College of Communication > Academics > Communication and Media > Student Resources > Master's Thesis/Project/Exam > Master's Thesis

Master's Thesis

The MA thesis is an extended piece of academic writing (50-120 pages) that takes place over the course of one academic year. The student will choose a scholarly topic of his/her choice and will negotiate with the thesis chair the appropriate page range for the type of thesis and topic chosen. You can view College of Communication student theses on the DePaul library archive.

A thesis option is available to students holding a cumulative GPA of 3.75 or higher upon completing 24 credit hours (six courses) in their graduate program.

A student who does not meet the 3.75 GPA requirement may petition to write a thesis by submitting two letters of recommendation from faculty members with whom they have taken classes. The graduate program director will review the letters and decide whether the student is eligible to pursue the thesis option.

Writing a thesis allows you to research and study a topic in depth and produce original academic work. It establishes you as an expert in the area of communication studies.

Thesis Timeline
Students are advised to begin work on their thesis 9-12 months prior to the time they hope to complete/defend their thesis.

Procedure for Thesis

  1. Choose a topic that interests you.
  2. Choose two faculty members who can best guide you on your intended topic, one of which will be your thesis chair. They can help you develop your ideas based upon their ability and willingness to serve on your committee. The thesis chair selected must come from within the area of Communication and Media. If the thesis chair is not also from the specific concentration area as declared by the student, the second member of the committee should be chosen from the student’s declared concentration area within Communication and Media. In instances where the thesis chair is from the student’s specific concentration area, then the second committee member can come from Communication and Media or, in some instances and with graduate program director approval, outside of Communication and Media.
  3. Once your topic has been approved by your thesis chair, you will write a 10-15 page thesis proposal that explains your topic, your proposed process and methodology, a timeline and tentative chapter breakdown, your assumed findings, your rationale for the importance of this subject matter and any scholarly foundation that you may need to establish in conjunction with the proposed topic. This proposal must be approved by your thesis chair and your program director.
  4. Once your topic has been approved by your thesis chair, you complete the Thesis/Project Approval Form. The thesis chair and graduate program director must sign the form before you submit it to the graduate advisor.
  5. Once the proposal has been accepted by the thesis chair, you will be in regular contact with your committee members, and they will tell you what needs to be done at each step. Throughout the writing period, you will be expected to provide chapters to your committee members for approval. Thesis chairs should respond to graduate student submissions within a reasonable time period. No more than two weeks should be taken to review each thesis chapter submitted for consideration. Following this timeline will ensure timely thesis and program completion.
  6. You will enroll in the 4-credit hour course CMNS/MCS/RELC 599 (Research Thesis/Project Course) in the quarter you plan to complete and defend your thesis. In order to enroll in this class, you must receive permission from your thesis chair (i.e. your chair needs to confirm that you will actually complete the thesis in the quarter you register for 599). You do not receive a letter grade in 599 until you have successfully completed and defended the thesis.
  7. Upon completion of your thesis, you need to schedule a date with your committee for the oral defense. Students must schedule their defense no later than the last week of classes in the quarter they will complete their degree requirements. You will print out the Thesis/Project Defense Form and bring it to the defense. After a successful defense, the committee members will sign the form (you may be required to do a few additions or modifications after the defense). Your thesis chair will submit your 599 letter grade. The thesis is graded on the following basis: pass with distinction, pass, and fail.

Timeline for Completion of the Research Thesis
Students are advised to begin work on their thesis 9-12 months prior to the time they hope to complete their work. For example, if the completion date is spring quarter, thesis work should begin no later than the fall quarter of the same academic year.

Students pursuing a thesis under the Media and Cinema Studies concentration must adhere to the following formatting guidelines. Students pursuing a thesis under any other concentration should discuss formatting guidelines with their thesis chair.

The student must provide committee members sufficient (i.e., typically two weeks) time to review their work during each phase of the thesis. These "review" periods should be factored into the thesis timeline. The final draft of the thesis must be submitted to committee members at least two weeks prior to the oral defense.

Students should keep in mind that thesis work must be completed during the regular academic year calendar. Students should not expect committee members to be available for consultation outside the regular academic year calendar, i.e., during the winter intercession, spring break or summer recess. If a student does not make significant progress towards the writing, research and completion of the thesis, the student's committee has the authority to determine if the student is allowed to continue with the thesis. If the committee decides to discontinue the thesis, the student must take the comprehensive exam and enroll in a 12th course to fulfill the degree completion requirement.

Thesis Proposal Requirement
By a general standard, your thesis proposal should have four main components:

  1. Introduction
    1. The introduction should provide adequate discussion of the following:
      1. Statement of the Problem. Why is there a need to do research on the topic? How is the problem typically viewed by scholars and the general public? What is the historical context of the problem?
      2. Significance of the Study. Why is your study important? In what way will your study contribute to new knowledge in the discipline?
      3. Specific Purpose. What is the main focus of your study? What is your rationale for choosing this area of study? What are your research questions?
      4. Overview. An overview of the theoretical framework and methodology you would use to address the research questions.
  2. Review of the Literature
    1. In this section, you will review relevant theoretical frameworks and cover bodies of theories and research that provide up-to-date information on the research topic. This is a preliminary survey of the literature of the topic to be able to establish as a rationale for study. You should interpret and critique the existing theories/research and provide a rational of how your study will fill the gap on the understanding of the research topic.
  3. Methodology
    1. This section informs the reader how you will execute your study. You should review the relevant methodology (e.g. quantitative, qualitative, ethnographic study, historical, rhetorical, content analysis, case studies, political economy, textual analysis, audience studies, etc.) and provide a rationale of why your chosen method is appropriate for answering the research questions. You will also provide a description of the procedure of your research – i.e. steps to complete the study and measurement information such as data gathering, sampling, media to be screened, audience to be interviewed or analyzed, etc.
  4. Outline, Timeline and a Working Bibliography
    1. Provide a tentative outline (which includes a chapter breakdown) of the thesis and a timeline of completion. Attach a working bibliography. The outline and bibliography do not count toward your total page limit.

Thesis Third Quarter Review
Two quarters after the student’s proposal has been approved, his/her thesis will go through an official review process and be evaluated by the thesis chair and potentially a faculty member outside of the student’s committee. At the beginning of the quarter, two full quarters after having the proposal approved, the student must turn in copies of the following to his/her chair:

  • Portions of the thesis that have thus far been completed.
  • His/her original and revised timeline for completion.
  • If necessary, a document explaining any extenuating circumstances for his/her performance (e.g. illness, a conscious slowing down of the process) and a plan to put the project back on track toward a timely completion.

At that point, the thesis chair will determine whether the student is making sufficient progress in terms of both quantity and quality. If the chair decides that the student has not made progress, the student may be rerouted to the comprehensive exam track.

Elements to be considered by the evaluators:

  • Has the student been writing?
  • Is the writing of a high quality both technically and in terms of its content?
  • Has the student been taking suggestions from his/her committee?
  • Is the student ultimately making headway toward completion of the thesis or project?

This review process is designed to allow faculty to more closely oversee students’ process, provide timely feedback, prevent theses from stalling out, and to ensure progress toward a final version that is passable during a defense.

Guidelines for Thesis—Public Defense, Grading and Filing
Public Defense
The final step in the completion of a research thesis is a formal, public defense of the thesis. Faculty, students and other interested parties are invited to attend. The student should work with his/her thesis committee to schedule the place and time of the defense. Thesis defenses must be held no later than the ninth week of the term in which the student hopes to complete the degree. In preparation for the defense, the student is responsible for:

  • Providing a copy of the final typed thesis to each member of the committee for review at least two weeks before the defense.
  • Arranging a time and place for the defense that fits the schedules of committee members.
  • Securing the meeting place, with the help of the college staff.
  • Having a copy of the Thesis/Project Defense Form available at the defense for committee members to sign.
  • Delivering the signed form to the graduate chair.
  • Filing one .pdf and one typewritten copy of your thesis (sent electronically) to the graduate office after making any necessary post-defense revisions.

Grading the Thesis
The thesis is graded on a pass with distinction, pass and fail basis by committee members. Following the public defense, the committee members will ask the student and other parties to leave the room so that they can discuss whether the student has successfully completed the thesis requirements. If the student passes, all committee members must sign the thesis completion form stating that the student has met all thesis requirements, passing both the written and oral portions. The form is then provided to the student for submission with the completed thesis to the college. Any revisions required by the committee must be made prior to acceptance of the thesis for graduation. If the thesis is judged generally acceptable, but some work remains to be done, the thesis chair may hold the signature page until the thesis has been satisfactorily completed. The student can then receive the signature page to be placed with the thesis and submitted as required. Your thesis chair will submit your 599 grade. The grades are: pass with distinction, pass, and fail. If the student receives a grade of fail, he/she will be dismissed from the program. Thesis defenses are held during regular business hours. Presentations may be videotaped for educational purposes.

Thesis Submission
When the thesis has been approved by the committee, the student must submit to the graduate chair a final .pdf version of the thesis, the signed Defense Form, a completed Author Submission Agreement Form and a completed Abstract and Keyword Form. The graduate chair will arrange for the electronic archival of your thesis with the university library.​