Students electing to complete a thesis should familiarize themselves with the Graduate School's website and be aware that the approval and submission of a thesis is a multi-step process involving both the English Department and the Graduate School.
All institutional policies, procedures, and academic forms involving thesis submission are available on the Graduate School's page "Dissertation and Thesis Information."
In addition, please review the Graduate School's instructions on applying to graduate.
Departmental guidelines on thesis writing are below.
WRITING THE THESIS
Students must decide in their first year which option to take to earn the degree. Students opting for the thesis plan will pre-register in the Spring of their first year for the Thesis Research Seminar to be taken in the Fall of year two. By the end of year one thesis writers must identify a general topic or focus for the thesis project, and based on their focus they must also identify at least one faculty member to serve as the thesis mentor. All thesis writers must inform the Director of Graduate Studies about these decisions before the end of the first year. They should also plan to devote the summer between the two years to serious preparatory work for the thesis project.
Thesis writers will produce the thesis project in the course of year two. The thesis will take up the bulk of the work of the Thesis Research Seminar in the fall and the Directed Study in the spring of year two. Students work with their mentor to complete the thesis by the English Department and Graduate School deadlines.
The program expects thesis projects to reflect original research, analysis, and writing of considerable depth and complexity appropriate to Master's level work, and as such the thesis should fall between 55 and 85 pages in length. Anything shorter or longer represents an extraordinary circumstance, for which students must submit an explicit rationale, with the signed approval of their thesis adviser, for approval from the Director of Graduate Studies.
Thesis writers should identify a thesis mentor by the end of their first year in program. They should work closely with the thesis mentor over the summer before and through the fall of their second year. In consultation with the mentor and the instructor of the Thesis Research Seminar, thesis writers should also identify and meet with an appropriate second reader by the end of the fall of year 2. Over the holiday break and into the spring term, students should continue working closely with their mentors, but contact with the second reader, while allowed, should be kept to a minimum.
Complete first drafts of the thesis are due to both the mentor and the second reader by the Friday before spring break. By spring break students will also schedule two-hour thesis defense sessions with the mentor and the second reader. Those sessions will take place between the Monday after spring break and the last Friday in March. More information about the thesis defense will be distributed to students, mentors and second readers over the weeks leading up to spring break.
The outcome of the thesis defense will determine how much additional work the student will need to do before submitting the final version of the thesis project for approval by the mentor and the program. The deadline for submission of that final draft will usually be Friday following the second full week in April.
Students are expected to abide by the university's honor code and should review the Graduate School's policies on Academic Integrity.
SUBMITTING THE THESIS
Students must submit the finished thesis to the Academic Coordinator only after it has been approved and signed by the thesis mentor. The Director of Graduate Studies will not read theses that have not been thoroughly and finally corrected, revised, and approved by the thesis mentor. You may submit a thesis and graduate in any month of the year except for June.
Before you begin writing:
- Submit the Thesis or Dissertation Proposal Form to the Academic Coordinator.
- Download and use the Thesis/Dissertation Template to ensure that your formatting is correct.
After you have completed a final revision:
- Submit the thesis and Master’s Thesis Cover Sheet to your mentor for a signature approval.
- Attach the Master’s Thesis Cover Sheet, the Thesis Abstract Form, and the ETD Release Form to the approved thesis (again, all these forms are available here). Submit a hard copy, fastened with a binder clip (not stapled or bound) to the Academic Coordinator one week before the Graduate School's deadline. Students should determine the deadline of their thesis based on the month in which they wish to graduate.
- The Academic Coordinator will give the thesis to the Director of Graduate Studies for approval. Once you have been notified that the Director has approved your thesis, follow the Graduate School's procedure for official submission. Please keep in mind that it is necessary to submit your thesis for review in advance of the listed deadline.
The Graduate School meticulously reviews all submitted thesis projects. Students must pay careful attention to grammar, punctuation, spelling, and margins, or the Graduate School will not accept their theses. The final version of the thesis must be proofread carefully in order to pass the Graduate School’s review. Neither the Director of Graduate Studies nor the thesis mentor is responsible for proofreading the thesis.
WRITING RESOURCES FOR GRADUATE STUDENTS
Thesis writers must prepare themselves for the practical challenges of producing a serious work of scholarly research with considerable depth and complexity. Below are some helpful sites about the research and writing process. Students can amend advice relating to doctoral dissertation projects to fit the parameters of the Master's thesis.
Brown University's Writing Center: Resources for graduate students ranging from dissertation and grant writing to finding a job outside of academia.
- UNC's Writing Center Handout:"Writing your Dissertation":This handout on dissertation writing may also be helpful for MA students beginning to write their theses. At the end there is a bibliography of books on dissertation writing as well as a long list of links to other sites which may be of interest to writers.
- Guide to Writing and Defending your M.A. Thesis and Ph.D. Dissertation: Written by S. Joseph Levine, Ph.D. Michigan State University, this page offers a helpful guide to thinking about, preparing, writing, and defending your MA thesis or PhD dissertation.
- The All-But-Dissertation Survival Guide: A newsletter for ABDs. Some of the advice about time management and procrastination applies to thesis writers as well.
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