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M.S. in Journalism Thesis

Thesis/Project Proposal Overview

Before the student begins their project/thesis, a detailed, written proposal must be submitted and approved by the student’s professional project committee. A well-executed proposal is essential to ensure that all committee members and the student are in agreement regarding what the thesis/project will involve and how it will be conducted/developed.

Both thesis and project proposals require a substantial commitment of time, focus and effort. Students should plan to devote the equivalent of at least one semester of full-time academic work to complete the proposal.

The following elements should make up your thesis/project proposal:

Introduction: In this section, the student clearly articulates the purpose of the research and the theoretical framework for their efforts. As such, this section provides a general background, establishing relevance, explaining why the research is needed, and describing the contribution the work will make to the field.

Literature Review: Essential in any research project is a general survey of related, relevant research. This likely will make up the biggest section of the proposal/thesis. An explanation of earlier research helps situates the work in the current context of the field. A detailed discussion of the theoretical basis/bases for the work and key variables should be included here guiding the reader from its origins to the most recent findings in the field. In a nutshell, the literature review grounds the proposed work in prior research; identifies key gaps in knowledge; and allows the student to weave a narrative leading to specific research questions and/or hypotheses that, once answered/supported, will generate new or original information on the topic.

Research Question(s) and/or Hypotheses . In this section the student will propose the research question or hypotheses that their thesis/project addresses.

Thesis: Based on the reviewed literature, students will propose a research question(s) and/or hypothesis(es) that they will answer through their data collection and analysis.

Project: Based on the reviewed literature, students will indicate the questions that the professional project will explore or answer. Research questions in a project are not intended to test theory, rather they are answered by the reporting or strategic communication campaign.

Method/Approach: In addition to demonstrating mastery of the theory and literature that will guide the student’s work, a detailed plan of how the research questions/hypotheses will be answered must also be provided to the committee.

Thesis: Specify in detail how you will answer your questions/test your hypotheses and why this is the best method to use. Define terms/variables and any other words that have a special meaning in the study. Discuss what sampling technique(s) will be used and how the sample will be selected. Explain how data will be collected, what instruments (e.g. questionnaires) will be used, and how they will be analyzed. Describe any primary and secondary sources to be researched and how they will be found/obtained.

Project: A detailed description of the work to be done for the project, including location where the project will be carried out. The area of journalism specialty or area of emphasis for the project, such as advertising, public relations, news-editorial, broadcast, documentary, visual journalism, etc. An explanation of the timeline/work schedule of the project. A detailed description of the material that will be included in the final project report that demonstrates physical evidence that the project was completed. A statement of how the project will be formally assessed, published, disseminated or delivered to its intended audience.

Bibliography/References: Attach a complete list of the works and interviews used to develop your proposal.

Appendices. Include a copy of your instruments (e.g., interview script, questionnaire, code book) and a proposed timeline for completing/defending your thesis.

When in doubt about any aspect of your proposal, consult your committee chair.

Completed Thesis/Project Overview

A completed thesis/project incorporates all the elements of the project proposal but updates the methods section to reflect the past nature of the activity. Further, the final written thesis/project reviews how the student fulfilled the promises of the proposal.

Specifically, the following sections should be included:

  1. Title page with signature lines for your committee members
  2. Abstract
  3. Acknowledgements
  4. Table of contents
  5. List of tables (if used)
  6. List of figures (if used)
  7. Introduction
  8. Literature review
  9. Research questions and/or hypotheses
  10. Methodology (updated)
  11. Findings/Project Review (answers/support for RQs and/or Hs)
    Thesis: Analysis of the data collected to answer the RQ/H
    Project: Chronological description of the project and evidence of the project’s completion.
  12. Discussion & Implications/Evaluation
    Thesis: Analysis of findings (what do they mean?); limitations of study; future research implications and suggestions
    Project: Assessment of what was learned; what worked; what didn’t work, suggestions for the future.
  13. Appendices (as relevant)
    Data collection protocols (e.g., questionnaire, interview script)
  14. IRB approval form
    Participant consent form
  15. Bibliography/Reference List
    Reminder: The final thesis/project must be distributed to the committee at least two weeks prior to the defense. In its final form, the thesis/project should be submitted electronically to the university in conformance with their thesis guidelines/requirements.