Students who qualify for the thesis option receive 6 credit hours that count as English electives upon the completion and successful defense of a critical or creative thesis.
To qualify for the thesis option, students must complete the following steps before they have completed 24 hours in the program (note: hours toward completion include any transfer credit): • identify and define a clear research/creative project • secure a graduate faculty member from MSU’s English department willing and able to serve as thesis chair • work with the thesis chair to secure a full committee (comprised of three graduate faculty)* *Students who wish to include an outside reader on MSU thesis committees may petition the thesis chair and the graduate coordinator to do so. Approved outside readers must (a) hold a terminal degree, (b) serve as graduate faculty in their home institutions, and (c) possess an area of specialization that relates directly to the student’s thesis topic. Outside readers must also be willing to abide by the rules, regulations and scheduling decisions of the MSU thesis director.
No. Faculty will only consider thesis projects they can productively oversee. If chosen projects are too far removed from the expertise of the existing faculty, if students are unable to demonstrate independent research and writing skills, and/or if faculty are already serving on a number of active thesis committees, faculty reserve the right to deny individual thesis requests.
Students should pursue the thesis option when they wish to complete a sustained writing project that will aid in their intellectual development. The thesis is an option for motivated self-learners. It is not a requirement for the degree. As many of our graduates have demonstrated, students can earn an MA degree, teach at the collegiate level, and even go on to doctoral programs without completing a thesis.
A critical thesis is an extended exploration of an important issue in English or American literature, rhetoric and composition studies or linguistics that engages with current research in the field. Literary analyses should be roughly 80-100 pages in length, rhet/comp and linguistic theses anywhere from 50-75 pages. Examples of successful critical theses are available in our library.
A creative thesis may be an independent novella or a compilation of poems or short stories, or another creative project similar in scope. Its length and scope depends on the genre and style of writing adopted, but creative theses are usually 30-70 pages long. A compilation would typically contain 20 or more short poems (or the equivalent) or around 5 short stories. Examples of successful creative theses are available in our library.
After securing a thesis chair and committee, and at least one semester before enrolling in thesis hours, the student must submit a thesis prospectus, or formal outline of the proposed project. If the prospectus is approved by the thesis committee, the student may enroll in thesis hours (ENG 699) the following semester.
The thesis prospectus is the student’s articulation of the plan and structure of the thesis. The overall shape and length of each prospectus will be determined by the student’s focus, but each prospectus should include the following: • a title page that lists the working title of the project, the student’s name, and the make-up of the thesis committee • an articulation of the research question being asked (critical thesis) or the aesthetic issue being addressed (creative thesis)—whether critical or creative, the prospectus should show an awareness of what has already been produced in the field and an understanding of the way the project will fit into the existing discourse • a general overview of the project (i.e., a postulated answer to the research question or a full description of the new aesthetic material that will be produced) • an explanation of methodology (for critical theses, this includes a description of the relevant body of published criticism and the critical methodology to be employed; for creative theses, this includes a description of the preparation and drafting processes, for creative theses, this includes a description of the preparation and drafting processes) • a timeline toward completion • a working bibliography
In order to receive credit for the 6 hours of ENG 699, a student must complete and successfully defend the thesis. Ideally, this defense happens at the end of the semester in which thesis hours are taken. Upon completion of the thesis, the student must submit the finished project to the members of the committee and schedule a defense. At the thesis defense, the student will offer an oral overview of the project and answer any questions that the committee members pose. If the committee members find the written work and oral defense acceptable, they will approve the thesis. Once the thesis is approved by the committee, and the committee chair submits a grade for the thesis hours, the student must submit a properly formatted copy of the thesis to the graduate office. (For more information on thesis guidelines and the final submission process, please go to the graduate office homepage.)
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