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Thesis Guidelines

Master’s Thesis in English at The College of New Jersey

What is the Master’s Thesis in English at The College of New Jersey?

The Master’s thesis in English is a multi-chapter critical thesis of between 75-100 pages in length which grounds an original argument in appropriate theoretical frameworks and integrates relevant scholarship.  The thesis is developed and completed under the supervision of a Thesis Chair and at least one, and up to three, additional thesis committee members.  The thesis takes place over two semesters – Fall and Spring for 3 credit hours (one course) each semester and concludes with an Oral defense component.  The course is ENGL 699 Master’s Thesis and counts as two electives toward the total of ten courses required for the degree.  As the final element in the Master’s Program, the thesis allows the MA candidate to demonstrate expertise in his or her chosen research area.

The thesis is considered an option for the Culminating Experience and its requirements and process are jointly governed by the Office of Graduate Studies and the Graduate Program in English.  Students who choose to propose, write, and successfully defend a thesis are exempt from taking the TEXT and THEME portions of the Comprehensive Exam in English.  Accordingly, students should understand that the final thesis will be evaluated in alignment with guidelines posted for theses exams, including but not limited to, ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ample engagement with carefully considered sources and fluent application of critical theory (Comprehensive Exam Guidelines).  Students who successfully complete a thesis must complete the POETRY portion of the Comprehensive Exam and should register for ENGL 700 in the semester nearest to the completion of the thesis.  If a student fails to successfully complete the thesis, he or she must register for and pass the Comprehensive Exam at the next available opportunity.  In accordance with Graduate Studies policy, each failure to complete the Culminating Experience, including the thesis, counts toward the College’s maximum of two opportunities to take and pass the Culminating Experience.

Who is eligible to propose a master’s thesis?

The Master’s Thesis in English is open to MA candidates with a GPA in ENGL courses of at least 3.67).   Students must plan to complete at least 15 credits of ENGL coursework completed prior to the first term of the thesis and be prepared to complete the degree within the proposed timeline of the thesis project.

When should I start thinking about the thesis option?

Students may begin thinking about the thesis as soon as they enroll in the program.  Students will not be expected to propose a topic, or assemble a committee until the Spring term during which they meet eligibility requirements, or the Spring term prior to the first thesis semester, which is always a Fall term (see the timetable and deadlines below).

Who can advise my thesis?

The Thesis Chair and all other members of the thesis committee must be full-time faculty of The College of New Jersey with an appropriate terminal degree who will not be on scholarly, personal, medical, or administrative leave during the proposed thesis period.  Students should bear in mind that the proposed Thesis Chair must be a member of the English Department, as this person serves both as the chair of the thesis committee and the instructor of record in ENGL 699: Master’s Thesis.  This person serves as the scholarly sounding board for the developing project and as the primary reader for drafts.  Accordingly, the Thesis Chair and should be someone with whom the student has taken coursework and upon whom the student can rely for expert guidance in his or her chosen area of research.  Additional committee members are secondary readers who are invited for additional support as specialists in certain themes, theoretical idioms, or bodies of work.  Committee members do evaluate final drafts of the thesis and participate in final oral evaluations. They should be consulted in the development of the project prior to agreeing to serve on the committee.  The composition of all committees is subject to the approval of the Graduate Coordinator.

What is the Proposal Process?

Step 1 – Preliminary Project Approval
According to TCNJ guidelines for proposing a Master’s thesis, the initial step is a meeting with the Graduate Coordinator no later than February 15th in the Spring semester before the project is to begin.  This initial meeting is to determine the candidate’s eligibility and preparedness to propose a thesis.  Prior to this meeting, the student must submit a statement of purpose, a scholarly abstract of the project (which highlights the scope and methodology of the thesis), preliminary annotated bibliography, and a rationale for the proposed Thesis Chair. The statement of purpose should be written to convey the value of the project for the student’s program of study and professional pursuits.  It should also provide a rational for the selected Thesis Chair.  Students are encouraged to make an appointment with a TCNJ Humanities librarian to discuss appropriate library research methods and availability of resources for the project.  All documents should conform to the research and formatting standards of the discipline including citation and documentation as outlined in the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers.  Only after eligibility is determined should a student begin the college-wide proposal process, which includes further development of the project and the collection of signatures from supervising faculty.

Step 2 – Submission and Review of the Formal Proposal

Student must submit a formal proposal according to TCNJ guidelines.  These guidelines and necessary forms can be found by clicking here and scrolling down to “Thesis: Graduate Studies thesis guidelines

At this stage, the project must have a proposed Thesis Chair and at least one other committee member in accordance with the requirements of The Office of Graduate Studies and the Graduate Program in English.  The proposed Thesis Chair is responsible for meeting with the student and guiding him or her through the preparation and drafting of the proposal.  Student must leave proposed committee members plenty of time to consider proposals and provide feedback for revision.  Once the proposal is submitted to the Graduate Coordinator, the formal review process will begin.  Students should not plan to work on the proposed thesis until approval is granted.

Step 3 – Notification

Students are notified of requests for revision, approvals, or rejections by The Graduate Coordinator after members of the Graduate Committee have reviewed the proposal.  Requests for revisions will be accompanied by a timeline for resubmission and review.  Approved proposals are forwarded for the remaining signatures and the student will be registered for ENGL 699 Master’s Thesis.

What is the timeline for proposing a thesis?

      • Feb 15th – Initial conversation with Grad Coordinator (Preliminary Proposal due)
      • Mar 15th – Formal proposal
      • April 1st – Notification (followed by registration for ENGL 699 Master’s Thesis)

Preliminary Project Approval:Information and Form

The Oral Defense: Information 

Thesis Approval of Proposed Thesis Topic Forms