(Plan I)

Students wanting to complete an M.A. Thesis must have a minimum 3.5 GPA and apply for the Thesis option (Plan I). Applicants are required to prepare, present, and defend a Thesis Proposal for the thesis study to a committee of Communication graduate faculty during the student's second year in the M.A. program. 

To graduate in May, the proposal is due October 1; to graduate in December, the proposal is due March 1. Submissions should be sent in an attached Word document via email to Rachel Rashe Reed,, by 5 p.m. on the due date. No late submissions will be accepted. Students must be available to present and defend the proposal on the scheduled defense date arranged with Graduate faculty (which takes place within two weeks of submission).

The Thesis Proposal is developed by the graduate student with limited support from a faculty member (serving as a proposal consultant). The graduate student must independently demonstrate his/her ability to execute the Thesis project through the development of a comprehensive Thesis Proposal, which the Communication graduate faculty will approve or disapprove. All members of the committee must approve the proposal in order for it to go forward.  The faculty consultant for the Thesis Proposal is recused from the committee vote.

Upon Proposal approval, the Committee recommends three Thesis Committee members, one of whom will be designated Chair of the Thesis Committee.  Two committee members must be from within the Communication Department. The third member may be from outside the Communication Department, if the student prefers.  The Thesis Proposal must be approved before registering for thesis credit (COMM 7000 - Master's Thesis).

Because of the rigorous nature of the Thesis Proposal, Thesis Proposal Defense, and the writing and defense of the Thesis study, Thesis option students are not required to take the comprehensive exam or COMM 6050. Information about the thesis process is also available on the Graduate School website at 


Successfully defended Thesis Proposals must be formatted in APA Style. Improperly formatted Proposals or those that lack appropriate citations and/or the content areas outlined below may not be approved. The Thesis Proposal in the Department of Communication shall (at a minimum) include:

The introduction to the proposal should have a scope of sufficient detail to provide adequate discussion of the following:

A. STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM: What problem area does the proposal focus on?
Briefly, how is the problem typically viewed by communication scholars?  What are the specific aims of the study

B. SPECIFIC PURPOSE: What facet of the problem area are you going to confront and what portion of the problem area do you not intend to confront?  What is the main focus of your study?

C.  SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY: What will your study accomplish?  In what way will your study clarify or test specific theoretical formulation? How will your study add to the existing body of knowledge in the communication discipline?  Why is this study important?

The review of the literature should cover the relevant bodies of theory and/or research that provide information about the problem area. It should include conceptual definitions of all key concepts and address the specific approaches that are most beneficial for understanding the problem area. It should demonstrate how the study represents the appropriate "next step" toward understanding the problem area. The literature review should be appropriately narrowed and related directly to the research question(s).

At the conclusion of the literature review, you need to integrate your rationale for your hypotheses or research questions into the text. In this section, use the existing literature to set up a rationale for the study. Formally state the hypotheses or research questions.

This section focuses on the execution of the study.  Provide a detailed description of the procedures so that, by following the description, any other person could replicate the study.  The minimum components for this section should include:

A. SAMPLE:  To what population of people, events, cases, etc., do you intend to generalize?  What sample of people, events, or phenomena do you intend to observe? Through what specific procedures will you decide which population elements will be included in your sample?  How do you plan to recruit study participants?  What steps will you take to secure approval from the campus institutional review board for Human Subjects (IRB)?

B. DESIGN (PROCEDURES): If the study is experimental, give a detailed outline of the design.  Additionally, give a detailed description of all treatments or conditions employed in the design.  If the study is descriptive, formulative, or critical-analytic, provide a detailed explanation of the data gathering procedures.

C. MEASUREMENT: In this section, operationalize the concepts employed in the statement of the hypotheses or description of the research objectives. How will the concepts be measured?  What kind of observations will be made?  How will the observations be classified?  If the observations produce scores, how will the scores be computed?  What information do you have, or what information do you plan to gather bearing on the reliability and validity of your observations?   What were previous reliability and validity estimates of the operationalizations of the variables? If you are designing your own instruments, explain the procedures used with appropriate statistical information on the new instrument(s).  "For critical-analytic studies, what specific methodology do you propose using? Is this a semiotic study, a critical discourse analysis, a rhetorical analysis, or some other methodology?" Finally, what are the major alternative measurement approaches or assessments for getting at the concepts or variables you want to observe or measure in the study?  Why are your assessment procedures "better" than the alternatives?

D. DATA ANALYSIS:  Using the procedure outlined above to generate the data, how will the data be analyzed or evaluated?  How will you test your hypotheses or answer research question(s) related to the specific research objective?  Restate the hypotheses or objectives identified in the final section of the literature review and indicate how you will make decisions concerning them.

This section should identify, within reasonable limits, problems you might encounter during execution of the study and how they were resolved.  What are some of the threats to reliability and validity of the constructs and the research design?  Additionally, you should identify the limitations or restrictions you plan to make on the inferences you draw from the study and the generalizations you make to other conditions or populations.