Current MA students who are interested in seeing sample theses should consult the Gallatin Master's Thesis Archive, which is accessible with an NYU Net ID.

Research Thesis

The research thesis is essentially an extended research paper, approximately 50-100 pages in length, consisting of a systematic inquiry into a phenomenon, question, or problem that you attempt to address or resolve. The research may entail the collection and analysis of original (primary) information through some form of empirical data-gathering; it will certainly involve the use, analysis, and critique of already published (secondary) sources. Both primary and secondary research will demand appropriate scholarly methods.


Some General Advice

The topic for the thesis should emerge from the student’s individualized program of study and should bring together issues or concerns that he or she has been pursuing during the course of the M.A. program. Some sample research topics include The Theatrical Collaborations of Five Studio Artists from the Russian Avant-Garde; A Sense of Our Own Realities: The Life and Art of Alice Neel; and Power and Stigma: Shaping the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Uganda and South Africa.

The thesis may take any number of methodological approaches, depending on the question and on the student’s studies: historiography, literary criticism, an integrative review of previous research, ethnographic analysis, policy studies, program evaluation, biography and many other possibilities. The student should be able to justify his or her approach according to the particular research problem or issue. Students should keep in mind that the adviser is the primary person responsible for determining the criteria and standards by which the thesis is carried out and the relevance of the questions and issues posed. The body of the thesis should be organized into chapters, accompanied by an introduction, conclusion, and bibliography.

Artistic Thesis

The artistic thesis is appropriate for those students who wish to display the creative process in the performing, visual or literary arts. A student might make a film or video; choreograph an evening of dance; act in a play; mount an exhibit of paintings; write a screenplay, novel, play or collection of short stories; or choose another artistic endeavor. The artistic thesis represents the culmination of a Gallatin arts concentration in which the student has studied the genre under consideration.

The artistic thesis comprises both the artistic project and three accompanying essays. Therefore, you should conceive of the artistic thesis as a unified piece composed of the creative work and the essays which enhance it. Members of the faculty committee will assess both the artistic work and the essays. The essays include:

  • an academic research paper related to the field of artistic work;
  • an essay on artistic aims and process;
  • a technical essay.


Please note: The technical essay does not apply to those students who are submitting a literary work.

Some General Advice

Be careful to keep records and a log of your artistic project as it evolves. This information can be used in your Technical Essay.

If you are writing a work of fiction, poems, a play, etc., for your thesis, you will submit this work to your adviser and other readers along with your essays. However, if you are presenting a performance, you need to arrange to have your adviser and other members of your committee see the performance. You are responsible for coordinating schedules and for notifying committee members so that everyone can view the piece. You should notify the thesis reviewer of the date of the performance at least one month in advance. In the event that one or more of the committee cannot attend your scheduled event, you should arrange to have the performance videotaped so people can see it later. Except in unusual circumstances, you must submit the first draft of the thesis to your adviser no more than three months after the performance.

Essays for the Artistic Thesis

Background Research Essay

As stated above, this essay follows the description for the standard research essay. It is a scholarly endeavor and differs from the standard essay in terms of length and focus. The length is approximately twenty-five to forty pages. The focus of the essay is related to the artistic work and explores some aspect of that work which the student wishes to study and develop through outside research. The essay might take the form of an analysis of a performance or literary genre; a history of an art form or phenomenon; a philosophical study of an aesthetic concept; or a critical/biographical analysis of the work of an influential artistic figure.

Artistic Aims Essay

In this essay, you are required to articulate your goals in mounting your particular artistic project. For example, what were you trying to accomplish in writing short stories, a screenplay, a novel, presenting an evening of dances or songs, making a film or mounting an art exhibit? What were the aesthetic choices you made and why? You should also explain your approach to the artistic work (your style, genre, or school), any relevant influences on your work, how your training influenced your artistic choices, and your intentions for particular elements of the creative work. After you have carefully and clearly articulated these goals, you need to explain how your actual artistic work meets the stated goals. Use examples from your artistic project to illustrate these ideas. This essay should be approximately 10-15 pages in length.

Technical Essay

This essay is a description of the steps you actually took to physically mount your production. You will need to include such technical details as arranging for rehearsal and performance space; choosing the performers; finding/creating, costumes, materials, lights; raising funds and getting institutional support. This essay should be approximately 10 pages in length.

Please note: The technical essay does not apply to those students who are submitting a literary work.

Students may submit a portfolio, if appropriate. This would consist of any material, such as photos, slides, fliers, programs, videotapes, audiotapes etc. which might constitute an appendix and which might be helpful to a fuller understanding of the thesis.

Project Thesis

The project thesis consists of two elements: (1) the project, a professional activity designed and executed primarily by the student as a way of solving a problem, and (2) an accompanying essay about the project. This thesis is especially appropriate for students in such fields as business, education, social work or public administration. The project thesis may appeal to those students who are active in their profession and who take responsibility for the creation of some kind of program or practice.

Students should understand that the project cannot simply propose a professional activity; the design for such an activity must actually be carried out (at least in a pilot version) and evaluated. Some examples of projects: a student in education may develop and apply a new strategy for teaching reading to recent immigrants; a person working in a corporation may construct new methods for managing financial information; or a community worker in a settlement house may organize a group of local residents to combat drug abuse.

Some General Advice

At each step, be careful to keep in touch with your adviser and with any other expert who can help you in your process. Keep careful records of the process by taking detailed notes of conversations, meetings, interviews, etc. If at all possible, arrange to have the members of your committee, especially your adviser, witness the project first-hand: Visit the site, talk with key actors, watch the program in operation. (This direct contact is highly recommended, but not required.)

Essays for the Project Thesis

The project thesis essay may take a number of forms and include a range of information. It ought to discuss at least the following elements:


Consider the institutional or social context within which the project takes place. Describe the organization, the potential clientele or participants, and the larger environment (social, economic and political conditions surrounding the problem and the project).


Describe the particular problem or need that you address in the project. What causes that problem? How extensive is it? Have other attempts to solve the problem been made; if so, what were their shortcomings, and why are you trying another approach? Place the problem in its professional and academic context by referring to the appropriate literature.

Describe the goals and objectives of your project and what you hoped to accomplish. Describe how the program was designed and structured; for example, what kinds of activities did participants engage in, and in what sequence? What kinds of resources and techniques were used? Justify your strategies and tactics by citing appropriate professional and academic literatures.


Describe how the plan was carried out. Use as much detail as you need to give the reader a sense of what actually happened, and to indicate the extent to which the reality matched the plan.


Describe the criteria for assessing the project and evaluation methods used. Justify the criteria and methods by referring to appropriate literatures. To what extent did the project accomplish the goals and objectives identified earlier?

Citing relevant literature and the practical contingencies of the project, explain why the project did or did not achieve its stated purposes. Describe the factors (political, social, organizational, financial, psychological, etc.) that contributed to the process and to the outcomes. What changes-either conceptual or practical-would you make if you were to repeat or extend the project? What would you leave in place? Describe what you learned from the project about the original problem and about your strategy and tactics. Also consider the professional and theoretical implications of the project.

If necessary, put relevant documentary materials (flyers, important correspondence, budgets, etc.) in appendices.