History and Art History
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

MA Thesis

A Guide to ARTH 799, the optional M.A. Thesis in Art History

If you wish to write a thesis, it will count toward your 15 elective credits in the M.A. The thesis is often related to a previous seminar paper that a student wishes to develop into a longer study.  It should range between 40 and no more than 60 pages in length.

Thesis Proposal Guidelines:

All MA students wishing to write a Master's thesis this academic year must inform the Graduate Director, Dr. DeCaroli (rdecarol@gmu.edu), of your intention to do so before Sept. 30th. As part of this process you will be expected to name the professor you hope will serve as an adviser for the project. Please consult with the professor before submitting any names.

Once the Graduate Director has been informed, you must submit a  thesis proposal. These are due to Dr. DeCaroli by Oct 15th.

The proposals will be reviewed and voted on by the Art History faculty. Rejected proposals can be revised and re-submitted only once.  They must be resubmitted no later than November 15.

We ask that students write a 5-page prospectus with a comprehensive bibliography.

Thesis prospectus: It should outline the proposed topic, the working thesis, provide a brief review of literature on the subject, and resources the student will use. A section outline should also be provided, highlighting the key topics or themes of the study.

Bibliography: This should include no fewer than 20 annotated sources relevant to the project.

Approval to write a thesis is not guaranteed. The prospectus, as well as the student’s previous coursework, writing ability, and work ethic will be taken into consideration. Once the prospectus has been approved, the student may then register for ARTH 799. Nicole Roth or the graduate director can assist the student with this.

Thesis adviser/second reader: In addition to the thesis adviser the student should have a second reader. This faculty member reads the completed (and adviser-approved) draft and makes additional suggestions for revision. 

Semester Timetable:  Ideally before the semester begins, the student needs to work out an appropriate timetable for submission of the draft to the advisor, allowing enough time for reading of the draft by both faculty members, and for the student’s revisions and final submission.

Presentation: When the student has completed the thesis, s/he will give a presentation for the faculty and other students. This is usually scheduled during the last week of the semester as a 35-40 minute presentation with powerpoint and time for questions.

Formatting/filing the thesis:  Students must follow the university protocols and timetable.  There are formatting workshops offered every semester announced via the listserv, and there is a deadline for filing the thesis, usually the last day of class.  





The first link explains registration procedures.  You must register for 3 credits of ARTH 799 during your first semester of thesis preparation.  Then, should you not complete it, you register for an additional credit in the coming semester.  Only 3 credits of 799 may count toward the degree.  In addition, should you be VERY close, but need just a little more time (i.e. about 3 weeks), there is a less-expensive special registration with a deadline very early in the following semester.  Nicole Roth, the graduate coordinator can help you with this registration. 


The second link (see section AP.6.9) contains sections on thesis and thesis submission.  Please note that we do a two rather than a three-person committee. It also provides information on thesis submission.

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