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College of Humanities, Arts, Behavioral and Social Sciences (CHABSS)

Thesis Guidelines & Tips

Each student must present a formal thesis proposal to the thesis committee no later than the beginning of the third semester of study for full time students, or after eighteen units have been completed for part-time students.

The proposal needs to be developed in the context of work with your thesis chair (usually during a 690 independent study). By week five of the semester before your hoped-for defense, you need to submit it to the committee. (Use a draft to find a committee.) By week seven, the committee needs to approve the revised version of this proposal.

The thesis proposal is a packet that consists of three components:

  1. A project specification document that details the scope and specific elements of the individual thesis:
    1. A topic/research proposal of 3–5 pages that states your thesis or purpose and discusses what traditions/contexts it evolves from (other writers/other critics/genres of lit/theory, as applicable). NOTE: this is only for a critical or critical-creative thesis.
    2. A creative writing sample of at least 10 pages in the genre of the thesis project. NOTE: this is only for a creative thesis.
    3. If applicable, and after consultation with and approval of thesis chair, a statement describing the length of the thesis. If no such statement is included, the thesis will follow the minimum length specified in the thesis requirements.
    4. If applicable, and after consultation with and approval of thesis chair, a statement describing the thesis defense format.
  2. An annotated bibliography of 10–15 sources, which includes texts required by thesis chair and texts selected by you, with thesis chair approval. The annotated bibliography is intended to help you prepare for your chosen topic/genre and requires you to research and engage with your topic/genre in depth. It will help you think about your sources and which ones are relevant to the project and how.
  3. Your signed Thesis Committee Membership Form needs to accompany the proposal.

Tips on writing an effective thesis proposal

  •  Give yourself time to do many drafts. An early draft can be used to invite faculty to become committee members (most will not consider joining your committee unless you have a proposal to show them).
  • You must have some framework of other writers informing your proposal. In other words, while you may well begin by articulating what you want to accomplish in your analytical or creative thesis, at some point before you finish the proposal you will need to do some research to find out what other critics have said on this issue and/or provide a summary of the relevant landscape of creative writing projects that precedes your work. The annotated bibliography should reflect this research, i.e. don’t just do a core dump of possible sources but not use any of them in articulating your proposal.
  • Try to make a reasonable timeline by working with the LTWR Thesis Calendar and anticipating that review of drafts will take time. The usual procedure is for the writer to work only with the thesis chair until a close-to-final draft is done and approved to send on to the rest of the committee. This can be altered based on the preferences and needs of a particular committee. Faculty cannot turn around chapters in a week during the best of times—so expect that you will keep working on the next section as you wait for feedback on the first one.
  •  This is not a contract: your thesis will evolve from it and may well change. This is okay! However, the purpose for spending time on the thesis proposal and crafting it well is to a) clarify your thinking about the project and b) create the kernel of your thesis introduction.