What's the Thesis?
Under the direction of a member of the creative writing faculty, every MFA student is expected to write a manuscript of poetry or fiction to be presented at the thesis defense, and made available to the thesis committee no later than two weeks prior to the thesis defense date. Six credit hours of thesis research (English 799) are required for graduation. Most students start taking English 799 their second year, signing up for 3 credit hours of thesis research in each of the last two semesters. Please note that students must be signed up for at least one credit hour of English 799 in the semester in which they plan to graduate.
A poetry thesis should be a minimum of 40 pages in length. For a fiction thesis, the student and thesis advisor will agree upon the page requirement, with 100 pages being the minimum and 125 pages generally the maximum. Combinatory theses are not permitted: the fiction thesis should be a novel excerpt OR a collection of stories. The standard for the thesis is what one would expect of an advanced draft toward publication--not necessarily a finished publishable work, but one well on the way towards meeting that objective.
At the end of the semester prior to the semester of graduation, each graduating student will consult with the respective thesis advisor about the shape and length of the manuscript, and the expectations set at this meeting must be fulfilled. By the start of the semester in which the student will graduate, s/he should choose the other two or three members of the thesis committee and should plan to submit the thesis to all members of that committee a minimum of two weeks before the defense. Each semester, the Program Office will post the date by which the final draft must be electronically submitted to the Registrar's office, along with the deadlines for the forms that must be submitted prior to the thesis defense.
This thesis defense, scheduled by the Program Office, is an hour-long meeting with the student, the thesis advisor, and at least two other committee members, usually MFA Program and English Department faculty. The thesis committee will have read and commented on the thesis prior to the defense. The defense is a rigorous, exploratory conversation about the student's work, the direction the thesis is taking as a manuscript, and what the student has learned about his or her craft in the process of writing it.