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Thesis Completion

If you are completing your degree in Creative Writing, Literature, or Teaching English as a Second Language, then you may need to complete a thesis (in fact, for Creative Writing, a thesis is your only exit option). The guide below will help you find your way through the steps required at both the department and University levels.

Once you've determined upon the thesis option for your M. A. program exit requirement, you'll need to do several things in order to ensure that you're beginning the process in a way that will facilitate a smooth and relatively trouble-free experience. 

ENG 599: Thesis 

This is the course in which you enroll when you are ready to begin serious work on your thesis. While the Director of Graduate Studies will be the "instructor of record" for this course, you will work closely with your committee and committee chair during the time you are enrolled in the course. 

ENG 599 must be taken twice, for a total of 6 credit hours. While we strongly encourage students take the course for 3 hours in two different semesters, you may, with the permission of your advisors, enroll for all 6 hours in one term if you wish. 

It is not unusual, frankly, for students to underestimate the amount of time and energy required for the writing of a thesis, which is, after all, typically 60-75 pages in length, at least. If after taking ENG 599 for 6 credit hours your thesis is still not complete, you may enroll in UNIV 500 in subsequent semesters, a low-cost course that carries no credit hours but allows you to maintain access to various campus resources, including the library and computer labs. Your transcript will show a "DE" ("deferred") grade for ENG 599 until your thesis has been successfully defended and all the paperwork processed. This grade does not affect your GPA. 

The Committee 

Establishing a committee comes first, and the first step in this process is selecting a committee chair. Typically your thesis committee chair will be a professor with whom you have taken at least one class, who has expertise in your intended field of research, and with whom you have a very good working relationship. It is standard procedure for the student to approach the faculty member directly (and preferably in person) about serving as committee chair. 

Once your committee chair is in place, you need to line up the other members of the committee. Thesis committees must consist of at least three faculty members, all of whom must have "graduate faculty" status. While typically this matter of "graduate" status won't be an issue, it is sometimes the case that for very recently hired, or recently retired, members of the Department the paperwork has not been completed; you may wish to check with your committee chair, the Department Chair, or the Director of Graduate Studies. Note also that while the three members of the committee need not all be from the Department of English, it is the case that all three members must be SIUE faculty. If you wish to add someone who has faculty status at another university, that person will have to be a fourth committee member. 

Selecting the other members of your thesis committee is best done in consultation with the committee chair. You will probably have some sense of faculty members you wish to work with, but your chair may be able to suggest other possibilities. You and your thesis will be best served by having a committee whose members have expertise that is at least close to your intended research area. 

Some thesis committee chairs may wish to approach these other potential committee members themselves, while others will encourage you to make that contact directly. Each particular situation is different, and depends upon a number of variables. What is most important, in this matter and throughout the entire thesis process, is that your committee chair be kept closely informed. 

Once a committee has been established, the next step is to discuss your project with your committee. Ideally, you and your chair will have several discussions or email exchanges in which you begin to refine and focus your thesis project, and it is most helpful if your entire committee is involved at some point. A successful thesis experience involves many things, and one of those is having committee members who are never surprised and who never feel left out. 

The Prospectus 

TESL and Literature require students to submit a formal Prospectus (typically these are 5 or fewer pages in length) and produce a Bibliography as a way of establishing the necessary focus and definition of your project. Creative Writing requires the approval of a reading list (you can find out more information about each specialization's requirements on their own exit requirements page). Each member of your committee should review the prospectus/reading list and sign the Prospectus and Reading List Approval form, which should be turned in to the Director of Graduate Studies. 

Registration of Thesis Title 

Once the Prospectus has been approved by your committee, you are ready to complete the Registration of Thesis Title form, available on the Graduate School's forms page. This form is due in Graduate Records the first day of the semester in which you plan to defend your thesis, although unless you are planning to do all of your thesis research, writing, and coursework in one term (rarely a good idea), you should complete and submit this form as soon as you have your committee assembled. 

This form requires you to supply the title of your thesis, among other things, so make sure that your title is chosen wisely: should you later decide to change it, this form will need to be filled out and submitted again. You will also need to have all members of your committee sign the form. You do not need to submit a Prospectus or a Bibliography as part of this form.  

This form also requires that you explain the "Nature of Research" in your project. For most graduate students in English, this is pretty straightforward: the typical M. A. thesis in literature or creative writing involves lots of reading, writing, and thinking and not much else; students in the TESL specialization are more likely to have a "field work" component. If you are going to travel to examine library holdings or conduct other research, indicate that as well. As for the requirement that you explain your "information gathering method and sources," that's usually covered by explaining that you'll be using the library and inter-library loan. Of course indicate any other methods or procedures you'll be using.  

Note: If you indicate that you will be interviewing (even by email) people as part of your research, your project will fall under the "human subjects" provision; if you are studying classroom behavior or teaching styles, you will of course be using "human subjects." If your project uses human subjects in any capacity -- and the Graduate School interprets this phrase very broadly -- you will have to fill out a number of additional forms and take online training. For more information on this requirement, please contact Linda Skelton in the Graduate Dean's office.  


The Graduate School has several strict thesis submission deadlines that must be followed in order to complete the degree in an intended semester. Please examine these closely when choosing a defense date, preparing drafts, and submitting the final thesis.

The Work in Progress 

Once your committee is in place and you've registered your thesis title, you're ready to begin work. While the specifics will vary, it is expected that you will meet with your committee chair, if not the entire committee, on a regular basis. Again, a successful thesis-writing experience is one that has no surprises. Maintain regular contact with your chair and committee members. You and your chair should develop a plan regarding whether additional committee members receive all drafts or only a close-to-finished draft of the thesis. 

As you work on your thesis, carefully review all of the Graduate School's Guidelines for Theses, including the document "Guidelines for the Preparation of a Thesis," which provides some general guidelines and, most importantly, all of the layout and mechanical requirements of the final thesis. The Graduate School is strict about holding theses to the requirements spelled out in this document; careful reading of it is not optional. Students are required to submit a draft of the thesis to the Graduate School for a formatting check by the Friday of the last week of classes.

The Thesis Defense 

You and your entire committee will need to agree upon a date and time for the thesis defense. Typically these last one hour.  

You should work to schedule your defense with your committee early in the semester; also give yourself time to make the revisions that your committee suggests at your defense. In other words, you would be best served to schedule your defense BEFORE finals week. 

After determining a suitable date, you or (more typically) your thesis advisor will notify the Department's Director of Graduate Studies of the proposed thesis defense; the Director will then reserve a room for the defense. (Defenses are commonly held either in seminar classrooms or in conference rooms in the offices of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, on the 3rd floor of Peck Hall.) Thesis defenses are open to the public, and may be attended by the Director of Graduate Studies, the Department Chair, other interested faculty, and other graduate students. In fact, you may want to consider attending a defense sometime before your own, to better get a feel for the process; talk with your committee chair about this. 

A typical thesis defense will begin with a brief (10 to 15 minute) presentation by the candidate of her or his research findings; this is essentially a summary of the thesis, although it may cover other topics as well. This is followed, usually, by a question-and-answer period for the remainder of the hour. 

Once a defense is successfully completed, the committee will sign the "Summary of Completion Form" which your committee chair will have previously filled out . This form, which is critical in the bureaucratic processing of degree completion, must be returned to the Director of Graduate Studies for a signature and further processing.

Submitting the Final Thesis 

All information about the Electronic Dissertations and Thesis submission process can be found here

It is fairly common for students to be instructed, at the defense, to make further minor changes to the thesis. Once those emendations are made, confirm their satisfactory completion with your committee or committee chair before submitting the finished thesis as per the Graduate School's EDT Guidelines. Be sure to read carefully and follow scrupulously the "Guidelines for the Preparation of a Thesis" when preparing and submitting your thesis. There are two special caveats about this final submission:

  1. There is a $95 charge for submitting the final thesis. 
  2. The University now makes all theses publicly available through ProQuest. This means that your thesis will shortly end up on Google Books. This is due to the University's stated commitment to Open Access publication, which seeks to make research freely and widely available for use. However, you do have the option to forgo open access publication either for a period or indefinitely. This is called an embargo. You will be asked when you submit the thesis whether or not you would like to embargo the thesis for 1 or two years, but Dr. Catherine Seltzer, the Director of Graduate Studies, will e-mail the graduate school if you would like a more extensive or even an indefinite embargo. You may choose any period of time for an embargo and there are different schools of thought concerning the benefits and disadvantages of open access publication for the author. This article give some helpful information about the issue, but you should also talk to your director about your decision.

On the day that you submit your finished thesis using the EDT process, please also send a completed PDF copy to the Department's Director of Graduate Studies.

Once the final thesis is submitted to and accepted by the Graduate School, the thesis part of your M. A. program is complete. Final granting of the degree will follow the resolution of any issues noted on your graduation check, including the completion of any outstanding requirements (such as a DE grade from ENG 599). 

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