M.A. Thesis

Thesis Option
          The thesis is optional for M.A. candidates and accounts for 6 of the 33 credit hours required for the M.A.

          Students should thoughtfully weigh the advantages and disadvantages of writing a thesis based on their personal circumstances, disposition, and career plans. Writing a thesis requires the management of a large research project and the ability to work independently and with self-discipline. Your decision to work on a particular area or author will likely influence the direction of your academic work after you achieve the M.A. For those who are not planning to pursue a doctorate, the intellectual exercise of investigating an idea as thoroughly as possible, of writing intently over two semesters, and of practicing genuine scholarship is an excellent test of your ability to analyze a subject, read closely, and follow through with integrity and commitment. Certainly, the thesis option is not for everyone, and some students feel writing a thesis can be intellectually cumbersome, delay entrance into teaching or other occupations, involve additional credit-hour fees beyond the 6-hour requirement, or even become an obstacle to timely admission into a doctoral program. Should you wish to pursue the thesis option, it is a good idea to discuss the thesis option with the Director of Graduate Studies as early as possible in your M.A. career.

Some Questions for Those Considering the Thesis Option include the following:

  1. Ph.D. programs typically ask for no more than a 20-page writing sample.  Will your efforts be better directed toward dedicated revision of a seminar paper?
  2. Do you already have a solid start on a seminar paper, with a decent working thesis, and an indication from a faculty member that the topic would, in fact, make a good thesis?
  3. The thesis must be completed by early March in order for readers to have time to read it, for the writer to make revisions, and to meet the April deposit deadline.  Do you have the discipline and time to meet these deadlines?
  4. What will you get out of doing a thesis?  Have you discussed this with a potential thesis director?  Are your goals realistic or based on misconceptions about the thesis process?
  5. Will writing the thesis slow you down?  Will you be able to write a thesis without having to add another semester or year onto your program?  What would be the financial implications of extending your time in the program?
  6. Will you have enough time to study properly for the M.A. examination if you take on a thesis as well?
  7. If you do not achieve a passing thesis by the deadline are you willing to extend your time in the program for another semester or two in order to finish?
  8. Are there at least two faculty members who can materially assist you with the thesis?  That is, two whose area the topic falls into?  Have you spoken with both about your ideas?

          Students who decide to write a thesis should consult the JMU Graduate School Thesis and Dissertation Guide for guidelines and a description of the process:

          A general overview of The Graduate School's policies concerning theses includes the following steps. Consult the forms section of these pages for the forms listed below and The Graduate School for each semester’s deadlines:

  1. Consult the program requirements for guidelines for registering for thesis credits. Download and submit the registration form for ENG 700.
  2. Select a graduate faculty member to serve as committee chair. This should be a faculty member whose specialization aligns with the thesis topic.
  3. Indentify the remaining members of the committee with guidance from the committee chair.
  4. Submit the Committee Approval form to The Graduate School.
  5. Complete the project using MLA Style.
  6. Schedule an appointment with The Graduate School to review the format of the project.
  7. Make necessary formatting changes.
  8. Obtain approval signatures.
  9. Turn in final copies of the work and approval sheets to The Graduate School.
  10. Deliver boxed copies to the library and to the Director of Graduate Studies.

          See The JMU Graduate Catalog for more information about the Thesis Requirements, Thesis Committees, Thesis Continuance, and Thesis Grading. 

Registration for Thesis Credits and Thesis Grading
          A grade of IP (in progress) will be posted for the thesis until it has been completed and approved by the thesis committee. If students have completed the maximum number of hours (six hours) allowed by the program for the thesis but have still not completed the work, they must register for at least one hour of Thesis Continuance each semester while they are completing their writing.  A grade of NC (no credit) will be entered for continuance hours.  After the thesis is completed and delivered to the College of Graduate and Outreach Programs for final processing, the Registrar’s Office will be notified to enter a final grade of satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

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