Guidelines for MFA Theses and Defenses: Deadlines and Procedures

Guidelines for Theses


  1. Before beginning thesis hours, students should thoroughly familiarize themselves with the Graduate School Thesis and Dissertation Guide. 
  2. Graduate students should have their thesis adviser in place by the end of the year before they defend their thesis.  The student will then work with the thesis adviser to have the committee in place at the beginning of the semester in which they defend their thesis.
  3.  The latest any thesis defense can be held is April 1 if students are graduating in the spring and November 1 if students are graduating in the fall.
  4. Starting at least one semester before the expected graduation date, the student will work with the thesis adviser to develop the thesis.  A revised, complete draft will be turned in to the thesis adviser at least eight weeks before the defense.  After the adviser concludes the thesis is ready to defend, the student will distribute the thesis to the committee at least four weeks before the defense.
  5. Except in emergency situations, no faculty should serve on more than two committees.

Guidelines for Thesis Defense

  1. The candidate will be invited to introduce and read from the work for five to ten minutes.
  2. Each committee member will prepare at least three questions or comments about the work.  In addition, either prior to or at the defense, committee members will provide a written commentary or margin notes the candidate can retain.
  3. Beginning with the adviser, the committee members will rotate asking questions of the candidates and making comments for the subsequent time period.  There will be ten minutes at the end of the defense for the students to ask questions of the committee.
  4. The content of the questions will be in the spirit of further analyzing the writer’s influences and and highlighting the writer’s strengths and weaknesses and inclinations.  The thesis defense should also provide a means by which both the committee members and the student can begin to assess the writer’s work and the direction the writer seems to be moving in order to help them succeed in the future.
  5. By the time of the thesis defense, major questions of grammar, diction, and/or word choice will have been settled by the adviser and/or the secondary readers or will be settled after the defense in revision.  The defense will not be conducted as a workshop or an editorial session.
  6. Before the hour has passed, the adviser will ask the visitors and the candidate to leave the room. The committee will discuss whether the candidate has passed the defense or whether further revisions are required.  The candidate only will be invited back to the room.  If further revisions are required, the adviser will communicate them to the candidate.  If no revisions are required, the adviser will communicate to the candidate that they have passed.  The adviser will decide the ultimate assessment ranking of this thesis, for assessment purposes only, after consulting with the other two readers at the defense.