Between Thesis & Non-Thesis MA

How do I choose between thesis and non-thesis MA tracks?

Do you have a strong desire to contribute your perspective to your disciplinary field? Do you wish to practice the sort of academic discipline you will need to prepare for a PhD program? Do you wish to enhance your chances of getting into a PhD program? If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, then the thesis MA track is right for you.

Long before you write the first page of your thesis proposal, you will choose your general field of study: French literature (contemporary, modern, medieval, etc.), Caribbean Literature, etc.You will also choose a more specific period within that field: medieval, renaissance, colonial, 19th century, early 20th, contemporary, etc.

The next step is to choose a thesis advisor in the field and area of most interest to you. It is very important that you establish a dialogue with a professor as early as possible in your career. Your thesis advisor will help you shape your ideas and plan your research project. If you are not sure with whom you should work, you are advised to meet with Dr. Munson, French graduate advisor and Head of Program; she can guide you to the right person.

Together, you and your thesis advisor will identify a problematic or theme that is “doable” (able to be explored in the limited space of a 50-80 page monograph). Most themes come out of seminar discussions and readings, so it is advisable to write down potential ideas that come to you as you advance in your studies. Sometimes brilliant ideas come up in what at first seems like just a minor observation. Research and development of ideas should begin no later than the summer after student’s first year.

In the beginning of your second year of graduate study, you will write a thesis proposal, to be formally presented and approved by your full thesis committee no later than the end of the third semester. The oral defense of the thesis proposal is your committee’s chance to give you detailed feedback to help guide you on the path of writing the thesis itself. See Dr. Munson for recent examples of successful thesis proposals. Remember, the thesis proposal must include a statement of topic, a justification of why this is a topic worth studying, a review of relevant scholarship, an explanation of the critical methodology to be used, and a critical bibliography.

Note: An “Advancement to Candidacy” form must be completed and forwarded to the Dean of the College of Arts and Letters after the proposal has been accepted by your committee. This must occur no later than the eighth week of the third semester of graduate study.

Now comes the fun: writing the thesis itself. Your advisor will be working with you intensively on this project. Typically, your advisor approves each individual chapter, and it is only the final version that goes to the committee, where it is defended. The oral thesis defense usually takes place at the end of the student’s fourth semester. The oral defense of the thesis is the last opportunity for committee to clarify ideas. (The defense must occur in time for the student to turn in final copy to the university. (Fall and Spring deadlines are usually in the middle of November and April; click here for a copy of the relevant academic calendar). If a thesis student wishes to present her or his final version for an August graduation, she/he must plan ahead with faculty, since many professors are not available in the summer.

Before the thesis can be filed, a final copy must be approved by the Chair of the Department of Languages, Linguistics, and Comparative Literature, and by the Dean of the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters. After the student has obtained these additional signatures, the final copy is brought to the FAU Office of Graduate Studies. See the university’s Graduate Thesis Guide for the University mandated rules for thesis formatting, paper quality, etc.