Thesis Instructions

Selecting the Thesis Option

The MTL faculty believes the thesis is an appropriate capstone experience for the MA, a demonstration of sustained focus on research and writing that familiarizes the student with a larger field of scholarship, providing an indispensable grounding for those who plan to continue their studies in a PhD program.

Choosing a Topic

Begin thinking early about possible topics for the thesis. Each course assignment can be used to explore and discover topics that can be developed into larger, thesis-length projects.  Choose a topic that best represents your scholarly interests and one that is manageable within a single academic year.

Choosing the Director and Committee

Ideally, you should choose a director with whom you have studied and who has expertise in the subject area of your thesis.  Your director might help you develop your topic, draw up an appropriate calendar for completing the work, and advise you regularly throughout the process.  When you have selected a director and thesis subject, collaborate with your director in selecting two additional thesis committee members and, if you choose, a consultant from outside the department.

Planning the Thesis

The thesis option requires registration for 6 semester hours of  ENGL 7000 (Thesis Hours).  With the oversight of your director, write a thesis prospectus that provides a sort of roadmap through the process.  The prospectus should articulate the thesis claim or research question that is generating the study, identify and briefly describe those works of scholarship that you believe will be most central to your research, and construct a working chapter outline.  Typical theses are 60-100 pages and consist of four or five chapters. A full description of thesis requirements is provided by the Department of English graduate studies office or e-mail .

Learning the Format

Study the Graduate School requirements for formatting matters, as well as submission instructions, at before you begin your first draft of the thesis; it will save you and your committee time and energy in the long run if you conform to the guidelines from the beginning  For theses about literature, anything not specified by the Graduate School must be formatted in MLA style.  Thesis drafts must comply with the guidelines provided in the most recent edition of the MLA Style Manual before they are submitted to thesis committee members.

Holding a Prospectus Meeting

The thesis option requires a prospectus meeting with the thesis committee to be conducted within the first three weeks of the semester in which the student plans to complete the thesis and preferably during the semester before.  Both this meeting and the defense may be conducted by conference call for DE Students.  The meeting will review the prospectus, try to anticipate problems, and confirm that the student is ready to write the thesis.

Writing the Thesis

Arrange with the director and committee procedures for reviewing drafts.  Normally thesis students work closely with the director on early chapter drafts.  Once the thesis satisfactorily incorporates the director’s suggestions and is correctly formatted, send it  to other committee members for their input no later than two weeks before your defense is scheduled.  This allows time for them to read carefully and for you to consider their suggestions and make changes before the defense.

Defending the Thesis

Determine a date and time convenient for you and your committee to hold the defense.

Submit a copy of the completed thesis to each committee member and a thesis defense form (with title of thesis, committee members, and defense date) to the departmental graduate administrator.  In the defense, committee members may ask you to reflect on the process of thesis research and writing, challenge you on elements of your claims and arguments, ask for clarification, and suggest further revision.

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