MFA Thesis Guidelines

MFA students are required to take six thesis hours. These should be taken after or near completion of all other degree requirements (so after you finish all or most of your coursework). Before you can register, you have to fill out the Thesis Topic Approval Form. This form must be signed by all three committee members.

How do you get committee members? And what, exactly, are they? I'm glad you asked. Your committee is comprised of three members; your committee chair and two readers. Your chair is the committee member who will work the most closely with you, establishing deadlines and giving you feedback on your thesis as you work on it. The other two members are your readers – they'll give you comments, but will be less involved in the actual crafting process. Your readers do not have to be Creative Writing Faculty (the chair must, however). It's a good idea to take workshops and classes with as many different professors as possible so that you can get to know them. When you're ready to choose your committee, set up a meeting with your prospective committee members. Never ask them in a casual or classroom setting. Be professional. You should ask a professor to be your thesis chair in your second year (the sooner the better as there are only so many creative writing faculty members...).

Advice I hear from graduating MFA students time and time again is that you should be thinking right from your first workshop what you might want to do for your thesis. And what might you "do" with your thesis anyway? Well, it really depends on your genre and artistic aesthetic. Fiction writers can write a novel, novella, or a collection of short stories. Poetry students will write a collection of poetry. Nonfiction writers will write a memoir or collection of personal essays. All thesis projects should be considered in consultation with your chair.

Along with your thesis, you'll write a thesis essay. This is your chance to discuss your influences, artistic choices, and other aspects of the thesis project. You'll work in consultation with your chair on this essay. Ask her or him for more details.

You should have a good rough draft of the thesis ready by the semester you plan on graduating. The graduation deadlines come up very quickly and there really is no time to write that final semester. You'll be busy formatting your thesis and putting the finishing touches on your thesis essay.

Things to consider: you must have an approved Plan of Study on file the semester before (at least!) you plan on graduating.

Your application for degree and Revision to Plan of Study forms are due as stated on the Academic Calendar, generally close to the start of the semester.

Check out the quick reference guide and detailed reference guide for more information on these deadlines and the thesis process.

Below is a list of graduation deadlines, be sure to check exact dates on Graduate Academic Calendar:

These procedures must be completed before the thesis is turned in.

All thesis deadlines must be discussed in consultation with your committee chair.

  • Draft of entire thesis to Thesis Committee Chair — 2 months prior to Thesis deadline
  • Committee Chair Final Review — 4 weeks prior to Thesis deadline
  • Committee Review of revised draft — 4 weeks prior to Thesis deadline
  • Schedule Thesis Defense with Committee
  • Dept. Chair Review — 2 weeks prior to Thesis deadline
  • Dean Review — 1 week prior to Thesis deadline

Check out the thesis formatting video tutorials online. These will help you format your thesis. Remember that you'll need to check your thesis formatting with the Graduate College before turning it in - it's also very important to have the signature page checked for formatting before you send it around for signatures. Send it to for a formatting check.

Follow all instructions on Degree Completion as described by the Graduate College. Also, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the Thesis and Dissertation Guidelines. For MFA students, we recommend writing in "indefinite embargo" on the ProQuest Publishing agreement under the "select publishing options" section.

The Registrar's Office will send you an email with information on how to collect your graduation tickets. You must remember to RSVP as soon as possible - if you wait too long, tickets may run out. You can find more information from the Registrar's Office.