Thesis Process

After completing the required courses and a total of 30 hours of course work, students must write a Master’s thesis, which is a work of original scholarship that makes a significant contribution to the understanding and appreciation of some aspect of the discipline.

Usually 50 to 100 pages, the thesis should demonstrate the author’s familiarity with background and contextual information appropriate to the subject and with the body of scholarship that has already been published on the topic. It should further indicate how the thesis contributes to that scholarship and demonstrate the student’s ability to sustain and develop a scholarly argument.

Students must enroll for a total of 6 hours of thesis credits (LIT 6970) while working on the Master’s thesis.

Format, Standards and Guidelines

The finished thesis must conform to format, standards and guidelines set forth in the Graduate School’s Regulations for Thesis/Dissertation Preparation Manual. Students should note that a form that must be submitted to the University Graduate School accompanies each step of the thesis-writing process. These forms must be completed by specific deadlines, so students should familiarize themselves with the M1-M5 forms and the Graduate School deadlines.

  • Step 1: (M-1 form) Appointment of the thesis committee
    Students must obtain the consent of a member of the graduate faculty willing to direct the thesis. In addition, two other members of the graduate faculty must agree to serve as readers for the project. Each reader must have access to at least one draft of the thesis, submitted well before any official filing deadlines. Students should agree to establish with each reader an appropriate schedule for reading and responding to the drafts.
  • Step 2: (M-2 form) Master's thesis proposal
    Before proceeding to write the thesis, students must secure approval of a thesis proposal. The proposal can range from about four to five (4-5) pages, and it should articulate the writer’s basic conclusions and present the general line of argument used to draw those conclusions. It should also include a statement of the methodology employed in the discussion and a description of what each chapter or section will discuss. The proposal should conclude with a selected bibliography of relevant or related works, including, where appropriate, primary literary texts, secondary criticism, interviews, archival documents, literary theory, and other relevant material.
  • Step 3: (M-3 form) Preliminary approval of thesis and request for oral defense
    Typically, students secure approval of their work first from their director and then from the other readers. Most directors prefer to read and critique each chapter as it is completed rather than receive the entire, completed thesis all at once; however, the review process is something that the student and readers need to establish among themselves. Once all three readers have given preliminary approval (sometimes pending recommended revisions), the student must request and schedule an oral defense.
  • Step 4: (M-4 form) Thesis defense report
    The defense of the Master’s thesis is a meeting open to the public in which the student is required to answer questions from the thesis readers. At this defense, readers may ask for further elaboration on issues raised in the thesis work. Upon successfully defending the thesis the student must file the —4 form and apply for signatures on the —5 form.
  • Step 5: (M-5 form) Final approval of thesis
    After successfully defending the thesis, the student submits it to the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences for review, and then to the Dean of the Graduate School. Approval by the Dean of the Graduate School constitutes final approval of the thesis.