The MA Thesis Option

The M.A. Thesis Option offers graduate students the opportunity to produce a major writing project for completion of the Master of Arts degree.  Students choosing the thesis option write on a topic of choice, implementing methodological practices and techniques that guide academic research and scholarly writing, while receiving constructive guidance from members of an Thesis Committee.  Students completing a thesis do not take the M.A. Comprehensive Exams.

Degree-seeking students enrolled in the Graduate Program may register for the thesis option after successfully completing nine courses (27 hours) of graduate-level coursework. Directed Reading (ENGL 590), the first of this two-semester sequence, requires that students devise a plan of study, assemble the Thesis Committee, conduct library and field research, and complete a bibliography and prospectus.  The second course, Research in M.A. Thesis (ENGL 698), requires that students compose and defend the thesis. The thesis is usually around 60 pages in length, and most often is composed of multiple chapters.

If you have a topic that you think would make a good MA thesis, you should begin by approaching a tenure-track faculty member who could serve as your thesis chair. Note that chairing a thesis committee is time-consuming, and your first choice of committee chair may already have other commitments. Once you and your chair have agreed on a topic, you can schedule ENGL 590 and assemble the remainder of the committee.

During ENGL 698, keep in mind that the deadline for thesis defense is earlier than the end of the semester. We generally follow the West Lafayette deadlines (available at, although you should check with Liz Kubacki for more specific information.

At the end of the process, you will have to “defend” your thesis to the thesis committee. This meeting will challenge you to explain your research, justify your claims, and consider the larger implications of the work that you have done. A thesis defense can be either “closed” (involving only the thesis committee) or “open” to the public. Many students find that an open defense gives them a chance to show their friends, family, and colleagues what they have been working on for several semesters, and provides a satisfying conclusion to their MA program.