Master’s Program Thesis & Terminal Project Information

Master’s students may complete either a project or a thesis. A written proposal is required for both a thesis and a project, and you must be approved in writing by your committee before beginning work/research. Proposal Approval forms are available online.

Thesis (9 credits)

You should choose a thesis if you plan to pursue doctoral study. A thesis requires original research to address questions about mass media and society. A review of relevant literature, mastery and use of an appropriate research method, and analysis of findings typically are involved. A thesis presents original research that contributes to the scholarly literature of journalism and communication studies. This is a viable option if you plan to work as a media consultant or manager.

Terminal Project (6 credits)

A project is an option if you plan to be a working journalist or media professional. A project involves the completion of a professional creative product; examples are listed below. Applied research to address practical questions (such as how to carry out an advertising campaign) may be involved. A project contributes to the communications professions via applied research and/or creative accomplishment. The project is the culmination of your studies here and should reflect what you have learned in the program. A project is much more than a class assignment and requires as much research as a thesis. Final projects have included magazine or newspaper article series, video productions, practical guides for working journalists or media professionals and applied research projects.

The final project for the Strategic Communication degree will be in the form of an applied communications plan. Guidelines are listed in the Graduate Student Handbook.

A project may take many forms, though all projects must be noteworthy for substance and artistic or professional quality. Projects completed by students in other options have included: documentary films and videos, slide programs, photo essays, feature or investigative article series, handbooks for professionals (e.g., the result of synthesizing and translating scholarly research), or magazine design & layout projects.

The project could be a well conceptualized magazine article series (for example, three 2,500-word stories) targeted to a specific publication. Such projects must show both greater depth and breadth (conceptually, stylistically and in terms of quality of research) than any single assignment completed in a graduate level class.

Journalism master’s students are encouraged to devise their own projects, and to seek advice and counsel from faculty during the process. Any project must consider editorial, design, circulation, and (if appropriate) advertising trends in the contemporary magazine marketplace. Past narrative magazine projects include a documentation of the extinction of species in the Pacific Northwest, and a series of three profiles about the courage of people who have overcome tremendous difficulties such as cancer.

More examples: Those who come to the program to jump-start a career in magazine editing or publishing could follow the guidelines pertaining to an article series, or choose a project more directly related to editing or publishing, such as an editorial make-over of an existing publication or a business plan for a start-up magazine. One student prepared a guidebook for a nationwide audience of people who wish to self-publish magazines addressed to gay and lesbian audiences. Another drew upon his experience as an editor-in-chief to prepare a manual for environmental and other activist groups who wish to start their own magazines.

While projects do not constitute original research, they nonetheless require research — i.e., research that contributes to content substance and delineates the project’s unique contribution to the professions. This research, as well as the project work itself, certainly involves methodologies — e.g., of interviewing, of library research, of examining similar projects, and of carrying out the project. Therefore, each project must be accompanied by a paper that describes or documents the research involved, the methodological procedures used, and lessons learned in the process.

Reminder: Project students sign up for a minimum of six credits in J609. Thesis students sign up for a minimum of nine credits in J503. Students usually sign up with their advisers for project or thesis credits.

The Proposal

Students preparing a project or a thesis must write a proposal and gain approval from three committee members (two for the professional master’s project) via signatures on the SOJC Proposal Approval Form, which is available on the SOJC graduate forms page. Your proposal and committee must be approved before work on your project or thesis begins and before you can earn credits for the thesis or project. Most students have approval by the start of Spring term.

All committee members (see also Thesis and Project Committee below) receive and approve your written proposal, using the Proposal Approval Form. This protects you from having a person on your committee who does not fully understand or support your work. Don’t forget to obtain human subjects compliance approval if you are planning a thesis or project involving human subjects.

Proposal Guidelines

Generally, you will include what you want to study or the problem to be addressed, how you plan to approach it, and why it should be studied. State your hypothesis and/or goals, review relevant literature and contextual information, explain methodologies or procedures to be followed, and describe what the final product will look like.

Proposals vary in length and can contribute to the content of your finished thesis or project. Reminder: your written proposal must be approved by your committee, using the Proposal Approval Form.

Guidelines for Theses

The Graduate School has guidelines pertaining to style, margins, footnotes, etc. You may find a copy of these guidelines, called the Style Manual for Theses and Dissertations, on-line from the Graduate School home page. It is very important that your finished work adheres to these guidelines; otherwise it will not be accepted by the Graduate School and you will not graduate on time.

A selection of projects completed by former students can be viewed from the SOJC website. Theses are kept in the Knight Library and are available through Scholars’ Bank.

Thesis Proposal Structure

Typically, a thesis proposal includes a number of sections, described below. Of course, the content and subheads under each section will vary depending on the problem you are researching, your theoretical framework and the methodology you envision.

I. Introduction
This should consist of a brief summary of the problem you are proposing to investigate, what question(s)/hypothesis(es) you intend to address, and how you envision doing it. While this section is the first presented, it is best to write this after you have completed the rest of the proposal.

II. Review of Literature
Here you review relevant literature that will enable you to make a case for the significance of your research. This is an interdisciplinary field. It is likely you will review more than one area of literature. If so, you will probably begin with a statement similar to this: “This research draws on four areas of literature: feminist media theory; scholarship on women’s changing roles in India; prior studies of gender and media in India and South Asia; and global studies examining women’s representations in newspapers.” You should then proceed to summarize pertinent scholarship in each category (and their interconnections). It’s acceptable to use subtitles to organize this review. Following this review, you should summarize the rationale for your research question(s) or hypothesis(es) drawn from all the area(s) of literature you have reviewed. Finally, you should clearly state your main research question(s) or hypothesis(es).

III. Methodology
Here you describe your methodological plans as specifically as you can. Of course, the considerations you discuss here will vary depending on the nature of your research, e.g., whether quantitative or qualitative. The following are considerations you may need to discuss in a quantitative thesis: unit of analysis; population; sampling procedures; research instruments (questionnaire, coding categories); and reliability and validity. Everyone — regardless of method —will need to discuss the resources to be drawn upon and how they will be analyzed or interpreted. Some discussion of the limitations of your chosen approach(es) also may be appropriate.

IV. Outline of completed thesis
Outline the chapters you anticipate will comprise your completed thesis with a sentence or two describing each chapter. Typical chapters in a qualitative thesis are: Introduction; Review of Literature; Methodology; Results; Discussion; Conclusions. Often a chapter on Historical (or other) Context of the Problem also is included and precedes (or sometimes follows) the Review of the Literature. In a qualitative thesis the organization is often similar up through the methods chapter. Presentation and discussion of results should be organized in consultation with the committee.

Project Proposal: Structure

The organization of a project proposal typically parallels that of a thesis proposal, including the following:

I. Introduction
A brief summary of what problem, topic(s) or issues you intend to address, and how you envision doing it. A couple paragraphs to a page should be sufficient. Even though this section is the first presented, it is best to write this after you have completed the rest of the proposal.

II. Background research
Report any research that helps make a case for the significance of your project and provides professional context. At least two types of background research are relevant here: research that contributes to content substance, and research to delineate the project’s unique contribution to the professions.

III. Methodology or Procedures
Describe the procedural decisions and plans that will enable you to carry out the project. Obviously, different types of projects will require very different kinds of procedures. A student doing applied research (e.g., for an advertising or public relations campaign) may use essentially the same methods as a student carrying out a social scientific thesis. Creative projects will involve completely different types of procedures and methodologies, depending on the project. The methodological decisions involved in planning and writing a work of literary nonfiction, for instance, will be very different than for making a video documentary or a press kit.

IV. Description of completed project
Describe what you anticipate your completed project will look like.

Your Adviser

When you arrive at the SOJC, you will be assigned an adviser by the Doctoral Program Director, based on your expressed research, professional, or academic interests. Your adviser is a tenure-line faculty member. You should meet with him or her soon after beginning the program, and he or she will help you get started. Throughout your studies, your adviser helps develop your academic schedule, gives advice about when you should take certain classes and about classes outside the SOJC that might be relevant to your program, and provides support for your decisions concerning course choices. See your adviser at least once per term.

Changing advisers: Within two terms (or three at the most), you should decide whether to stick with your original adviser through completion of your thesis or project, or to change advisers. You might have found someone more compatible, or whose research interests more closely parallel your own, or perhaps your own research interests may have evolved. You are free to change your adviser at any time. Be sure that the faculty member you choose to work with agrees to be your new adviser, and that the original adviser is notified of any changes.

Your adviser is the chair of your thesis/project committee and will help guide your proposal and see you through completion of your work. Select someone with whom you have a mutually respectful relationship, someone who is interested in your area of study and can contribute to your work. Your adviser does not have to be experienced in every aspect of your work; other committee members can contribute experience in some areas.

Thesis or Project Committee for Media Studies

The master’s committee is made up of a minimum of three members, including the adviser/chair. At least two members must be regular SOJC faculty. Your chair is a tenure-line faculty member; other SOJC faculty on your committee may or may not be tenure-line. Aside from the minimum of two SOJC faculty, the third member may be someone from outside the SOJC — faculty from another department, or a professional, an expert, etc.

Project Committee Composition for Professional Master’s Students

Students in the professional master’s programs are NOT required to form a three-person committee. Instead you will work with your adviser and a second reader to write a project proposal (follow same process required for other master’s students, but with two instead of three readers/committee members approving the proposal). The second reader may be anyone who your advisor approves as appropriate. He or she may be another member of the SOJC faculty, a faculty member outside of the SOJC, a professional in the community, or a subject matter expert.

The thesis/project committee is student-chosen and based on faculty expertise. Members should be selected for their ability to contribute to your work. You should also make sure committee members will be available to serve on your committee during the terms you intend to do your work; be sure to ask potential committee members about future plans (fellowships, sabbaticals, Fulbrights, etc.). This is especially important if you plan to graduate during the summer quarter, as many faculty hold a nine-month appointment and are not available summer term. Because of this, the Graduate School does not guarantee graduation summer term.

Students generally choose committee members after the adviser is chosen but before the proposal is written. Your adviser — the committee chair — can be involved in selecting other committee members.

Beyond approving your project proposal, the role of members varies from committee to committee. You may have one who was selected for his or her expertise in your method or another outside area; you can then rely on that person for help in that area. Others may be general readers who read your chapters as you complete them. Based on discussions with your committee, you may submit draft chapters to all members, or you may submit them only to your chair and have other members read only your revised chapters.

In any case, the role of your committee members should be discussed early in the process between the student and adviser; your adviser should help you determine a way to make the committee function smoothly. Additionally, committee members should be told up front what you expect from them. Your entire committee reads your finished work and gathers for your oral defense to approve your thesis or project.

How to begin your Thesis or Project

The topic is your choice. You may come up with it through courses, conversations with faculty, your own interests, etc. Talk with faculty and other students to determine whether your idea is feasible. You should have a working idea by the start of your second year of graduate school (or at least by the term preceding the term you intend to write your project). Then, working with your adviser, write the proposal; see above.

Oral Defense

All students must hold an oral defense no later than 2 weeks before the end of finals week. The oral defense takes place after you’ve completed your thesis or project. If you’ve completed all appropriate steps, a defense is a conversation between you and your committee about your work. The key is to make sure your committee supports your work prior to your oral defense. Your committee members must not agree to the defense if major revisions will be necessary. Expect your committee to find minor problems and make suggestions at the oral defense.

At the end of the defense, your committee must either approve or disapprove your work; approval is necessary before you can graduate. It is common for committees to approve with changes and list changes that need to be made.

Consistent with School of Journalism and Communication policy, the oral defense is intended to be a public discourse and, as such, will be announced prior to the event.

IMPORTANT: Once you have settled on a date and time for your defense, complete the online defense scheduling form. This must be completed no later than 2 weeks before your planned defense date.

Thesis or Project Approval: Graduation

An Application for Advanced Degree form must be filed online with the Graduate School by the second week of the term you plan to graduate. You can locate the application on the Graduate School website. For master’s students, your application for degree generates the rest of the necessary paperwork. Specific dates and deadlines are listed on the Graduate School website.

Projects are not subject to Graduate School approval; theses are. Therefore, theses require more paperwork. Overall, the SOJC Graduate Secretary tries to work with your committee chair to ensure all appropriate forms are submitted on time, but it is advisable to keep in close contact with her to make sure your file is kept up to date.

Remember that students completing theses do not have the entire term they intend to graduate to complete their work. In order to meet deadlines for scheduling oral defenses and obtaining Graduate School approval, students should plan to dedicate only one-half to two-thirds of the term they intend to graduate to completing their thesis. The student must also allow time for the committee to review the thesis before the oral defense (a minimum of 10 working days recommended) and time for corrections to be made after the oral defense (a minimum of five days recommended).

Projects: Submit one copy of your final project, electronically, to your chair no later than the last day of finals week of the term in which you intend to graduate. They will forward this copy to the Graduate Programs Office. This will signal final approval by your chair. You do not need to submit a copy to the Graduate School.

Theses: Theses and dissertations are submitted to the Graduate School electronically and no hard copy is required. Check the Graduate School website for deadlines and specific theses requirements.

Master of Arts (M.A.) Requirements

The M.A degree requires proficiency in a second language. The second-language requirement may be met in one of the following ways:

1. Completion of at least the third term, second year of a second-language course taught in language, with a grade of C- or P or better taken within seven years of earning the master’s degree.

2. Satisfactory completion of an examination administered by the UO Testing Center with at least a 25th percentile score.

3. For students whose native language is not English, this requirement is automatically met.

Note: The Master of Science degree has no foreign language requirement.