Thesis Guidelines

Guidelines for the Thesis/Project

Making the appropriate course choice

A master’s project (LNT 550) usually, but not always, involves some off-campus activities, like working in a public agency, school, business setting, laboratory, or studio. The purpose of the project may be to create a useful and/or aesthetic product that can meet a need for a particular audience outside the university. Examples of products that have been produced as master’s projects include, but are not limited to:

  • School curricula
  • Grant proposals
  • Instructional manuals
  • Artwork
  • Works of fiction
  • Computer applications
  • Evaluations of consumer products or services

If the project does not include a major, graduate-level written component, you should plan to submit a 10-15 page essay in which you discuss how the product itself was produced, how it is related to your coursework, and the theoretical framework which forms the basis or foundation for this work.

A thesis (LNT 560) is the more appropriate choice if you are planning to do an empirical research project (such as survey research, controlled experiments, or participant observation). Alternately, you may want to use methods of inquiry that are based on one of the academic disciplines, like philosophical analysis, historical investigation, or a feminist study emphasizing the use of what are called “secondary sources”—texts and other documents usually found in a library. A thesis is usually addressed to an academic audience in contrast to a master’s project, which is aimed at a specific audience outside of the university. Students who plan to continue into doctoral work, or who are interested in teaching in a college setting, should probably elect to do a thesis.

Developing a project proposal
LNT Closure Proposal Form (purple)

You will have an opportunity to begin planning your thesis or project when you take LNT 521 Liberal and Integrative Studies, although you may want to begin formulating ideas and discussing them with your degree committee members before this point. Questions about your general directions often come up in the first meeting of your degree committee when your degree plan is discussed. However, you cannot register for LNT 550 or LNT 560 until your committee, plus the appointed Dean’s Representative, has formally approved your proposal and signed the gold-colored form titled “Approval of Liberal and Integrative Studies Project and Master’s Project Proposal.” This normally occurs in a second committee meeting, which is scheduled following your completion of LNT 521.

It is not necessary for you to have one of your degree committee members serve as your thesis or project supervisor, although this is common. If you wish to work with another faculty member as your supervisor, it is a good idea to discuss drafts of your proposal as soon as you have them in order to get essential feedback. Your committee, and the faculty member who will supervise you, must approve your proposal.

In general, the proposal should be extensive enough to permit your faculty committee and supervisor to evaluate the scope of the project, your overall orientation to it, and your capacity to carry it out. The final version of the proposal serves as a contract specifying the work to be done in order to complete your degree. Such specificity protects both you and the faculty members from misunderstanding about what is expected.

The proposal should contain the following sections:

  • Cover Sheet – List the following information: LNT Master’s Project Proposal or LNT Thesis Proposal, your name, address, email address, phone number, UIN#, and the date.
  • Title – Pick a title that describes what you are doing in as succinct a manner as possible.
  • Personal Significance – This section should include a brief statement (approximately one page) about your reasons for choosing to do this project. You might mention how you got interested in the topic and how you expect that doing this project or thesis will affect your personal and professional development.
  • Purpose – In two or three sentences, state the overall purpose of the project or thesis. If you have several objectives, describe them briefly, in order of their importance.
  • Background – This section of the proposal should explain the ideas and concepts that are necessary in order to understand your topic. You may want to discuss why the topic is important and identify the audience to whom it is addressed. You should include a discussion of existing professional literature that you have read, or other information that you have gathered in preparation for this project or thesis. You may want to describe experiences that you have had that were important to your emerging understanding of this topic. In general, you need to briefly demonstrate that you have sufficient understanding of your topic to be able to carry out your study or project. What you elect to include will vary according to your topic and purpose. Three to four double-spaced pages is usually sufficient.
  • Methods/Procedures/Activities – This section should clearly describe how you intend to carry out your project or thesis study. A research study should address such issues as sampling (or selection of participants), data gathering, and data analysis. A philosophical or historical inquiry should address resources and procedures associated with each step of the exploration. A project aimed at another type of product should describe intended activities, like a list of the people with whom you will be involved and what they will contribute, time schedule or a chronology of events, or tools you plan to use (training sessions, interviews, or special equipment). The nature of the project will determine what will be needed, but the main idea, irrespective of the nature of the project or thesis, is to specify the steps to be taken to accomplish your purpose. It may be helpful to present this section as a numeric listing of the events that you expect to take place in the order in which they will occur. This section should be as thorough as you can make it since any flaws in your planning will create problems for you later. Your faculty advisors may be able to help you identify potential pitfalls in advance.
  • Bibliography – An initial bibliography, including any references cited in the background section and other key sources, should be included. The bibliography should be in the format that you expect to use in your final draft of the thesis, or in the essay which accompanies your project. You are free to select the format, but you should use a standard one, such as American Psychological Association (APA), Turabian, or Modern Language Association (MLA), and you should use it consistently throughout your document.
  • Tentative Outline of the Final Document – This section of the proposal consists of a brief outline of the final report that you will submit to your committee. If you are planning a project which will yield a product, you should include a description of what the final product will look like, and what it will include as well as an outline of the 10-15 page essay that you will prepare to accompany your product. If you are planning a thesis, you should develop an outline of the proposed chapters that will be included in the final document. This outline may serve as a Table of Contents.

The Proposal Meeting

You should present each member of your degree committee, including the Dean’s Representative, with a complete draft of your proposal about two weeks before you have scheduled the meeting to discuss it. Committee members need to have time to read and think about what you are planning so that it can be discussed as a group.

You are responsible for scheduling your meeting in consultation with your chairperson/ advisor. At this meeting, recommendations will be made regarding the proposed project (thesis). You can expect to be given clear guidelines as to whether or not revisions are expected before approval will be given. The committee signifies approval of your proposal by signing the gold-colored form “Approval of Liberal and Integrative Studies Project and Master’s Project Proposal.” You cannot register for your MP Project or Thesis until all members of your committee have signed this form, and it is in your file in the LNT Office, accompanied by copies of your Liberal and Integrative Studies Paper and your proposal.

Registering for LNT 550 or LNT 560

You must register for 4 credit hours of LNT 550 or LNT 560 in order to get credit for completing your master’s project or thesis. In order to register, you must obtain a permission form. This form is called a WPD (“With Permission of the Dean”), and it is the same form that is used for independent studies. If you have done an independent study course at UIS, then you are already familiar with the arduous process of getting the requisite signatures. The WPD form must be signed by the faculty member who will serve as your project or thesis supervisor, the Director of the LNT Program, and the Dean of the School in which your faculty supervisor is located.

Since getting all of these signatures is time-consuming, you should begin the process well in advance. DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE TO REGISTER. Also note that the WPD form will not be processed unless a copy of your proposal, signed by your faculty supervisor and by yourself, is attached. This is a university regulation as well as an LNT requirement. Make copies of your materials in case they are lost in processing.

Implementing Your Proposal and Developing Your Final Document

You will carry out your project or thesis according to the approved proposal, so the more care you give to your proposal, the more likely you are to have a workable plan. You should work with your supervisor until you have completed a draft of the document which you agree is ready for the rest of your committee.

All projects must have a written component. You should select a particular bibliographic style and use it consistently. You should follow the outline that was approved by your committee unless changes in it have been discussed. Try not to surprise your committee! It is wise to share draft copies of sections of the project report or thesis as they are written in order to get feedback and advice in advance of preparing a final version for formal committee review. Working with a word processor is a great advantage because it provides an easy way to revise, edit, and revise again. Students should recognize that frequent rewriting is a normal part of the process of completing any degree. An additional meeting of your committee may be scheduled, if needed.

Final Oral Presentation

After you have completed your project or thesis, a complete final copy should be presented to the members of your committee two weeks in advance of your final committee meeting. You are responsible for scheduling this meeting.

The purpose of the final meeting is to review your project or thesis. You should be prepared to present an oral summary of your work and respond to questions from your committee members. Acceptance of your project or thesis will depend on demonstration of satisfactory completion of the plan laid out in your proposal and on demonstration of capable written and oral communication skills and reasoning.


Acceptance requires unanimous agreement by your committee that your project or thesis is complete. Should agreement not be reached, the committee will agree on procedures through which you can bring the work into conformity with committee members’ expectations. At the discretion of the committee, another meeting may be scheduled. You can expect to be given clear verbal guidelines about actions that you should take, and your chairperson will follow up with a written statement about committee expectations.

If the committee unanimously rejects your project or thesis, the chair of the committee has the responsibility of integrating each member’s concerns into a written statement setting forth the reasons. The best way to avoid this possibility is to keep in touch with your supervisor and committee members about your progress so that you are not surprised by their reactions to your work. You need to maintain communication with your committee, and keep an open mind about revising.

Once your project or thesis has been accepted by your committee and your supervisor, members will sign the green form, “Certificate of Completion of Liberal and Integrative Studies Master of Arts.”

When your project or thesis has been approved, you should submit two copies to the LNT Office, one of which will be forwarded to University Archives for UIS’s permanent collection. Your document should be bound together in some way so that it will not come apart. Plastic spiral binding is preferred because metal bindings rust with time, and three-ring binders are bulky to store. Your work will be made available for interested readers who wish to know more about your topic. You may also arrange with the Library to obtain a hardbound copy of your work.