The MALS thesis/capstone project (3 credits) is the culmination of the MALS degree. You should start planning your thesis/capstone project halfway through the Liberal Studies Program (when you have close to 18 credits).
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.
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 coursework. 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. Please consult the Library's instructions for preparing and depositing theses, which will explain the formatting expectations for the document.
You should enroll in MALS 79000: Thesis/Capstone Project only when you have completed the course work for the degree, or at least 24 credits of coursework. Some students register for one course and MALS 79000 - Thesis/Capstone Project in the final semester, and some register for MALS 79000 - Thesis/Capstone Project only.
The Capstone Project
You should start planning your capstone project halfway through the Liberal Studies Program (when you have close to 18 credits).
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 white paper explaining the project, its methodology, technologies used, process or other relevant information.
You should enroll in MALS 79000: Thesis/Capstone Project only when you have completed the coursework for the degree, or at least 24 credits of coursework. The capstone project should be completed in a single semester, if possible.
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 concentration and studies (see formatting and submission guidelines). Please also consult the Library's instructions for preparing and depositing capstones, which will explain deposit procedures and format guidelines. The white paper must be submitted together with the capstone project so the department can review the project in its original medium (e.g. if it is a film provide a link or copy of the film; if it is a website or app, the URL must be included). Here are some examples of capstone projects: DH in a Box, Secret and Divine Signs: A Cinematic Ode to the Art of Cruising, Clara Lemlich Shavelson: An Activist Life, Beyond the Vale: Visualizing Slavery in Craven County, North Carolina.
Thesis/Capstone Project Prospectus
Students are required to turn in a short (3-page) prospectus by the end of Drop/Add period during the semester for which they are registered for Thesis or Capstone Advising.
Download and complete a Prospectus Form:
You will need to have the form signed by your advisor, so please make sure you write the prospectus with enough time to show it to your advisor and have it signed.
Thesis/Capstone Project Abstract
All completed theses and capstone projects must include a 250-word abstract. This abstract should summarize your project’s main claims.
If your research involves human subjects, please discuss your project with your advisor and with the CUNY Human Research Protection Program (HRPP) to determine whether your project requires IRB approval from the GC or your advisor’s home campus. For more information, please visit www.gc.cuny.edu/hrpp and consult the following guidelines:
Registering for MALS 79000 (Thesis Research or Capstone Project), 3 credits
In order to register for MALS 79000 through CUNYFirst, students need to obtain written confirmation from the faculty who will serve as adviser and forward the confirmation in an email to Kathy Koutsis (firstname.lastname@example.org), who will then issue a course override.
MALS 79000 is a 3-credit course and is different from the Thesis Workshop class, which is also three credits.
Thesis Workshop Course
The Thesis Workshop Course - MALS 72000 is a three-credit research and writing course open to MALS students working on their theses. The course is designed to help students develop strategies for composing, drafting, and crafting their theses. Students will work on analyzing and synthesizing their materials in order to sharpen their approach to their scholarly topics. They will also work on developing their writing in logically framed and rhetorically convincing graduate-level prose. Students will produce multiple drafts, consider the best organizational approaches for their projects, develop and hone their authorial voices, develop strategies for building arguments that are supported by the evidence they have collected, and reflect upon their individual research and writing practices. Students will give and receive feedback from their peers as well as from the professor.
MALS theses need to be approved by both the faculty adviser and the Executive Officer.
Students should consult and follow the Library's instructions for preparing and depositing theses. The Library's Text Format Guidelines also include sample MA Thesis approval and title pages.
In order to submit the thesis for review by the Executive Officer, please leave a print copy that is properly formatted with Kathy Koutsis in room 4106 (or in her mailbox in room 4109) at least 3 weeks before the library deposit deadline. Include the hardcopy approval page with your adviser's ink signature. Also be sure to include a completed exit survey (see below).
MALS capstone projects need to be approved by both the faculty adviser and the Executive Officer.
In order to submit the capstone project for review by the Executive Officer, please leave a print copy of the white paper and any supporting material with Kathy Koutsis in room 4106 (or in her mailbox in room 4109) at least 3 weeks before the library deposit deadline, following the schedule below. Include the hardcopy approval page with your adviser's ink signature. The Library's Text Format Guidelines include sample MA Thesis approval and title pages.
Once the Capstone Project is approved, follow the Library's guidelines for capstone deposition. Also be sure to include a completed exit survey (see below).
The student will graduate at the degree date following their submission (Fall, Winter or Spring).
All students are required to fill in a short exit survey and submit it to the department when they submit their thesis/capstone project to the Executive Officer.
The form can be downloaded here.
Submission and Deposit Deadlines
A thesis may be deposited anytime; deadlines below:
||Library Deposit Required By*
||Submit Adviser-Approved Final Project to MALS Executive Officer By
||Preceding Fall Term
||End of January
||End of April
||Preceding Spring Term
*Please note that these Library Deposit dates are approximate. For current Library Deposit Deadlines, visit the Library’s Dissertations & Theses page.
For more information on depositing your thesis, see the Dissertations & Theses deposit guide, including guidelines for capstone deposition.
Maintenance of Matriculation
Students who have completed the 30 credits for the degree, but need an additional semester to complete the thesis, should register for “Maintenance of Matriculation” to maintain their enrollment for submission and Library deposit.
Thesis Workshop. The Thesis Workshop class (MALS 72000) is an optional three-credit class that has proven helpful for thesis writers.
Citation Managers. 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.
Style Guides. Though MALS does not require a specific citation style, theses should be consistent in the usage of whatever citation style is chosen.
The MALS Thesis/Capstone Project Prize
The MALS Thesis/Capstone Project Prize is meant to recognize achievement in scholarship and writing by MALS students. The awards showcase the impressive work being done by students in our program.
2017 / 2018 Winners
We are proud to announce the thesis and capstone winners of this year's prize, who will each receive $200:
Thesis/Capstone Prize Co-Winners:
Miriam Edwin, From Mass Incarceration to Mass Education: Fostering Collaboration Between State Prisons and State Universities
Advisor: Lucia Trimbur
Carey Thompson Wells, The Column of Constantine at Constantinople: A Cultural History (330-1453 C.E.)
Advisor: Eric Ivison
Thesis/Capstone Prize Honorable Mention:
Mette L. Jensen, Swimming in a Sea of No's: Controlling and Managing the New York Public Pools
Advisor: Sarah Chinn
Further questions about the thesis or about this guide may be sent to Assistant Program Officer Kathy Koutsis (email@example.com), Acting Executive Officer Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis (firstname.lastname@example.org), or Deputy Executive Officer Karen Miller (email@example.com)