Writing the English Master's Thesis

writing thesisDegree Plan I allows students the option of writing an MA thesis to fulfill six of the thirty-six credit hours required for graduation. 

Students pursuing the creative writing emphasis must write a creative thesis. 

WHAT IS A MASTER’S THESIS? 

  • A well-researched, well-developed, and well-articulated essay of literary scholarship/criticism or a carefully considered and artfully executed body of creative work (for example, a cycle of short fiction or poetry, a novel, or a full-length play) 
  • Essentially a long essay or cohesive creative work of between eighty and a hundred pages. 
  • Most are typically divided into four or five well-developed chapters. A creative work may comprise four or five stories or twenty or so carefully considered poems; the creative thesis also features a critical introduction to the work. 

WHY WRITE A THESIS? 

  • To indulge yourself in researching and making a scholarly argument about a particular topic that is dear to you, or to produce a cohesive body of creative work that has long been your great goal 
  • To demonstrate to yourself and the graduate faculty that in and through the graduate program you have, in fact, become an independent critical thinker or creative writer 
  • To prepare for future graduate work 
  • To make a significant contribution to the field of study 

STEPS TO WRITING THE MA THESIS IN ENGLISH: 

A synopsis of steps in the thesis process follows: 

1. You must be an MA candidate to begin thesis work. If you have not already done so, file a declaration of major form indicating that you are on the thesis track. 

2. If you have not already done so, decide upon a scholarly topic or creative project that will sustain your interests and energies for eight to ten months. 

3. Ask a member of the English graduate faculty to serve as a thesis director. Presumably, this will be someone who has specific academic training and interests in the field of study or creative pursuit. A student writing a creative thesis must work under the direction of a graduate creative writing faculty member. 

4. With your director, decide upon the other two graduate faculty members of the reading committee. In exceptional cases, one of the readers may be a member of another department. 

5. Enroll in ENGL 6398 (Thesis I). No later than the first class day of the semester in which you enroll in this course, you must submit to the Director of Graduate Studies an appointment of thesis committee form. On this day you will also submit to your director a rough plan for the thesis and a preliminary bibliography, as appropriate to the nature of the project. (See the calendar of submission deadlines for ENGL 6398.) 

6. During this semester, a candidate who undertakes a thesis involving human subjects (for example, in interviews for oral histories or surveys for statistical measurements) must also submit paperwork for approval by the Sam Houston State University Office of Research and Special Programs. For further information, see the ORSP web site

7. To earn credit for ENGL 6398, you must submit the thesis prospectus and any other thesis materials required by your director and committee. The prospectus is a reasonably well-developed plan for the thesis. In this proposal, you will describe the project and your approaches to the topic, lay out your methods for accomplishing it, and provide a bibliography, as appropriate to the nature of the work. (A creative writer, for example, might provide a bibliography of primary works that have influenced the writer and/or works of writing theory that she or he will use in the critical introduction to the thesis.) See the model scholarly and creative thesis prospectuses. 

8. Submit the prospectus to the Director of Graduate Studies with the approval page signed by all members of the reading committee (see the calendar of deadlines). You will receive a final grade of CR (Credit) or NC (No Credit). ENGL 6398 is a three-credit class, but your grade will not be computed mathematically into your overall graduate GPA. You may not take an incomplete in ENGL 6398. 

9. Procure a copy of Directions on Form, Preparation, and Submission of the Final Copies of Master’s Theses and Doctoral Dissertations

10. Enroll in ENGL 6399 (Thesis II). In this second semester of thesis work, you will complete the project begun in ENGL 6398. You must continue to enroll in (and pay tuition for) ENGL 6399 every term until you have completed the thesis; if you withdraw for any amount of time after beginning ENGL 6399, you will be required to pay back-tuition upon re-enrolling in the course. You will receive a grade of IP (In Progress) until the completion of the work, at which time you will receive a final grade of CR (Credit) and three credit hours for the course. 

11. Complete the thesis to your readers’ satisfaction and orally defend the work by the stated deadline for the semester during which you plan to graduate. (See the calendar of submission deadlines for ENGL 6399.) It is the responsibility of the candidate and his or her director to establish the thesis date and time and to coordinate the event with the other readers. About a week before the oral defense, send the graduate director the following information for the thesis defense form: (1) the date and time of the defense (2) the official title of the thesis, as you would like it to appear on your graduate transcript (3) the names of the committee members. 

12. After defending the thesis orally, you will have about a week and a half to make final revisions and corrections before submitting the approved thesis to various campus offices for approvals and, eventually, to the Newton Gresham Library for binding. (See the calendar of submission deadlines for ENGL 6399.) Information about preparing the final copies of the thesis for binding and a schedule of binding and microfilming fees appears in the Directions on Form, Preparation, and Submission of the Final Copies of Master’s Theses and Doctoral Dissertations. For a link to the route sheet that accompanies the thesis, see the Graduate Studies Office


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