Writing a Thesis

Writing a Thesis for the MA, MAT, or MA/MAT Program in English (Adopted 9/17; Updated 12/21)

A Master’s thesis is a substantial academic essay or creative work that represents the culmination of an advanced course of study. For students in the Literature track, it should illustrate the breadth and depth of a student’s knowledge of the field, while applying high-level research, writing, and analytical skills. Unlike a dissertation, it need not make a significant new contribution to literary studies, but it should go beyond synthesizing established arguments, aiming instead to approach literary texts and/or issues in insightful and original ways. For students concentrating in the Creative Writing concentration, the thesis should represent a substantial creative project based in the student's chosen genre(s).

Students in Literature have the option of completing the thesis, normally in their last semester in the program, as one three-credit elective course. Students in Creative Writing are required to complete a thesis, typically in their final semester. Only students on the Creative Writing track are required to write a thesis; it is optional for other programs. All students must still complete the ENG599 Culminating Experiences requirement, and if you write a thesis this will be a public presentation of your work on the project.



  • Seeking an adviser: Any student wishing to write a thesis must obtain permission from a full-time faculty member who is willing to serve as the student’s thesis adviser. This should be done, in person, during the semester before the student hopes to write the thesis. Students should choose an adviser whose teaching and research interests align with the topic of the proposed thesis. A written proposal is not required at this stage, but students should have a well thought-out topic to propose when approaching a potential adviser.
  • Registering: Once a faculty member has agreed to serve as adviser, the student should register for ENG590 for the semester in which she or he plans to write the thesis using the Graduate Thesis Request form. Please note that you must include a brief synopsis of your project and have your supervising faculty member sign the form.
  • Schedule of writing and advisement: Students will coordinate a plan for meeting and submitting writing together with their advisers. Generally students should expect to meet several times with their advisers throughout the semester, and to submit various stages of writing throughout the semester as well. The required length of the final document should ultimately be determined by the individual advisor depending on the nature of the project, but theses in English are typically between 30-40 pages.
  • Due dates: Final copies of Master’s theses are due to your advisor by May 1 in the Spring semester, and December 1 in the Fall semester.
  • Preparing and submitting the thesis: Please consult our library’s guidelines for preparing the final copy of the thesis, and for submitting it to the SUNY Open Access Repository (SOAR). You must take this step in order to graduate, and be sure to consult the library’s webpage for their deadline (normally in the first week of December, May, or August, depending on the month of your graduation).
  • Submit an Abstract to the Graduate Director As you are completing your thesis, please write an abstract of no longer than 300 words to submit for publication in the Shawangunk Review. If you choose not to publish an abstract, please contact the Graduate Director to let him or her know you will not be submitting your work. Please do this by the library's deadline (see above).