2.7 Guidelines for Thesis and Creative Component (MA)

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The MA degree programs have a research element in addition to the required number of credit hours. These guidelines will help you complete your thesis or creative component.

2.7.1 General guidelines

The MA in English (Literature; Literature and the Teaching of Reading); the MA in Rhetoric, Composition, and Professional Communication; and the MA in TESL/Applied Linguistics have a research element in addition to the required number of credit hours. Because the breadth and depth of graduate studies in the English Department defines a single, narrow definition of a research element, you have considerable leeway in choosing projects that suit your program of study and also fit your future professional or academic goals. You may choose either the thesis or the creative component.

2.7.2 Rationale

A key factor in determining whether to do the thesis or the creative component will probably be your professional goals. If you are using the MA as a stepping stone to a PhD program in literature, linguistics, or rhetoric, for example, you will probably write a research-based thesis since this is the preference of many graduate schools. On the other hand, if you wish to become a teacher, technical writer, editor, or document design specialist, you might find the creative component better suited to your intellectual interests and professional goals. You should make the final choice after careful reflection as well as consultation with your POS committee.

2.7.3 Results

Thesis work produces one document—the thesis itself. A creative component normally results in two documents—the creative component project and the creative component report.

2.7.4 Audience, distribution, and awards

The audience for the thesis is the POS committee and other interested readers. The audience for the creative component report is also the POS committee; however, the creative component project anticipates an outside audience—whether in business, industry, or academia. Copies of MA theses are available in the university library both electronically and in print, whereas copies of creative components are not. Electronic copies of creative components are kept in the English Department. Finally, only theses, not creative components, are eligible for Graduate College Research Excellence Awards.

2.7.5 Format

The form of the thesis is that of an academic essay or scholarly research report. The choice will depend on the nature of the thesis, the desires of the POS committee, and the requirements of the Graduate College. A checklist of Graduate College general requirements for the thesis, along with other important information on thesis writing and submission, is available on the Graduate College Electronic Theses/Dissertations (ETDs) at ISU website. For example, a thesis reporting empirical research might be close in form to an article appearing in Research in the Teaching of English. A thesis of a speculative nature might more resemble an article in PMLA.

The form of the creative component project itself will depend upon the nature of the project. A packet of course materials, for instance, will take on quite a different form from a comprehensive grant proposal written to a government agency. The creative component report will normally include some rationale for the project, a discussion of methods or procedures, and an explanation of what you learned from the project. If appropriate, the report might include a literature review, an analysis of why you did what you did, or even a self-evaluation.

2.7.6 Original Work

Your thesis or creative component should be comprised of original work you complete while receiving credit for Engl 599 or 699. A thesis may draw upon research you previously conducted in a class, but the final product should be a significant expansion of that research. Your creative component might draw from your experience in previous classes, but it should not be simply a revision of your earlier coursework. For example, a literature thesis may contain work you began or produced in a graduate literature course, but the thesis should reflect significant development of that earlier work.

2.7.7 Procedures for each option

Research-based thesis

To complete the research-based thesis, you will need to do the following:

  • submit a prospectus that includes
    • an explanation of why the central question of the thesis is significant
    • a brief review of relevant literature
    • a timetable or work schedule for completing the thesis
  • review the prospectus with the POS committee, revising as necessary so that it becomes a memorandum of understanding between you and your POS committee
  • submit the thesis to your POS committee
  • defend the thesis in an oral examination

Creative component

To complete the creative component, you will need to do the following:

  • submit a prospectus that includes
    •  an explanation of the significance or benefits accruing from the project, to you and other relevant parties
    • a brief review of relevant literature
    • a timetable or work schedule for completing the project
  • review the prospectus with your POS committee, revising as necessary so that it becomes a memorandum of understanding between you and the committee
  • submit the creative component (project and report) to your POS committee
  • defend the project in an oral examination