College of Arts and Humanities

MFA in
Writing Thesis Guidelines

MFA in
Writing Thesis Guidelines

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Course Description

The Graduate Thesis class (IMF 58999) is required for the final three credit hours of the MFA in Writing program. Students receive instructor feedback and guidance during the term as they produce a 50-page final creative project in their chosen genre(s).

Overview

The MFA Thesis class provides a structured schedule for MFA students to create a final creative writing project as the culmination of their work in our program. Students receive feedback from the Thesis class instructor on portions of their thesis in alternating weeks during the term, as they write independently with concrete deadlines for thesis sections, revising and polishing their work to create a publishable final project.

Thesis content is flexible to ensure that each student is able to create a final project that best reflects his or her preferred writing style. The thesis may be a collection of poetry, short fiction, or creative nonfiction/personal essays; it may be a single contained piece, such as a short novella; or it may be an excerpt from a longer work, such as a novel or memoir. Students may also choose to include multiple genres (for example, a thesis may include both poetry and short fiction); however, all components should feel cohesive in some way (thematically, stylistically, etc.) to ensure a polished final project. For students who have formally declared an emphasis in fiction, creative nonfiction, or poetry, their thesis content must focus primarily on the emphasis genre.

When enrolling in the Thesis class, note that two sections of the Thesis class will be offered each term with two different faculty members, so that students may choose the instructor they feel best suits their preferred writing genre. However, all instructors who teach the Thesis class—Tony D'Souza, Kali VanBaale, Laura Vena, and Nicole McInnes—are well-versed in multiple genres and writing styles, and these four instructors will provide thoughtful, useful feedback on all student thesis projects.

The Thesis class structure allows for individualized feedback and continuous support for students to complete a polished, publishable final project in 8 weeks. Students should choose a thesis concept that can reasonably be completed within the 8-week term. Final thesis projects are approved based on a clear demonstration of creative and polished writing skills and publishable quality of work, along with following all aspects of the thesis guidelines (front matter, page length, format, content requirements).

Final Thesis Requirements

The final 51-page thesis includes six pages of front matter (described below) and 45 pages of creative work. Meeting specific page length requirements is a useful exercise in self-editing, conciseness, and clarity.

Front matter includes:

  • The cover page, which includes the overall thesis title, the student's name, and the completion date (1 page)
  • Table of contents (1 page)
  • The introduction—2 pages, double-spaced—should include: 
    • A brief discussion of the overall theme and organizational intelligence of the work, and/or a brief, focused summary of the larger work if the thesis is an excerpt. Keep this focused on your work’s unique voice, subject matter and your organizational structures (sequencing of stories, essays or poems, or narrative sequencing) that support that voice and subject matter.
    • A brief discussion of your genre: Here you will situate your work in your genre, including key features of the genre and ways that your work fulfills and/or innovates upon the genre. You may want to mention two or three key influences (comparable titles), but keep your focus on craft features or themes of their work that impact your work—keep the focus on your work. 
    • For the latter, include a brief discussion of literary influences that helped form the work. This is an opportunity to reflect on key authors that helped your thesis take shape. The clarity you gain from such reflection then helps keep honing your voice and style further. So for this section, you might ask yourself: What books did you encounter in the program that helped you find and refine your voice or style? What authors do you admire and feel kinship with? (And note that many writers are a cross between wildly different writers, with one foot in one world and another foot in another with some of our grandma’s voice or hobbies in the mix of what we make in our stories, essays, poems.)
  • A revisions documentation page summarizing the revisions and edits made to work that was previously written before the thesis class (1 page, double-spaced). The kind of questions you might ask yourself here are: What did aspects of craft did you hone? What new approaches did you take and why? 
  • A process description page summarizing the writing process for the newly written work in the thesis (1 page, double-spaced)
  • Optional seventh page: If you would like, you may also include a page thanking friends, family, and faculty who helped your thesis on its way; this “Acknowledgements” page will be placed right before the contents page. Likewise, if your work is researched based, a "References" page may be placed at the end of the thesis.

Creative content requirements:

At least 15 pages of the final thesis must be entirely new work that is written during the thesis term. The new 15 pages can be one piece, or several pieces, or a section of a longer work. Students must summarize their writing process for these new pages on their process description page. Up to 30 pages of the thesis can be revisions of work that was written previously during your time in the Lindenwood MFA program, as long as revisions/edits are worked on during the term and are documented on the revisions page in the front matter.

As the creative content can be no longer than 45 pages, students in the Thesis class should focus on the quality of the pages they produce, revising and polishing their writing to ensure it is strong, publishable work when submitted at the end of the term.

Format Guidelines

The final thesis must be uploaded in Canvas by the due date and must be formatted according to the guidelines below:

  • The final thesis must be uploaded as a single document. 
  • Include six front matter pages as detailed above.
  • Include page numbers throughout the document.
  • Use a standard font size and style (such as Times New Roman 12pt or Arial 11pt).
  • Do NOT include photographs or other design elements.
  • The page count for the final thesis must be exactly 51 pages.
  • Double-space the introduction page, and double-space all fiction and essay pieces. Place no more than one poem per page.
  • Left, right, top, and bottom margins should be set at one inch. 

Thesis projects are archived electronically; they are not posted publicly. The student retains all publication rights. Students should read the Thesis FAQs included in the Thesis class in Canvas and should contact the instructor throughout the term with any questions.