths in Japanese and Chinese linguistics, religion, art history and music, premodern Chinese, Japanese and Korean literature and thought, and modern Chinese and Sinophone literature and cinema.
  • Track record of sending MA graduates to top PhD programs in Canada and the US.
  • Small class sizes mean more flexibility for students, and greater opportunities for research and teaching support.
  • MA students who wish to teach might be hired to assist in languages classes, gaining valuable experience.
  • Many of our students receive financial aid, often more than the cost of tuition.

Graduate Program Manual

Degrees Offered

The Department of East Asian Studies offers the Master of Arts (thesis-based) degree in East Asian Studies.

International students who already possess an MA from an institution in their home countries, but who need to pursue a second MA are welcome to apply to our department. This course of study is often recommended for those international students who have had limited exposure to Western research methods and English-language research publication, since scholarly standards and expectations in North America are very different from those prevalent in Asia.


Graduate students are ultimately responsible for their own program. They are expected to review the GPS website, the University Calendar, and any other relevant documents to become familiar with all regulations and deadlines relating to their program.

For more information on the program and requirements please see the department's Graduate Manual.

In addition to the thesis, a minimum of 18 units of course weight (500-level courses or above) are required for the degree. Generally, this means that students take six three-credit (*3) courses during their first year. To maintain full-time registration thereafter, students must enroll in THES 909 (*9) in both Fall and Winter terms and will be mandatorily enrolled by GPS in THES 906 (*6) in both Spring and Summer terms.

For MA degrees in all areas within the Department, there are two required core courses that are generally taken by students in their first year, EASIA 598 and EASIA 575 (descriptions below). In addition, up to 9 units of course weight (three courses) from other departments or units that can strengthen the degree may be counted as part of the program. For example, for students in literature, courses in Western literary theory in Modern Languages and Cultural Studies, Comparative Literature, or English may be considered as part of the degree. The final choice of such courses to be counted will be at the recommendation of the student's advisor and at the discretion of the Department's Graduate Committee.

Graduate students need to consult their supervisor and the Associate Chair, Graduate Studies when selecting their courses. Any courses taken outside of the department should make a clear contribution to the student's overall program of study and should offer opportunities for the student to find a faculty member to serve as the arms' length examiner on their thesis defense committee. To assist with planning your program you can fill out the Graduate Program Study Plan.

Core Courses

EASIA 575 - East Asian Language Pedagogy

Discussion and application of the theory and practice of teaching East Asian languages. Lectures in English.

EASIA 598 - Topics in East Asian Research

A pro-seminar on basic research methods and professional issues.

Ethics and Academic Citizenship Requirement

All graduate students at the University of Alberta, regardless of their field of study, are required to fulfill the Faculty of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies Ethics and Academic Citizenship Requirement.

To satisfy this requirement, all incoming graduate students entering their program in Fall 2022 and onwards, will be automatically registered in INT D 710 in their first term.

As per the University of Alberta Calendar, “If a student does not complete the above noted courses by the end of their first term of registration in their degree program, their registration in subsequent terms will be restricted until such time as the course(s) is completed and/or a plan for completion is submitted by the student to the Faculty of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies. Note: GPS will send students reminders to complete the requirement prior to the end of their first term (if not completed already)."

For students who started prior to Fall 2022 and who completed the online GET course prior to August 31, 2022, please email your GET course certificate to the Graduate Advisor at, for it to be added to your student file.

Program Length and Residency

A student will normally complete the program requirements in two years (except in cases where a leave is required). The university time limit for completing the thesis-based MA degree is four years from the date of first registration. Please view the Program Timeline that may be helpful in planning your program.

Residency requirements involve full-time enrollment for two terms.

Graduate Supervision

A provisional supervisor is assigned to a graduate student upon their admission to the program. Students should make a final decision on a supervisor appropriate to their area of interest by the second semester of their program. it is strongly advised that students begin to have initial conversations with potential supervisors early in the program. The Associate Chair (Graduate) can assist on the selection of a specific supervisor for the graduate student.

The most important mentoring relationship in the MA program is between the thesis supervisor and student. Student and supervisor should develop and maintain this relationship through ongoing communication and interaction, mutually agreed upon goals, and respectful, critical engagement with a student's learning, research, and professional development. It is important that graduate students keep in regular contact with their supervisor and discuss timelines and any potential problems in their program. Graduate students are required to complete an Annual Report (due the end of the winter term).

The Associate Chair (Graduate) should be consulted on administrative matters relating to the student's program.

Thesis Supervisor and Supervisory Committees

The defense committee for an MA thesis should have a minimum of three members, one of whom must be an "arms' length examiner" who is not a member of the supervisory committee and who has not played any role in advising the student's thesis research and writing (they may be from inside or outside the department). The GPS requirement of an "arms' length examiner" is what makes the careful selection of any courses taken by the student outside the Department of East Asian Studies so important, as such courses allow students to make initial contact with potential committee members.

The student and supervisor should decide on the committee's membership together. However, it is the responsibility of the supervisor, not the student, to contact potential committee members and request their participation in the student's defense. The members of the examining committee must be approved by the Associate Chair, Graduate Studies and their names submitted to GPS no later than three weeks before the defense date.

Further information can be found on the GPS website.

Graduate Student Colloquium

The department holds an annual Graduate Student Colloquium, usually at the end of the winter semester. Graduate students in their first year of their program give presentations on their research, in the style of a conference paper, in which they present preliminary findings intended to lead into their thesis research. This is an opportunity for them to practice their presentation skills and receive feedback on their work. All graduate students and supervisors are expected to attend.

Conferences and Publications

Graduate students are strongly encouraged to present at least one scholarly research paper at an academic conference during their program. Presentations are an important part of the professional development as a scholar, and allows the student to build up a research record that will be helpful in applying to PhD programs, or future job prospects. Most of our students are capable of presenting at a conference by the end of their first year. Students need to speak with their supervisors to determine which conferences would be suitable.

MA Thesis Guidelines

The MA thesis must be formatted according to the Faculty of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies and Research Guidelines - Thesis Preparation, Requirements and Deadlines. Please also check out the Thesis Defense Checklist.

The MA thesis should represent original, substantial research in primary sources. "Primary sources" means materials in the target language, whether Chinese, Japanese or Korean, or a combination of these.

Citation of sources in Chinese, Japanese, and/or Korean language should include the alphabetical transliteration (romanization or pinyin) of as well as the original characters for author, title, and publisher. Translation into English of the title is also required. This information should appear in the Bibliography or Works Consulted section of the thesis. For romanization guidelines, see The Chicago Manual of Style (available online through the University of Alberta Libraries website). The format for these citations should be as follows (asterisks represent the original characters):
Shigeo Kitayama北山茂夫. Kakinomoto no Hitomaro ron柿本人麻呂論 (A Study of Kakinomoto no Hitomaro). Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten 岩波書店, 1983.
Liu Xiaogan 刘笑敢 ed. Zhuangzi Zhexue ji Qi Yanbian, Xiuding Ban 庄子哲学及其演变 (修订版) (The Philosophy of Zhuangzi and its Evolution, Revised Edition). Beijing: Zhongguo Renmin Daxue Chubanshe 中国人民大学出版社, 2010.

When transliterated Chinese, Japanese, and/or Korean words or expressions appear in the thesis and are not commonly known, the original characters and English translation must be provided in parentheses in the text the first time the word or expression is mentioned. The format should be as follows (asterisks represent the original characters).
sazanami (漣, waves, ripples)
dazibao (大字报, big character poster)

There is no definite number of pages for an MA thesis, but preferably it should be between 80-130 pages, excluding endnotes, bibliography, appendices, index, and glossary.

The student can choose to use endnotes or footnotes. The format of notes should be consistent. Consult The Chicago Manual of Style or the style manual preferred in the student's field.

Whenever possible, years of birth and death of all people mentioned. The first mention of a text should include its date of composition and an English translation of its title.

Follow Japanese or Chinese name order for Chinese and Japanese names (i.e., surname first) unless the named person lives and works outside Japan or China.