Thesis Resources and Forms

Thesis Proposal Guidelines

Click here to download a PDF of the thesis proposal information included here. If you are interested in seeing sample proposals, please contact the Graduate Director.


Thesis proposals are 3 to 4 pages, not counting the accompanying bibliography. Full-time students defend their proposals early in the fall term of their second year.


The thesis proposal consists of the following:

  • Paragraph 1 / Statement of Purpose
    Describe the central problem or question your thesis investigates. Explain why this problem or question matters for your field or subfield. Name the original materials you have selected to examine this problem or question. Include a working thesis.

  • Paragraph 2 / Context
    Situate your thesis in relevant aesthetic, social, and historical contexts. Why are these contexts important for the problem or question your thesis pursues? How do they contribute to the significance or consequences of your investigation?

  • Paragraph 3 / Related Literature
    Explain your project’s relationship to existing scholarship in your field or subfield. You need not cite individual thinkers; rather, summarize dominant approaches to your problem or question and situate your work within them. How does your thesis corroborate and / or challenge these approaches? How would you describe the value of your contribution the field or subfield?

  • Paragraph 4 / Original Materials
    Describe the texts you plan to deploy as evidence for your argument—i.e., the novels, poems, philosophical or scientific texts, artworks, songs, films, video games, etc. that sustain and develop your thesis statement. What ideas or themes do these texts investigate? How would you characterize their form or style? Why are they suited to the problem or question posed by your thesis?

  • Paragraph 5 / Theoretical Literature
    Name and describe the theoretical concepts that most influence your approach to your thesis. Why are these best suited to the problem or question it analyzes? You need not cite individual thinkers; rather, summarize the terms or strategies your project adopts from them.

  • Preliminary Bibliography
    Provide a working bibliography for your project, including contextual, related, original, and theoretical sources. Distinguish items you have read from those you have not.

Thesis Timeline

American Studies, Film Studies, and Humanities Concentrations

Thesis timeline information

Graduate Thesis Committee Form

Step 1

Discuss your anticipated thesis topic with a faculty member who would be an appropriate major professor for the project. They should be someone with whom you have taken courses and who knows your work well. If you are having trouble developing a topic or finding an appropriate major professor, consult the Graduate Adviser.

Choose a major professor who has graduate faculty status in HCS. In consultation with the major professor, select two additional HCS faculty members to serve on your thesis committee. Discuss your thesis project with these faculty members and ask them if they are willing to serve on your committee. NOTE: It is possible to have a committee member from outside HCS. Consult your major professor and the Graduate Adviser to this end.

Once three members agree to serve on your committee, complete the Graduate Student Supervisory Committee Appointment Form, acquire faculty signatures, and submit it to the Graduate Adviser, who forwards it to the Office of Graduate Studies.

If you are a full-time student, complete STEP 1 during the spring semester of your first year.


Step 2

Write your thesis proposal in close consultation with your major professor, using the department’s Thesis Proposal Guidelines. HUM 6815: Research Seminar, taken during the fall semester of your second year, provides a framework for completing this document.

If you are a full-time student, begin work on your thesis proposal in the summer between your first and second years, registering for HUM / AMS 6915: Directed Research and/or HUM / AMS 6971: Thesis, as appropriate.

Step 3

After your major professor approves your thesis proposal, they schedule an oral defense of with the members of your committee. Submit the thesis proposal to your committee at least one week prior to the defense.

Following a successful defense, your major professor completes the MA Proposal Defense Form and submits it to the Graduate Adviser.

If you are a full-time student, plan to defend your thesis proposal early in the fall semester of your second year. NOTE: You are not permitted to apply for graduation or defend your thesis in the same semester that you defend your thesis proposal.

Step 4

Write the thesis with your major professor’s guidance and regular input from your committee members. Thesis projects are 25 to 40 pages long. Keep the Graduate Adviser informed of your progress and regularly share drafts of your thesis with your major professor.

NOTE: While you are not required to meet with your committee members as often as your major professor, you must give them opportunities to read, comment, and make suggestions to the document throughout the writing process. The thesis must be acceptable to all committee members before the defense is scheduled.

Step 5

Register for at least 2 credit hours during the term you wish to graduate.

Attend to the following deadlines:

Visit the ETD Resource Center regularly for important dates and information regarding thesis submission. Consult the Graduate Adviser with any questions. NOTE: Thesis defenses must be completed at least one week prior to the ETD submission deadline.

Step 6

When you are prepared to defend your thesis, your major professor schedules the oral defense. Share the final draft of your thesis with your committee members at least one week prior to the defense. Defenses are open to the public and other faculty members and students are encouraged to attend.

The thesis must include an ETD-approved Title Page. Complete the ETD Certificate of Approval and bring it to the defense for your committee to sign. Following the defense, forward the certificate to the Graduate Adviser who signs and returns it to you. Submit the completed form to the Office of Graduate Studies along with the required Plagiarism Check.  

Your major professor brings the Successful Defense Form and MA Thesis Defense Rubric to the defense. Following the defense, they forward the defense form to the Graduate Adviser and the rubric to the Graduate Coordinator.

If you are a full-time student, plan to defend your thesis proposal early in the spring semester of your second year. NOTE: Students who wish to postpone their thesis defense to the summer or fall term must consult with their major professor and the Graduate Adviser