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Thesis Guide and Resources

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The thesis and dissertation manual is prepared and edited by the Office of Graduate and Professional Education. The requirements published herein are effective for all students submitting theses, dissertations, and executive position papers. All graduate students and their advisors are responsible for understanding and following these standards.

Note: This online version is the most recent version and supersedes all previous manuals.

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Click here for Thesis and Dissertation Manual

Department of COMM Thesis Guidelines

Students who select to write a thesis have, in addition to their 15 credit hours of required course work, 9 credit hours of elective courses and 6 credit hours of COMM 869, Thesis Research. The thesis typically is a research project in an area of interest to the student, employing historical, descriptive, analytical, field, or experimental procedures. The thesis usually takes a year or longer to complete; many students who opt to write the thesis finish up in the summer after their second year of study. Successful completion of the thesis requires an oral examination by the candidate's thesis committee after each member of the committee has had time to review the project thoroughly. (View committee form.)

During the first year of study, students who want to write a thesis should meet with different members of the faculty to discuss possible research ideas. After meeting with the Director of Graduate Studies, the student will select and ask a member of the faculty to serve as their thesis chair. Once the chair agrees to serve, the chair and graduate student will meet to discuss thesis topics and the student will prepare a brief outline for a thesis topic.  The graduate student, after consultation with their committee chair, will then ask two other faculty members in the department to join the chair to sit as a student's thesis committee.  If appropriate, one of the three members of the thesis committee may be a member of the graduate faculty from another department.  The appropriate form, listing the members of the thesis committee, with their signatures, must be completed.  The composition of the thesis committee must be confirmed by the Director of Graduate Studies.  The graduate students should then prepare a formal thesis proposal. 

The student will have three formal committee meetings; the thesis pre- proposal, the thesis proposal, and the oral defense of the thesis.  Each of these meetings is designed as a key step to insure that the graduate student is proceeding satisfactorily toward the degree.  

  1. The thesis pre-proposal, normally 5-10 pages in length, should include reasons for undertaking the research topic, the graduate student's qualifications for pursuing this research question, a statement on the literature to be searched, and the proposed method.  A copy of this proposal should be provided to each member of the thesis committee at least one week prior to the thesis pre-proposal committee meeting.  The graduate student and committee chair are responsible for setting the time for the thesis pre-proposal committee meeting.  This meeting should be held by the end of the second semester of course work for all full-time students and by the completion of required course work for part-time students.
  2. The thesis pre-proposal committee meeting is designed to assist the graduate student in gaining greater clarity regarding the potential research topic.  It is anticipated that this meeting will entail a discussion of possible pitfalls, alternative thesis topics, recommended methods, suggested coursework, etc.  The goal of the meeting is to facilitate the student's ability to further define and refine the proposed thesis topic into a manageable and worthwhile pursuit.  Students may be asked to submit a revised thesis pre-proposal prior to the granting of formal approval of the thesis proposal by the committee.  In most cases, however, any changes recommended by the committee will be overseen by the committee chair that has major responsibility for insuring the quality of the thesis.  A second purpose of the meeting is to confirm whether the thesis committee as formed is comprised of the most appropriate faculty members.  Should a change in chair and/or committee membership be appropriate and/or desired, the graduate student must file a new thesis committee form.
  3. After the pre-proposal is approved, students should write a full thesis proposal encompassing the first two chapters of their thesis (conceptualization of the problems, literature search, and research procedures/method).  Students should work closely with the committee chair on the development of the proposal.  The thesis proposal should be completed in the summer between the first and second year of study; part-time students should complete the thesis proposal immediately after completing all required coursework.
  4. Upon completion and approval of the thesis proposal by the committee chair, the chair and graduate student will arrange for a thesis proposal committee meeting.  This meeting will not be convened until the chair judges the proposal to be of satisfactory quality.  Students must provide each member of the thesis committee with a copy of the proposal at least two weeks prior to the meeting.  For full-time students this meeting should be held early in the fall semester of the second year of study.  Part-time students should schedule this meeting as soon as possible after completion of the full proposal.
      • The purpose of the thesis proposal committee meeting is to provide the graduate student with specific suggestions regarding the conceptualization of the problem/topic, the literature searched, and the specific conduct of the research inquiry.  The proposal must be approved by the thesis committee before major thesis research is undertaken.  In some cases the committee may require a student to submit a revised proposal if major changes are mandated.  In most cases, however, any changes in the thesis proposal recommended by the committee will be incorporated into the thesis research and overseen by the committee chair. If appropriate and in consultation with the chair, the graduate student may wish to meet formally with his/her thesis committee after the proposal meeting and before the actual completion of the thesis.
  5. The oral defense of the thesis will be scheduled upon completion of the thesis.  The defense is a meeting with the entire thesis committee.  The defense is a public meeting and as such other members of the department and university community may attend if they so desire.  At this meeting the student defends the thesis and answers any questions about the thesis and field of communication the committee deems relevant.
      • Often there are corrections, changes, or clarifications to be made in the thesis after the oral defense.  Individual committee members must approve the revised thesis prior to granting final approval of the thesis.  The final approved thesis should then be prepared according to the requirements of the graduate school and submitted to them.  Final approval of the thesis by the advisor and committee members signals successful completion of the MA degree.

    6.    The student must supply a PDF of the thesis to the Department of Communication's Director of Graduate Study.

Proposed Thesis Timetable:

Fall of first year: 

  1.  Get to know members of the faculty
  2.  Begin to think of thesis topic

Spring of first year:

  • Meet with Director of Graduate Studies to discuss topics and a possible committee chair
  • Ask a member of the faculty to serve as your chair
  • Talk with your chair about your topic and possible committee members
  • Write and defend the thesis pre-proposal

Summer between first and second year:

  • Write the full proposal

Fall of second year:

  • Defend the full proposal
  • Gather data
  • Do data analysis
  • Begin to write

Winter of second year:

  • Continue data analysis
  • Continue to write the thesis

Spring of second year:

  • Complete the thesis
  • Defend the thesis so it can be submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies in mid-April (View academic calendar)


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