Master of Arts in Migration and Refugee Studies (MA)

A group of different ethnicity people

The MA in migration and refugee studies is an interdisciplinary degree program that aims to provide graduates with critical knowledge, research methods and analytical skills of current theoretical, legal, political, economic, social, demographic and psychological issues in migration and refugee studies. The knowledge and skills acquired may be applied in careers within institutions such as governmental, nongovernmental and international agencies, as well as universities, research organizations and private corporations dealing with the multitude of issues connected with migration and refugee movements.

  • I. Thesis Topic

    At the commencement of your graduate study, you should begin thinking of potential topics for your thesis. The overall aim of a thesis is to produce a well-written, convincing defense of a research question or statement. The thesis must be the student’s own work and must demonstrate a capacity for research and independent thought. If you decide on a topic early, you may be able to organize your readings, notes, and course papers to assist in preparation for your thesis.

    You are responsible for selecting and developing a thesis topic which has departmental approval. Firstly, the topic should be a question that falls within the scope of the discipline. That is to say, it should relate to the field of migration and refugee studies. Second, the topic should relate to a specific area of study for which a qualified supervisor is available. Third, the topic and thesis should make an original contribution to the field of migration and refugee studies. This may be done through wholly original research, or by adding to or elaborating on existing research, filling a gap in existing research, using existing data in a new way, drawing different conclusions from existing case studies, testing existing theories and analyses through new case studies, and so on.

    The topic should be something that intrigues you. You will spend a great deal of time reading and writing about this topic, so choose something you will enjoy and want to explore and know more about.  The topic must be one in which you will be able to conduct significant research. There must be either enough written material available to analyze your topic thoroughly, or you must have access to primary sources. Primary sources could be either documents, or individuals who can be interviewed, or a combination of both. Lastly, the topic must be manageable. You should be able to explore it in depth. At the same time, it should not be so broad that you cannot adequately answer your research question or defend your statement.

    II. Thesis Committee and Abstract

    In the second semester of your study, you should form a thesis committee and submit a thesis abstract. The relevant deadlines for establishing the committee and submitting the abstract are provided by CMRS at the commencement of the semester.

    The committee consists of three faculty members: the thesis adviser and two readers. The thesis adviser must be a CMRS-affiliated faculty or another AUC professor approved by the CMRS director. As the MA in migration and refugee studies is interdisciplinary in nature, CMRS draws on the expertise of faculty throughout the AUC. CMRS will provide contact information of AUC faculty with experience in migration and refugees issues who can be approached as potential advisers. Readers are usually selected from AUC faculty. However, upon approval of the adviser, one of the readers may be affiliated with a university other than AUC or with a national or international policy institution. It is your responsibility to make sure that the committee members, especially the adviser, will be available and within reach for at least two semesters to ensure the smooth continuity of research and thesis writing.

    Alongside forming a committee, you should write a two to three-page thesis abstract specifying your research question and hypothesis; describing the state of basic literature on the subject; and identifying the principal concepts, methodologies and bibliographical sources to be used in the course of the thesis. A copy of this abstract along with the Thesis Committee Form containing the name of your adviser and two proposed readers must be submitted to and approved by CMRS. The thesis readers proposed by students will indicate their approval by signing the form. 

    List of CMRS Faculty:

    Ibrahim Awad 

    Usha Natarajan

    Gerda Heck

    List of Non-CMRS Faculty:

    Martina Rieker

    Ian Morrison

    Click here for the Thesis Committee Form.

    III. Thesis Proposal

    Before you begin to write your thesis, the department must approve the topic you have selected, and how you plan to conduct your research and write the thesis. Therefore, all students must submit a thesis proposal. The proposal is the framework and blueprint for the thesis itself and is the basis on which the center approves the thesis topic. Upon registration in MRS 599 Research Guidance and Thesis, you must proceed within one semester to write your thesis proposal. MRS 576 Research Methods will be helpful for writing your proposal. The deadline for submitting the proposal will be specified on the center’s website at the beginning of the semester.

    The proposal is submitted for approval to the thesis committee. Once the committee evaluates the proposal, it may take one of the following decisions:

    a) Approve the proposal
    b) Reject the proposal
    c) Conditional approval with minor modifications require a reconsideration of the proposal after necessary corrections are made.

    Comments and suggestions will be communicated to you by your adviser. As soon as the proposal is approved, you may proceed with thesis research and writing. Copies of the proposal approval document will be kept in the center and forwarded to the Office of the Registrar. With approved thesis proposals, you may apply for research grants if required. For information and deadlines with regard to graduate student grants, see:

    The thesis proposal should be approximately 20 to 25 pages, double-spaced. An acceptable thesis proposal contains the following elements:

    1. Cover page 
    2. Overview clearly stating thesis question and hypothesis (1 page) 
    3. Title page with space for committee members’ approvals
    4. Introduction: Research problem, context, justification of thesis (4-6 pages) 
    5. Literature review (5-7 pages)
    6. Methodology (2-3 pages) 
    7. Objectives and research questions to be answered (1-2 pages) 
    8. Materials (2-3 pages)
    9. Limitations and ethical issues
    10. Work plan, procedure and outline (2 pages) 
    11. Appendix (if any)

    The following are guidelines for preparing the proposal, with suggestions on how to begin and what the committee looks for when they review proposals.

    a. Selecting a Topic and Formulating the Research Question

    The first step in preparing the proposal is to immerse yourself in the literature of the area or topic. You should read as widely and specifically as is required to determine what has been written on your chosen topic and what contribution you might make. As you read, you should think about the following:

    • What question or questions will the thesis address?
    • Why do these questions matter?
    • What answer or answers will the thesis offer to these questions?
    • What contribution will the answers make to our knowledge about migration and/or refugee studies?
    • What kinds of materials and what sort of analysis will be needed to answer the questions raised?

    You need to develop a strong background on the topic and become thoroughly familiar with the research and writing that others have done.

    b. Research Questions and Hypotheses

    Take your objectives and make them into questions; then state the answers to your questions in terms of what you expect to find. These are your hypotheses. It is important to realize that you come to the thesis with a preconceived idea about the answers you will find.

    The questions you are addressing should be divided up so that they cover the entire scope of your research problem. You should ask yourself whether all the questions and corresponding hypotheses add up to the research problem. Do they fill the territory indicated in the research problem? Are they consistent with your methodology? Will they, when answered, achieve your objectives as you have spelled them out?

    c. Research Problem

    The most important part of any research proposal is the question or problem to be analyzed. All else in the proposal (and your research) derives from that. Therefore, it is essential that the research problem is formulated carefully.

    Think about your research problem and why it is important. Try putting your topic into the form of a question. What question or questions will your thesis answer? Then turn the question around a statement. This statement becomes your research problem.

    When you present this statement as the opening part of your proposal, you should follow it with a paragraph or two placing your topic in the larger context of the field of study together with an explanation as to why it is important to know what your research promises to discover or clarify. That is, your thesis should acknowledge the greater debate or more general concerns of which your selected topic is a part.

    d. Literature

    The proposal should also contain a summary of what was discovered during the search of the literature in order to develop your research problem. Here is where you categorize what others have written on the same or similar subjects. The presentation of the literature about your topic in the proposal should be selective, organized and summarized.

    Not all of what you discovered will have been equally relevant; therefore, be selective. You should discuss items which are representative of the larger body of material. If there is little literature directly related to your topic, you should discuss what there is, then discuss the kind of research that is similar to the kind you propose, that has been done in other contexts or areas of the world.

    Here is where you explain how your proposed work will build on what has been done and in what ways it complements existing work. Here also is where you specify how you view your thesis as fitting within the existing literature on the subject. What is the gap which it will fill? Or, what is the area that is not researched or under-researched to which it will contribute? It may also be relevant to refer to some examples of the "genre" of writing that your thesis intends to emulate or from which you specifically wish to depart from in your work.

    e. Methodology

    The methodology of your thesis is how you intend to address the questions that your research problem raises. It is your intellectual approach or strategy for answering the questions raised. In this section of the proposal, you will explain your orientation to the subject you intend to investigate and specify the theory or conceptual framework you will use in selecting your material and analyzing it.

    It is important to realize that you bring preconceived ideas to your thesis about how your research problem should be viewed and discussed: Such "worldviews" are embodied in theories and conceptual frameworks worked out or used by others in previous studies. You will have come across them during your coursework, and again during your literature search for the thesis. What approach do you consider to be most appropriate in dealing with your chosen topic? What theory or concepts will you call upon to organize and analyze the material of your thesis?

    You should acknowledge the source of your conceptual orientation.

    f. Objectives

    The objectives of your proposal are a specification of the things which you must accomplish in order to produce a comprehensive solution to the research problem. They are a restatement of your research problem in specific terms, indicating a series of interconnected results. They are part of your research strategy and should relate to your methodology.

    g. Materials

    The materials section of your proposal is a discussion of the sources you will use in researching the problem and deriving answers to the questions and hypotheses you have developed. Where are you going to look and what are you going to look for and analyze in order to find answers to the questions you have raised?

    Your research problem may require that you generate material by means of interviews and/or that you use written sources. Written sources come in many varieties. A thesis should be mostly concerned with primary sources (documents, memoirs, various other sources of factual material, interviews conducted by others including those contained in newspapers). If material collected by others is used, it should be carefully assessed as to the reliability of the author and sources.  Secondary sources (the analysis of information by others) may also be useful for developing parts of your thesis, especially if you are re-analyzing given factual material or a particular event. Depending on the kind of thesis you intend to write, a certain category of books written by one or more authors may be, in effect, "primary material" for the purpose of your thesis, for example, an analysis of the writings of one author or a school.

    In this section of your proposal, you may list the material by type (documents, primary and secondary sources) or by subject matter (reflective of your research question/hypothesis areas). If you intend to use interviews, you should include the questions you will ask or areas your interviews will explore.  If relevant, you should include the names of individuals whom you intend to interview, together with their positions, or the categories of respondents that you intend to use.

    Materials you will use for your thesis are not the same as the literature. Your materials may, however, include some titles discovered in the literature search, particularly if your thesis builds upon a specific debate or uses specified works as a primary material.

    As you specify the materials you will use, review your research problem and your hypotheses and questions. Ask yourself if your material is going to be adequate for your purpose. Are your procedures for collecting material going to produce what you need in order to address your research problem, as you have stated it, adequately? If they are not, you should rephrase and perhaps even rethink your research problem. Although the materials section usually comes in the latter part of the proposal, you should be considering what materials are appropriate and available for your thesis from the beginning of your literature search and the formulation of the research problem. The materials you will use are the core of your thesis.

    h. Work Plan, Procedure and Outline

    You should specify a plan of work. This means you should categorize the material you intend to use in terms of how and when you will collect each part of it, what you will be looking for in analyzing it, and how you will organize your time.

    Your work plan should include a tentative outline for writing the thesis. The outline should be detailed and attempt to reflect your procedure in addressing the research problem and the questions and hypotheses which you have derived from it. You are not bound by this outline and it is to be expected that it may change in the course of writing the thesis. But the outline is important to help you focus on what you are trying to accomplish in the thesis, and how you intend to go about that. It is the blueprint of your thesis and the result of the careful preparation of the other parts of your proposal.

    IV. Institutional Approval for Original Data Collection

    If your research involves collecting data from people in any form, as opposed to using pre-existing data, you will need prior approval of the Institutional Review Board. See:

    Additionally, review these guidelines:

    This link also includes information on Egyptian government approvals, which are provided by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS). CAPMAS approval is needed for any survey conducted off-campus.


    V. Thesis Presentation, Formatting, Style and Citation

    The thesis must be written in English, typed and double-spaced. It will be judged on content, organization, documentation and presentation. With regard to length, CMRS requires that a thesis is between 20,000 and 25,000 words (not inclusive of footnotes, abstract, outlines, annexes, appendices, bibliography, etc.)
    With regard to referencing and citation, CMRS requires students to consistently and accurately follow the Chicago Style of referencing. Students are advised to familiarize themselves with Kate Turabian's A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses and Dissertations (2007), seventh edition or later, available at the AUC bookstore and library.  It is based on the The Chicago Manual of Style (2003), 15th edition or later, available at the AUC Library. Students are advised to consult the manual of style if they need greater elaboration of questions of style than what is contained in the abbreviated Turabian manual.

    Table of contents, bibliography, first pages of chapters and so on must be as specified in the Turabian manual. The thesis signature/approval page and title page must be in accordance with the standard format available on the center’s website. For all other matters, students must follow the formatting, presentation and style requirements contained in the AUC thesis guidelines:

    VI. Thesis Submission and Defense

    When the thesis is completed it should be read and approved in its completed version by the adviser, who will then distribute copies to two readers. Enough time must be allowed by the student for a careful reading by his/her adviser and the two readers prior to the scheduling of the thesis defense.

    A final draft of the completed thesis should be submitted to the adviser by the center’s deadline as specified on its website. The final thesis must be defended orally by the student before a thesis defense committee, which will usually consist of the adviser and the two readers who were selected at the time that the thesis proposal was approved.  An exception to this procedure may occur if one or more of the originally selected readers are not available at the time the thesis is completed and submitted. In such a case, the CMRS director in consultation with the student and her/his adviser will propose an alternate reader or readers.

    A time that is convenient for the committee members and the student is selected by the adviser for the oral defense. The student should bring the Thesis Defense Form to be signed by the committee at the time of the defense.

    The defense will consist of a 15-minute presentation of the thesis by the student followed by each member of the committee asking questions, in turn, for up to 15 minutes. Immediately following the oral defense, the committee will convene to vote on the acceptability of the thesis. The committee will make one of three recommendations:

    1) The thesis passes as submitted, or with minor revisions.
    2) The thesis passes conditionally, but the student is required to make significant revisions.
    3) The thesis fails.  

    In the case of numbers 1 or 2, the readers will sign their acceptance of the thesis at the end of the defense. In the case of a disagreement among committee members about the acceptability of the thesis, the CMRS director will meet with the committee for a discussion and final decision.

    If the thesis passes under number 1, the student makes any needed corrections (usually editorial or stylistic) and then gives the final product to the adviser who in turn submits it to the center. If the thesis passes under number 2, the student must work with the adviser, and either or both of the readers, to satisfy the changes demanded by the committee. The adviser will not sign off on the thesis until such changes are completed. At that time, he or she will then submit it to the center. If the thesis is not accepted, the student may rewrite it, but it will have to go through a new thesis defense. A new set of readers, and possibly a new adviser, will be allowed.

    The deadline for submission of the approved and defended final version of the thesis to CMRS is specified on the center’s website. You are advised to carefully observe the deadline for submitting a completed thesis if you wish to graduate at the end of a given semester.

    For your final submission, you should submit two unbound copies of your thesis to CMRS (one for the AUC Library, one for CMRS). You should submit four copies of your thesis signature/approval page, which you can obtain from the CMRS website. In addition to submitting two hard copies of the thesis, you are asked to submit an electronic version of the thesis directly to the AUC Digital Archive and Research Repository (AUC DAR) at

    VII. Registration Requirements

    You must register for 599 Research Guidance and Thesis in the semester in which you plan to submit the thesis proposal. Most students are expected to submit a thesis proposal during their third semester. From this semester onwards, you must continue to register for MRS 599 each semester and pay tuition equivalent to three credit hours, until completion of the thesis. A student who does not complete the thesis requirement within the period of two semesters will be charged a fee equivalent to one graduate credit hour for each additional semester of thesis registration. Students may continue to register for MRS 599 for a maximum of five years, after which departmental approval is required for the resumption of registration. Please note the following with regard to MRS 599:

    • MRS 599-01 is zero credit hour in terms of academic load but is calculated as three credits in terms of payment.
    • MRS 599-02 is designated for students who are registering for the thesis beyond two semesters. Students pay the equivalent of one credit hour.
    • MRS 599 consists of individual work on the thesis and meetings with the thesis adviser.

    For fellowship and loan purposes, if a student has only one or two courses left in the third semester, the registration is considered to be full time as the student has no other courses left to register in.

  • The thesis signature/approval page and the thesis title page must be obtained from the CMRS website.

    For Final submission:

  • Deadlines for thesis committee form and abstract submission:

    Fall semester: November 22

    Spring semester: April 22

    Deadlines for thesis proposal submission:

    Fall semester: November 22

    Spring semester: April 22

    Proposal defense:

    Fall semester: December 4

    Spring semester: May 7

    Thesis sent to readers for examination: 

    Fall semester: November 15

    Spring semester: April 8

    Thesis defense: 

    Fall semester: December 2 - 6

    Spring semester: April 22-26

    Final Submission to the Dean's office

    Fall Semester: January 15

    Spring Semester: May 21