All MALAS students complete a research-based thesis on a Latin American topic relevant to their field of specialization. Thesis research and writing is carried out under the supervision of the student’s adviser and two committee members. Research for the thesis may be field-based or library-based. The research topic and proposal are developed during the first year of the program. Field research is typically carried out during the summer months, after completing at least two semesters of coursework. Data analysis and writing takes place during the second year of coursework. The thesis is typically defended during the last semester of the program.

Each MALAS student takes a required course in research design for the degree. Students within the TCD specialization take a specific TCD research design course. Courses dealing with specific disciplinary methodologies are often part of the specialization curriculum. The Center for Latin American Studies also sponsors extra workshops to assist students in writing research proposals and carrying out field research.

An annual field research grant competition takes place each spring to fund student research related to Latin America and the Caribbean.