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Master of Science in Symbolic Systems

The University's basic requirements for the M.S. degree is discussed in the "Graduate Degrees" section of this bulletin.

The M.S. degree in Symbolic Systems is designed to be completed in the equivalent of one academic year by coterminal students or returning students who already have a B.S. degree in Symbolic Systems, and in two years or less by other students depending upon level of preparation. Admission is competitive, providing a limited number of students with the opportunity to pursue course and project work in consultation with a faculty adviser who is affiliated with the Symbolic Systems Program. The faculty adviser may impose requirements beyond those described here.

Admission to the program as a coterminal student is subject to the policies and deadlines described in the "Undergraduate Degrees and Programs" section of this bulletin (see "Coterminal Bachelor's and Master's Degrees"). Applicants to the M.S. program are reviewed each Winter Quarter. Information on deadlines, procedures for applying, and degree requirements are available from the program's student services coordinator in the Linguistics Department office (460-127E) and at


A candidate for the M.S. degree in Symbolic Systems must complete a program of 45 units. At least 36 of these must be graded units, passed with an average grade of 3.0 (B) or better. Any course taken as part of the 45-unit program must be taken for a letter grade unless the course is offered 'S/NC' only. Furthermore, none of the 45 units to be counted toward the M.S. degree may include units counted toward an undergraduate degree at Stanford or elsewhere. Course requirements are waived only if evidence is provided that similar or more advanced courses have been taken, either at Stanford or another institution. Courses that are waived rather than taken may not be counted toward the M.S. degree.

Each candidate for the M.S. degree must fulfill the following requirements:

  1. Submission to the Symbolic Systems Program office and approval of the following pre-project research documents:
    1. Project Area Statement, endorsed with a commitment from a student's prospective project advisor no later than May 1 of the academic year prior to the expected graduation year; and
    2. Qualifying Research Paper due no later than the end of the Summer Quarter prior to the expected graduation year.
  2. Completion of a coherent plan of study, to be approved by the Graduate Studies Director in consultation with the student's advisor and designed to support a student's project. An initial plan of study should be delineated on the Program Proposal Form prior to the end of the student's first quarter of study, to be modified at the time of the Project Area Statement with the approval of a student's advisor and the Graduate Studies Director. The plan of study must include courses more advanced than the Symbolic Systems undergraduate core in four main skill areas: formal, empirical, computational, and philosophical; and in at least three of the following departments: Computer Science, Linguistics, Philosophy, and Psychology. More advanced courses in each of the skill areas are defined as follows:
    1. Formal: a course in logic and computational theory beyond the level of PHIL 151
    2. Empirical: a course drawing on experimental or observational data or methods, beyond the level of PSYCH 55, LINGUIST 120, or LINGUIST 130A
    3. Computational: a course involving programming beyond the level of CS 107
    4. Philosophical: a course in the area of Philosophy of Mind/Language/Science/Epistemology or Metaphysics at the 200 level or above, certified by the instructor as worthy of graduate credit
  3. Completion of three quarters of the Symbolic Systems Program M.S. Seminar (SYMSYS 291).


The following is a list of cognate courses that may be applied to the M.S. in Symbolic Systems. See respective department listings for course descriptions and the University policy on graduate unit requirements.

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