Skip to Content

Thesis Guidelines

Thesis Track Guidelines for MA Literature Students

Expand All Content
  • Students are advised to look through their thesis track guidelines to ensure that they know the credit requirements and take the courses necessary for their degree completion. 


    Plan to take the General Exam. The exam is offered only three times a year, and students should take the exam during their penultimate semester. See the Comprehensive Exam Overview, Section I for more information.


    After taking 5399A, conventionally during the penultimate semester, students are expected to write and submit their thesis proposals and bibliographies. See the thesis proposal tab below for more information. A thesis is essentially a lengthy research paper that makes an original, well-supported argument. The body of the thesis is normally divided into chapters and may include an introduction. There is no set page limit, but generally theses are no shorter than 60 pages, not counting documentation, and no longer than 120 pages.


    Finally, in their last semester, students on the thesis track are expected to write, submit, and defend your thesis work.

  • A thesis is essentially a lengthy research paper that makes an original, well-supported argument. The body of the thesis is normally divided into chapters and may include an introduction. There is no set page limit, but generally theses are no shorter than 60 pages, not counting documentation, and no longer than 120 pages.

  • Choose a topic that interests you because you will be spending a lot of time researching and writing about that topic. Think of a thesis as joining a scholarly conversation: what do you want to discuss? It may be analysis and discussion of a text or texts not studied in any depth so far, or it may be joining an already well-developed conversation, in which case, consider what you would like to add to the conversation. Just because there is already work done about an author or a topic, do not dismiss the potential to participate.

    Many students choose to expand on a research paper that they wrote for a course. It is helpful, once you have an idea or two, to do some preliminary research to see what kinds of things have already been written about your topic. If you think, after investigating your topic, that you can make contribution, then you should discuss your idea with a faculty member to get feedback. 

    It would be a good idea to look at some theses to get a sense of the kinds of topics people choose, how they organize their arguments, and so on. Copies of all Texas State theses are also available in the Alkek Library, (LC call numbers start with AS36.T46 or do keyword search: “academic theses” and English)

  • Generally, most of the thesis should focus on a text or texts in English rather than translations into English. There may be exceptions if the text or texts have a substantial history of being studied in English translation, or if they purposely mix languages (code switching, for example). Consult with your thesis committee chair and/or the Graduate Advisor if in doubt.

  • The thesis committee consists of a thesis chair or director, and two committee members. The chair should be expert in the area you are studying and willing to meet regularly with you during the semesters you take 5399A and 5399B. The two committee members should have expertise in the area or in related areas. They may be occasional consultants, and they will read your completed thesis and participate in the final oral defense.

    To begin the process of finding a thesis director, you might think of professors with whom you’ve taken a course or courses whose research connects with your interests. You can also consult the MA Literature website’s list of faculty by specialization, and/or check with the Graduate Advisor for advice.

    You should meet with the faculty member you would like to direct your thesis. Generally, the more thought and preliminary research done for your thesis topic, the more likely a professor is going to be willing to work with you.

    After discussing your idea with them, ask if they would be willing to direct. Please note that professors might not be in a position to accept this responsibility. For example, they may be planning a sabbatical, or may already be chairing too many theses. If this is the case, approach your second choice

    In some cases, professors prefer to work only with students who have taken courses with them.

    When a professor agrees to chair your thesis, discuss with them other possible readers. At this point, invite the other two professors to be readers on your committee.

  • Note that only Graduate Faculty may serve on a thesis committee. This would normally include anyone who teaches graduate literature courses. If you are unsure whether a professor is a member of the Graduate Faculty, check with the Graduate Advisor and/or check the Graduate College’s list of Graduate Faculty.

    At least the first two faculty members on your committee must be from the English Department, but you may choose a third member from any Department at Texas State University who you think will be able to give you helpful feedback on your chosen topic. For example, if you are writing your thesis on some aspect of Spenser’s work that involves an historical element, you might choose to invite a history professor who specializes in the English Renaissance to be on your committee. Such an outside reader must be listed as the third reader.

  • While this circumstance is rare, sometimes the topic you have chosen doesn’t correspond with the areas of expertise of the professors in the English Department. In this case, you may need to revise your topic, perhaps with the aid of a faculty member who can advise you. If you find that you are unable to revise your topic or select a new topic, you may want to consider the non-thesis track option for graduation.

  • When you have established at least your thesis director, you should inform Taylor Cortesi at She will give you a course code so that you can register for ENG 5399A. 

    You will not meet in a formal class setting for these credits but will rather work with your thesis chair and readers as you write your thesis in your own time. Discuss with your director what sort of writing schedule they recommend and how often you would like to meet.

    During the semester in which you are enrolled for Thesis A, you need to do at least three things:

    1. If you have not already done so, complete your committee by inviting two graduate faculty members to be second and third readers on your thesis committee.
    2. Complete a thesis proposal and submit it for approval (see Thesis Proposal below) before mid-semester.
    3. Write a substantial portion of the thesis itself.
  • The Graduate College has requirements for the thesis proposal. It need not be lengthy, but it should include the following in this order: 

    1. The proposal should have a narrative of approximately 2-3 pages double-spaced and a bibliography of sources, also double-spaced.

    2. The proposal should include: A clear description of the problem, question, or idea your thesis addresses; an overview of the contents as you see them at this time; and a bibliography in correct MLA format (9thedition).

    3. Please know that what you imagine for the proposal may well change—do not get held up because you have doubts or haven’t quite made up your mind about the focus. Write what you know now with the thought that your ideas may (or may not) change with further research and writing.

  • Your thesis proposal needs to be approved first by your thesis committee. Have each member of your committee read it and use their feedback to make any necessary revisions.

    You will need to submit your complete proposal with a Thesis Proposal Form. You may get the form at

    Follow the directions on the cover sheet exactly. Be sure to fill in the names of the professors in your committee followed by the department to which they belong (e.g., Dr. Xavier Yellowston, English). Check the full proposal with each committee member and get their signatures on the cover sheet. Then send the full proposal and signed form to the Director of MA Literature ( who will then make sure it is signed and filed appropriately.

  • As with 5399A, you will let Taylor Cortesi know that you want to register for 5399B and remind her of your thesis chair so she can send you the appropriate CRN.

    You need to finish writing your thesis early in the semester in which you are enrolled for Thesis B, and turn in the final, complete thesis to your committee at least 41 working days before the commencement date on which you plan to graduate.

    Schedule the oral defense of your thesis with your committee for about 33 days before commencement. This gives your committee time for the final reading. 

  • You and your committee should discuss whether you will have the oral defense in person or via Zoom. Once you have settled the manner of the meeting and decided on a date and time, ask your committee chair to set up a Zoom meeting or ask Deanna Voigt (FH 365,, 512.245.2163) to reserve a room (usually FH 302 (the Brasher Room) or FH 376), and let your committee know.

  • The Graduate College holds seminars to help students with the many requirements involved in writing a thesis. You will receive email notification during your Thesis A semester, and you can check the Graduate College website for upcoming seminars: 

    For all matters of style and format, follow the guidelines in the most current MLA Style. The MLA Handbook’s rules are quite complex, and you must follow them to the letter or your thesis will be rejected. Look up everything; assume nothing. Your Thesis Director, and the Writing Center can help, but they will not be your proofreaders. The ultimate responsibility is yours.

    In the unlikely event of a discrepancy between the MLA Handbook and the Texas State Graduate thesis and Dissertation Handbook, check with your director and/or the Graduate College.

    Consult the Texas State Graduate Thesis and Dissertation Handbook at:

    This Handbook contains a wide array of information that will be crucial for you to have on hand as you write your thesis.

    Once you have successfully completed the Oral Defense, you will need to complete the Thesis Submission Form and circulate it to your committee for signatures and then to the MA Literature Graduate Advisor. The form is available here: It must be submitted before the thesis can be submitted to the Graduate College.

    Either you or your thesis committee chair needs also to circulate the Comprehensive Examination Report Form for committee member signatures and then to the MA Literature Graduate Advisor. On that form, for Exam Type, choose both Written and Oral. The form is due no later than 10 days before graduation.

  • If you are moving through your program at the typical pace of two years, you should register for 5399A during your third semester and 5399B during your fourth semester. You can only register for 5399A once. If you are unable to finish the thesis during 5399B, you can, if need be, register for 5399B again, or register for a one credit version, 5199B. If financial aid or a GA position require more hours, that is also possible. Consult with the Graduate Advisor about the number of hours for the B course that you may need.

    You can register for thesis hours in the summer instead of a long semester, but this can be tricky to schedule, especially for Thesis B. Your entire committee will need to be available on key dates, and many faculty members travel through part or all of the summer. If you want to try to take thesis hours in the summer, get a firm commitment from all three committee members. 

    If you do this, you register for the hours at the time of registration for Summer Session I, but you are registering for the one course for the full summer, rather than for a single Session.