A student in the M.A. program may (conditional upon the availability of an appropriate faculty supervisor), but need not, choose to write an M.A. thesis in his or her final semester(s). 6 credits will be granted toward the thirty credits of required course work for completion of the thesis. Taking advantage of the M.A. thesis option does not affect either the course work distribution requirements of the M.A. or one's obligation to complete PHIL 445 (or equivalent), but it does reduce--from 12 credits to 9 credits--the number of hours of course work that one can take at the upper-divisional undergraduate level. A student is not permitted to begin work on the M.A. thesis until such time as he or she has completed 18 credits of course work in the M.A. program. Finally, a student who opts to write the M.A. thesis will not be required to take the culminating exam. Instead, there will be a defense of the thesis before a committee of four professors and, in order for a student to be eligible for admission to the doctoral program, he or she must pass this defense "with distinction."