banner USF Home College of Arts & Sciences OASIS myUSF USF A-Z Index

USF Home > College of Arts and Sciences > Humanities and Cultural Studies

Thesis Resources

On this page you will find various thesis resources to help guide you through the thesis-writing process. Thesis proposal formatting information is provided first, followed by a suggested thesis guideline. Print- and save-friendly PDFs for both sets of information are available in the individual sections.

Thesis Proposal Guideline

The thesis proposal should be approximately 8-12 pages long, exclusive of title page and bibliography. Click here to download a PDF of the thesis proposal information included here. If you are interested in seeing sample proposals, please contact the Graduate Director.

Title Page

Supply the proposed title of your thesis, your name, degree program, and the names of your director and two committee members (with signature/date lines for them to indicate acceptance of the proposal). Provided here is a sample title page.

Statement of Purpose

Establish what question or questions you are trying to answer, and explain why those questions are significant to the field in which you are working.

This section should include both a description of your project and a justification for undertaking it. The justification should establish (a) the significance of your research agenda (why your question is worthy of attention); and (b) its relation to existing research in the field.

The relation to existing research should be explained by supplying a review of the current scholarly literature relating to your topic. Discuss the scholarly work you plan to build upon, as well as other work that you plan to respond to and challenge. Specific works and their approaches or arguments should be discussed in some detail. Finally, locate your thesis within this scholarly discourse surrounding your topic. Why is your work an important contribution to the existing discourse?

Note: The review of scholarly literature, taken together with your bibliography, is the part of your thesis proposal that fulfills the Graduate School's requirement for a "comprehensive examination." You should be prepared to answer the questions about these works during your oral defense of the thesis proposal in order to establish your mastery of a sufficient knowledge base in your field of specialization.

Sources & Methods

Identify the primary source material you plan to work with. Make clear how your sources will suffice to answer the questions posed by your thesis. If some of your sources are in archival or special collections, explain how you will access them within the timeframe of your thesis.

Explain what method or methods you intend to employ that will best enable you to answer the question(s) you have chosen to investigate. Where relevant, describe the theoretical basis for the validity of your approach.


Provide an explanation of how you plan to structure your thesis. This section should include a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of your writing, describing what will be covered in each chapter. A typical thesis includes three or four chapters, an introduction, and a conclusion.

Preliminary Bibliography

Provide a 2-3-page bibliography. Divide your listing into primary and secondary sources. All sources mentioned in other parts of your proposal should appear in this bibliography. The secondary bibliography should contain 20-30 items, constituting the equivalent of a "comprehensive examination field."

Thesis Timeline for AMS, and MLA-Humanities, and MLA-Film Studies Graduate Students

Click here to download a PDF of the thesis timeline information.

Click here to download a PDF of the Graduate Thesis Committee Form.

Step 1

Discuss your anticipated thesis topic with a member of the faculty who would be an appropriate person to be your thesis director. This should be someone with whom you have taken courses and who knows your work. If you are having trouble focusing on a topic or finding an appropriate major professor, discuss your thesis idea with the graduate director.

The student then chooses a major professor, who must be a tenure-line faculty member in either American Studies or Humanities. In consultation with the major professor, the student then selects two additional USF faculty members to serve on the thesis committee. Discuss your thesis with these two additional faculty members you have identified and ask them if they are willing to serve on your committee. Once three members agree to serve on the committee, the student fills out a Graduate Thesis Committee Form, gets appropriate faculty signatures, and turns it in to the Graduate Director.

This first step, for full time students, should be completed during the second semester in the program.

Step 2

Students in the Humanities track of the MLA program must pass a language proficiency exam arranged by the major professor before advancing to the thesis writing stage. This exam may be waived at the discretion of the major professor if sufficient alternative evidence of proficiency in the relevant language exists.

Step 3

Students submit an 8- to 12-page thesis proposal to the graduate director, the major professor, and all other committee members. The proposal should contain the following: Title page with signature/date lines for the graduate director and all committee members, statement of purpose, literature review, methodology, organization, and substantive working bibliography. Fulltime students should begin working on their thesis proposals in the summer after their second year, by registering for thesis hours with their thesis advisors. They should plan to defend their thesis proposals early in the fall semester of their second year.

Step 4

Once the thesis proposal has been tentatively approved by the graduate director and all three members of the thesis committee, the major professor can give the student permission to schedule an oral defense of the thesis proposal. Every effort should be made to ensure that all members of the committee and the graduate director are present at the thesis proposal defense. Because the thesis proposal defense substitutes for the required master’s level comprehensive exam, the student should be prepared to answer questions specifically directed at assessing his or her knowledge of the secondary bibliography included in the thesis proposal, which constitutes the equivalent of his or her comprehensive examination field. Students must print out and bring with them a Department Proposal Form. After a successful defense, the major professor, other committee members, and the graduate director must sign and date the title page.

Please note: students will not be permitted to apply for graduation in the same semester that they successfully defend the thesis proposal.

Step 5

The student writes the thesis with the major professor’s guidance and regular input from committee members. Typically thesis projects are 40 to 80 pages in length. Work closely with your thesis director, meeting regularly according to a schedule worked out between the two of you. Keep the Graduate Director informed of your progress. Be sure to show your thesis to the other members of your committee as it progresses. You don’t have to meet with them as regularly as you do with your thesis director, but they should not be presented with a complete draft of the thesis without having had the opportunity to read, comment and make suggestions throughout its writing. Your thesis will have to be acceptable to all members of your committee. Complete the Thesis Certificate of Approval Form and bring it to the defense. Please also print out and bring the Graduate Program Assessment Form. Do not fill this form out; it will be completed by the committee members.

Current graduate students should consult the ETD Resource Center for up-to-date information on deadlines, requirements, formatting, and more. The URL is:

Step 6

During the semester the student wishes to graduate, he or she must be registered for at least 2 credit hours. Be aware of the following deadlines:

  • Deadline for applying to graduate.
  • Deadline for format check at Graduate School.
  • Deadline for submitting final drafts of theses to the department (to be revised only after your defense).
  • Latest possible days for thesis defenses.
  • Deadline for submitting final copies of theses to Graduate School.

Please consult the Graduate Director regarding these deadlines, and also check the Graduate School Web page for appropriate forms and deadlines.

Step 7

When the major professor believes the student is ready, the student shares the final thesis draft with the committee and the major professor arranges an oral defense of the thesis. Please note that Humanities track MLA students will not be permitted to schedule the thesis defense until they have passed the foreign-language requirement. Defenses are open to the public and other faculty members and students are especially encouraged to attend. The final thesis should also include a title page with signature lines for each committee member. When the thesis defense is passed, the title page is signed by all committee members and given to the Graduate Director to be kept in the student’s file.