The MA in Science Writing Thesis and Careers Course

Final Course for Science Writing MA:
Thesis and Careers in Science Writing

The Master of Arts in Science Writing degree culminates in a course that prepares students for a writing or editing career that fits their individual goals. By revising a portfolio of publishable writing and by preparing a formal career plan, all graduates of the program work separately and as a group in one final experience.

The thesis process itself involves each student revising the best writing they completed in earlier courses. This revision is conducted throughout the thesis term with an individual thesis advisor. Students don’t write their thesis from scratch in the final course; they revise their best work into a collection or book that is heading toward publication. In effect, you are creating material that might wind up in your thesis from the moment you start the program. After several months of this revision process, the student presents a final draft to the program faculty for review. If approved, the student’s writing is polished into a final thesis filed with the university. If the Final Draft isn’t approved, the student continues revisions until it is.

As this thesis process evolves through the term, students also engage in a regular online course that prepares them for a professional and personal writing life. The goals of this group experience include: 1) A formal, written career plan that sets out how they will use their skills and knowledge to join the Community of Letters in science writing, 2) The exchange of thesis excerpts with classmates and sharing of suggestions for revision,  3) The final exploration of writing business issues that include everything from job applications and accounting to advancement and life-long learning. The class may involve guest speakers, career exercises, readings and other assignments.

Students register for Thesis & Careers in Science Writing just like another course. Students are expected to finish all cores, workshops, and electives before enrolling in the thesis course. Students who want to take a second course during the thesis term or to complete thesis before their final semester should request permission.

Students should complete a Thesis Planning Form at least one month before their thesis course starts – although students can submit it up to six months early.

Here’s more information about the thesis course and process:

How can I complete such a demanding course and work on my thesis, too?

The group class experience for the thesis course is concentrated at the beginning and end of the term, when advisors or the Science Writing Program is reviewing a thesis draft. Otherwise, the class requires little or no work so students can focus on their thesis revision.

How long is a thesis?

For Science Writing, the First Draft should be between 40 and 60 typed, double-spaced pages of text, excluding References and title / table of contents pages. These length limits are set so students emphasize quality over quantity. Students must obtain the program’s permission for first drafts outside this length. A final thesis is often shorter than the First Draft, depending on deletions during the revision process.

What writing can become part of my thesis?

Any writing that arises from Science Writing Program courses, related courses, or other program work can be part of your thesis.  While most thesis work comes from writing workshops, any course, from core courses to electives, can produce thesis material. Each individual thesis piece should be a complete article, essay, or other work; exercises should not be submitted unless they resulted in completed forms. With permission, students may include writing that is unrelated to Science as a small part of a thesis.  Finally, quality is always better than quantity; writers get no extra credit for achieving maximum length in a thesis.

Specifically, how do I choose writing for my thesis?

Choose only the very best and most revised writing you produce in the program. Remember the quality/quantity declaration. If you created, say, 14 essays in the program, your First Draft might have only five or six of the very best of those. Each should have been revised several times during the course process, with more revisions needed before creating a First Draft. The thesis can be a collection of related or unrelated work, part of a book, or a combination. Students should not submit unrevised work from previous courses, nor should they submit all previous program writing. New writing not previously submitted and revised in an earlier course is generally not permitted, although some revisions may result in largely new work.

When is my thesis draft due and how should I plan for the thesis course before it starts?

That First Draft is due in the first or second week of the term. You don’t write your thesis during the thesis course – You continue to revise it. Some students take a term off before thesis to prepare their draft.

Isn’t there a special format for how a thesis should look?

Yes. Your thesis course instructor will give you program guidelines for format, form, margins, etc., as well as a sample thesis and all sorts of procedures for thesis printing and submission.

What does a thesis advisor do?

Your advisor reads your First Draft and returns it with manuscript edits and an overall critique. You and your advisor then decide on a revision plan, and you spend the next two months or so revising each part of your First Draft under the tutelage of your advisor.