Thesis FAQs

English M.A. Thesis

Thesis procedures, including thesis proposal

What is a thesis?
The thesis is the culminating project for the Masters of Arts in English.  It is ideally a deeply researched 40-55 page essay written in the student’s chosen area of concentration under the supervision of a faculty member in the field.  The thesis should differ in breadth, structure, and tone from the essays you have completed in your graduate classes and seminars, but it should grow out of work you have done during your seminars. 

It is a semester-long project, but students usually begin researching and conceptualizing their topics for a summer or a semester before formally enrolling in the thesis course.

How do I choose a topic?
Ideally, your thesis will evolve from an essay you complete in a graduate seminar at Montclair State University, but the research and analysis should expand considerably beyond the work of the seminar paper. You can use a substantial essay that you’ve written for an earlier graduate seminar (usually about 20 pages long) as the foundation of your thesis.  Students are strongly urged to start with a topic or theoretical question that they have already taken up in a graduate course. 

Must my topic be in my concentration?
You are encouraged but not required to write a thesis in the field in which you have concentrated your coursework. 

How long should my thesis be?
Theses range in length from 40 to 55pages.  Most theses consist of an introduction, two or three main chapters, and a short conclusion.  However, students should consult with their thesis directors to determine the best length and structure for the project. 

How do I choose a thesis director?
The person with whom you wrote the seminar essay on which you are basing your thesis is the best person to ask to be your director. The earlier you contact a potential thesis director, the more likely it is that he or she will be willing to work with you. If the professor you approach is unable to serve, feel free to ask that professor to recommend other potential directors. In unusual cases, a professor from another department may direct your thesis. 

How do I choose a committee?
You should select your committee in consultation with your director.  Ideally, the second reader should be in a related field.  A third reader generally provides more general comments about the clarity and depth of your argument, your use of evidence, and the like, but need not be an expert in your field.

What is a proposal and what should it include?
Your proposal is a five to ten page description of the thesis and should include a bibliography.  In the proposal, you should explain the arguments and questions you take up in the thesis, the texts or data you will focus on, and how you plan to approach your topic.  Plan to write several drafts of the proposal and think of it as the roadmap for your project.

How long does a thesis take to complete?
The thesis is officially a semester-long project, but it's not unusual for students to take the "thesis extension" course to complete the project at a more leisurely pace.  (This is especially true for students with full-time jobs outside of school.)  Summers are an excellent time to focus on research.  The earlier you start planning to complete the thesis, the more likely you are to finish in a timely manner.  The year you plan to finish, note the final deadline for submitting your thesis to the graduate school and develop your timeline by working backwards from that date.

How do I register for the thesis course?
Registration for the thesis course is done by submission of the Approval for Writing a Master’s Thesis form in person in the Registrar’s Office during general registration periods.  You need signatures from your thesis director and reader(s), the Graduate Director, and a representative of the Graduate School.

When should I submit the thesis to my committee members?
Your thesis director and second reader should read all drafts of your chapters as you complete them, unless you have explicitly agreed to a different plan.  Plan to revise each chapter at least once.  Normally, the third reader will read the thesis when it’s complete.  You should plan time for revision requests from each committee member.

How should I format the thesis?
To save yourself time at the end of the project, follow the formatting guidelines of the graduate program (margins and front matter) and of your area of concentration (generally MLA) from the very first draft of the project.  You must submit an original to the Graduate School that must be printed on white, 20-pound bond paper with 25 percent fiber content. See the “Thesis Procedures” pdf for more details. N.B. You do NOT need to submit a separate copy to the English Department.

When must I submit my thesis to graduate school?
Check the calendar posted on the Graduate School’s website for deadlines and submission guidelines.  Theses are due to the Graduate School two weeks before the graduation date. 

How do I get my completed thesis approved?
Once all your readers are satisfied with the condition of the thesis, you must follow the instructions described in the “Thesis Procedures” pdf.  This document contains a sample thesis proposal form, a sample signature page, and a sample title page.   NOTE: The signature page is NOT the same page that you handed in with your thesis proposal.

You need to obtain signatures from all three committee members.  Once you have obtained ALL THREE signatures, you may turn the thesis in to the Graduate School office in College Hall.  You do NOT need the signature of the Graduate Director or Department Chair unless one of them is on your committee.

Please allow your committee a reasonable amount of time to sign.  Also, THE THESIS ITSELF MUST ACCOMPANY THE SIGNATURE PAGE-- no one signs anything he or she has not at least looked at.


Some Titles of Theses Written at Montclair State

There’s No Place Like Home: The Changing Definition of Exile in Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children and Shame

Mending the Moor on the Early Modern English Stage: The Rise of Shakespeare’s Black Tragic Hero

The Bachelor Narrator Motif in the Sketches of Nathaniel Hawthorne

Disrupting Social Order: The Widows of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility

Work, Alienation, and Humor: a Marxist Reading of Samuel Beckett's Murphy and Waiting for Godot

“But They Would not Teach Her to Play”: Child Heroines, Fantasy, and the Victorian Debate on Female Education

Film Noir, Hard-Boiled Fiction, Working Women: Depression and Postwar America

 “The Problematic Business of Living Itself”: David Mamet’s Devolving Theater

Unruly Wives and Dancing Girls: the Objectification of Women in Aristophanic Comedy

Problems of Connection: Englishness, Empire and Nation in Forster, Woolf, and Orwell.

The Trickster In Toni Morrison’s Tar Baby

Women’s Public and Private Spaces in Dubliners

The Ways of Flesh in Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock, The Heart of the Matter, and The End of the Affair

From One to Many-Sided: Negotiating an Ethics of Liberalism in Daniel Deronda

Gods as Parental Figures in Euripides’ Alcestis, Hippolytus, Iphigenia in Aulis and Tauris

"Writing Cricket Bats": Intersections of Art and Life in Tom Stoppard’s Travesties and The Real Thing”

California Dreamin’ in the Great Depression : The Nightmare of James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity

Byron’s Manfred and Shelley’s Alastor: Narcissism and The Search for the Ideal

Mother Tongues: Bicultural Gendered Discourse in the Writings of Gloria Naylor, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Leslie Marmon Silko