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Brooklyn College English Department
MA English and MA English Teacher Programs
Thesis Guidebook

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It is best to begin planning your thesis project early in your graduate career because you have several important decisions to make before you can successfully write a thesis. You have to identify faculty members who would be appropriate thesis advisors and you have to think about potential thesis topics. These tasks are clearly related to one another and they require careful thought.

Before we begin, there are some differences among the disciplines that must be understood. In the arts, humanities, and social sciences, a thesis topic can sometimes be developed as a result of your interest in specific courses you have taken. You might begin by talking with some of your professors about potential topics and present to them your ideas for a thesis topic. Then you should develop a full proposal for a thesis topic before you register for any research or thesis writing course that may be required by your department (such as English 700X or Art 798X). In this way, your research assignments in that course can contribute to your thesis.

In the sciences, on the other hand, a thesis topic is often determined as a result of discussions between you and professors who might be potential advisors. You determine a topic of mutual interest and develop an experimental approach to address that topic. This process constitutes, in effect, your research proposal. Although a formal research proposal is not always required in the sciences, you should always be very clear about the questions that you are attempting to answer and the approaches that you are taking to answer them. Your experimental work in the laboratory constitutes a significant part of your thesis work. The final presentation of your work as a finished thesis will include a complete analysis of the data from your experiments as well as a substantial review of the relevant literature that places your work in the context of the field.

The differences expressed above are not absolute and there are research projects in the social sciences and in education which follow more closely the example of experimental research in the sciences.

For the purposes of the Handbook we will present the process of writing and researching a thesis in four parts:

1) Thesis proposal; 2) Research; 3) First Draft; and 4) Final Product. The difference between the arts and sciences in terms of the thesis will be addressed as appropriate.