Thesis/Final Project

Students who wish to pursue a doctorate degree are encouraged to conduct original research and complete a master’s thesis. Students who do not plan to continue their graduate education may opt to complete a professional project or a thesis. 

Thesis Guidelines

The master's thesis is a capstone experience of the master's degree candidate and offers evidence of the student's original research and writing ability. In completing the thesis, the student demonstrates the ability to conduct independent research. 

The graduate student has the primary responsibility for the thesis research and writing. The student is responsible for ensuring that the thesis manuscript meets accepted standards for scholarly writing, including spelling, punctuation, and grammar. The student should read the Graduate School ’s Thesis Guidelines thoroughly and know the requirements and guidelines for preparation of the thesis.
The guide is found here.

The student also should identify and become familiar with a recognized academic style manual appropriate to his/her academic discipline. Both documents should be used in the preparation of the thesis. Other student responsibilities include:

Academic Honesty
Students are expected to conduct themselves in an absolutely and uncompromisingly honest manner. Evidence of plagiarism may result in program dismissal. 

Institutional Review Board
By federal law, all research involving human or animal subjects requires prior ethical review and approval by the Institutional Review Board (IRB). Copies of the necessary forms and instructions for submission are available here

Copyright Permission
The student has the responsibility to obtain permission to include (or quote) copyrighted material unless the student is the owner of the copyright or unless the material meets the "fair use" criteria.

The thesis advisor must be a member the graduate faculty, and he/she accepts and assumes the major responsibility to work directly with the graduate student in the research or creative project. 

The thesis committee is comprised minimally of the thesis advisor, a second departmental reader and an outside reader. The members of the committee are available to the student for consultation and advisement. 

The graduate school oversees and implements all policies and procedures governing graduate theses. Students are responsible for reviewing these policies and ensuring that they have followed the guidelines for preparing a thesis. Click for forms, deadlines, and documents.

Steps and Timing

Please check the graduate school calendar for submission deadlines each semester by clicking here
As soon as possible, the student selects a thesis topic and chooses a suitable chair, department committee member, and a committee member from an outside department.
Ideally, the student writes a thesis proposal and submits it to the chairperson and the committee for approval during his or her final semester of coursework.
Once all course work is completed, the student may register for thesis hours. 
Once the committee approves the proposal, the student submits the proposal to the Director Graduate Studies in College of Arts and Sciences for approval. 
Once the proposal is approved, the student is solely responsible for submitting appropriate research material to the Institutional Review Board for approval. 

Recommended proposal timeline:
  • Mid-April of the spring semester for fall graduation. 
  • Mid-April of the spring semester for summer graduation if summer graduation is approved by the committee.
  • Mid-October of the fall semester for spring graduation. 
The chair of the committee responds by early December for the fall semester and mid-April for the spring semester.

A student must complete the appropriate paperwork and register for the professional research hours during the semester in which the thesis will be completed and defended. Students must confer with their thesis chair before enrolling for research credit. 

Working backward from the defense date, the student is encouraged to provide the thesis to the chair six weeks before the defense and a revised copy to the committee three weeks before the defense. Graduate School deadlines must be followed for scheduling and administering the final presentation and defense, which must be undertaken and passed no later than one week prior to the Graduate School ’s deadline for submitting material for graduation. Deadline dates in a given semester are available here
After the thesis defense, the student must meet with the Director of Graduate Studies in the College of Arts & Sciences for final approval and submit the appropriate signed forms. 


The Proposal (10-20 double spaced pages)
The student must do enough preliminary research to be able to present a well-defined topic for the research paper and project. The proposal must contain: 
  • A statement of rationale, including research questions and/or thesis statement. 
  • A description of the method to be employed in carrying out the research. 
  • A comprehensive literature review. 
  • A selected bibliography and/or list of individuals to be consulted or interviewed 
  • A project timetable. 
  • A list of instrument or scales to be used in research study.
The research proposal must be a properly cited paper examining the context and history of the subject to be addressed. It should contain a review of previous coverage of the subject as well as the appropriate communication theory.
Citation must be in a style appropriate for the research method. (Chicago/Turabian, APA, Bluebook). The proposal must be comprehensive so that the full committee, at its first meeting with the student, has all the information needed to determine the project’s feasibility and merit. The student must stay in close contact with the committee chair regarding further meetings. The committee decides what, if any, additional work, must be completed before the project is approved. 

The Research
Once the proposal is approved and all IRB requirements are met, the student may begin the research. The thesis should contain a comprehensive description and analysis of the research method and findings as well as discussion and conclusion. 

Non-Thesis Guidelines 

The Master of Arts degree in Communication is a broad-based degree program that integrates theoretical and research components of mass communication and rhetorical communication. The program is designed to prepare recent graduates and experienced professionals for doctoral studies, professional advancement, and personal enrichment. The Department's graduate faculty combines applied knowledge with communication theory and works to engage students to think critically as they address communication practices and issues. Courses examine how communication creates, sustains, and changes personal lives, organizations, political and cultural institutions, and society.


Degree Requirements And Courses

Students must complete a minimum of 33 semester hours of credit in approved 500-level courses. This includes 6 hours additional course work. A minimum of 27 semester hours must be completed at the University of South Alabama. At least 27 semester hours must be taken in communication. All students are required to pass a written qualifying examination and non-thesis tracks students are required to take two additional courses numbered 500 or above.

For more information about Non-Thesis Guidelines click here.