General Information on Writing Thesis
The Writing Program Thesis
In any serious graduate writing program, students demonstrate they can produce creative or professional writing at a high level of literary or journalistic skill and ambition. The M.A. in Writing Program requires that students finish their studies with a course called Thesis & Publication. The course has two goals: the completion of a successful thesis and a challenging, enriching capstone experience that helps students prepare for a writing life.
Students must complete all eight courses in the program before enrolling in Thesis. Students may take a second, additional course along with Thesis with the permission of the Writing Program Director, but this second course must be in addition to the program’s required courses.
The Thesis semester combines a Thesis course, with a Thesis course instructor, with intense one-on-one work between the student and a Thesis advisor. The course meets several weeks, but not every week. Usually there is one section offered in Washington, D.C. and one section offered in Baltimore. The sections are the same in content and you should register for the section whose location is more convenient for you.
The Thesis and Publication course number is 490.801. Thesis is offered only in the Fall and Spring semesters. Once you have completed all eight program courses and are ready to take Thesis, you may enroll any time during the open registration period. At least thirty days before the course starts, you should complete and submit a Thesis Planning form.
Students must prepare a draft of their thesis before they start Thesis & Publication. That first draft will be submitted at the second class of the semester, and will be the focus of a term-long revision process, with a Final Draft prepared near the end of the course. The faculty Thesis Committee reviews that Final Draft and either approves it or directs more revisions. A final Thesis is submitted to the university for permanent filing.
The Thesis should contain work that has been written and revised during the student’s time in the Writing Program. All work included in the Thesis should have been reviewed in a class or by an instructor, and it should be revised prior to Thesis. When selecting work to be included in your thesis, we recommend you choose a combination of your best writing and writing you most want to work on revising during the Thesis process; revision is the focus of your work with your Thesis advisor. Fiction students may include chapters from a novel or short stories or a mix of the two; nonfiction students may include chapters from a nonfiction book or individual articles or a combination. Chapters from a book do not have to be consecutive.
Students should not worry about special thesis form or format for this first draft, with these exceptions: Please consecutively number each page for the draft, even if the page numbers are added by hand, and please include a rough draft of an Introduction that provides basic information about your goals, a synopsis for any book excerpts, or other information a thesis advisor might need. To focus on quality over quantity, first drafts should be between 40-60 double-spaced pages of text. See the Q&A below for more information about the thesis course and how to select thesis material.
Remember, a Writing Program thesis should contain some of your best, most-revised work from previous courses. You should not submit the same versions submitted in an earlier class. Extensive revision is required before the first thesis draft. The thesis term is spent revising this draft under the guidance of an assigned thesis advisor.
Below is a Q&A about the Writing Program thesis, thesis course, and related issues. Students who have questions after they review these notes and the information below should contact their advisor, Mark Farrington (firstname.lastname@example.org) for Fiction and Karen Houppert (email@example.com) for Nonfiction.
Why do we have a thesis course in addition to a thesis revision and approval process?
What happens in Thesis & Publication besides the thesis itself?
What does the Writing Program generally expect in a thesis?
So how long does my thesis need to be?
What writing can become part of my thesis?
Specifically, how do I choose writing for my thesis?
Isn’t there a special format for how a thesis should look?
Can I look at theses that have already been completed?
Can I see copies of PennUnion?
I’m shy and have never read my writing in public. Do I have to join in the public reading?
After the reading, do I have to attend commencement?
Do I have to wait until May to get my diploma?
- Advising Availability
- General Information on Writing Thesis
- Independent Study Guidelines
- Information for Provisional Students
- Thesis, Independent Study, Internships, Provisional Students
- Thesis Planning Form (Paper Form)
- Internship Guidelines
- Resources for Writers