BA/MA in Digital Studies

Trees with fall colors on campus

The four-year joint BA/MA in Digital Studies allows students in the College of the University of Chicago to combine a BA program with the MA in Digital Studies. The Digital Studies curriculum allows students flexibility to explore their interests in areas such as computational linguistics, digital literary studies, digital arts and media studies, digital history, digital philology, and digital archaeology and art history.

Undergraduate students pursuing this option are in “concurrent residence” beginning in the Autumn Quarter of their fourth year at the University and remain in this status for three contiguous quarters.

Where to Begin

Qualified students in the College who wish to pursue a joint BA/MA in Digital Studies should consult with their College adviser and/or the College BA/MA Adviser, followed by conversations with the Director of Digital Studies and the Dean of Students Office in the Division of the Humanities. Interested students are advised to begin these discussions by the end of their second year in the College.

Potential applicants should meet with their College adviser during the Autumn Quarter of their third year to confirm that they are far enough along in their College program to complete the course requirements for both degrees within four years.

Eligibility

Permission to receive concurrent BA and MA degrees is a privilege extended only to those undergraduate students who have demonstrated a record of uncommon excellence and who are sufficiently advanced in the fulfillment of the undergraduate degree requirements. The academic demands on these students are significant, and applicants are carefully reviewed in the context of both their undergraduate major and the Digital Studies degree requirements.

  • Applicants should have a GPA of 3.55 or higher for their undergraduate work and are expected to have entered their major. 
  • Applicants are expected to have completed 39 of the 42 courses required for graduation, including all general education requirements (exceptions must be approved by the Director of Digital Studies), before entering concurrent residence status for the three quarters preceding the anticipated quarter of graduation.

How to Apply

Interested College students should apply through the online graduate application website of the Division of the Humanities. The application must be submitted by February 1 in order for the student to be informed of the admission decision before the end of the Winter Quarter. 

Applicants must submit the following items:

  • MA application
  • Statement of academic purpose
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Official transcript(s)

Applicants are not required to pay the application fee nor are they required to sit for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

Applicants will be interviewed by the Director of Digital Studies. These conversations will focus on the program’s requirements and the applicant’s qualifications and objectives.

The application is evaluated by the admissions committee of the Program in Digital Studies of Language, Culture, and History on the basis of the student’s academic record, letters of recommendation, and personal statement of intellectual and academic goals. Admission to the MA program is highly competitive and subject to approval by the College.

Requirements

Students pursuing the joint BA/MA in Digital Studies are required to complete the 7 core courses and 3 elective courses prescribed for the MA in Digital Studies, and to complete a thesis project. Courses taken prior to entering the BA/MA program may be counted as electives to fulfill this requirement, subject to approval by the Director of Digital Studies, provided that they are not double-counted to fulfill the requirements of another program. At least one of the elective courses must have a digital component.

One of the core courses required for the MA in Digital Studies is DIGS 20001, Introduction to Computer Programming, in which students learn the Python programming language. This course is taught annually in the Spring Quarter as a regular credit-bearing course open to all undergraduate and graduate students. Undergraduates who plan to do the joint BA/MA program in Digital Studies are strongly encouraged to take this course no later than the Spring Quarter of their third year. If they are unable to do so, they may request permission from the Director of Digital Studies to take the intensive non-credit version of this course that is offered in September (DIGS 30000), immediately preceding the Autumn Quarter of their fourth year, in order to fulfill this prerequisite for the Digital Studies core courses they will take in their fourth year.

Exemptions based on prior courses in computer science and statistics:

  • BA/MA students who have taken CMSC 12100, Computer Science with Applications I, or CMSC 15100, Introduction to Computer Science I, or CMSC 16100, “Honors Introduction to Computer Science I,” are not required to take DIGS 20001, Introduction to Computer Programming.” However, students who have taken CMSC 15100 or 16100, which do not use Python, must learn Python on their own before taking the Digital Studies core courses. (The following textbook is recommended: Think Python (second edition) by Allen Downey; it is freely available online.)
  • BA/MA students who have taken STAT 22000, “Statistical Methods and Applications,” or a more advanced statistics course, are not required to take DIGS 30002, Data Analysis for the Humanities I, which is one of the core courses for the Digital Studies MA that otherwise must be taken in the Autumn Quarter of their fourth year. In that case, the student will have an extra elective in the Autumn Quarter. Note that STAT 20000, Elementary Statistics, is not accepted as a substitute for DIGS 30002.

Thesis Project

The Digital Studies MA program entails a thesis project advised by a University of Chicago faculty member, instructional professor, or lecturer. Information about the thesis requirement and related deadlines can be found on the MA Thesis page of this website.

BA/MA students who are doing a BA major in which a BA paper or senior thesis is required may do an MA thesis project on a topic related to the BA paper, subject to the approval of their BA adviser and the Director of Digital Studies, with the understanding that the MA thesis will entail substantial additional research and analysis.

Timeline

Spring Quarter of the Students Third Year (or a previous year)

  • DIGS 20001. Introduction to Computer Programming.
    • This course is offered annually in the Spring Quarter and also as a three-week intensive non-credit course in September (DIGS 30000). Students who have taken CMSC 12100, 15100, or 16100 are exempted from taking this course provided that they know Python before taking the other Digital Studies core courses listed below.

Autumn Quarter of the Fourth Year (or the final year before graduation)

  • DIGS 30002. Data Analysis for the Humanities I
    • Students who have taken STAT 22000 or an equivalent statistics course are exempted from taking this course and will have an extra elective in the Autumn Quarter.
  • DIGS 30003. Data Management for the Humanities
  • DIGS 30007. Introduction to Digital Humanities (seminar)

Winter Quarter of the Fourth Year

  • DIGS 30004. Data Analysis for the Humanities II
  • DIGS 30005. Data Publication for the Humanities
  • Approved elective course
  • Selection of MA thesis topic and confirmation of a thesis adviser

Spring Quarter of the Fourth Year

  • DIGS 30006. Natural Language Processing
  • Approved elective course
  • Approved elective course
  • Ongoing work on the MA thesis, due May 15 for June graduation or July 31 for August graduation

Summer Quarter of the Fourth Year

  • Completion of the MA thesis, if the student has not submitted it in time to receive the MA degree at the end of the Spring Quarter in mid-June. The final deadline by which the thesis must be submitted to the faculty adviser and to the Director of Digital Studies is July 31, in time for the student to receive the MA at the end of the Summer Quarter in late August.
    • Students may participate in the June Convocation at the end of the Spring Quarter provided that they have fulfilled all of their BA degree requirements and all of their MA requirements except for the thesis. They will receive the BA degree in June but will not receive the MA degree until the MA thesis has been completed and deemed acceptable.
    • Students who submit an MA thesis by May 15 are eligible to receive the MA degree in June, if the thesis is deemed acceptable. However, many students will require more time to complete the thesis and will submit it by July 31 in the expectation of receiving the MA degree at the end of the Summer Quarter in late August.
    • Students do not need to register for any courses in the Summer Quarter and they are not required to be in residence in the Chicago area while they complete the MA thesis.

General Guidelines

  • Students who begin work toward the MA in Digital Studies and then leave the University without completing the program will not be allowed to complete the MA program at a later date.
  • A leave of absence is not normally possible after a student has begun to pursue both the BA degree and the MA in Digital Studies. Students who find that they must take a leave of absence for a medical or family emergency during this period must obtain the approval of the Dean of Students in the Division of the Humanities as well as the Dean of Students in the College.
  • Admissions decisions are usually not released before College preregistration for the following year takes place. Admissions committees often wish to see Winter Quarter grades before making decisions. Thus, applicants should preregister for the coming academic year as usual.

Contact

For more information about the Program in Digital Studies of Language, Culture, and History and about the joint BA/MA program in particular, please send email to digitalstudies@uchicago.edu.

Photo by Robert Kozloff

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