Thesis Option

Students have the option to write a thesis—which counts for 6 of the 33 degree hours—either scholarly or creative, under the guidance of a faculty director, assisted by a committee of two other graduate English faculty members (chosen in consultation with the Graduate Program Director). One non-English graduate faculty member may be added if a particular thesis topic warrants his or her inclusion. The thesis should serve as a capstone experience for the program and should result from original thinking about material introduced in the coursework undertaken during the student’s program of study. Normally, each student should first discuss a possible thesis with a faculty member who might serve as director; the director should be a faculty member with whom the student has taken coursework and who has expertise in the student’s area of interest.

When the topic is well enough defined (which means formulating a clear argumentative approach as well as a general topic to investigate), the student should prepare a formal proposal. The Department asks for a 1500-2000 word proposal, which must cover:

  • a working title
  • the current state of scholarship on your topic
  • the methodology or approach you will use
  • the contribution you plan on making to the field
  • a chapter outline

Additionally, the Department requires:

  • a working bibliography
  • a calendar delineating when each chapter will be delivered to each member of the committee. The calendar is meant to coordinate everyone’s workload, and it is binding. It may be amended but only with the approval of all committee members.

Proposals are kept on file by the Graduate Program Director. Please provide her/him with an electronic copy of the proposal materials.

Approval of this proposal is documented on the Graduate School’s Thesis Abstract Approval Form, which requires signature from the director and other committee members, the Graduate Program Director, and the Department Head, all of whom must be given time to read and comment on the thesis proposal. Students need to ensure that everyone has adequate time to read the proposal, to ask for revisions, and to sign the form before the due date. Begin this process well before the Graduate School’s due date.

The Graduate School’s Thesis Abstract Approval Form requires a 500-word Abstract, a condensed version of the student’s lengthier departmental proposal. This form can be found at the Graduate School's Thesis and Disquisition Information and Resources page. The date for turning this form into the Graduate School is also listed on this page.

This Graduate School page also offers links to the WCU Thesis Guide: 8th Edition Master’s Thesis Guide , as well as a style guide, formatting checklist, defense approval form, and more.

The appropriate length of a graduate thesis in English is 60-80 pages.

Students are expected to have passed Comprehensive Exams before finalizing the thesis. Preparation for the exams is designed to give students foundational knowledge for the thesis.

Theses are published electronically and can be accessed through Hunter Library. Begin at the library website; go to the “articles/databases” tab. Choose “By Database Name (A-Z List)” link. From there select the “W’s” and find the Western Carolina University Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETD). This comprehensive website is searchable by name, keyword, or discipline. Students typically give the thesis director a hardcopy of the thesis.

A word on timing. The calendar included in the proposal materials is binding. The director, as well as the second and third readers, must be given time to read and comment, and the final responsibility for meeting deadlines lies with the student. Thus, if deadlines are not met, completion of the thesis, and thus graduation, may be delayed. Revision is an important part of this process, and it takes time. Turning work in early is the best way to assure graduation at the desired time.

Thesis Defense

Students who write theses must defend their work during an oral defense. Students will be expected to discuss in retrospect their original intentions, to discuss critical issues raised by their work, be able to analyze their work, and be able to place their contribution within its tradition or context. The oral defense will not be administered until after the final draft of the thesis has been completed. Normally, the three readers will compose the examining committee; if for any reason that is not possible, the Department Head will appoint substitute examiners from among the graduate faculty. Orals must be scheduled no later than the week before the thesis is due in the Graduate School and preferably earlier. The Defense Approval Form and the final, formatted thesis are due to the Graduate School by the date published at at the Graduate School's Thesis and Disquisition Information and Resources page. The Graduate School now requires Electronic Theses and Dissertations instead of printed copies. Please follow the instructions on the page indicated above.

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