Theses and master's writing projects are capstone experiences in which candidates for the M.A. in English integrate the ideas and skills developed through their courses and independent reading. For clarification: a final project is not submitted to the Graduate School for approval, whereas a thesis is submitted to the Graduate School for final approval and subsequently archived in the Student Digital Commons. Such projects/theses are written after all or nearly all other degree requirements have been fulfilled. Students are encouraged, however, to begin thinking about topics and goals for these experiences as they proceed through coursework.
Guidelines and contract forms for theses and master's writing projects can be found in the Forms Library. These forms are officially modified versions of the generic forms in the Graduate School Thesis Manual and should be used in place of those forms.
The thesis is an extended research or critical document focusing on a specific issue or problem of importance to scholars. It is an option available for candidates in children's literature, linguistics, literature, and written communication. A master's thesis prepares you for further work in your field and serves as the basis for publications and presentations. It is useful (but not essential) for students planning to continue graduate studies toward a PhD.
The work for the thesis must be conducted under the ongoing supervision of a thesis director and second reader. Three hours of thesis credit (ENGL 692) apply towards the master's degree.
The Graduate School has provided a Thesis Manual to guide students embarking on this process. But remember that we have our own modified versions of the forms.
The following are some general procedures that all students who elect to do a thesis should follow:
Thesis Topic and Director: Begin thinking about the thesis early in your program: whether writing a thesis will be an appropriate option given your goals and interests, and what kinds of interests and outlooks might lead to a thesis project. Discuss your interests with a faculty member. Determine which faculty members might serve as your thesis director and second reader. If appropriate, a larger committee may be chosen. The committee may include a faculty member from another department whose expertise is relevant to the project. You should discuss this option with your thesis director. It is within any faculty member's discretion whether or not to direct a thesis or serve on a thesis committee.
Students in the Written Communication concentration plan the thesis while enrolled in ENG 621, Research in the Practice and Theory of Writing, which generally is taken after completing at least fifteen hours of coursework in the program.
Proposal: Once you’ve decided on a topic, and it’s been approved by your director, you’ll write a draft of your thesis proposal, to which your director and reader will respond. The proposal should include a statement of the topic, your objectives and approach, and a working bibliography. Your director typically will work with you through at least a few drafts of the proposal before approving it by signing the Thesis Proposal Approval form, which then should be passed along to your second reader and program coordinator to sign.
Registering for Your Thesis Credits: Once your thesis director, second reader and program coordinator have signed your Thesis Proposal, you will submit this document to the graduate coordinator. The graduate coordinator will arrange for you to register for thesis credits. Notice of the final approval of your proposal comes in the form of an email from a department secretary containing thesis course number which allows you to register for the credits. This can happen only after you have an approved contract. You can then use this number to register for ENGL 692.
Writing the Thesis: You should submit drafts of each section or chapter of the thesis to your director and other reader(s) for their comments and suggestions for revision. Usually, an entire manuscript can be submitted only after individual sections have been revised and approved.
No papers written to meet the requirements of another course may be included in your thesis in the same form in which they were written, although it is perfectly acceptable if ideas for your thesis grow from your previous work in the program.
If any part of your thesis results from a collaborative effort, you must describe your contribution precisely. Any collaborative efforts must be negotiated in advance and approved by your thesis director, second reader, and graduate coordinator.
If you make a major change in your thesis or abandon it completely, you must inform the graduate coordinator. You must submit a new thesis proposal and contract to continue with the thesis option.
Submitting the Completed Thesis: NOTE: Make sure to check the university and departmental deadlines for thesis submission and take them into consideration as you plan out your thesis writing schedule with your director. If you plan to complete your thesis in the Spring or Summer semesters, make sure your committee members will be available when you need them. Remember, you must submit the thesis to the graduate coordinator at least two weeks before it is due to the Graduate School. Failure to meet the deadlines can delay your graduation.
When you complete the final draft of your thesis, you will submit it to your thesis director and second reader for review. You are responsible for the readiness of this draft—format, documentation, grammatical conventions, editing, and proofreading—and should consult the Graduate School Thesis Manual. When your director and second reader feel the thesis is ready, they will sign the Thesis Approval form you submit to them (found in the Forms Library). You will then submit the finished thesis and signed approval form to the graduate coordinator, who will also review the thesis and sign the form, before passing it on to the Department Head for review. Once you have received all the requisite signatures, you will submit a paper copy of the thesis to the Graduate School for review and final approval. Along with your thesis, you need to submit the following: a signed Thesis Approval Form, Thesis Information Sheet and Rights and Permission to Post to Digital Commons Form. The Graduate School ultimately will provide you with the necessary information on submitting the final thesis.
Deadlines: Please visit our deadlines page for up-to-date deadline information.
Thesis Credit: Credit for ENGL 692 is granted after the thesis has been accepted by your thesis director, reader(s), graduate coordinator, program coordinator (in some cases), and the Graduate School. You may register only once for thesis credit, and no grade will be assigned (other than "I'') until the project is completed and approved. At that time, your thesis director will submit a change of grade request.
Authority: The Graduate School is the final authority for setting manuscript guidelines for theses. Accordingly, you should become familiar with the thesis manual developed by the Graduate School and follow its procedures and format specifications. Documentation should follow either the MLA (Modern Language Association) or APA (American Psychological Association) manuals. Linguistics theses follow APA guidelines as modified by the American Linguistics Society.