Thesis/Capstone Project

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).

See examples of recently deposited theses and capstones »

Who is Eligible to Advise?

Thesis and capstone project advisors 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 advisors 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 advisor. 

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 coursework. In the past, students have successfully developed a paper written for a course—or a couple of papers—into a thesis.

Without prior approval of the Executive Officer and the thesis advisor, the text of theses shall not exceed sixty pages. The text must be a minimum of fifty pages. Appendices, bibliography, images, and front material are not included in this limit. Many students choose to split their theses into multiple chapters, often two or three, with an introduction and conclusion. 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). You should enroll in MALS 79000 only when you have completed the coursework for the degree, or at least 24 credits of coursework. Please note that the capstone project abstract must be reviewed and approved by the Executive Officer. The capstone project should be completed during the semester that you are registered for capstone advisement (MALS 79000), if possible. Many students find advisors and begin their projects before the semester during which they register for advisement.

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), creative fiction, exhibition, journalistic report, digital project, or software tool. The capstone project is accompanied by a 20-page white paper that explains the project, offers a literature review (explaining how the project is a response to a scholarly or practical questions about the chosen topic), describes the project's conceptualization, methodology, and how it is related to the student's concentration and studies.

Here are some examples of capstone projects: DH in a BoxSecret and Divine Signs: A Cinematic Ode to the Art of CruisingClara Lemlich Shavelson: An Activist LifeBeyond the Vale: Visualizing Slavery in Craven County, North Carolina.

Please also consult the Library's instructions for preparing and depositing theses, 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).

The white paper is to be deposited in the library. Digital projects should be archived in consultation with Stephen Zweibel ( in the Library.  Depending on the type of technology used, the project may or may not be able to be archived.

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 the 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.

IRB Approval

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 consult the Graduate Center HRPP guidelines for Research Involving Human Subjects.​

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 advisor and forward the confirmation in an email to Nancy Silverman (, 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 Writing Course

The Thesis Writing 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. Students normally have at least 18 credits when they are given permission to enroll in this course. Typically students take MALS 72000 either the semester before they enroll in MALS 79000 or concurrent with MALS 79000.

If you would like to sign up for the thesis writing course, permission of the department is required. To express your interest in taking this course, please fill in this form. This is a 3-credit course and it is not a substitute for MALS 79000.

Approval Process

For the thesis

MALS theses need to be approved by both the faculty advisor and the Executive Officer. Faculty must approve the thesis before the EO reviews the thesis. Faculty should email the EO directly with their approval of the thesis. 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, students should send a digital copy that is properly formatted at least 3 weeks before the library deposit deadline, following the schedule below. At that time, your advisor should send an email to the Executive Officer approving the thesis.

For the capstone project

MALS capstone projects need to be approved by both the faculty advisor and the Executive Officer. Faculty must approve the capstone before the EO reviews the thesis. Faculty should email the EO directly with their approval of the capstone project.

The whitepaper and any supporting material should be submitted to the program three weeks in advance of the library deposit deadlines for theses. Students should consult and follow the Library’s instructions for preparing and depositing capstone projects. The Library's Text Format Guidelines include sample MA Capstone approval and title pages. In order to submit the capstone project for review by the Executive Officer, please send a digital copy that is properly formatted at least 3 weeks before the library deposit deadline, following the schedule below. At that time, your advisor should send an email to the Executive Officer approving the capstone.

The student will graduate at the degree date following their submission (Fall, Winter or Spring).

Exit Survey

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.

Submission and Deposit Deadlines

A thesis may be deposited anytime; deadlines below:

For Degree Enrollment Required Library Deposit Required By* Submit Advisor-Approved Final Project to MALS Executive Officer By
February 1 Preceding Fall Term End of January January 10
June Commencement Spring Term April 29 April 8
October 1 Preceding Spring Term Mid September August 25

*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. Students may not exceed twelve semesters registered in the program or maintaining matriculation without prior approval of the Executive Officer.

Writing Resources

  • Thesis Writing Course. The Thesis Writing Course (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.

2022/ 2023 Winner

Capstone Winner

Vincent GragnaniSlow Speed Rail: The Social, Psychological and Environmental Benefits of Long-Distance Train Travel

AdvisorTomoaki Imamichi

Thesis Award Winner: 

Hiji Nam, Confusion of Tongues: Translation and Transfers of Attachment in a Post-monolingual Condition

Advisor: Colette Daiute

2021/ 2022 Winner

Capstone Winner:

Stephanie BarnesNorth of the Grid: The Black Experience of 17th-19th Century Rural New York.

Advisor: Matt Reilly

Honorable Mention:

Josefine ZiebellQueer and Trans Prison Voices: A Podcast Archive on Prison Abolition

Advisor: Justin Rogers-Cooper

Thesis Award Winner: 

Joliette Mandel, Equitable Assessment for Elementary Dual-Language Learners
Advisor: David Bloomfield

2020 / 2021 Winner

Capstone Award Co-Winners:

Abdul-Alim Farook, Challenges of Repatriation: Asante Artifacts at the American Museum of Natural History

Advisor: Matthew Reilly 

Sandy Mui, The Local Accountability Journalism Tracker

Advisor: Ximena Gallardo

Thesis Award Winner:

Muhammad Muzammal, Framing the Border: Liminality in the Network Narratives of Alejandro González Iñárritu

Advisor: Paul Julian Smith

2019 / 2020 Winner

Thesis Winner:

Valerie Gritsch, Something Happened on the Day He Died”: How David Bowie Fans Transformed Brixton
Advisor: Prof. Edward Miller

Honorable Mentions:
Gail Addiss, The Critique Became the Counter-Narrative: Planning Manhattan North of the Street Grid
Advisor: Prof. Elizabeth Macaulay

Oriana Gonzalez, Performing NYC Latinidades: Building a Diasporic Home at Pregones and the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater
Advisor: Prof. Karen Miller

2018 / 2019 Winners

Capstone Prize Winner:
Marcus Hillman's podcast, Immigration, Small Business and Assimilation: Three Stories of Small-Time Capitalism on the Lower East Side 
Advisor: Karen Miller

Thesis Prize Winner:
Judith Upjohn, Rural Adolescent Education Reframed: Can Social Justice, Lewin’s Topology, and Aesthetics Aid Reform Efforts? 
Advisor: Susan Opotow

Honorable Mention:
Jordan Steingard, The Distant Early Warning Line: Geographies, Infrastructures, and Environments of Warning
Advisor: Karen Miller

2017 / 2018 Winners

Thesis/Capstone Prize Co-Winners:
Miriam EdwinFrom Mass Incarceration to Mass Education: Fostering Collaboration Between State Prisons and State Universities
Advisor: Lucia Trimbur

Carey Thompson WellsThe Column of Constantine at Constantinople: A Cultural History (330-1453 C.E.)
Advisor: Eric Ivison

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

Further questions about the thesis or about this guide may be sent to Assistant Program Officer Nancy Silverman (, Executive Officer Elizabeth Macaulay (, or Deputy Executive Officer David Humphries (