Thesis Proposal

M.A. Thesis Proposal

The thesis proposal is significant for two reasons. It marks the beginning of your development of a research project while enabling the faculty to evaluate the suitability of your research for the thesis track.

A thesis proposal takes time to develop. Identifying a topic of interest is relatively simple; crafting a significant question is more arduous. You need to conduct exploratory research and the write of successive drafts while consulting with relevant faculty members the entire time.

Each of the M.A. degree areas may have somewhat different expectations regarding the proposal. Please clarify the expectations with your thesis supervisor.


Your thesis proposal should be concise and contain the following sections. It should not exceed 15 pages (double spaced).

  1. Question  This section should mention the topic, the question you are asking, and the significance of the question.
  2. Audience  This section identifies the scholarly audience you are addressing.This is accomplished by referring to a body of literature and the position of your thesis question within it.
  3. Materials  Describe the materials (data) that you will be using. Clearly indicate which materials are primary and secondary, and where and how you will obtain them.
  4. Method  Indicate any techniques you intend to use to gather, evaluate, and analyze the data and develop the argument of your thesis.
  5. Background  A summary of your prior coursework and research and other experience that qualifies you for the proposed project in terms of gaining access to data, using the relevant techniques, and language ability.
  6. Schedule  Estimate the time required to complete your thesis. This  should include a timetable for all of aspects of the thesis, including research, data analysis, and writing.
  7. References  List all works mentioned in the proposal. It is better to have a shorter list of relevant texts that engage your central question rather than a longer list of books that are simply on the topic.


Proposals are defended in front of the degree area faculty. Each defense is thirty minutes long. The defense begins with the student's fifteen minute presentation of the proposal, highlighting the key question(s), method(s), and conclusion(s). The faculty will have already read the thesis so the presentation should be concise. The student should practice the presentation ahead of time to ensure that it does not exceed fifteen minutes. The presentation is then followed by questions from the faculty that student responds to.


The faculty evaluates proposals immediately after the defense. Evaluation is based on both the the written thesis and the oral defense. The evaluation is a collective decision by the degree area faculty. Notification of the result will be by regular mail within several weeks of the defense.