CSULA Department of English | Thesis Guidelines

Comprehensive Examination Information

Registering for Thesis Units

Completing the Thesis

The Oral Defense

Guidelines for Thesis Proposals

These guidelines are designed to aid graduate students as they begin the thesis; and include a detailed section on preparing the thesis proposal. The expectations for the thesis and the thesis proposals vary in the three thesis-options (Literature, Creative Writing, and Composition, Rhetoric, and Language). Students, therefore, should always consult directly with their advisers.

The Thesis in Literature

Although not exclusively a research paper in the sense of a heavily footnoted and documented report, the thesis in the Literature Option must be comprehensive in regard to primary and secondary research. The premium is on independent critical thinking, reading, and writing. The final text must be soundly interpreted, clearly argued, accurately documented, and composed with effectiveness and cogency. Ideally, the master's thesis would approach the model of published essays found in reputable scholarly periodicals. As a general rule, theses should range between 40 to 70 pages, though there is no absolute page limit and the length of the thesis is ultimately determined by the subject.

The Thesis in Creative Writing

It is the expectation of the department that theses in Creative Writing reflect both the student's creative abilities as well as a familiarity with literary tradition. Inasmuch as the Creative Writing Option is a part of an M.A. in English, the Creative Writing thesis must include an introduction that places the student's writing in a literary or a critical context. Accordingly, the Creative Writing thesis proposal should include both a description of the proposed creative content and an articulation of the literary context within which, out of which, or against which the writing is born.

The Thesis in Composition, Rhetoric, and Language

Theses in Composition, Rhetoric, and Language are generally of two kinds: an empirical study or a critical essay. Within these two general areas, many different sorts of thesis projects are possible. A theory-based empirical study might be a case study or an ethnographic study of literacy or language practices; it might test new hypotheses or replicate earlier studies with a different population; or it might be a rhetorical or linguistic analysis of text or discourse. A critical essay might critique or reanalyze a particular body of research or the work of a single researcher; or it might combine or contrast two theories to consider application to a specific population. These are only examples of the wide range of possible thesis projects in the Composition, Rhetoric, and Language option. Samples of proposals are available in the Advisement Office.

Registering for Thesis Units

1. Students must obtain a faculty member's agreement to act as their Thesis Director before signing up for any units of ENGL 599. The Thesis Director's Agreement sheet (attached) must be signed and submitted to the Advisement Office when signing up for the one unit of ENGL 599. Please note that students must also attend a Thesis Advisement Workshop in the Library. The schedule of these workshops is posted on the graduate bulletin board each quarter.

2. Students are allowed to enroll in one unit of ENGL 599 after completing their forty units of course work or during the quarter in which they are completing the last of their course work.

3. Students must select two additional faculty members to serve on their thesis committee, and it is the students' responsibility to keep these committee members apprised of the development of their thesis. These members, along with the Thesis Director, must approve the proposal and all must sign the Thesis Proposal Title Page (attached) before the proposal is submitted to the Graduate Advisement Office.

Completing the Thesis

Students may not register for additional Thesis units until the Thesis Proposal has been approved by the students’ Thesis Committee and the GS-12 is signed.

The student must register for the remaining four units of ENGL 599 in consecutive quarters, excluding summers, but has the option of registering for as little as one unit per quarter. If the student desires, the whole project could be completed in two quarters (one unit the first quarter, four the second). No student may register for more than one unit in the first quarter.

The Oral Defense

After the student's Thesis Committee agrees that the student's progress is sufficient to warrant the scheduling of the Oral Defense, the student follows this procedure:

By the seventh week of the quarter in which the student plans to defend the thesis, the student presents the Thesis Committee with three typed drafts of the thesis including a bibliography.

The actual oral defense, presided over by the student's Thesis Committee, will be scheduled not later than the tenth week.

After successfully defending his or her thesis, the student presents three final typed drafts, incorporating all changes and suggestions resulting from the criticism of the previous draft by the Thesis Committee; one final draft goes to the English Department Advisement Office, and two copies go to the Librarian in charge of filing M.A. Theses at the JFK Library. This must be done by the stated Library deadline.

Students must file for graduation a quarter in advance during the designated filing period printed in the Schedule of Classes.