Steps and Tips
As you progress in your coursework, you need to keep track of what you have taken using the Self-Advising Form. You must have completed a substantial portion of the coursework and have a plan for covering the remainder within a year before you begin the thesis process.
A NOTE ON FORMS: All forms require signatures, including those of various administrators beyond the MFA program. Any mistake in the spelling of the name of any of those who sign your form is enough to disqualify a form and get it sent back. Read instructions, be careful, look up the names (in any given semester the names of the appropriate people will be posted), and proofread.
- Thesis WorksheetA year before your intended graduation term (i.e. for Spring 12, in Spring 10; for Fall 11, in Fall 10) you will fill out and submit the Thesis Worksheet (which you can download from our website), proposing your thesis project. When your Thesis Worksheet is approved, you will be assigned a thesis director and 2nd reader from the Creative Writing faculty. It will be your responsibility to ask a member of the Literature faculty to serve as your 3rd reader. All thesis committee members must be on the Graduate Faculty, which is listed on the Graduate Studies (UGS) website.
- M-1After you have been approved to begin thesis, you must formalize your committee by filling out, having signed, and turning in Form M-1. (The M-1 and all other UGS Thesis Forms are on the UGS website.) This form is due at UGS late in the semester in which you do the Thesis Worksheet.. (Specific due dates will be on the UGS website and they vary, so you will need to check on this as you begin the process.)
- Register for Thesis Credits
Having filed the M-1 makes you eligible to register for thesis credits. You should begin in a Fall or Spring term with the 3-credit thesis course. This must be taken twice, and is only offered in Fall and Spring. Once you have begun thesis credits, you must be continuously enrolled in thesis, so in Summer, and in any semester after you have taken the 3-credit thesis course twice, you will take Thesis Continuation, for 1 credit. Failure to be enrolled in thesis means Graduate Studies will not accept your forms.
Also, filing the M-1 will put you on an MFA email list for those intending to defend in your intended semester and you will be sent a list of tasks with deadlines that apply to this group (we can only formulate these deadlines after we receive ones set for a given calendar year by Graduate Studies and Arts & Sciences). The list of tasks will be sent at the beginning of each semester only. We will not send reminders for every deadline and task. If your thesis writing takes a little longer and you are going to shift to a later term, you need to inform us so that you can be put on the next group’s email list.
- Thesis Director
During the process of writing the thesis you will be dealing with your thesis director. The 2nd and 3rd reader do not get involved until the defense semester, when they read the thesis. If your project evolves, or changes drastically, you should be talking to your thesis director about it. You should be showing the director drafts, and it is your job to stay on this, schedule appointments, etc. (The director is not going to nag you.) In working with your director on the thesis, you should also be planning for and discussing the Reading List which is described under Literature Component of the Thesis Defense (link). Your director may suggest works you should read which will help you in your thinking about the particular book you’re writing.
There will be defenses going on every fall and spring term, usually, and all defenses are announced (the Announcements are posted at the entrance to the English Dept. area) and open to the public. It’s a good idea to attend some, to see what they are like.
- M-2 and Formal Thesis Proposal
The Fall or Spring term before the Defense term: When you have progressed far enough on your thesis that you and your director feel you will be ready to defend in the following Fall or Spring term (generally this means that the director has seen at least one full draft and has established with you what revisions will be necessary to have a defensible draft), you will move to preparation of the M-2 and Formal Thesis Proposal, which are going to be due in the fall/spring semester before the defense semester. (Let’s call this the D-minus-1 semester.)
To help you in this, the MFA program requires that you begin by writing the Informal Proposal. You should work on this with your director, and then, with your director’s approval, turn in the Informal Proposal to the Program Director. The deadline for this will come fairly early in the D-minus-1 semester, in order to allow for time for revisions, as the Program Director is likely to have questions and suggestions. Once you have a version the Program Director approves, you use this for the Formal Proposal, which will be submitted along with the M-2.
You must also complete the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) Training and Certificate. Starting July 5, 2008, FIU graduate students who file thesis proposals must provide a training certificate documenting completion of the RCR training course and exam, which are taken online. The RCR Training course can be found at here. When you sign up for the training, select the Creative Writing Module. Once you have taken and passed the course, print the training certificate and submit with the M-2 and Formal Proposal.
Approval of the M-2 and Proposal sets you up to be able to defend in the next Fall/Spring term.
- Confirm Course Schedule
At this time, you should also check to make sure that you are on schedule to complete all required coursework for the MFA by the end of the defense semester. Update your Self-Advising form and send it to the Graduate Advisor, indicating what you are scheduled to take in your final term and asking any questions you may have. If you have any transcript problems—an incomplete, for instance—now is the time to make sure it is taken care of.
- Reading List
Just before you go into the defense semester you will need to submit a draft, approved by your Director, of your Reading List to the Graduate Advisor, who checks them for compliance with the rules, and who may make some suggestions. We set a deadline for this leaving enough time for changes. See Literature Component of the Thesis Defense document on our website for further information on the rationale, requirements, and format of the Reading List.
- Thesis Formatting
You also need to look at the UGS rules for formatting of the thesis itself, since you will be submitting your copies of the thesis to your committee and to UGS for format review early in the defense semester (the regulations for thesis and dissertation preparation manual). Don’t leave this till the last minute. No one in the dept. is going to answer format questions, because they are under the purview of UGS, so if you have any questions about their rules, please call them. You can also see completed, bound MFA thesis in the library, which you may find helpful in understanding the formatting.
- Apply for Graduation
You will need to apply for graduation online through Panther Soft. Deadlines for this will be on the University Calendar. Also, at this time make sure you have paid all your fees. An outstanding library fine is enough to delay your graduation.
If as you head into the potential defense term, you and/or your director determine that the thesis is not yet ready, all that you need to do is inform us. The defense version of the thesis is due very early in the defense term, so all writing and revision needs to be done in advance of this. If you notify us that you are postponing, you will be moved to the list to receive information about defending in the next Fall or Spring term. You do not have to do anything about the M-2—it stays in place and will not need to be re-done.
- Applying for Defense Date
You cannot apply for a defense date until the start of the defense semester, as we cannot schedule rooms until then. In addition, your director should not permit you to schedule a defense date unless he/she is certain the thesis is ready for a defense.
- Formatted Copy of Thesis
By two weeks after the start of the defense term you will need to submit a formatted copy of your thesis (the version you will defend) to each member of your committee, accompanying it with your Reading List. You will also need to print out a fourth copy, which will be going to UGS with your M-3. These do not need to be on special thesis paper, just good copy paper.
- Scheduling Defense Date
And now you are ready to schedule a defense. You need to find out the schedules and availability of all members of your committee and come up with a mutually agreeable time and place and then you can ask the secretary to schedule a room. You should allow an hour and a half for the defense, discussion and the signing of forms that follows. There will be various time boundaries—dates after which you can’t defend, and amounts of weeks ahead of the defense date by which the M-3 (application for defense date) and Announcement must be submitted. These change, so it is best to have looked at the parameters ahead of time, on your Tasks for Defenses in the given term, and to be prepared to work fast at this point on forms and signatures.
The Announcement is again a description of your project, like the Thesis Proposal, and any changes that have resulted from your writing and revision can be reflected here. For instance, if the title has changed from the time of the Proposal, you simply use the new title.
The M-3 and Announcement will be sent in along with a copy of the formatted thesis. UGS reviews the formatting and will communicate with you about any problems. (They have many theses to review, so this may take some time.) You must comply with all formatting rules in the final thesis. You must e-mail your Announcement as an attachment to UGS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Prepare for Defense
Once you have submitted the M-3 and Announcement, you are headed for the defense. Talk to your director if you have any questions. You may receive some feedback ahead of the defense from members of your committee, but they are not obligated to do this.
- Signed Forms at Defense
You should prepare and bring the Final ETD Approval form and a copy of the Signature page to your defense. After the defense, the committee members will have to sign the forms, (BLACK INK ONLY), indicated whether you have successfully defended or not and then the form must be turned in immediately. Even with a successful defense, the committee may stipulate some revisions that you are required to do before submission of the final thesis. Your director will be responsible for checking whether or not you have made the revisions in the final thesis and you cannot proceed without the director’s approval.
- Submit Electronically
The final thesis is submitted electronically. The electronic thesis is called the Electronic Thesis and Dissertation, or ETD. Please go to http:/libguides.fiu.eduetd for instructions. Workshops for the ETD process are available, so check the UGS webpage for details. Additionally, Dr. Maureen Donnelly, Arts and Sciences Associate Dean of Graduate Students, requires a printed, paper copy of the final, formatted thesis. There will be due dates for the final thesis to be turned in to Dr. Donnelly, (i.e., Arts & Sciences), and then to UGS, set a few weeks before the end of the semester. The earlier you can turn in the final thesis and ETD to UGS, the more leeway to fix any problem that emerges. The final thesis will include within it a signature page, which must be signed by your committee (in black ink!). The ETD is the form that certifies that your thesis has been approved. Because this final thesis is a one-of-a-kind item, you are going to be responsible for hand-carrying it to Arts & Sciences at MMC (Modesto Maidique campus - CASE building, Room 450) and then from Arts & Sciences to Graduate Studies. If you are doing this from out of town, you will need to include extra time and pay for messengers, or arrange for a fellow student to handle this for you. NOTE: The Dean's office and UGS will notify you when the forms are ready for pick up.
EMBARGO of your thesis:
The University places all thesis manuscripts in the ETD archive. Because electronic publishing in any form may affect the possibility of future commercial/personal publication of a creative manuscript, UGS allows the option of Placing a permanent embargo of your thesis manuscript. Please see the Final ETD Approval form at http:/libguides.fiu.eduetd.
If you would like to request a permanent embargo of your thesis manuscript, please contact Marta Lee. She will submit an electronic petition on your behalf. You will then be sent an e-mail notifying you of any letters or materials to upload to the online Petition form.
Once the Petition has been reviewed by the required personnel, you will be sent an email informing you whether or not your Petition for a permanent embargo has been approved.
If any problems in forms/signature/formatting happen, you are going to need to generate the needed pages on thesis paper/get new signatures, etc. so you need to allow time for this. It is a good idea to be on friendly terms with the staff at Graduate Studies so that they can be of help with any of this.
- E-Graduation Certificate
While all this has been going on, your application for graduation will have been processed and will generate an online e-Graduation Certification which will go to the Graduate Advisor and Program Director who will be checking over your transcript and verifying your compliance with all program requirements. On this form we will be listing courses you are currently enrolled in; you have to complete these courses successfully in order to graduate, as well as completing the thesis process. When all is satisfactorily done, you’ll graduate.
- Time Delay or Errors
Okay, what if something goes wrong? At any point not filing a form in time delays you; since you must stay continuously enrolled in thesis, this is going to cost you money. It happens, and people live through it. In the defense semester, if you have successfully defended but something happens (unpaid fees, a course not passed, inability to get a formatted signed perfect thesis in by the last possible date) so that you do not graduate, you will need to register for thesis continuation in the following term (can be a summer term) and to re-apply for graduation that term, fix whatever went awry, and so graduate.
How much time do you have? The MFA program allows an absolute maximum of eight years from entering to graduation. This is plenty of time, and the administration does not look favorably on requests for extension beyond that. It means that you should try, if possible, to be defending no later than your 7th year so that you are not defending in the last possible term and having everything hang on some small matter of an administrator’s middle initial wrong on a signature form.
- Responsibility and MotivationWhile we will do all we can to help you, you are responsible to accomplish all of the many tasks involved in order to get the degree. In any given term we have students who are just starting thesis, in the middle of it, and defending, all of whom have tasks and deadlines. Please be considerate of our secretaries, who will do all they can to help you, but who cannot perform miracles. You need to communicate well—if you need a signature, for instance, you cannot simply assume one of us will be in that day so make an appointment to be sure we’ll be on hand.
And one more thought: go look at the theses in the library and remember, all those people did it. So can you.
- Self-Advising Form - All MFA Students should use this form to keep track of their coursework and fulfillment of requirements as they go through the program.
- Download Thesis Worksheet
- Literature Component for Thesis Defense
- Sample Proposals for MFA Theses in different genres:
- Sample Non-Fiction Proposal
- Sample Nonfiction Proposal: Essay Collection
- Sample Fiction: Novel Proposal #1
- Sample Fiction: Novel Proposal #2
- Sample Fiction Proposal: Short Stories
- Sample Poetry Proposal #1
- Sample Poetry Proposal #2
- Sample Poetry Proposal #3
- Sample Poetry Proposal #4
- Sample Poetry Proposal #5
- Sample defense announcements in different genres:
For other forms please visit the University Graduate School.