Writing a Thesis
Prior to writing a thesis, students should draft a tentative abstract and meet with any faculty they would like to invite to join their committee. Historically, some of the best theses written by students in our program have developed out of papers written in courses. As you select paper topics in your classes, think about how they might develop into longer projects.
Thesis committees consist of a Director and at least two additional committee members. Directors and one committee member must be tenured or tenure-track faculty in the Department of Religious Studies. The third committee member may be graduate faculty from another GSU department or another university.
Any graduate student who elects to write a MA thesis may enroll in RELS 8998, “Prospectus Research and Writing,” with her Thesis Director as she crafts the prospectus. A prospectus is a plan for research and writing that includes specific elements, such as an abstract, description of methodology, annotated bibliography, and explanation of the project’s significance. Students present their prospectus to the faculty and any committee members from outside the Department in August, November, or April. These are normative timelines for writing a thesis in our Department.
After he successfully presents the prospectus to the faculty, the student may enroll in RELS 8999, “Thesis Research and Writing,” with his Director. Thesis track students must complete at least 6 hours of 8999, and they may be taken in a single semester or over multiple semesters. The latter is typical and recommended. Prior to graduating, thesis students submit drafts of their work to their committee members for feedback and to Graduate Services for formatting review. Writers defend their theses to their committee in an hour-long conversation. Each semester Graduate Services sets deadlines for thesis format reviews and for defenses.
The M.A. Thesis Prospectus
The Religious Studies Department requires those students who select the thesis-track to write an article-length thesis (~35-50 pages), which is usually completed during the second year of the program. In consultation with a Thesis Committee, students prepare a written thesis prospectus, which they present to the faculty. The prospectus offers students an opportunity to articulate what they intend to accomplish in the thesis, and how they plan to approach the research. Upon the faculty’s approval of a student’s prospectus, the student enrolls in RELS 8999 (Thesis Research).
The Religious Studies M.A. student will write a thesis with assistance from the department faculty members who compose the student’s Thesis Committee. Members of the Thesis Committee give the student feedback on the thesis while it is in the planning stages, as it is being written, and as it is being revised. They also attend the thesis defense, and ultimately approve the thesis when it has been revised to the committee’s satisfaction. One member of the committee, the Thesis Director, takes the lead in this process.
Basic regulations for composition of the Thesis Committee:
- The Thesis Director must be a tenure-track (Assistant Professor) or tenured (Associate Professor or Professor) member of Georgia State’s Department of Religious Studies.
- The Committee must have at least 2 members who are either lecturers, tenure-track, or tenured members of Georgia State’s Department of Religious Studies.
- Additional committee members may be from outside the Department of Religious Studies or outside Georgia State.
- Before you begin work on your thesis:
In Religious Studies, students must submit a written prospectus (plan) for their thesis project and present this plan successfully to the Religious Studies faculty before they may begin work on their thesis. During the semester immediately before the student intends to register for the first semester of thesis work (RELS 8999) the student must submit a hard copy and an electronic copy of the prospectus (with signatures from all the committee members, approving the project).
**THE PROSPECTUS IS DUE AT THE MIDPOINT OF THE SEMESTER. Check the University Calendar for the date of the semester midpoint.
- Deadlines to complete work and graduate within a given semester:
Be aware that the College of Arts and Sciences has firm deadlines for filing your thesis that MUST be met if you want to graduate. The Department has developed suggested deadlines to facilitate this.
- Suggested deadline for draft of thesis to advisor: 2 months prior to defense
- Suggested deadline for draft to full committee: 1 month prior to defense
- Required deadline: upload draft of thesis by the date set by the College of Arts and Sciences, usually the mid-point of the semester
- Suggested deadline for defense: at least one week prior to the final upload deadline (usually 3 weeks before the end of the semester).
- Required deadline for final upload of thesis: determined by the College of Arts & Sciences (varies by semester, but usually ~2 weeks prior to the last day of classes).
NOTE: Faculty are under no obligation to sign off on a prospectus or a thesis draft so the student can meet a deadline. Students should communicate clearly and frequently with their committee members, particularly their Director, making sure to allow for time to revise their work in light of faculty comments.
Edward Van Herik, “Moral Injury on the Home Front: Can a New Approach Provide Fresh Insight into Spirituality and Alcoholism?,” 2015
Karli Robinson-Myers, “Sankofa Healing: A Womanist Analysis of the Retrieval and Transformation of African Ritual Dance,” 2015
Natalie Barber, “The Way They Never Were: Nationalism, Landscape, and Myth in Irish Identity Construction,” 2014
Suzanne Degnats, “Dispositional Religiosity: Religion in the Context of Life Narratives,” 2013
Kelly O’Riley, “Hagiography, Teratology, and the ‘History’ of Michael Jackson,” 2011
The Department of Religious Studies
Office Hours (Available Remotely):
Monday - Friday
8:30 a.m. - 5:15 p.m.
Office Hours (In Person):
Director of Undergraduate Studies
Director of Graduate Studies / Department Chair
Department of Religious Studies
Georgia State University
25 Park Place, Suite 1700
Atlanta, GA 30303
Department of Religious Studies
Georgia State University
P.O. Box 3994
Atlanta, GA 30302-3994