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Thesis Proposal

Graduate students begin the thesis process by writing a thesis proposal that describes the central elements of the thesis work.  Those elements vary depending on the type of thesis (research, artistic, or project) that the student plans to write. Students begin drafting the thesis proposal in the course Thesis Proposal Seminar.  The three proposal formats are described in detail below.

 

Research Thesis Proposal

Research Thesis Proposal

The proposal for a research thesis consists of five sections:

  1. Thesis Statement
    Following an optional introduction, the basic function of this section is to articulate a phenomenon that the student proposes to investigate (whether a social event, process, a literary work, an intellectual idea or something else), and the question(s), issue(s) or problem(s) related to that phenomenon that thes student plans to address in the thesis. The core of the statement may take the form of a hypothesis that the student will test, of a proposition or argument that the student intends to support, or of a general problem or question the student  will explore. The section puts that basic problem statement in a larger context by explaining its historical origins (where did it come from?) and its intellectual, social, and/or artistic context (what conversation, debate, or line of inquiry does it participate in?). It also describes the sub-questions or themes that constitute the general problem. Students will cite appropriate scholarly, professional and other sources for the ideas, questions and background information contained in the section.

  2. Research Methods
    In this section, the student will identify (a) the kinds of information that needed to answer the question(s) raised in the Thesis Statement, (b) the methods the student will use to gather that information, and (c) the strategies by which the student will organize and analyze the information in such a way as to reach and support a conclusion, to construct a sound argument. If the central problem has several facets, the student may need an array of different methods for collecting and analyzing information. Students should be as precise as possible in each stage of the methods statement: Is information needed about the stylistic techniques in a novel, about changes in the poverty rates in Kenya since independence, about the ways children think about nature? Will the student pull out the metaphors in a text, find government reports on household income, interview kids about their experiences in the woods? Will the student deploy statistical forms of content analysis, correlate poverty rates with political changes, interpret themes in children’s stories? Students should reflect on the broad methodological approaches that they propose to use, and cite sources from which they derive their methods and tools. A student's central goal is to demonstrate that he or she knows how to go about answering the question(s) that have been raised.

    Please note that if students intend to conduct research on living people, they will need to get the approval of the University Committee on Activities Involving Human Subjects (UCAIHS). Before they apply for that approval, students will need to take a tutorial and pass a test on the various regulations. Refer to the UCAIHS website for more information.

  3. Justification and Limitations
    This section of the proposal should explain the rationale for the thesis and the importance of the topic. Indicate the reasons why this study is important to conduct and whom it will benefit. Identify the limits beyond which the inquiry will not go. For instance, if a student is writing on a historical subject, explain the relevance of the time period he or she will be exploring. Finally, describe the contribution the work will make to the field.

  4. Conclusion
    This section should summarize the nature and intention of the student's work. Conclude the discussion and mention any pertinent information which may not have been included above.

  5. Annotated Bibliography
    This section consists of a list of books and articles and artworks with accompanying annotations that explain why these readings and other sources are likely to be crucial as the work advances.
     

 

Artistic Thesis Proposal

Artistic Thesis Proposal

The artistic thesis consists of an artistic work and supporting essays, and it is important to conceive of each element as contributing to a coherent whole.  The proposal itself consists of five sections:

  1. Concept Statement
    This section includes a brief introduction that forms the framework for the entire thesis and articulates the questions around which the creative project and supporting essays revolve.

  2. Description of the Artistic Work and Artistic Aims
    This section describes the major artistic work that will comprise the submitted artistic thesis.  Students may want to refer to particular artistic influences or genres that will inform the work, or describe the aesthetic from which the creative work derives.

    In this section, students should also: refer to some of the artistic reasons that led to their decision to embark on this particular project; discuss the goals that will guide the development of the work; and provide concrete details about the final form and media of the work  (will it be, for example, a collection of short stories, a novel; an evening of dance an exhibition of paintings, a film, or what?).  If the artwork involves live performance, this section should state whether it will be a public or private event, where the event will be held, and any other details relevant to bringing the project to completion.

  3. Research Essay
    The research essay component of the thesis is crucial because it expresses the scholarly and academic purpose behind or related to the artistic work.  This section of the proposal should identify a specific question that relates to and informs the proposed artwork, that requires outside research, and that can be reasonably addressed within a paper that is at least 25 but no longer than 40 pages in length. 

    This section should provide the reader with relevant historical or critical information to place the central research question in context, and this section should also discuss the key theories, methods, and sources to be used within the research essay.  It should demonstrate that the student knows how to begin answering the question(s) he or she is posing.  What sorts of things will the student need to find out? What research methods will be used?  What kinds of sources will be reviewed, and how will information from them be used? Who, if anyone, will be interviewed, and what kinds of questions will the subjects be asked? 

    Students should also reflect, in this section, on the broad analytical approach that will structure their research and identify the school(s) of thought that will inform their investigations. 

  4. Justification and Limitations
    This section should explain the importance of the student's work in the context of his or her particular artistic discipline and discuss how all components of the thesis project taken together as a single project will contribute to the scholarly and artistic fields with which it engages. This section should also discuss limitations, personal and practical, relating to the project and the student’s readiness.  If the project is a film, for example, how much direct experience has the student already had in that field, and how will he or she get in time to finish the project by the desired defense date? How much is the project likely to cost, and how does the student expect to obtain funding?  What kind of spaces will be needed for rehearsal as well as presentation of the work? 
  5. Annotated Bibliography
    This section consists of a list of books and articles and artworks with accompanying annotations that explain why these readings and other sources are likely to be crucial as the work advances.

 

Project Thesis Proposal

Project Thesis Proposal

The project thesis includes two major components: (a) an activity (program, intervention, campaign, etc.) designed to address (solve, remediate, improve) a problem, issue or opportunity in the student's domain as a professional or activist; and (b) a written document that describes, rationalizes, analyzes, and assesses the activity. It is not strictly a research study, but rather an exercise in reflective practice. Therefore, the proposal takes a form different from that of the research or artistic thesis proposal. Please note, as well, that a project thesis must be not only designed but implemented and evaluated.

  1. Problem Statement
    This section of the proposal identifies, describes, and analyzes the problem (issue, need, opportunity) that the student will address in the project. Clearly articulate the nature of the problem: its historical, social and professional context; its dimensions and extent; its impact, and perhaps some previous efforts to address it. Present information that explains the student's understanding of the origins or causes of the problem, to set up the rationale for the choice of a strategy to solve it. At each stage, refer to appropriate scholarly and professional literatures.

  2. Project Plan
    Students should spell out their plans for addressing the problem. Students should describe the institutional setting within which the project will take place, as well as the individuals, groups, or organizations with whom they will work. What will the student (and, perhaps, others) do? What resources and strategies will be used? If the student need funds, how will they be raised and disbursed? What schedule will be followed? Be efficient, but concrete and clear in specifying the activities that will make up the project. Identify the professional and theoretical sources of the strategies for the project: What precedents and ideas is the student drawing on?

    Also, the student should discuss the means by which he or she will record and report the project activities for the members of his or her thesis committee. Will the student write a journal, shoot videos, keep material artifacts and documents? Students must be clear about how they intend to document the project. They may also elect to invite the members of their committee to witness the project first-hand.

  3. Assessment
    The proposal speaks to three aspects of the assessment process. In all three, students should be concrete and refer to appropriate literatures as sources of their plans.
    Criteria
    : First, students should describe and justify the criteria by which they will determine whether the project has succeeded. What are the goals and objectives? What changes does the student want to see in the participants, the organization, the larger world?
    Methods:
    What information will be needed to determine whether the goals and objectives have been met? How will that information be collected and organized?
    Analysis
    : How will that information be utilized to describe the project’s success or failure? What sorts of lessons does the student hope to draw from the assessment?

  4. Justification and Limitations
    This section of the proposal should explain the rationale for the thesis and the importance of the topic. Indicate the reasons why this study is important to conduct and whom it will benefit. Identify the limits beyond which the inquiry will not go. Finally, describe the contribution the work will make to the field.

  5. Conclusion
    This section should summarize the nature and intention of the work. Conclude the discussion and mention any pertinent information which may not have been included above.

  6. Annotated Bibliography
    This section consists of a list of books and articles and artworks with accompanying annotations that explain why these readings and other sources are likely to be crucial as the work advances.

 


Format of the Proposal

All thesis proposals should conform to the following specifications:

  • Title Page
    The title should be reasonably succinct, but descriptive enough to convey the nature of the thesis; the title page should include your full name, the date of submission, and your adviser’s name.
  • Length
    The thesis proposal should be approximately 8 pages, excluding the annotated bibliography. Remember that this is a proposal, not the thesis itself; tell us what you propose to do and how, don’t do it.
  • Annotated Bibliography
    This bibliography should contain brief commentaries on no fewer than 10–15 relevant source works.

 

The Approval Process for the Thesis Proposal

The Thesis Proposal Seminar
Students write their thesis proposals while enrolled in the Thesis Proposal Seminar (a 2-credit core requirement offered every spring). Throughout that semester, students work closely with their Adviser and Instructor to draft an acceptable proposal. When the proposal has received approval from both the Thesis Proposal Seminar instructor (Gallatin reviewer) and the adviser, the student is allowed to move on to their thesis research.  The three steps of the approval process are outlined below.

Instructor/Reviewer Approval
The Thesis Proposal Seminar instructor serves as the Gallatin reviewer of the thesis proposal. A student must receive a grade of ‘Pass’ in the Thesis Proposal Seminar for the proposal to be considered ‘reviewer approved’. If the student’s proposal is not finished at the end of the semester, the student will receive a grade of 'Incomplete' in the course.

Adviser Approval
Students work closely with their advisers over the course of the semester to produce a proposal that the adviser can approve. Once the adviser agrees that the proposal is ready, students submit their final proposal via the online Thesis Proposal submission form.

MA Program Approval
In addition to receiving a passing grade in the Thesis Proposal Seminar, students must submit their proposal to the program via the online Thesis Proposal submission form. At that point, Gallatin contacts the student’s adviser to confirm the adviser’s approval. The Thesis Proposal submission form allows students to provide Gallatin with additional information about the courses, internships, independent studies, jobs, and other experiences that have prepared the student for their thesis work.

Students must submit their proposals online by June 15.