Now available | Collections of Columbia Student AB Theses and Master’s Essays

book spines of Columbia AB theses

The University Archives recently published two finding aids which will help researchers find Columbia College AB theses from 1878 to 1905 and Master’s Essays from the Department of History from 1971 to 1989.

The Columbia College A.B. Theses Collection consists of the undergraduate theses admitted for graduation by students of Columbia College from 1878 to 1905. A thesis or essay was required of all graduating seniors in order to receive a diploma until 1905. Originally, the student would have to get the President’s approval on his chosen subject and then deliver the thesis to the President personally. A thesis could not “occupy less than eight minutes in reading, at the ordinary rate of effective delivery.” The length of the work would evolve from an oral presentation to a written work at least 2000 words. In January 1905, the faculty approved a new program of studies for the undergraduate students at Columbia College. With the new degrees (BA and BS) and the new point or credit-hour system, the thesis requirement was discontinued. Of particular note is the 1887 thesis submitted by Mary Parsons Hankey, who enrolled in Columbia’s Collegiate Course for Women, and was the first woman to receive an undergraduate degree from Columbia College.

The Department of History Master’s Essays, 1971-1989, collection is also now available. Graduate students in the Department of History, part of the Faculty of Political Science, are required to submit for deposit a Master’s essay or thesis for the MA degree. In the early 1970s, the Master’s essay was a research paper prepared in seminar and often readied over the summer or the next term for deposit. During the period covered by this collection, both fulltime students (those pursuing the PhD) and part-time students (who were primarily those who did not aspire to a PhD degree) were required to complete a Master’s Essay based on work from a research seminar and which should not exceed 50 typed pages in length.

While some masters essays and theses are included in collections such as those mentioned above, there are also many Essays and Dissertations available via CLIO, the Columbia University library catalog. To learn more about how to find Master’s Essays, MFA Theses, and Dissertations in the University Archives collections, check out our Research Guides. Here you will also find information on how to request copies. If you have any questions about how to find materials or how to access materials, please contact