Show The Graduate Center Menu

Thesis/Capstone Project


Thesis/Capstone Project

Students finish their MA in Liberal Studies by working with an adviser to research and write a thesis OR to complete a capstone project. Student should enroll in MALS 79000 (Thesis or Capstone Project Advisement) once they have completed at least 24 credits of coursework.


Who is Eligible to Advise?

Thesis and capstone project advisers must be members of the Graduate Center faculty. They do not need to be faculty members within the MALS Program.
Students should try to find advisers through their coursework but should understand that MALS / GC faculty may have other commitments that could prevent them from taking on an advisory role.
Ideally students will approach faculty members well before any relevant deadlines and with a clear idea of what the thesis/capstone project is about.

You can use this list of MALS faculty research areas as a resource in your search for an adviser. 

The Thesis

You should start planning your thesis halfway through the Liberal Studies Program (when you have close to 18 credits).  Ideally, it should focus the interests you have explored in your course work.  In the past, students have successfully developed a paper written for a course—or a couple of papers—into a thesis.
The thesis should be 50-60 pages long—in other words, as long as two or three term papers.  It is sometimes useful to think in terms of two or three chapters.

You should register for a Thesis Research course only when you have completed the course work for the degree, or at least 24 credits.  Some students register for one course and Thesis Research in the final semester, and some register for Thesis Research only.

The Capstone Project

Student should enroll in MALS 79000: Capstone Project once they have completed at least 24 credits of coursework. The capstone project should be completed in a single semester, if possible.
The capstone project will enable students to integrate and synthesize the knowledge that they have developed during their MA coursework into a culminating project.
Such works might include, but would not be limited to, an artistic or documentary video, archive finding aid, artistic performance (live or recorded), exhibition, journalistic report, or digital project or software tool, accompanied by a whitepaper explaining the project, its methodology, technologies used, process or other relevant information.
The capstone project is accompanied by a 20-page paper that details the conceptualization, methodology, and/or technology used in the project and how the project is related to the student’s track and studies.

Thesis Resources:

The Thesis Workshop class (MALS 79600) is an optional one-credit class that has proven helpful for thesis writers.
The library provides instruction in the use of two citation managers, RefWorks and Zotero.  Zotero, an open-source tool, is still accessible after students leave the Graduate Center, which is a significant advantage. Though MALS does not require a specific citation style, theses should be consistent in the usage of whatever citation style is chosen.

Mina Rees library links:

Documentation styles:
Citation managers:

Registering for MALS 79000 (Thesis Research or Capstone Project), 3 credits

In order to register for MALS 79000 through Banner, students need to obtain written confirmation from the faculty who will serve as adviser and forward the confirmation in an email to Kathy Koutsis (, who will then issue a course override.
MALS 79000 is a 3-credit course and is different from the Thesis Workshop class (MALS 79600), which is 1-credit.

Approval Process

  • For the thesis:

MALS theses need to be approved by both the faculty adviser and the Executive Officer.
Students should consult and follow the following instructions for preparing and depositing theses:
The library's Text Format Guidelines include sample MA Thesis approval and title pages:
In order to submit the thesis for review by the Executive Officer, please leave a copy that is properly formatted and printed on regular copier paper with Kathy Koutsis in room 4106 (or in her mailbox in room 4109) at least 3 weeks before the library deposit deadline.
Include the approval page, with your adviser's signature, on the required paper for deposit:
white bond paper, 8.5 inches x 11 inches, unlined, at least 20-pound weight and 25% rag or cotton content.

  • For the Capstone Project

MALS capstone projects need to be approved by both the faculty adviser and the Executive Officer.
The whitepaper and any supporting material should be submitted to the program, three weeks in advance of the library deposit deadlines for theses (see table below).
Once approved, the department will certify that the student has completed all of the requirements for graduation. The student will graduate at the degree date following their submission (Fall, Winter or Spring).
Capstone projects are not deposited in the library.

Exit Survey

All students are required to fill in a short exit survey and submit it to the department when they submit their thesis to the Executive Officer.
The form can be downloaded here.

Submission and Deposit Deadlines

A thesis may be deposited anytime; deadlines below:

For Degree Enrollment Required Library Deposit Required By (Thesis Only) Submit Adviser-Approved Final Project to MALS Executive Officer By
February 1 Preceding Fall term Last day in January January 10
May Commencement Spring term May 1 April 10
October 1 Preceding Spring term September 15 August 25

For more information on depositing your thesis, see the Dissertations & Theses deposit guide, now featuring detailed instructions including How to Request Deposit Appointment.

Further Questions:
Further questions about the thesis or about this guide may be sent to APO Kathy Koutsis (, EO Matthew K. Gold (, or DEO Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis (
Notable recent theses successfully filed for the degree include the following:
•   "Redefining the United States Intervention in the Dominican Republic in 1965" by Mariela Morel (2013)
•   "Al-Shabaab and Human Rights in Somalia" by Melissa Sirola (2013)
•   "The Banana Industry in Honduras" by Henry Gutierrez (2013)
•   "The Effects of Corruption on Democratization and Equity in Russia" by Dominique DiTommaso (2013)
•   "Theorizing Korean Identity: The Mobility of People, Food, and Capital" by Frank Dax (2013)
•   "Walt Whitman and the Art of Loafing" by Charles W. Rowe (2013)