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Department of Languages and Literatures

Master of Arts Degree in Spanish

Application and Admission Process - Degree Requirements - Comprehensive Exam - Research Paper - M.A Reading list - Graduate Faculty

To obtain the Master of Arts in Spanish through UNISSIST (UNI System of Summer Institutes for Spanish Teachers), click here

Application for Graduate Studies and Graduate Admissions Process

Please see the guidelines of the UNI Graduate College (printed UNI Catalog or at 

In addition to the requirements of the Graduate College, you are expected to have:

  1. Major or equivalent in the language of study (documented on an official university transcript),
  2. Two letters of recommendation,
  3. Statement purpose in target language,
  4. 550 TOEFL score or higher. 

Students who do not have a major in the intended area of study may be admitted provisionally, providing they can document their language skills and the academic preparation required to succeed in the graduate program for which they are applying. Students with academic deficiencies may be required to take additional undergraduate coursework to prepare for graduate studies.  

The Graduate Record Examination (General Test) is not required for admission to the program.  

Students interested in this program must submit a completed Application for Admission to Graduate Study. Graduate information and application for graduate admission can be found at

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Degree Requirements

Major in Spanish  

This emphasis is available on both the thesis and non-thesis options. A minimum of 32 semester hours is required for either option. A minimum of 18 hours of 200-level course work, including 6 hours of 780:299 is required for the thesis option. A minimum of 15 hours of 200-level course work is required for the non-thesis option. In the case of the non-thesis option, a research paper must be approved by the student's committee and filed with the Department of Modern Languages before the comprehensive examinations may be taken. Successful completion of a final written and oral comprehensive examination is required for both the thesis and non-thesis options.   

Required: 32 hours 

700:295  Research Methods  3
Literature courses 12
Linguistics, grammar and/or translation courses 8
Culture and Civilization course 3
Electives 6


No more than 6 hours of translation (780:145 and/or 780:245) may be applied toward this major. 

Teaching Emphasis

This program is offered on the non-thesis option only. A minimum of 34 semester hours is required, of which a minimum of sixteen (16) hours must be at the 200-level; a minimum of twenty (20) hours must represent courses taught in Spanish.

Successful completion of a final written and oral comprehensive examination is required. A research paper, written on an aspect of methodology, must be approved by the student's M.A. committee and filed with the Department of Modern Languages before comprehensive examinations may be taken.

Prerequisites: Student must hold a valid teaching license and have documentation of successful teaching experience.  

Required: 34 hours

Educational Psychology: 200:214or equivalent 3
Measurement and Research: 250:205 or equivalent 3
Spanish Methods courses 6
Linguistics, grammar and/or translation courses, one of which must be at the 200-level, and one language-specific 6
Culture and civilization courses, must be taught in Spanish, with at least one course at 200-level 6
Literature courses, must be taught in Spanish, with at least two courses at 200-level 8
Electives in Spanish 2

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Comprehensive Exam Procedure

Comprehensive exams are typically scheduled after successful completion of your research paper and your required coursework for the M.A. degree. You need to initiate the exam procedure by asking a faculty member of the Spanish Program to serve as the chair of the committee. The committee chair will work with the other committee members to set the exam dates, to prepare, and to administer the exam. S/he will be your contact person if you have any questions about the exam procedures. 

Examination: The examination will consist of two days of written portions, with a maximum of five hours per day, followed by an oral portion on a third day, with a maximum duration of two hours. 
Under the Standard M.A. plan, all sections of the examination must be written in Spanish and the oral portion conducted in Spanish. In the Emphasis in Teaching only the section on "Methodology" may be written and discussed orally in English. Discussions during the oral examination portion concerning the research paper may be conducted in English. 

The examination committee performs the evaluation of the written exams and their approval is decided by vote. 
All sections of the comprehensive examination must be passed before official approval of the comprehensive examination can be forwarded to the Office of the Registrar. In exceptional cases, when extenuating circumstances have inhibited the examination process, an M.A. candidate may be permitted to retake (once) one section of the written comprehensive exam. This privilege will only be extended when the examining committee deems it appropriate. 

Examination: Thesis Plan  

Under the thesis plan, the comprehensive examination generally is taken before the thesis is completed. It may be taken before all coursework in the program of study is finished. The examination format is the same as under the non-thesis plan, but has fewer areas since fewer courses are required. Defense of the completed thesis is the last step in the examination process. 

Areas of Written and Oral Exams: The committee will prepare several question for each area. Students will answer one of these questions in each category. 

For sample questions:

First Day

(5 hours)

  1. Spanish Literature (question from different periods)
  2. Culture and Civilization (questions include Spanish, Latin American and  Latinos in the US)
  3. Grammar/Linguistic/Translation (to select one of these sub-categories)
Second Day

(4 hours)

  1. Spanish American literature
  2. Comparative Literature
Third Day

(1-2 hours)

  1. Oral exam


M.A. in Spanish: Emphasis in Teaching


  • Grammar and Linguistics
  • Methodology
  • Culture and Civilization: Spain or Spanish America or Latinos in the USA
  • Literature: Spanish literature and Spanish American lit. and lit. of Latinos in the USA  

M.A. in Two Languages

Students will answer one question in each area (for each languages):

  • Literature
  • Culture/Civilization
  • Grammar/Linguistics/Translation  

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Research Paper

Sample title page:

Sample paper: 

  • The paper must be written in Spanish
  • The topic must be approved by a graduate faculty member in Spanish. Please see “Topic Approval Form
  • Graduate faculty members who approve topics for papers will not necessarily be advisors, readers for the paper, or members of the comprehensive examination committee.
  • Papers for the Standard MA must be written on a topic of literature.
  • A minimum of 20 pages is expected (maximum 25), double-spaced, including endnotes or bibliography.
  • For explicit instructions regarding spacing, margins, fonts, etc, consult the latest edition of the MLA Style Manual.
  • Papers must be must be "approved to take comps" 
  • Papers need the preliminary approval of a member of the Spanish graduate faculty who has been the reader of the paper. The examination committee chair may be the reader, but is not required to be. Preliminary approval of the research paper is an indication that the reader finds it acceptable for proceeding with the comprehensive examination even though minor modifications and corrections are necessary before official approval can be granted. The committee chair must receive a final version of the paper, with the necessary modifications and corrections, before official approval will be forwarded to the Office of the Registrar.

Papers for the Two-Language Major 

  • Must be written in one of the two languages of the candidates' programs and generally are comparative in nature.
  • Papers for the Emphasis in Teaching may be written in English, in accordance with the APA Writing Manual. A minimum of 30 pages is expected, double-spaced, not including endnotes or bibliography, and be written on an aspect of teaching methodology. Roughly 50% of the content must treat the theoretical considerations of the topic, and the remainder should present practical applications. If the research paper is written in English, the candidate must additionally submit a sample of her/his writing in Spanish. This can be a paper done previously for a class. Credit in 780:299 is optional.


  • This option is not available for the Emphasis in Teaching, the Two-Language Major, the TESOL/ML major, or the Standard MA in Spanish through UNISSIST.
  • The topic must be approved in advance by the graduate faculty member who has agreed to direct the thesis.
  • The thesis must follow the guidelines in force in the latest edition of the Thesis and Dissertation Manual of the UNI Graduate College (available at the Graduate College's website).
  • Theses may be taken for six credit hours, under the number 780:299, Research, but no more than three credit hours per semester may be taken.
  • Final version of the thesis must be approved by the thesis committee and the Dean of the Graduate College.
  • All copies must be filed with the Graduate College at least 15 days prior to graduation (See section on Thesis-Non-thesis Option).

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Reading Lists

The comprehensive examination is based entirely on the pertinent reading list, depending on the year the student is accepted into the program. It is the responsabily of the students to finish all readings under the list. 

Reading lists for all Spanish MA options are  available from any Spanish graduate advisor, in the office of the Department of Modern Languages, and on the DML and UNISSIST websites. 

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Graduate Faculty and Contact Addresses

Department of Modern Languages 
University of Northern Iowa 
Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0504 
Ph.: (319) 273-2749  
Fax: (319) 273-2848  

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