Wednesday, March 21, 2012

LU MFA in Writing Thesis Guidelines

The final three credit hours of the MFA program are devoted to completion of a graduate thesis—a final writing project that the student produces independently, with midterm feedback from an assigned faculty thesis reader.

Final page count will range from 75 to 100 depending on the student's chosen genre; this page count includes a title page and a required 5-page introductory essay. The final thesis is submitted electronically to the Program Director at the end of the quarter.

The thesis may be a collection of poetry, short fiction, or creative nonfiction/personal essays; a novella; or a memoir. Students may also choose to combine genres (for example, a thesis may include both poetry and short fiction); however, all components should be linked thematically to ensure a cohesive final project.

Up to 50% of the thesis may include revisions of pieces that have been workshopped during the program; at least 50% should be new work written while enrolled in the thesis. The final thesis should be publishable work. 

Note: If a student’s chosen thesis genre is scriptwriting, the student must produce an entirely new script during the quarter in which the student is enrolled in the thesis; the script written during the scriptwriting cluster cannot be revised and used as a final thesis project. To write a script for the final thesis project, special permission must be obtained from scriptwriting faculty prior to enrollment in the thesis.

Students enrolled in the thesis will log into Blackboard once each week during the quarter and click on the appropriate week’s folder. Some weeks require a journal entry, while others remind students to continue writing with upcoming deadlines in mind. 

The thesis is intended to be primarily a time of independent writing for the student. This allows the student to transition from the workshop environment to the post-MFA writing environment. At the beginning of the quarter, a student enrolled in the thesis will complete a journal entry in Blackboard explaining the concept for his or her thesis, along with attachments of any previously workshopped pieces that the student intends to revise for the thesis (up to 50% of the final thesis may be revised workshop pieces). The student will write independently for the first half of the quarter, continuing to log into Blackboard each week to check the weekly folder for journal assignments and due dates.

At midterm, the student will email the Program Director approximately 75% of the thesis (the specific due date will be listed in Blackboard). The Director will forward this work to the assigned midterm reader for feedback. The Director will then forward the midterm reader’s comments to the student. Questions related to the reader’s feedback can be asked in the midterm Blackboard journal entry. The student will spend the remainder of the quarter revising (drawing from the reader’s comments), developing, and completing the creative content; the student will also write the 5-page introductory essay during this time.

The completed thesis (a single Word document including the cover page and the 5-page introductory essay) will be emailed to the Director toward the end of the quarter for final approval. The specific due date will be listed in Blackboard. If the thesis requires revision at this point, the Director may suggest that the student enroll in the Thesis Extension. The cost of the extension is $150, and it gives students an additional quarter to revise and complete the thesis. Students may enroll in an extension up to three times.

The thesis project must include a 5-page essay introducing the thesis, describing the over-arching theme for your project, and reflecting on the journey you have taken as a writer, culminating in this final writing project. You may reflect on your writing interests and experiences before entering the MFA program as well as your time in the program. You can discuss insights you have gained about writing craft or your own writing process. You may include acknowledgements of people who have been supportive or instructive in your journey as a writer. You may discuss books or writers who have inspired you, and you may include quotes from writers you admire (use MLA format for direct quotes). You may include examples of your own creative writing to illustrate points you make about your growth as a writer. Ideally, the introductory essay should be written at midterm or later in the quarter.

Before a grade can be submitted for the thesis, all students must complete the final journal entry in Blackboard and the program survey. Completion of Blackboard journal entries throughout the quarter and adherence to deadlines will be factored into the final thesis grade.

The final thesis must be emailed to the Program Director by the due date designated in Blackboard and must be formatted according to the guidelines below:
  • The thesis must be emailed as a single Word document (both at midterm and for final submission). Do not send separate files for individual portions of the thesis.
  • The first page of your thesis document should be a title page that lists the overall title for your thesis, your name, and the date of final thesis submission.
  • A page number should not appear on the title page (when inserting page numbers, click the box for Different First Page under Design).
  • Insert page numbers beginning with page 2; the page number and your last name should be right-aligned at the bottom of each page.
  • After your title page, begin your 5-page introductory essay.
  • After your introductory essay, begin the creative content of your thesis.
  • The page count for the final thesis must be between 75 and 100 pages (including cover page and introductory essay).
  • Use standard font size.
  • Double-space the intro essay and all prose pieces. Poems should be single-spaced; print one poem per page.
  • Left, right, top, and bottom margins should be set at one inch.
  • If you have any questions, contact the Program Director. 
—revised 3/12 

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