College of Arts and Humanities

Thesis 6-Credit Version

Thesis 6-Credit Version

College of Arts and Humanities NAVIGATION


The Graduate Thesis class (IMF 65000) is required for the final six-credit hours of the MFA in Writing program. 

The course is offered in a 16-week version in Fall and Spring and a 12-week version in Summer.

Students receive instructor feedback and guidance during the term as they produce a final creative project in their chosen genre(s).


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 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 16 weeks. Students should choose a thesis concept that can reasonably be completed within the 16-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).

The course also serves as a bridge between the weekly structure of MFA courses and the self-directed writing life beyond the program. As such, this is a  “studio” course, designed to provide open time and supportive structures to help you  focus on your drafting. In this course, optional discussions spaces are available for students to converse on directed topics (publishing, bios, and front matter). Instructor focus is on your journals and the workshopping of your thesis throughout the term. Journal assignments will provide opportunities to reflect on your work in the context of its genre, as well as on the organization of your thesis, a craft element you are refining, and on your revision process. Note that these journals can be revised to serve as or help inform your Front Matter. 


The final thesis includes six pages of front matter (described below), as well as 70-100 pages of prose or 48-60 pages of poetry.

Meeting specific page length requirements is a useful exercise in self-editing, conciseness, and clarity.


The front matter provides an opportunity to consider the development of your craft within your genre as you reflect on your thesis project. This reflection on learning is a potent part of cultivating expertise, as we articulate the hows and whys and whats of our craft choices--and the expansion of our range of possibility in making craft choices. 

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.

Provide a multifaceted definition of craft, touching on several aspects of craft (examples: line breaks and punctuation for poets; dialogue and narrative arc for prose), supported by examples linked to your own creative work. As part of this exploration of craft, reflect on how your understanding of how your craft developed over the course of the program.

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, be sure to 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 work and another foot in another writer's work, with some of our grandma’s voice or hobbies in the mix of the worlds 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 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.


At least 30% the final thesis must be entirely new work that is written during the thesis term.

  • So for a prose thesis of 100 pages, that would be 30 new pages; if you turn in 70 pages, that would be 21 new pages.
  • For poetry, 60 pages would be 18 new pages and 48 pages would be 15 new pages. The new 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. The rest of the thesis can be revisions of work that was written previously, as long as revisions/edits are worked on during the term and are documented on the “revisions page” in the front matter.

In general, 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.


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.
• Be sure to also create a copy of the six-page “front matter” to upload as your Week 16’s Journal so that we fulfill the University’s Academic Integrity Policy
• 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 70-100 pages of prose or 48-60 pages of poetry. The MFA thesis should include six pages of front matter
• Double-space the introduction page.
• Double-space all fiction and essay pieces.
• Poetry should be single-spaced; print 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.