GUIDELINES FOR THE THESIS OPTION
|Selecting a Topic| |When
to Submit Your Proposal| |The
Thesis Proposal| |The Thesis
Committee| |Commonly Asked Questions|
The thesis is one of two
options available for those seeking an M.A. degree in anthropology,
the other being the comprehensive examination. Submitting a satisfactory
proposal to the anthropology faculty is a necessary preliminary to
writing the thesis.
The student preparing a thesis proposal should keep in mind that a
Masters thesis is expected to be a contribution to knowledge. Such
contributions are normally achieved though original field and library
research that bear upon the solution of conceptual questions and the
clarification of theoretical issues. Thesis research is not merely
the description of new field data, or a new compilation of library
data, but rather the amassing and organization of data that bear upon
one or more anthropological questions.
Students must complete Anth 481 with a B grade or better prior to turning
in their thesis proposal.
Students must demonstrate that they are prepared to write a
thesis by submitting a thesis proposal that is evaluated and approved
by the faculty of the Department of Anthropology. Students have
the right to take the M.A. comprehensive exam to earn their degree.
Whether they are permitted to write a thesis is the decision of
the faculty. Departmental approval of a thesis proposal is not oral
or informal but a written memo from the chair of the Department
Students selecting the thesis option should begin
by having a topic in mind that is of interest to them. Generally,
this topical interest will have emerged in the course of undergraduate
and graduate study. While this topical interest may be developed
in conjunction with a faculty advisor or particular faculty members,
ultimately it must come from the student and be the product of student
interests. Students who must solicit ideas for thesis topics from
faculty members probably should not be writing a thesis.
The student must then do background reading relevant to the topic
and begin to develop an hypothesis or research question upon which
their research will bear. These questions are not mere questions
of fact, but questions related to conceptual issues in the anthropological
In developing a proposal, the student will wish to consult with
one or more faculty members who are knowledgeable about the topic,
and can give the student advice on the proposal's overall shape.
The development of an adequate proposal, however, remains the responsibility
of the student -- not the faculty. The desire to write a thesis
is not in itself sufficient to insure that a student will be permitted
to pursue this option. A student will have only two opportunities
to rework a proposal into a form acceptable by the faculty. The
third time an unsatisfactory proposal is submitted, the thesis option
will no longer be available to this student.
Thesis Proposal Panel
- A student should form a proposal panel (two or three people)
to work with them in developing their proposal. One faculty member
will serve as panel chair. It is not the obligation of the faculty
to come upwith the idea for a thesis proposal. Students who do
not have a clear idea of what they want to study should choose
to take the comprehensive exam. Faculty will invest their time
in students who have a conception of what they are doing, whose
work has shown quality, whose writing is clear and communicative,
and who have demonstrated the ability to work independently. If
a student cannot find faculty members willing to serve on a panel
to develop their proposal, they should take comprehensive examinations
to complete their degree.
FORMULATING THE PROPOSAL
A student wishing to submit a thesis proposal should
carefully review the guidelines for thesis proposals on the department
When a proposal has been developed with the aid of the panel, it
should be formally submitted to the faculty of the department. This
involves a single official cover sheet obtained from the department
office with appropriate information and signatures. These should
be given to the chair of the department with a hard copy of the
proposal for every faculty member in the department (including part-time
faculty who teach every quarter).
EVALUATION OF THE PROPOSAL
Members of the department must gather to discuss and approve the
proposal. The approval of a proposal will require a majority of
those faculty voting. At least four faculty members must vote including
the panel chair. There must be a clear majority for approval. A
tie vote does not constitute approval. The vote will be registered
in writing on an official departmental form. Part-time faculty on
three-year contracts may comment and vote on proposals. They may
also serve on a proposal committee.
Students who wish to receive an evaluation from the department
to their proposals in the quarter in which they submit them, must
submit them before the end of the second week of that quarter. Faculty
will vote on the proposal and respond with written comments by the
end of the fifth week. If the proposal is approved, additional faculty
suggestions will be directed to the proposal panel chair. If the
proposal is not approved, the panel chair will take the faculty's
comments and draft a response from the department suggesting what
changes need to be made. These comments will be circulated among
the faculty by the end of the seventh week. The faculty will have
until the end of the eighth week to suggest amendments to the response.
The student will receive notice of approval or rejection by the
ninth week of the quarter.
Proposals will not be reviewed in the Summer quarter, and proposals
submitted late in the Spring quarter may not be voted upon until
the following Fall quarter.
THE STRUCTURE OF THE PROPOSAL
Time spent writing the thesis proposal is not wasted.
A well--written proposal is a large step taken toward writing an acceptable
thesis. A student must demonstrate in this proposal not only the specific
topic that they are interested in investigating, but their knowledge
of the literature related to this topic, the relevance of their research
to larger questions and issues in the field, and their ability to
formulate a plan for carrying out their proposed research. For the
purposes of clarity, the proposal should be divided into clear categories.
- 1. Introduction
- This should include
an introduction to the topic of the intended research, a
statement of the problem, and the goals of the research.
- 2. Background
- This section should evidence the student's
awareness of the specific studies and theoretical discussions
that bear upon the proposed research. It should include
a brief history of similar research and a discussion of
the theoretical questions upon which the thesis research
will ultimately bear. It will raise those particular questions
the thesis is designed to address. It is in this section
that the student articulates the linkage between the specific
research project and larger questions in anthropological
- 3. Body of Proposal
- The student must discuss the nature of
their proposed research in some detail, identifying the
assumptions upon which it rests, the theoretical perspectives
that will be employed, and the bearing that this research
will have in testing particular hypotheses or addressing
broader questions in the discipline.
- 4. Methodology
- The student should discuss in detail the
plan for research, what particular research strategies and
techniques are to be employed, and why they are preferred
over other strategies and techniques. The student should
also include a time-frame for the proposed research (weeks,
months, etc.) indicating how much time will be allocated
to each phase of the project.
- 5. Conclusion
- This is a brief review of what has been
said, recapitulating the contribution of the proposed research
project to general knowledge and to the discipline.
- 6. References
- Under a section entitled "References
Cited," include all resources used in writing this
proposal. (These will have been appropriately cited in the
body of the proposal using the citation style of the American
Anthropologist.) In a separate section entitled "Bibliography,"
include additional sources on the subject matter, research
methodology, and general theory that are see appropriate
and which you intend to employ in the thesis proper.
|Once a student has received
written approval of their proposal, they are free to form a thesis
committee. The committee may or may not include members of their proposal
panel. A committee may consist of no less than three members. The
chair of the committee must be a full-time tenure-track member of
the Department of Anthropology. One other member must be from California
State University, Los Angeles. The remainder may, but need not, come
from off campus. In addition to the committee chair, one other member
of the committee must hold the Ph.D. degree. Other members must hold
at least a Master's degree. The student should form the thesis committee
only after close consultation with and the approval of the committee
chair. A form containing the names of the committee and their signatures
indicating their willingness to participate must be submitted to the
department before the end of the first quarter in which the student
is enrolled for thesis units. A new form must be filed in the event
of any change in committee personnel.
A thesis committee form is available in the anthropology office and
the student is responsible for securing the signatures of the committee
members with a signature by the chairman of the department. The original
of this form will be placed in the student's file. Any change in committee
requires the submission of a new form.
Commonly Asked Questions
- Q: Who should write a thesis? Should
I write a thesis?
A: There is no answer to this question that is appropriate
- for everyone. Nevertheless, there are certain
general principles of which students should be aware. On average,
students who pursue the thesis option take longer (sometimes,
significantly longer) to complete their degrees than those who
select the examination option. One should not pursue the thesis
option simply to avoid taking comprehensive examinations.
- Those who should pursue a thesis option are students
who have a deep and abiding interest in some anthropological topic
on which they have done substantial reading and/or research beyond
their classroom assignments. Students who are interested in deepening
their knowledge of a topic, engaging in extended research, organizing
their findings, and making some contribution to knowledge should
consider the thesis option.
- Students who expect to be employed in a position
which specifically depends upon their M.A. in Anthropology might
also wish to consider the thesis option. For example, those students
who plan to become contract archeologists or museum curators might
wish to develop an area of expertise as well as their capacities
for independent research and writing. An M.A. thesis might provide
the student with the opportunity for guided yet independent research
and writing. For those who plan to pursue a Ph.D., the M.A. thesis
is, perhaps, less important as such independent research will
eventually be carried out for the dissertation.
- Q: Can I begin thesis research before
actually having a
- proposal approved?
- A: Students are free to research any topic,
at any time
- they wish, in as much depth
as they care to. Students should realize, however, that such activities
do not insure that they will be permitted to write a thesis. Only
the approval of a thesis proposal, as outlined above, allows the
student to enroll in ANTH 599 and to write a thesis in partial
completion of their M.A. degree in Anthropology.
- Q: What happens if in the course of my
field or library
- research, the focus, emphasis, or theoretical
orientation of my thesis changes? Do I have to submit a new proposal?
- A: It is not uncommon for significant
changes in focus or
- orientation to occur in the course of field research.
Thesis committee members must be made aware of and approve these
changes. A new research proposal, however, need not be submitted
to the department faculty.